UEFA Europa League Kicks Off With Series of Exciting Matches

Valencia 0-3 SwanseaEurope’s secondary competition, the Europa League, kicked off to an exciting start last week. In Group A, Swansea stole the headlines with a famous win at the Mestalla against a Valencia side crippled in the midst of debt and dissatisfaction from the fans. What was most surprising about the game was the ease in which Swansea won. The Premier League side enjoyed 69.4% of the possession, a massive chunk considering Spanish sides pride themselves on their passing approach to football.

It was a sign of intent from Swansea, and it showed they were certainly going to take the Europa League seriously. Swansea manager, Michael Laudrup, was full of praise for his side, claiming the win was fantastic: “We dominated the whole game. They had nothing really and we had another three or four big, huge chances to score. So I’m very pleased.” In their next outing, Swansea will take on second placed St Gallen, who managed to beat Kuban Krasnador in Switzerland. A win in that match and they are firmly on their way to qualifying for the knockout round.

PSV may have enjoyed a highly impressive 4-0 win over Ajax in the Eredivisie, but prior to that, they were humbled by Ludogorets of Bulgaria in the Europa League Group B. Reading the stats, it seems it was a dominating performance from PSV. However, their shooting boots were evidently left at home as they racked up eighteen shots in the game to no avail. Ludogorets, on the other hand, managed to take the points with some luck, scoring both of their two shots on goal. In the other game, Chornomorets of Ukraine surprised Dinamo Zagreb by winning 2-1 in the Croatian capital. In the next outing, Dinamo Zagreb face a trip to Bulgaria to take on Ludogorets, while PSV travel to Odesa to take on Chornomorets.

In Group C, Red Bull Salzburg beat off the demons of last season’s embarrassing exit to Dudelange in the Champions League qualifiers after recording a victory over Elfsborg with the score of 4-0. A hat trick from Jonathan Soriano and a goal from former Brazil U20 international, Alan, sealed the points. In the other game, Esbjerg caused an upset after beating Standard Liege 2-1. In the next round, the two winners, Red Bull Salzburg and Esbjerg, are set to face each other in Denmark, while Elfsborg and Standard Liege meet in Sweden, with both sides looking to redeem themselves.

Zulte Waregem 0-0 Wigan AthleticWigan enjoyed their first European outing by registering a point in Group D. They had to ride the large wave of pressure from Zulte Waregem, but they managed to draw in the end, even if it was in frantic fashion. In the other game, Rubin showed the credentials to go further than the quarterfinal stage this season with a 5-2 win over Maribor. In the next round of games, Rubin take on Zulte Waregem, while Wigan face their first European home game against Maribor.

In Group E, Pacos De Ferreira again showed that European football may be a step too far for them as they lost 3-0 in Florence to Fiorentina. Former Manchester United striker, Giuseppe Rossi, was amongst the goalscorers as he wrapped up the win on the 76th minute. Dnipro look like they will be going on another Europa League run after beating Pandurii of Romania to keep in touch with Fiorentina at this early stage. On the next match day, the top two meet in Ukraine, while Pacos will look to record their first European home win this season when they take on Pandurii.

Eintracht Frankfurt may be struggling to hit the dizzying heights of last season, but they made short work of Bordeaux with a 3-0 victory. Goals from Vaclav Kadlec, Marco Russ, and Constant Djakpa were the difference in the end as the French Cup champions showed little resistance. In Tel Aviv, the other two sides in the group, Apoel and Maccabbi Tel Aviv, played out a 0-0 draw that was not ideal for either squad. In the next round of games, Frankfurt face a trip to Cyprus to take on 2012 Champions League quarter-finalists, Apoel, while Bourdeaux will look to bounce back at home against Maccabbi Tel Aviv.

Upsets have been the common theme in the opening match day, and it was no different in Group G, as Genk earned a priceless 1-0 victory in Kyiv against Dynamo. It was Dynamo’s first home defeat in the Europa League (UEFA Cup) since 1993, when they lost 3-0 at home to Anderlecht. Thun marked a good week for Swiss football as they beat Rapid Vienna at home, with a goal from Marco Schneuwly enough to separate the sides. The next round of games make for interesting reading as Dynamo Kyiv head to Vienna in search of victory and Genk seeking to improve their start with a win over Thun.

