Monday, December 2, 2013

PSG underline Ligue 1 dominance with superb Lyon win

1:58 AM Posted by Moto Musashi 1 comment
Olympique Lyonnais used to be a team that riled Paris Saint-Germain. During the early part of the millennium, the side from the Rhone Valley goaded their capital rivals that they were a bigger club. On Sunday night, PSG emphatically proved that they are once again the benchmark for Ligue 1 sides.

Laurent Blanc’s men, who remain unbeaten in all competitions this season, cruised to a 4-0 victory over the side who used to monopolise the Championnat crown. PSG toyed with their opponents, encouraging the crowd to loudly chant ‘Ole!’ each time they completed a successful pass with only an hour played.

Such is the strength of this PSG vintage, Blanc did not even feel the need to risk Blaise Matuidi, the side’s engine, from the outset of the game. Instead, the more graceful Javier Pastore was deployed from the outset, indicative of the home side’s need for creativity to break down opponents who arrived at Parc des Princes with the intention of spending long periods on the back foot.

Forget that Lyon were hampered by the loss of Bafetimbi Gomis just before kick off because of injury; his presence would have been little more to a discomfort for the dominant home team. Aside from a moment when Alexandre Lacazette brilliantly turned Thiago Silva then beat Gregory van der Wiel before smashing a shot against the bar, the fallen champions were mute as an offensive threat.

After starting the match at a subdued pace, PSG’s performance built like a crescendo towards the interval, by which time they had established a decisive 2-0 lead. Lucas Moura’s corner was steered home deftly at the near post by Edinson Cavani, who would win the penalty that Zlatan Ibrahimovic nonchalantly chipped into the top corner of the net – the ultimate show of confidence from a man whose assurance presently encapsulates this PSG side.

Mirroring Ibrahimovic is Yoann Gourcuff, whose collapse in form encapsulates that of his Lyon side. Sure, he is capable of moments of brilliance, but too often his performances are mundane and he was replaced after 70 minutes of this encounter, in which he had been swamped by PSG’s dominant midfield. Gourcuff, it seems, is a symbol of greatness past – apt for a club who are struggling to compete at the top level amidst the expenditure being invested to build their new stadium.

Indeed, the second half was little more than a training exercise for PSG. Ahead of a midweek trip to Evian, Blanc’s men allowed their tempo to drop once more yet still added a third when Thiago Silva thumped home following another corner kick. Even at this pace, though, the home side were still thoroughly dominant.

Ibrahimovic juggled the ball cheekily in the centre of the field during a period of open play and, though Bakary Kone would soon forcefully come through the back of him to remind the Swede of the competitive nature of the game, it simply served to underline how relaxed the Parisian side could afford to be. With 10 minutes remaining he won and converted another penalty as the hosts seemingly scored at will.

Four points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table, PSG are increasingly hot favourites to become the first team to reclaim the French title since an invincible Lyon won the last of their seven successive titles in 2008.

Terry nets on milestone in rousing Chelsea win

1:48 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments

Premier League, Stamford Bridge - Chelsea 3 (Cahill 52, Terry 62, Ba 89) Southampton 1 (Rodriguez 1).

