Sunday, 31 March 2013

Villa throw lead & points away against Reds

Sports - Football - Premier League - Aston Villa 1:2 Liverpool

Aston Villa remain in the relegation zone as Liverpool came from behind to win 1-2 at Villa Park, slashing the gap to their local rivals Everton to three points and staying in the race for European qualification.

Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert's men dominated most of the first half and took the lead when Gabriel Agbonlahor's lay-off found Christian Benteke, who fired home gratefully.

But Brendan Rodgers' side came back strongly from the restart, Jordan Henderson levelling the score two minutes into the second half with a nicely taken chip past Bradley Guzan.

Steven Gerrard And with half an hour to go, Steven Gerrard netted the winner from the spot after Nathan Baker had clumsily brought down Luis Suarez in the box.

The home side had plenty of time and chances to get something out of the game, but after Andreas Weimann's high-blast miss and Gerrard's breathtaking clearance of Benteke's header off the line, it seemed not to be Villa's day.

And everything had looked so promising for Villa in the first half. From kick-off they dominated possession, play and chances with Benteke and Agbonlahor missing chances.

On that note, the half could have ended 3-3, with Red playmaker Suarez also missing a couple of sitter. American keeper Guzan also kept the game going thanks to a couple of saves against Gerrard and Suarez.

Jordan Henderson But it was not to be, the Reds took over in the second half, Glen Johnson seeing his shot coming off a Villa player and then the far post between both Red goals.

It was a game of two halves, Rodgers ending up the happier after seeing his side's improvement, fight-back and positive turnaround whilst Lambert is left picking up the pieces and his side. 

The Scotsman can draw positives from this game but needs to work on the back line especially to avoid his side to drop more goals and points like this in the relegation battle.

Aston Villa Goals: 1.: 30:38min Christian Benteke (20).

Liverpool Goals: 1.: 46:52min Jordan Henderson (14), 2.: 59:15min Steven Gerrard (8) penalty.

Aston Villa: 22 Guzan; 27 Bennett, 32 Baker, 4 Vlaar, 34 Lowton; 25 Bannan (16 Delph - 62.), 15 Westwood (booked 91.), 18 Sylla (8 El Ahmadi - 76.); 11 Agbonlahor, 20 Benteke, 26 Weimann (10 N'Zogbia - 62.). 4-3-3
Subs not used: 1 Given, 21 Bowery, 24 Dawkins, 30 Lichaj.

Liverpool: 25 Reina; 3 Jose Enrique, 23 Carragher, 5 Agger, 2 Johnson; 8 Gerrard (booked 48.), 21 Lucas; 19 Downing, 10 Coutinho (31 Sterling - 77.), 14 Henderson; 7 Suarez. 4-2-3-1
Subs not used: 1 Jones, 15 Sturridge, 16 Coates, 30 Suso, 33 Shelvey, 37 Skrtel.

Sky Stats: Aston Villa-Liverpool
Attempts: 10-23
On target: 4-7
Offsides: 3-6
Corners: 7-8
Free kicks: 9-9
Possession: 46.5%-53.5%
Tackles/Success: 27-21/70.4%-81%
Passes/Success: 452-538/79.2%-82.3%
Crosses/Success: 24-15/29.2%-13.3%

Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Steven Gerrard

Monday, 18 March 2013

Week 30: Premier League Tops & Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend


Christian Benteke celebratesThe relegation clash between Aston Villa and QPR was a battle-and-a-half! It was end-to-end stuff which had hearts rushing and nerves crushing at an exhausting, breathtaking rate. Villa second-choice keeper Bradley Guzan made a couple of point-blank, breathtaking saves, helping his side to a crucial 3-2 win. It was the second week running Paul Lambert's side came from behind to win moveing them six points clear of the relegation zone, whilst QPR remain stuck at the bottom of the table, seven points from safety. But Harry Redknapp can take heart and spirit from this match, his Rangers still having fight and goals in them to stay in the relegation battle with more than a shout!