Freiburg 2-2 Slovan LiberecIn Group H, Frieburg were disappointingly pegged back as they drew at home with Slovan Liberec. Two second half goals from Vladyslav Kalytvynsten and Michael Rabusic brought the Czech club from certain defeat as they scuppered Freiburg’s 2-0 halftime lead. Sevilla put their issues of league form to bed as they beat Portuguese side, Estoril, 2-1, with Vitolo and Kevin Grameiro scoring the goals to seal a fairly comfortable victory. In the next round of games, Sevilla and Frieburg meet at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in arguably the biggest game of the group, whilst Slovan Liberec host Estoril, looking to capitalize on their 2-2 draw with Freiburg.

Real Betis & Lyon shared the spoils in Seville in a fairly uneventful game. A 0-0 draw probably proved to work better for the French club, who on their previous visit to Spain had been beaten by Real Sociedad 2-0. Portuguese cup champions, Vitoria, showed their intent as they beat Rijeka of Croatia with the score of 4-0. In the next round of game, Rijeka host Real Betis. While Lyon welcome Vitoria to the Stade Gerland.

In Group J, Trabzonspor flew the flag for Turkey after beating Apollon Limassaol thanks to a late goal from Yusuf Erdogan. The Turkish club had trailed after Gaston Sangoy put the Cypriots in front, however former Chelsea midfielder, Florent Malouda, drew Trabzonspor leveled minutes after. Legia Warsaw put up a respectable display in Rome, however it proved to be not enough as they were beaten 1-0 thanks to goal from Brazilian midfielder Hernanes. In the next round of games, Legia play host to Apollon Limassol. While Trabzonspor and Lazio meet in what appears to be an early group decider.

Anzhi problems were ripe as they could only conjure up a performance that warranted a 0-0 with Sheriff of Moldova. Meanwhile, Jermaine Defoe proved his worth to André Villas-Boas by scoring twice in a comfortable 3-0 win for Tottenham over Tromso. Christian Eriksen scored his first European goal for Tottenham, as he netted a wonderful third in the win. In the next round of games, Tottenham travel to Moscow to take on Anzhi, and Tromso play host to Sheriff.

A stoppage time goal from Zvonimir Vukic won PAOK all three points as they beat Shakhter Karagandy 2-1. Dutch side, AZ, earned a vital away win in Israel, as they beat Maccabbi Haifa 1-0 in the other match. In the next round of games, Shakhter Karagandy take on Maccabbi Haifa. While PAOK travel to Holland to take on AZ.

Written by Jimmy Cartwright

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Liverpool Secure £1m Loan Deal for Chelsea Winger Victor Moses

Victor MosesLiverpool have completed the signing of 22 year-old Chelsea winger Victor Moses on a season-long loan for a fee believed to be around £1m. The Nigerian International joins the Merseyside club after a successful year at Chelsea, where he played a total of 43 games, scored 10 goals, and helped Chelsea win their Europa League trophy in addition to a third place finish in the Premier League.

Prior to Chelsea, Moese played 74 games in his two years at Wigan. Chelsea bought Moses from Wigan Athletic last summer for roughly £10m, but the winger - who can also double up as a forward - didn’t get too many playing minutes at his new club. Although Moses featured in 23 Premier League games for Chelsea, he only played four full games in the competition. He was a second-half substitute for eleven games, and was subbed off for the remaining eight.

Moses did fairly well for Chelsea at European competitions as well. He played an important role in helping Chelsea win last season’s Europa League with four goals in six games, including two in both semi-final legs against 2012 Swiss Champions FC Basel. Moses scored a last-second winner for Chelsea at a Champions League group-stage game against Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk. as well

In addition to scoring two goals, Moses provided three assists in the three 2012-13 Capital One Cup matches in which he featured for Chelsea. He also scored twice for Chelsea in last season’s FA Cup. Internationally, Moses has scored four goals and assisted five in the 13 games he’s played for the Nigeria National Team. He helped his country win the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year with an assist in the final against Burkina Faso, which ended in a 1-0 victory for his team.

Victor MosesWith the arrival of the very talented Andre Schurrle and Willian to Chelsea, however, Moses didn’t quite seem to be in Jose Mourinho’s plans. The Chelsea manager said he wanted a 22-man squad, and that if a new player came in, another player would have to leave to make the number easy to work with. That noted, Moses felt a move away from the club would suit him and the club’s best interest, as he wants more playing time:

“As a young footballer coming up, I just want to play games. Not playing can really damage your career.”