Chelsea conceded the fastest goal in the Premier League this season but mounted a rousing recovery in the second half with captain John Terry netting on his 400th Premier League appearance in an excellent 3-1 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge.
A slipshod pass by Michael Essien enabled Jay Rodriguez to slide a shot beyond Petr Cech after only 12 seconds as the visiting side looked comfortable enough holding a 1-0 lead at half-time.
The mood of the match began to change when home coach Jose Mourinho threw on Demba Ba for Essien at the break as Chelseapaired Ba with Fernando Torres up front.
With Frank Lampard impressing after replacing the injured Oscar alongside Ramires in midfield, Chelsea suddenly began to find gaps in the previously unshakable visiting defence and equalised when Gary Cahill forced the ball over the line after Ba had hit the post from aBranislav Ivanovic header.
Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc departed due to a hand injury before Chelsea moved 2-1 clear courtesy of John Terry who sent a header looping over substitute keeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Ba finished matters off with one minute remaining of normal time as he slid the ball beyond Gazzaniga from a superb Ramires cross.
Chelsea move up to second spot in the table, and are back to four points behind leaders Arsenal, who completed a 3-0 win at Cardiff on Saturday.
1' - RODRIGUEZ POUNCES: Mistake by Essien and Rodriguez bounds into the heart of the Chelsea box before sliding the ball beyond Cech in the home goal. Awful start by Chelsea. Saints lead 1-0.
41' - BORUC STOP: Brilliant diving save by Boruc to claw out the header from Torres. Super cross from Mata to pick out his fellow Spaniard.
55' - CAHILL EQUALISES: Ba hits the post from the Ivanovic header, but Cahill follows into net on the rebound. Chelsea quickest to react. They are level at 1-1.
62' - TERRY POWERS HOME HEADER: Terry comes up with a brilliant header. No chance for the goalkeeper from the Mata cross. A superb goal. Chelsea lead 2-1.
70' - BA SHOT MISSES TARGET: Chance for Ba to finish Saints off, but he slides the shot narrowly wide of goal. A third goal for the home side would surely be enough.
89' - BA COMPLETES THE WIN: Ba slides home the Ramires cross with an expert finish. Brilliant stuff from Chelsea. They lead 3-1.
Jay Rodriguez (12 secs) equals Southampton's quickest Premier League goal, which was scored by James Beattie in this exact fixture in August 2004. Chelsea came back to win that match 2-1.
Chelsea beat Southampton in the Premier League for the 16th time. Southampton have only lost more PL matches against Man United (21) and Arsenal (17).
Chelsea stretch their unbeaten PL home run to 16 matches, their longest since December 2008-February 2010 (24 matches).
Chelsea remain unbeaten in all 67 PL home matches under Jose Mourinho (W52-D15).
Demba Ba ends a run of 11 PL matches without a goal, since he scored in the 1-0 home win against West Brom in March. His other two PL goals for Chelsea have been scored against Southampton.
How important was Jose Mourinho's influence on the match? Very important. Southampton were comfortable in the first half, but the introduction of Demba Ba suddenly unsettled the visiting side, whose defence has been a real strength this season. The manager deserves credit for reading the game, and making the changes that were needed to complete the recovery.
John Terry (Chelsea) - Led by example with a fine goal. And managed to snuff out the Southampton attack alongside Gary Cahill after an unsteady start.
Chelsea: Cech 6; Ivanovic 7, Cahill 8, Terry 8, Azpilicueta 7; Essien 5, Ramires 8; Mata 8, Oscar 5, Hazard 7; Torres 6..subs: Mikel 6, Lampard 8, Ba 8
Southampton: Boruc 7, Clyne 6, Fonte 6, Lovren 6, Shaw 6, Wanyama 7, Schneiderlin 6, Ward-Prowse 6, Lallana 6, Rodriguez 7, Osvaldo 6..subs: Gazzaniga 6, Lambert, 6, S. Davis 6

Rooney double earns United draw at Spurs

1:46 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments
Premier League, White Hart Lane - Spurs 2 (Walker 18, Sandro 54) Manchester United 2 (Rooney 32, 57 pen).