Leon Osman (far right) puts Everton ahead in the first halfMan City never turned up at Goodison Park. No offence to Everton and David Moyes, who mastered the plan of closing down the opponents, giving them hardly any air to breath or space to go and ending up on top, 2-0 winners and deservedly so, even after being reduced to ten men. But Roberto Mancini's men were not only missing Yaya Toure but there was no fight or spirit in the side like last season. The Blues never pushed or created much of a threat and the result could have been worse if Kevin Mirallas' disallowed goal would have stood. They are 11 points worse off than this point last season and the gap showed much more and was underlined in this match. They look nowhere near the side they were last season and lightyears away from their local title rivals United (= 15-point-gap compared to only three points at this stage last season)!


Wayne RooneyManchester United eased to a 1-0 win against Reading at Old Trafford. It was a risky tactic by Sir Alex Ferguson against a relegation-battling side, making eight changes from their European heartache against Real Madrid and choosing a more passive, laid-back approach of play. But it all payed off in the end thanks to a deflected Wayne Rooney goal and showed what champions are made of, winning even if and when they are giving nowhere near their 100% and the game was everything else than breathtaking. The Red Devils are now 15 points clear at the top, with their name most certainly engraved into their 20th title, whilst The Royals are sitting deep in trouble, second from bottom, seven points from safety.


Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin (centre) scores against LiverpoolOnce again Liverpool capitulated just when you thought they were finding form. No discrediting Southampton with a stubborn, solid display, but The Reds could have been thrashed by four or five the shambolic way they played! Brendan Rodgers' men were obviously missing experienced defender Jamie Carragher leaking, shaking and clumsy, it was awful to watch. The south-coast club have now beaten Liverpool in four of the last five league games at home and the defeat stretches the gap and their chance of European qualification to nine points whilst the win puts Mauricio Pochettino's Saints four points clear of the drop in 16th.


Arouna Kone's last-minute winner for Wigan in a controversial win against Newcastle will prove to be double-crucial in the relegation battle, keeping the gap to safety at three points. But the game was marred by Callum McManaman's horrendous tackle on defender Massadio Haidara and should have been a red card. Ok, the referee could not see the incident as his view seemed to be blocked by another player, but what about his assistant?! Or the fourth official?! It is pathetic, no, shambolic, that nothing can be done during the match where every shout, every decision, every goal, every point counts, is so crucial and can be worth thousands if not millions of pounds for a club! It also looked like a hand ball was overlooked before Wigan's match winning goal, plus a list of penalty shouts... All in all, the referees were horrendous once again this weekend! 
Craig Gardner scores Sunderland's first-half equaliser from the penalty spotSunderland and Norwich ground out a 1-1 draw also with loads of controversial decisions by the officials. After a harsh sending off, battling through over an hour reduced to ten men, penalties given and not given, handballs in- and/or outside the box, the visitors will be the happier with the point whilst Sunderland will feel it is more like two points dropped than one point gained. And that is just one match, one more example, of many which make me doubt the referees are doing their job. It is an utter shambles! Like Wigan's McManaman's tackle or the free kick given against Marouane Fellaini's handball eventhough his offence took place inside the box, I could go on and on with examples of where replays showed the offence and clarified the mistake made within seconds, so, why the hell can't the fourth official feed that back to the officials on the pitch so the right decision can be made!!! Suspensions after the match cannot influence or change the result, bring back the players or goals or points lost! It makes me sick!!!

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

Monday, 11 March 2013

Week 29: Premier League Tops & Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend


QPR striker Loic Remy scores for his side against SunderlandQPR's impressive home win against Sunderland did not take them off the bottom of the table but Harry Redknapp's men moved level on points with Reading in 19th, making what seemed impossible a couple of weeks/months ago possible: the fight and chance of survival. After two wins on the trot, the next game will still be crucial! Rangers will travel to Aston Villa who sit in 17th, only three points from safety and four points ahead of their opponents. It will be a juicy crunch at the bottom of the Premier League!


Robert Snodgrass and Luke ShawBoth the Swans and Saints had good reason to head back home aggrieved after being let down by the officials in their games at West Brom and Norwich respectively. The prior had a Roland Lamah goal disallowed which looked nowhere near offside and ended up losing 2-1, whilst the latter conceded a very soft penalty which Artur Boruc saved brilliantly, denying Grant Holt and earning his side a crucial point in the relegation battle. If only the referees would be rewarded with or deducted points depending on their performance! A lot of them would not last long!