Moses is just three games away from 100 English Premier League games, having played 74 for Wigan in addition to his 23 for Chelsea. Brendan Rodgers, having watched Moses closely, says he’s pleased to have him join his side as they hope to continue in their good form:

“I’ve been aware of Victor for a long time and know his qualities. He’s the type of offensive player I like - he’s got terrific skill with the ball, is a wonderful technician and can go left side or right side. The crowd will love him because he wants to beat players, but he also has a real work ethic to him. We were delighted he became available at Chelsea because he is a player that can do very well for us.”

Victor Moses was the third of three signings Brendan Rodgers made on transfer deadline day, alongside defenders Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori from Paris Saint-Germain and Sporting Lisbon respectively. The young winger is ready to get started and help Liverpool, who have started their Premier League campaign very well, maintain their form:

“Liverpool is a massive club and I just want to enjoy my football and try to help my team-mates. The move to Chelsea was a massive step for me. I just wanted to go there, express myself and enjoy my football. Coming to Liverpool is another step for me.”

A great acquisition for Liverpool, Victor Moses could be vital in strengthening the Red’s offense this season and will deliver many opportunities for scoring goals. Moses will wear the number 12 shirt for Liverpool and will likely make his debut on Monday, 16 September, when Liverpool travel to Swansea for their next Barclays Premier League game.

Written by Ange Marline

Sky Bet Championship Preview: Exciting Season is Ahead for all Participating Clubs

Cardiff CityThere are plenty of people in English football who feel that the newly-named Sky Bet Championship is the best league in the world, and anyone who follows it closely will know that they have a point. Sure, there may not be the glittering stars of the Premiership or any of the other major European leagues. There may not be as much money flying around, and not as many fans packed into the smaller stadiums.

It is, however, the most competitive league in the world. With the next installment set to kick off with a 12:15 kickoff between local rivals Burnley and Bolton, every team is in with a chance of glory. From Barnsley to Yeovil, from the FA Cup holders to the newbies from League One, this could be anyone’s year, and the fans can’t wait.

As usual, last year’s Premier League dropouts are the bookies’ favorites to be at the top end of the table come next May.  Moneybags QPR have made some solid additions to their squad, such as Charlie Austin, who plundered 25 league goals for Burnley last year. Richard Dunne will add experience to a squad still yet to completely gel, and some of the dead wood has been removed from the squad; Jose Bosingwa and Christopher Samba will be a welcome load off the wage bill. If Harry Redknapp can finally implement his ideas and get his own players in, QPR could be in for an exciting season. If not, a Wolves-esque second successive relegation is not out of the question.

Wigan Athletic won not just the FA Cup but the hearts of the nation with their stunning final victory over Manchester City last season, and although goals were not hard to come by, their defense was poor and they paid the price. Top scorer Arouna Kone and defender Antolin Alcaraz followed manager Roberto Martinez to Everton, so Owen Coyle will have a different squad to work with. Wigan fans have undoubtedly enjoyed their team’s free-lowing attacking football over the last few years, but they will need to shore up the other end if they are to stand a chance of bouncing back.

The other relegated team were Reading, who took the Championship by storm in 2011-12 but were unable to carry their form up to the next level. Manager Nigel Adkins knows what it takes to get out of this division, and Adam Le Fondre is a proven goalscorer in the Championship in addition to bagging 14 strikes last season. However, the Royals conceded the joint-most goals last season (with Wigan) and lost more games than any other team, showing that something was very wrong at the Madejski last year. A return to the big-time is far from guaranteed.

Then there are the promoted teams. Norwich and Southampton have both come up from League One through to the Premier League in the last few years, so teams must be wary of the newcomers. Doncaster have caused a splash by signing One Direction member Louis Tomlinson on a non-contract basis, but it was the whole of Doncaster - not just the teenage girl contingent - that was screaming for the team last year as they romped to the League One title. Goals were shared around the squad, but Billy Paynter was the top scorer with 15, and the club have managed to keep hold of him so far. Many of the squad have experienced this division before, so although a title challenge would be a turn up for the books, a mid-table finish or a push for the playoffs is not beyond them.