Wayne Rooney struck either side of half-time as Manchester Unitedtwice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Spurs at White Hart Lane.
The home side made the perfect start to the afternoon in their bid to ease the strain on coach Andre Villas-Boas after last week's 6-0 mauling by Manchester City when Kyle Walker drove a free-kick at goal from 22 yards. He could not believe his luck as the wall jumped before seeing the ball evade David De Gea in the visiting goal.
United drew level when Rooney pounced on an error by Walker on 32 minutes as he slammed a loose ball into the net from seven yards after the defender's heavy first touch from a Phil Jones cross had broken into his England team-mate's path.
Sandro restored the home side's lead with a quite stunning effort from 30 yards on 54 minutes that was beyond De Gea before he even noticed it. The lead lasted only three minutes when Rooney drove a penalty down the centre of the goal after Hugo Lloris brought down Danny Welbeck before the French goalkeeper was booked.
Both teams huffed and puffed in their bid to grasp maximum points from the afternoon, but the draw was probably the right outcome from a typically frantic meeting between these two old combatants.
United are nine points adrift of leaders Arsenal with Spurs a point worse off after 13 league outings.
18' - WALKER OPENER: Walker drives the ball through the wall and Spurs have the lead. Ball deceived De Gea. Not sure what the wall was doing. It jumped and the ball went right under them.
26' - SOLDADO MISS: Game flowing from end to end. Glorious chance for Soldado from the Paulinho pass, but he drives the ball well over the bar from 12 yards.
29' - DE GEA STOP: Chance for Lennon from Soldado's pass, but the shot is saved by De Gea. Another chance for Spurs to move two goals ahead.
32' - ROONEY REPLY: United draw level. Brilliant play by Jones to win the ball from Dembele. Cross comes in and an awful error by Walker as the ball breaks off him for Rooney to convert from seven yards.
54' - SANDRO STUNNER: Sandro sends a shot crashing high into the net from 30 yards out. Brilliant stike from Sandro. Amazing stuff. Spurs lead 2-1.
57' - ROONEY TO THE RESCUE: Lloris deemed to have brought down Welbeck. And a booking for the keeper too. Rooney drives the ball down the middle as Lloris flew to his left. United are level again at 2-2. Game well and truly on.
United are now unbeaten in 13 Premier League matches at White Hart Lane (W8-D5) stretching back to May 2001.
Spurs are now unbeaten in three PL matches against United, their longest unbeaten top flight run against them since November 1985 to May 1987 (four matches).
United (22 points) have their worst PL record after 13 matches since 2004/05 (21 points). They went on to finish that season third.
Wayne Rooney scores his 15th PL penalty for United, moving him outright second in the club's PL penalties scored list. He was previously joint-second with Eric Cantona (14). Only Ruud van Nistelrooy has scored more penalties in the PL for the club (18).
How did Andre Villas-Boas stand up to his big day? Was under pressure before this match, but will be quietly content with his side's performance. Spurs fans booed his decision to hook Aaron Lennon in the second period while Roberto Soldado again came up short, but Spurs were impressive overall. And certainly did not deserve to lose it.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) - His energy and appetite are something to be admired. Also helped out his defence with some timely clearances. Leading by example as he matures into a senior figure at the club.
Tottenham HotspurLloris 6, Walker 6, Chiriches 7, Dawson 6, Vertonghen 6, Paulinho 7, Sandro 8, Lennon 6, Dembele 6, Chadli 5, Soldado 5. Subs: Sigurdsson 6, Townsend 6, Defoe 6.
Manchester United: De Gea 7, Smalling 6, Vidic 6, Evans 6, Evra 6, Valencia 7, Cleverley 6, Jones 7, Kagawa 7, Welbeck 6, Rooney 8. Subs: Nani 6, Young 6, Hernandez 6.

Nasri scores double as Man City beat Swansea

1:42 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments

Premier League, Etihad Stadium - Manchester City 1 (Negredo 8’ Nasri 57’ 77’) Swansea City 0.

Manchester City moved into third with a 3-0 victory over Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium.

The first goal came after just eight minutes, when Alvaro Negredo curled in a fine free kick from the right hand side of the box, 25 yards from goal.

Swansea then started to dominate possession, and Jonjo Shelveywent close with a couple of long-range shots.

On the half hour, City almost doubled their lead when Martin Demichelis headed over the bar. The Argentine defender was at fault just before half-time, nutmegged by Jonathan de Guzman, and was relieved to see the Swansea forward fire over.