Liverpool captain Steven gerrard (left) scores his side's winner against Tottenham from the penalty spotLiverpool's performance against Tottenham impressed, showing a side that clicked and pounced on their opponents' cracks and leaks. Playing against a side at its peak, Brendan Rodgers' men set up well and strong from the start, giving Tottenham little space to move and manoeuvre in and leading on well for the win which took the Reds up to 6th, only two points behind Arsenal (who have a game in hand though). Andre Villas-Boas' men saw their unbeaten run of twelve games come to an end and their gap to Chelsea in fourth closed to only two points with the Blues having a game in hand too due to their FA Cup tie against Manchester United.


Gabriel Agbonlahor scores for Aston VillaSunderland's dire run continues after their defeat at QPR with just two points out of the last six games, taking them down to 14th on 30 points, six points from safety. Reading fell to their fifth defeat on the trot against Aston Villa which will not help their battle against relegation either sitting deep in trouble down in 19th, only one point from safety, but with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool on their fixture list over the next few weeks, they will rue these points dropped!


Papiss Cisse scores the winner for Newcastle against StokePapiss Cisse starred with his late dramatic winner for Newcastle against Stoke leaving both sides in 13th and 11th respectively, level on 33 points with Fulham, West Ham and Norwich(!). It was the third Premier League game in a row the Magpies won coming from behind, only keeping one clean sheet in the last 11 games, whilst The Potters have suffered their seventh defeat in nine games. Gabriel Agbonlahor deserves a mention too with his fine left-foot winner for Aston Villa against Reading at the Madejski Stadium taking his side out of the relegation zone.


Norwich's Holt should be ashamed of himself! The English striker is top of the offence list in the Premier League and then tops his shameful act with a dive. Thank goodness the spot kick was saved by Saints keeper Boruc but I wish actions like this could be followed and sanctioned by the FA to stop these drama queens and liars!

My Predictions => Actual Results:
Norwich 2-2 Southampton => 0-0
QPR 1-0 Sunderland => 3-1
Reading 2-0 Aston Villa => 1-2
West Brom 1-2 Swansea => 2-1
Newcastle 3-1 Stoke => 2-1
Liverpool 1-3 Tottenham => 3-2

In case you are wondering, the other four matches were postponed due to the remaining clubs' FA Cup obligations and fixtures. Read up and catch up with all the FA Cup action here including Chelsea's comeback draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford forcing a replay.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Gerrard completes Reds comeback against Spurs

Sports - Football - Premier League - Liverpool 3:2 Tottenham

A late winner from the spot by skipper Steven Gerrard kept Liverpool's hopes of Champions League qualification alive as they beat Tottenham 3-2 in a topsy-turvy Premier League affair at Anfield.

Liverpool captain Steven gerrard (left) scores his side's winner against Tottenham from the penalty spot

The Reds took the lead halfway through the first half thanks to a nicely worked goal with Phillippe Coutinho producing a skillful set-up from the left wing before combining with Jose Enrique who slipped a lovely pass through for Luis Suarez to stab in the opener neatly inside keeper Hugo Lloris' near post with the outside of his boot.

Spurs hit back with a Jan Vertonghen header just before the break and the Belgian then fired the visitors ahead eight minutes into the second half striking the bouncing ball clearly past replacement keeper Brad Jones from 15 yards out.

At that point the visitors looked in total control, but Kyle Walker's horrendous back pass left Lloris stranded, only able to to kick the ball into Stewart Downing's path who coolly converted the chance presented to him on a silver plate firing the ball into the back of the net through Vertonghen's legs on the line to make it all square at 2-2.

And the turnaround was comeplete when Jermain Defoe's clumsy back pass found Suarez who was brought down in the box by Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gerrard converted the resulting penalty sending Lloris the wrong way to bag three goals and points for Brendan Rodgers' men.

Suarez has now scored nine goals in the Premier League 2013, two more than any other player, whilst Jamie Carragher made his 500th league appearance for Liverpool. And the Reds have won three games in a row (in all competitions) for the first time this season. Rodgers can only hope his side can pick up a nice, longer winning run from this, improving their chances of European football next season!