Yeovil TownBournemouth missed out on top spot by just one point, but Jersey-born forward Brett Pitman helped them to a league-high 76 goals scored, so they should be able to take advantage of some leaky Championship defenses. They are also a team who can pull together and win games when it really matters; they took 25 of the last 27 points available to them last season, although eight from the first 33 means they are not the best starters. They also managed a league double over the final promoted side, playoff winners Yeovil Town.

The Glovers had a strange season, as out of the four teams in the playoffs at the end they had won the most games (23) but also lost the most (15). Their next season depends on whether they can maintain the form that took them to their 23 wins, or slump back to that which yielded 15 losses. Irishman Paddy Madden scored 23 goals, the highest in the league, but three players outscored him in the Championship against higher-level opposition (although Glenn Murray made the step up to the Premiership). He was supported by James Hayter, but otherwise no players scored more than five goals in the league. Those two need to fire, otherwise there will be nowhere to hide in their bright yellow and green kits.

And finally, last year’s also-rans. Watford have made eight more signings from parent club Udinese - make of that what you will - but will be without last year’s star forward Matej Vydra, who returns to the Italian club. Gianfranco Zola will try to implement his same attacking approach but with a different group of players, so the senior members of the squad need to step up and guide the younger loanees as they did last year. Like them, Brighton missed out in the playoffs last year, although their team was built around an impenetrable defense, conceding only 43 goals. They drew more games than anyone else in the division, but lost only nine - joint fewest with Champions Cardiff.

With a great mix of flair and experience, the Seagulls could be a decent bet for automatic promotion. Leicester were the final team to make the top six, only doing so on goal difference. Despite only finishing sixth, there is obvious quality throughout the squad, and they have been together long enough now that the team not gelling is no longer an excuse. Nigel Pearson is a good enough manager to get the Foxes out of this division, and with David Nugent and Chris Wood leading the line, their target must be the title.

Bolton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest had very similar seasons in 2012-13, and both still have room for improvement. What it may take for that improvement is a goalscorer. Neither team had a player score more than 12 league goals, so if either could add a 20-goal striker in the mold of Vydra or Murray there is no limit as to how their season could go. Charlton surprised many with their 9th placed finish last year, so some expect them to suffer from “second season syndrome.” They have several players capable of getting into at least double figures of goals at this level, and it would have only taken two more wins to have pushed the Addicks up into the playoffs.

BurnleyDerby, however, surprised very few people with their mid-table finish. They are a very solid team, and they consistently drew high crowds at a high of over 33,000 last season. Too good to go down but perhaps not good enough to go up; another season of consolidation would be satisfactory, but they are capable of more. Completing the top half were Burnley and Birmingham, again two solid teams capable of more on their day, Burnley will be hurt by the loss of top scorer Austin to QPR, so Martin Paterson and Sam Vokes need to make their mark.

The sale of Austin means funds will be available for a replacement, but it is not that easy to replace 25 goals. Junior Stanislas is still an exciting talent, and at the age of 23 he needs to start to fulfill his early promise. Birmingham relied on the controversial (to say the very least) Marlon King for goals last year, but the loss of Nathan Redmond to Norwich will be noticed. Jack Butland has also gone, and although Lee Clark has not spent a penny so far this summer, there is room for improvement, and some funds available to make them.

Leeds United have fallen far in the last decade or so, but they have a squad capable of making the playoffs despite a disappointing 2012-13 season. El-Hadji Diouf and Ross McCormack could form a potent striking partnership, and Paddy Kenny remains a solid goalkeeper. Ipswich enjoyed a revival under Mick McCarthy but will do well to maintain their form from last term. They have made some good signings, but more will be expected of DJ Campbell, who is certainly capable of building on last year’s tally of ten league goals. Blackpool’s season could hinge on the future of Tom Ince, widely regarded as the best player in the division, even better than £10 million man Wilfried Zaha. 18 goals and 14 assists is a stellar year by anyone’s standards, but the rest of the team need to step up and take some responsibility off his young shoulders. His father Paul will need to make his mark on the managerial stage if he is to keep his job.

Middlesbrough were flying high at the midway stage last time out, but a run of only three wins after the new year saw them tumble to 16th. A win against Premiership rivals Sunderland was sweet, and solid performances against Swansea and Chelsea showed what they are capable of, but a goalscorer is needed if they are to have a consistent season. 23 losses was as many as relegated Wolves and more than Peterborough, so Jonathan Woodgate and Rhys Williams need to improve at the back. Scott McDonald has left, so the goal-scoring burden is on Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz; both are capable of scoring, but injuries haven’t been kind to either player. Despite the doom and gloom, Jason Steele, Adam Reach, and Luke Williams showed signs of a bright future on Teesside.