On 58 minutes, Samir Nasri collected a through ball from Yaya Toure and fired the second past Tremmel, and with a quarter of an hour left he doubled his tally after coolly slotting home Pablo Zabaleta’s cross to complete an easy victory.


8’ - NEGREDO GOAL - Negredo curls in a lovely free kick from the right hand side of the penalty area, with Gerhard Tremmel static.

29’ - AGUERO CHANCE - Sergio Aguero come close when his shot from close range is palmed behind by Tremmel.

30’ - CITY HIT THE BAR - From the corner, Demichelis glances a fierce header against the woodwork.

45’ - DE GUZMAN MISS - Through on goal after nutmegging Demichelis, De Guzman shoots over when it was easier to score.

58’ - NASRI GOAL - Taking two touches after a Toure pass, Nasri gets to the middle of the box and drives the ball past Tremmel.

77’ - NASRI’S SECOND - Meeting Pablo Zabaleta’s cross without breaking his stride, Nasri finds the corner for his second goal and Manchester City’s third.


Alvaro Negredo has scored in five consecutive league home appearances for Manchester City.

Manchester City scored for the 58th consecutive league home match.

Man City have conceded fewer goals in the first half of matches than any other team in the top flight this season (3).

TALKING POINT: If Aguero leaves, is Negredo good enough to replace him? With his goalscoring form impressing, Manchester City might not have to panic if Real Madrid manage to prise away the even better Sergio Aguero.


Samir Nasri (Manchester City): The midfielder demonstrated that his risible form of the previous season is now just a memory, with two goals and midfield creativity threatening Swansea City throughout.


Manchester City: Pantilimon 6, Zabaleta 7, Lescott 6, Demichelis 5, Clichy 6, Fernandinho 6, Yaya Toure 6, Navas 6, Nasri 8, Negredo 7, Aguero 7. Subs: Kolarov 6, Milner 6, Dzeko 6.

Swansea City: Tremmel 6, Tiendalli 6, Chico Flores 6, Williams 6, Davies 6, Canas 6, de Guzman 6, Shelvey 6, Pozuelo 6, Hernandez 6, Vazquez 5. Subs: Routledge 6, Dyer 6.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Monaco 2-0 Stade Rennais: Rodriguez show brushes aside visitors

1:09 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments
The winger inspired the Ligue 1 powerhouses to a routine victory despite the absence of attacking star Radamel Falcao.

Monaco have kept up their Ligue 1 title push with a 2-0 win against Stade Rennais on Saturday.

James Rodriguez and Anthony Martial netted a goal apiece, their first for les Rouge et Blanc, to fire Claudio Ranieri's men within two points of champions Paris Saint-Germain at the summit of the table.

Concerns arose over how the side would cope without star striker Radamel Falcao, with the Colombian ruled out with a thigh problem, but compatriot Rodriguez rifled home from a free kick in the 19th minute to allay any fears over the hosts' attacking prowess.

The winger was in full flow and nearly racked up an assist minutes later when he released Joao Moutinho to fire wide of Benoit Costil's goal.

Rennes' custodian then produced a reflex save to thwart Rodriguez, when the 22-year-old thumped a fierce volley on target after Jeremy Toulalan put him through.

Despite the home side's domination, the clincher only came before the stroke of half-time. Rodriguez slipped in Martial - Falcao's replacement on the night - allowing the starlet to register his first goal since moving to Stade Louis II with a deflected attempt.

Rodriguez was unlucky when a goalline clearance prevented him from adding to his tally, while an inspired Costil was key to preventing Monaco from running riot with stunning stops from both Lucas Ocampos and Emmanuel Riviere in the second period.

Ultimately, the Frenchman's efforts were in vain, and the victory ensures Monaco stay within touching distance of PSG, who host Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday. European hopefuls Rennes, meanwhile, sit 11th.

Bale bags hat-trick as Real Madrid close gap at the summit

1:04 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments
La Liga, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium – Real Madrid (Bale 33, 63, 89 Benzema 36) Valladolid 0.