Liverpool Goals: 1.: 20:41min Luis Suarez (7), 2.: 65:31min Stewart Downing (19), 3.: 81:47min Steven Gerrard (8) penalty.

Tottenham Goals: 1. & 2.: 44:52min & 52:39min Jan Vertonghen (5).

Liverpool: 1 Jones; 3 Jose Enrique, 5 Agger, 23 Carragher (booked 83.), 2 Johnson; 10 Coutinho (24 Allen - 59.), 8 Gerrard, 21 Lucas, 19 Downing; 7 Suarez, 15 Sturridge (14 Henderson - 88.). 4-4-2
Subs not used: 42 Gulacsi, 37 Skrtel, 33 Shelvey, 31 Sterling, 47 Wisdom.

Tottenham: 25 Lloris; 32 Assou-Ekotto (46 Carroll - 90.), 5 Vertonghen (booked 57.), 20 Dawson, 28 Walker; 22 Sigurdsson, 8 Parker, 29 Livermore (23 Holtby - 84.), 19 Dembele; 18 Defoe, 11 Bale. 4-4-2 
Subs not used: 24 Friedel, 6 Huddlestone, 16 Naughton, 33 Caulker, 41 Coutlhirst.

Sky Stats: Liverpool-Tottenham 
Attempts: 12-16 
On target: 4-7
Offsides: 6-0
Corners: 1-4
Free kicks: 9-9
Possession: 46.5%-53.5% 
Tackles/Success: 27-33/77.8%-72.7%
Passes/Success: 397-452/75.1%-79,6%
Crosses/Success: 10-19/20%-15.8%

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the match: Luis Suarez

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Week 28: Premier League Tops & Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend


Loic RemyQPR's crucial win over Southampton made up for their alleged few too many drinks during a recent tour. It was only their third win all season and their first in seven, since beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the 2nd January. Harry Redknapp kept his men together and Rangers recorded a much-needed win in the relegation battle reducing the gap to safety down to four points with ten games remaining.


Chelsea interim boss Rafael BenitezWhat was Rafael Benitez thinking with his rant? That neither helped his cause, his side (eventhough they ended up winning against West Brom, just, 1-0 thanks Demba Ba) nor did it win over any fans! The Spaniard is an experienced manager and should know better than to have a tantrum with the press or fans! If it was some kind of genius tactic to distract the media and fans attention, focus and critics away from his side and players, then fool me! Actions speak louder than words, games, goals, points rather than rants, chants and moans.


Tottenham forward Gareth Bale (left) scores against ArsenalTottenham outplayed Arsenal with Gareth Bale unable to do anything wrong at the moment. Whilst one side of London is up and rising on a high, the other side is in free fall. A lot of fans are calling for Arsene Wenger's head. However, rather than shaking up and changing the management, how about the Gunners finally make use of the funds they have collected over the years to strengthen their squad? Ok, it's too late to make changes to the squad this season. They can only hope to make it into the top for to qualify for the Champions League. If they fail to do so, it will just show it is time for change, to make use of their resources rather than seeing heads rolling and more question marks raising.


Manchester United celebrate Shinji Kagawa's goalMy vote obviously goes to the hat-trick heroes Shinji Kagawa and Luis Suarez, the prior keeping his side top of the lot by far (= 12 points) thrashing Norwich 4-0 at Old Trafford whilst the latter is stirring and spicing up the will-he-stay-or-will-he-go-now discussions sinking Wigan 4-0 at the DW Stadium. Sir Alex Ferguson can now focus on their bid to remain in the Champions League in their secound-leg home bout against Real Madrid (1-1 at the Bernabeu), whilst Brendan Rodgers can remain hopeful with his side's bid to qualify for Europe next season. 


Stephane SessegnonThat's how many league defeats both Spurs and United have suffered so far this year, the last two undefeated Premier League sides in 2013. The prior last saw defeat at Everton beginning of December, whilst the latter last fell at Norwich back in November 2012 and both seem to go from strength to strength. The worst league run goes to Sunderland who haven't won in their last five (DLLLD) and Reading who lost their last three games. The Black Cats climbed up to 14th thought after their draw against Fulham whilst The Royals remain deep in trouble in 19th, but just one point from safety.

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