Blackburn RoversBlackburn had a poor first season after demotion from the Premiership, but Jordan Rhodes’ 29-goal season was a sign of promise for the forthcoming year. Like Boro, their priority should be to get the fans back onside. Attendances dipped to a low of only 5,000 last year, and the Venky’s farcical ownership has lead to five different men taking the managerial reigns in the last 12 months. Sheffield Wednesday fans dream of a forward like Rhodes; not one Wednesday player managed 10 goals last season, even in all competitions. 61 goals conceded was not bad for their final position in the table, so the defense needs to stay strong if the Owls are to survive another year.

Huddersfield were never going to replace Rhodes, but James Vaughan scored enough goals to keep the Terriers up last season. His move has been made permanent, and if Adam Hammill can rediscover his old Barnsley form, he could prove to be an astute signing. Millwall have added Scott McDonald to their squad as well as the proven Steve Morison, so goals should be easier to come by this term. They have enough experience for a higher finish this time around, but they have few players of real high quality. Like them, Barnsley survived by the skin of their teeth on the final day last year - they are often touted as relegation favorites - so they have experience in relegation dogfights that other teams may not. Like Wigan, they have made a habit of leaving it late, but we all know what happened to the Latics last year.

So there were have it. Another 46 games for your team to look forward to - 48 if you’re lucky - and another nine months of excitement, disappointment, cheers, and tears for every single fan across this division. Everyone has their own opinion and everyone has made their own predictions, but these generally turn out to be worthless. You may as well draw team names out of a hat, given the nature of the Championship, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Football, we’ve missed you.

Written by Sam France

Underdogs Wigan Athletic Defeat Manchester City to Win First FA Cup Trophy

Wigan AthleticYet again the underdogs have triumphed in a cup final after Wigan beat Manchester City 1-0 through a 90th minute goal from Ben Watson. This is the first time Wigan have won the FA Cup in their 81-year history.

No-one can say that Wigan didn’t deserve the trophy today. Manchester City started the game with some fast, flowing football and were obviously looking for an early goal. They had a couple of chances in the first 10 minutes but nothing that really troubled Joel, the Wigan keeper, too much. Just before the 10 minute mark though, Wigan really started to get into the game with a lovely move on the 9th minute which left McManaman with a great opportunity that just went wide.

McManaman was involved in nearly every Wigan attack in the match and ultimately should have scored. He and Maloney on the wings really troubled the Man City full-backs, especially Clichy, who struggled to handle McManaman throughout the game.

Throughout the first half, City had short bursts of attacks but most of the football was played by Wigan. They controlled the match during most the first 45 minutes and started to look like the favorites to win. Manchester City struggled to really get into the game and looked very nervous with the ball.

Yaya Touré repeatedly tried to get something going in midfield, but the City attackers failed to turn chances into goals. Samir Nasri had an especially average game in attacking midfield. He failed to get involved in the attacks and his passing was a bit off. City were trying to play down the wings, but unfortunately, Nasri isn’t exactly a winger, but more of a playmaker who prefers to play in the middle. Mancini had pushed him on the right though, while Tevez played in the middle as a deep lying forward behind Aguero.

As the half time whistle was blown, Wigan will have been walking down the tunnel feeling pretty confident about the next 45 minutes. They finished the half with more attempts and slightly more possession against a team who finished second in the league. Many expected City to come out much stronger and grab a couple of goals during the second half as the first half simply wasn’t good enough. Before the match, there were reports Mancini would be replaced by Malaga coach Pellegrini, and a bad performance or failing to bring back the trophy could result in a sacking.

Manchester City 0-1 Wigan AthleticSo the second half started and Wigan continued to dominate and attack the City back four. But after about 10 minutes, City decided to finally get into the game and had a couple of decent attacks. Nasri finally came off in the 55th minute for Milner, and in what could have been a sigh of relief to most City fans, the Frenchman failed to impress.

Just after the arrival of Milner, there was a penalty appeal for City as Scharner seemed to clip Aguero’s heels. Fortunately for Wigan though, nothing was given and the replay seemed to show Aguero offside anyway. Milner seemed to also improve the quality of City’s attacks with a couple of good crosses and even a chance of his own on the 60th minute.