Gareth Bale hit a hat-trick in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence as Real Madrid closed the gap on Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga with a commanding 4-0 win over Real Valladolid.

Angel di Maria’s dipping half-volley crashed against the underside of the bar early on before Sergio Ramos squandered a host of chances, inexplicably heading off target when well placed on three occasions.

But their profligacy was of little matter as Madrid grabbed a deserved lead through Bale who nodded past Diego Marino before the Welshman turned provider as his whipped cross was headed home byKarim Benzema.

Bale slotted in his second after Marcelo’s cross was diverted into his path before sweeping home his first Madrid hat-trick from close range late on to wrap up a comfortable victory.

The win moved Madrid three points off pacesetters Barcelona who travel to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Madrid came into the match in the knowledge that victory would half the deficit at the top of La Liga and set about unsettling their opponents, pressuring them into mistakes and creating a flurry of early openings.

First Di Maria lashed against the underside of the bar after Valladolid had initially clearly a dangerous free-kick before Ramos somehow headed over from a corner with the goal agape.

The Spanish defender then spurned another opening following good link-up between Isco and Xabi Alonso down the left as Madrid began to open up their opponents at will.

Benzema was next to go close as his effort flashed wide before Ramos headed wide again, but Madrid finally made the breakthrough when Marcelo’s powerful effort from a tight angle was palmed by Marino into the path of Bale who headed in the opener.

And it was two moments later. Bale’s whipped cross from the right invited Benzema to rise highest in the opposition penalty area and double Madrid’s lead.

Valladolid were more adventurous after the restart but, despite short spells of possession, struggled to carve out any clear openings with Zakarya Bergdich blowing their best chance when he slipped inside the area.

Benzema had a strike chalked off for offside on the hour mark but Madrid did not have to wait long for their third as Marcelo’s cross squirmed off an outstretched Valladolid leg into the path of Bale who passed into the bottom corner.

It looked as though Bale had blown his chance of walking away with the match ball when he blazed over with the clock ticking down but he seized his next chance and turned home Marcelo's cut-back to notch his first Madrid hat-trick.

Managers: 'I wouldn't sell Ramsey for £50m'

12:57 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , No comments

Arsene Wenger's lavish praise of Aaron Ramsey headlines our round-up of managerial reaction from the Premier League.

Arsenal 3-0 Cardiff City

Arsene Wenger: (Asked if he would sell Aaron Ramsey for £50 million) : "No. We don't want to sell anybody, we want to keep the team together. I've suffered enough for years for having to sell the players. Now we are in a stronger position financially. He keeps surprising me. He has matured as a player and a person as well. We came here in the FA Cup a few years ago and he had a very difficult game. Now he shows how much he has developed as a person.”

Malky Mackay: "The score is not a fair reflection of the game, but I am not going to apologise for having a go. That's what we did, and we certainly gave them some problems in the second half. The calmness on the ball in the second half makes me very proud of the players. We were playing against a team who have had a manager in situ for 17 years. Over that time he has had a lot of money to build a recruitment process to bring in top players like we have seen here.”

West Ham United 3-0 Fulham

Sam Allardyce: "The only disappointing thing was that we didn't score more goals before the subs came on. That was something I was getting pretty nervous about at 1-0, knowing Fulham could capitalise on a mistake and perhaps get something they didn't deserve. We had many chances to go 2-0 up before the subs came on, but when they came on and finished it off it is just great for you as a manager.”

Martin Jol: (On his future) "It is not in my hands. If I have to worry, I was probably worried a couple of months ago because it is not one day and then the other. It is probably the last two months we have been inconsistent. I think it has worked out for me (at Fulham). We had over 100 points, probably more than West Ham, over the last couple of years - more than any other team in the bottom half of the table.But over the last couple of months I think sometimes we are not strong enough."