But again Wigan began to press and a couple of McManaman’s runs helped to create some more chances. The Wigan youngster managed to dribble past Silva and Clichy easily at one point to give himself a chance on goal, but Kompany managed to stop him with a last-ditch tackle.  The City captain dealt with most Wigan attacks during the second half and looked like one of the more assured Manchester City players on the pitch.

The match continued in the same way for the majority of the second half with Wigan pressing and Man City having a couple of their own attacks. The match became more even and both teams looked like they could score at any point. But then in the 84th minute Zabaleta prevented McManaman from striding through on goal and received his second yellow. Wigan now had a real chance against 10-man City. Milner then moved into right back, which gave Wigan less to worry about on the right wing so they continued to attack, beginning to believe they could win this game in normal time.

It was now the 90th minute and Wigan had a dangerous corner. Maloney whipped it in for substitute Ben Watson to head past the helpless Joe Hart. Wigan fans and players went wild as they had surely won the FA Cup but there were still 4 added minutes of time. City attacked, but failed to find anything and finally Andre Marriner blew his whistle, and Wigan Athletic were the 2013 FA Cup Champions.

Written by Elliot Bourdais

The Weekly Football World Report: Issue #1

Wigan Athletic 2-1 Newcastle

Wigan Athletic 2-1 NewcastleThe Wigan-Newcastle match-up on Sunday proved a major talking point this weekend, and mostly due to controversial incidents. Newcastle, having had an injury to Mathieu Debuchy on 13 minutes, replaced him with Massadio Haidara. Newcastle had to make yet another substitution for Haidara, who was only on the pitch for 14 minutes, after a horrendous challenge by Wigan youngster Callum Mcmanaman,who was making his full premier league debut.

Not only was it a terrible challenge, but the referee Mark Halsey did not even blow for a foul! Replays showed not only was it worthy of a straight red card it could have been a career ending injury for Haidara.

Haidara luckily has got away with just ankle ligament damage and bruising. The tackle by Mcmanaman went unpunished  at the time, and the FA have issued a statement saying the Wigan youngster will face no further punishment as the linesman saw the incident!

And later on, the game was decided with the linesman failing to flag again despite his failure to spot Wigans winning goal being handled in the build up to the goal.

Illegal Goalkeeper Handling

Sticking with officials there seem to be more and more back passes being illegally picked up by the goalkeepers and going unpunished. In the Aston Villa win over QPR this weekend Julio Cesar clearly had the ball deliberately passed back to him, which he the casually picked up.

Blackburn Rovers Managerial Dilemma

Michael Appleton Sacked by Blackburn RoversBlackburn Rovers are looking for their 4th manager of the season after the surprise sacking of Manager Michael Appleton. Appleton had only been in charge for 67 days at Ewood Park after he left former club Blackpool after only 65 days in charge.

Blackburn started the season with Steve Kean in charge, and them had Eric Black in temporary charge as well as permanent appointment Henning Berg, who only lasted 57 days. Surely this is a sign that people who don’t understand football should not be allowed to take over Football Clubs. Nigel Adkins has been installed as favorite to take the managers hot seat.

Phil Neville to Join England U-21 Coaching Staff

Phil Neville will follow brother Gary into the England’s coaching set up. Neville, still playing for Everton (aged 36), will become part of the England U-21 Coaching staff for the European Championships hosted in Israel.

Michael Owen Set to Retire

Michael Owen has announced that he will retire at the end of the season. The former England international made 89 appearances for his country and has played a big role for Stoke City this season. The 33 year old has played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, and Manchester United before a move last summer to Stoke.

Frank Lampard Scores 200th Goal

Frank Lampard scored his 200th Goal for Chelsea at the weekend and is now only 3 goals away from passing top scorer in the clubs history, Bobby Tambling, who scored 202.

Written by ChalkOnYaBoots

Analyzing the Premier League Relegation Battle: Part 2

Southampton

SouthamptonOnto Southampton, their season has been rather topsy-turvy, but they have managed to gain some momentum and have created a gap between themselves and the drop zone. Having taken points from Swansea, Reading, QPR, Liverpool, and Manchester City this season, Saints fans can be quietly confident of survival this season. The sacking of Nigel Adkins drew a dark cloud over the club and left fans worried about the current situation and how things at the club would change. If anything, they have changed for the better.

Southampton brought in the unknown Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager, and quite frankly, it has worked, as they have picked up two huge wins over Manchester City and Liverpool to pull away from the pack at the bottom. Those wins are Pochettino’s only victories since taking charge at St. Mary’s, but they have also gone on to pick up draws despite losing a few on the way as well.

The key players for them this season have been Gaston Ramirez, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, and Morgan Schniederlin. Rickie Lambert has been praised highly of many a fan this season, with him being the top English goal scorer in the division and having worked his way from the bottom tier of English league football, you could say he deserves a break like this.

Pochettino brought a new style to Southampton, and they now look like they play more fluent football and have a bigger physical presence. This, along with their fantastic attitude to every game, could see them reaching light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunderland

SunderlandSunderland are a team that haven’t really got going at all this season, they have had a few wins now and then but have failed to gather any momentum and have now been sucked into this relegation battle. Martin O’Neill has been in charge for around 18 months now and you’d think he would have got the players all on the same wavelength, but really, it’s the opposite.

The players don’t seem to have a true understanding of each other’s game, which is the main reason they can’t put in a full team performance for 90 minutes, and it all fizzles out for them. When they picked up the win again Manchester City at the Stadium of Light back on Boxing Day, courtesy of an Adam Johnson strike, Sunderland fans would have thought their team might have kicked on from there.

But, with them being without a win in the last 7 games, things are starting to look bleak for Martin O’Neill’s men, and they could find themselves in big trouble really quickly if they don’t find a win anytime soon.

Wigan Athletic

article-0-17731087000005DC-534_634x361Finally, Wigan, the side who always find themselves in a relegation battle but somehow always get out of it. This is down to Roberto Martinez’s style and philosophy. They always struggle for wins in the first half of the season, but at the turn of the year they find their form and go on a run of wins and draws to drag themselves out of the bottom three.

With them being the most experienced side in this situation, it is difficult to say that they won’t be able to get out of it again. They have managed to pick up 8 points from their last 6 games and are in a good run of form. Striker Aruna Kone has begun to find the net when it is really required most. Also, youngster Callum McManaman has become a star figure in the Wigan side over recent weeks and has had a very positive impact on the squad, also netting a few of his own.

With their style, experience and belief, their fans and many neutrals will only think that the Great Escape is on yet again for Wigan, and Roberto Martinez can mastermind his way to an even higher profile than what he has now.

Summary

In saying all of this, none of the bottom 10 are truly safe, as one slip up can be very costly, especially going into the final 9 games of the season, where all teams will be playing their hearts out and doing everything possible in order to pick up those vital points. All teams from Fulham and below all need to start doing something quickly, otherwise we may see one of the tightest relegation battles ever and it could very well go down to the final day of the season to determine who stays up and who goes down. It truly will be a survival of the fittest.

Written by OneFutbol

Gareth Bale

2012-13 Barclays Premier League Season So Far: Part 4

Swansea City

The Welsh team signed Michu in the summer for ₤2 million and is now known as the bargain of the season due to his high goal-scoring form, with 16 goals this season. The Swans have made a great start to the season and are 8th at the end of January, which is thoroughly deserved due to their tip-tap-toe football playing some of the nicest football in the Premier League thus far. De Guzman was also brought in by Laudrup in the summer and has been in sensational form, scoring 6 goals and making a lot of assists in the process. They have also been extremely successful in the Capital One Cup, and will face Bradford City in the final on 24 February.

Tottenham Hotspur

Gareth BaleAndre-Villas Boas has thrilled Spurs fans as they find themselves in 4th place at the end of January; this is largely due to their two star players, Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale, who have done a great job setting up attacking efforts and scoring many goals themselves. Together, they have scored 26 out of the Spurs’ 41 goals this season. Welsh midfielder Gareth Bale has been performing above expectations, especially as a midfielder, scoring 12 goals for the club this season. After joining the club in the summer, Adebayor has disappointed a lot of Spurs fan as he has only scored 3 goals. Aaron Lennon has been a constant this season for Spurs alongside Bale; Lennon has been putting in great performances and giving Adebayor a lot of service, however he hasn’t been able to take advantage of it yet.