Newcastle United 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

Alan Pardew: "The second goal was an absolute cracker and at the end in which Shearer smashed so many in. It's great to see a new name do that and Moussa (Sissoko)'s work rate and commitment was just as good as the goal. He's had a few chances and he waited for the ball to come down and he's hit it true. It brought the house down. It's important in the Premier League to have momentum. It's an amazing armoury and if we keep that glow and feeling then we'll keep plugging away."

Steve Clarke: "We were a little bit passive in the game. We didn't press the ball as well as we normally do, we didn't create enough. We had one or two half chances as Newcastle did. The reaction second half was good. We god about them and played with more intensity. But a wonder strike has denied us any points."

Everton 4-0 Stoke City

Roberto Martinez: "Gerard Deulofeu made a big impact and allowed the performance to create a scoreline which suggests it was easier than it probably was. I think he was really disappointed with last week. From my point of view I told him I thought he was outstanding against Liverpool but he had two good chances and he felt he should have taken them. During the week he was left with a negative feeling that he didn't deserve, that is why I felt it was right for him to start and flush that feeling away and he was desperate to do that.”

Mark Hughes: (On Deulofeu) “"We were aware of him, we knew he was a talent and he is obviously a talent. We made an enquiry ourselves but unfortunately he came here and not to Stoke. He is a very talented boy and I am sure it will only be a loan deal, I am sure Barcelona will keep hold of that asset. We were poor on the day but credit to Everton, I thought they were very good and made it difficult for us.”

Norwich City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Chris Hughton: "It feels like a big win for us. We played very well in the first half and scored a good goal, but we knew they would come back. It is never comfortable viewing when you look at the league table and you are in a position you do not want to be in, so whatever places we have jumped tonight is a nice feeling."

Tony Pulis: "You have to take your chances. We did not have the breaks today. How the hell (Sebastien) Bassong gets that (clearance) over the crossbar from there, it was unbelievable, and then the kid who stops Barry's shot from going in with his header, Cameron (Jerome) had a really good chance, so we have had the opportunities. But I can't fault their work-rate, they gave it everything, but you need a break and we did not get that."

Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland

Paul Lambert: (On Prince William, who attended the game) "I don't think he'll watch Match of the Day. It's great, it's the first time since I've been manager here that he's been here, which is a great thing. But it probably wasn't an ideal game for him to come and watch. I don't think we deserved to win the game, I don't think we deserved to lose it."

Gus Poyet: (On Emanuele Giaccherini’s bad miss) "He's so sad. He doesn't stop thinking about it and saying sorry but that's football and things happen for a reason sometimes. For us it was our best performance away from home because we made it difficult for them. We were brave on the ball, we created two or three very good chances so for a team down at the bottom playing away from home I don't think it's too bad.”

Ramsey and Ozil shine as slick Arsenal move seven points clear

12:53 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments
Premier League, Cardiff City Stadium - Cardiff City 0 Arsenal 3 (Ramsey 29, 90+2, Flamini 86).

Aaron Ramsey returned to haunt old club Cardiff by netting twice in a 3-0 win that saw Premier League leaders Arsenal move seven points clear at the top.

The Wales midfielder continued his blistering run of form when he was alert to guide Mesut Ozil's cross over home goalkeeper David Marshall with a looping header on 29 minutes.

Substitute Mathieu Flamini put a gloss on the scoreline when he bounded onto another Ozil pass to thump the ball beyond Marshall on 86 minutes from 14 yards.

Ramsey contributed his second goal of the day two minutes into injury time and his 13th goal for his club in all competitions this season when he walloped into the net from substitute Theo Walcott's pass with Cardiff caught on the break. Ramsey refused to celebrate his goals, but must derive enormous satisfaction from such an afternoon.

Ozil has now unearthed more assists than any other Premier League player this season since his £42 million summer move from Real Madrid, a price tag that is beginning to look like a huge bargain.

The winning margin was little more than Arsenal deserved for a largely dominant performance that should have earned them more goals, especially in the first half when Cardiff could hardly gain any meaningful period of pressure.