West Bromwich Albion

West Brom had a very exciting start to the season after picking up 7 points out of 9 in the opening 3 games. Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku (who is on loan from Chelsea) have both been on good scoring form, racking up 9 goals each. However, Steve Clarke likes to play a 4-5-1 formation, which only allows 1 of the 2 to play at a time. The pair have only started together in the Premier League twice. Another striker for West Brom is Odemwingie, who looked to be leaving in January however ended up staying at the club and has now scored 5 goals this season. Scoring goals has not been the problem for Steve Clarkes team, yet defending them has. They have conceded 23 goals in 12 games away from home thus far, and if West Brom want to compete with the big boys, they will have to build up their defense and stop conceding as many goals.

West Ham United

Andy CarrollSam Allardyce’s men have been performing above expectations this season, and finished Janurary in 11th place. When Andy Carroll joined the club in the summer on loan from Liverpool, the club looked to have solved their target striker problem. However when the ₤1.9 million striker got injured, things looked bad for the Hammers, but they have managed to keep scoring goals at home, this being the reason why the club have finished the end of January so high up in the table. Captain Mark Nolan has been in great form and has scored 6 key goals for the Hammers. However, the club’s away form has been despicable and will need to be fixed if they want to keep or even heighten their position in the table.

Wigan Athletic

After finishing 15th last season , Wigan Athletic would have wanted Roberto Martinez to gain on that position and start to climb up the table this year. However, they have performed far below expectations this year and find themselves in 18th, tied with Aston Villa in terms of points but just ahead on goal difference. Wigan’s home form has not been great and they have conceded 27 goals in 13 games, which is one of the reasons they find themselves so far down in the table. Wigan’s top goal scorer is Jordi Gomez with 7 goals this season. However, following him with 6 and 5 goals are Kone and Di Santo, respectively. Wigan haven’t picked up 3 points since the 29th of December, where they won a vital game against Aston Villa, who are also involved in the relegation battle. I predict that Wigan will be one of the three teams to be relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2012-13 season.

Written by PAFCBake

Wigan Athletic Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi Scores an Embarrassing Own Goal

Scoring an own goal is embarrassing, but I can’t imagine how Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi managed to pull this one off. At Wigan’s game with Reading on Saturday, Al-Habsi generously gave the Royals a second goal to make it 2-2 just before the 80 minute mark.

Down 2-1, Hal Robson-Kanu of Reading took a chance on goal, but his shot took a deflection off of a Wigan defender. It flew high up into the air, giving Al-Habsi much time to prepare for an easy catch.

As the ball slowly descended down to the ground, the Omani international’s hand-eye coordination seemed to falter for a moment. As his hands closed around the ball, for just one moment, everything seemed to end as it should have. Unfortunately for him, the ball fell right out of his grasp, and despite his desperate attempts to stop it, it went right over the line.

As Al-Habsi sank to grief, a Reading striker went into the goal and took a celebratory shot into the net. Embarrassed over what had just happened, the goalkeeper stayed on his knees for a few seconds, afraid to show his face to the rest of the world.

And the worst part, it all happened in the Premier League, which is considered the world’s most popular and competitive league. Ali Al-Habsi’s own goal could very likely be one of the world’s worst own goals in history.  In front of millions of people who tuned into the game on their televisions, the goalkeeper made a mess of a fairly routine catch, and out of all places, it bounced right into the goal.

But the goalkeeper’s screw-up did not prevent Wigan from winning the game, though. Luckily for him, striker Jordi Gomez came to save the day well into stoppage time. Previous to Gomez’s winning goal, he had already netted two for the team, his first at 57 minutes to equalize the score at 1-1 and his second just 11 minutes later to give Wigan the lead.

Gomez managed to score a winner from 10 yards away, completing his hat trick and saving both the team and the goalkeeper in the process. Had not Gomez completed his late strike, Al-Habsi would likely be the laughing stock of the Premier League.

Despite the own goal, Wigan received 3 points from the match, placing them up in 15th place with only 14 points. Considering their previous Premier League results, their currently 4-2-7 record is nothing out of the ordinary. Reading is down in 19th place with 9 points, only topping QPR on the table. They have only recorded 1 win so far this season, the other matches being 6 draws and 5 losses.

The top of the Premier League sees Manchester United in 1st with 30 points and Manchester City in a close 2nd with 29. West Bromwich Albion is currently in 3rd with 26 points, while Chelsea is trailing in 4th with only 25.

Written by FutbolPulse