The home side's best attempt of the match came in the 52nd minute when Wojciech Szczesny was forced to claw out Fraizer Campbell's header, but Arsenal were a class apart in the key areas against a collection of honest triers.


2' - WILSHERE WALLOPS BAR: Jack Wilshere sees a shot come back off the bar from distance. What an effort that is. So unfortunate from 20 yards out.

15'- GIROUD SPURNS OPPORTUNITY: Glorious chance for Giroud. Through on goal from the Ozil flick, but no flag came and Giroud stopped enabling Cardiff to clear the danger with a Caulker block. Astonishing passage of play.

29' - RAMSEY STRIKE: Ramsey heads into the corner of the net from the Ozil cross. Brilliant finish from the former Cardiff player. 14 yards or so out. What a technique that is.

48' - MORE RAMSEY MAGIC: Fine run and cross by Ramsey. Comes up with the cutback for Giroud, whose shot is cleared off the line by Turner with Marshall beaten.

53' - SUPERB SZCZESNY STOP: Szczesny with a brilliant diving save low to his right to make the stop from the Campbell header. Lovely flick on by Kim. Gibbs well beaten in the air by Campbell.

86' - FLAMINI STRIKE: Flamini thumps into the net. Brilliant finish from the Ozil pass. 12 yards out on the run. An outstanding team goal.

90+2' - RAMSEY ADDS A THIRD: Ramsey slams home his side's third of the day as he buries the ball in the net from the Walcott pass. Brilliant break and finish from the visitors. 3-0 now. Superb stuff.


Aaron Ramsey has scored 14 Premier League goals for Arsenal; he has equalled John Hartson’s record for most Premier League goals for the club from a Welsh player. Hartson scored 14 between 1995 and 1997.

Arsenal have recorded their biggest Premier League away win for nearly a year – since their 5-2 victory at Reading on December 17th 2012.

This was Cardiff’s worst top-flight home defeat since a 4-0 loss to Leicester in April 1962.



Olivier Giroud waiting for an offside flag that never came - The one man that should be happier than most with this result is the French striker. Giroud inexplicably stopped playing on 15 minutes after Jack Wilshere had picked him out with a lovely pass. Replays showed Mesut Ozil did not touch the ball when he was played in. Giroud was onside and only had Marshall to beat, but his hesitancy enabled Steven Caulker to clear. Moral to the story? Always play to the whistle. Or always play when there is no whistle.



Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal): Who do you give it to? Ramsey or Ozil? We'll give it to Ramsey after the toss of a coin. Just so much class throughout this Arsenal side. They were a joy to watch at times. The bandwagon rolls on. At this rate, it will take some derailing.


Cardiff: Marshall 6, Taylor 5, Caulker 6, Turner 7, Whittingham 5, Medel 5, Campbell 6, Kim 5, Mutch 6, Cowie 6, Theophile-Catherine 5. Subs: Cornelius 6, Odemwingie 5, Noone 6.

Arsenal: Szczesny 7, Sagna 7, Mertesacker 7, Koscielny 7, Gibbs 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 7, Ramsey 9, Ozil 9, Cazorla 7, Giroud 6. Subs: Monreal 6, Flamini 7, Walcott 7.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Brazil back in FIFA's top 10 as England slide out

3:38 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments

Brazil clawed their way back into the top 10 when FIFA published the November rankings ahead of next week's World Cup draw.

The World Cup hosts, who slumped to an all-time low of 22nd in June, went back into the top 10 after winning the Confederations Cup in July.

Brazil then slipped to 11th last month but friendly wins over Honduras and Chile have taken them to 10th.

Despite winning their qualifying group, England drop three places to 13th following some poor friendly performances.

FIFA is using October's rankings as the primary yardstick for next week's draw so Brazil's ups and downs will have no impact on their status among the top seeds for the World Cup.

World champions Spain maintained the number one spot they have held since July 2008 followed by Germany, Argentina and Colombia.

Thanks to their two wins over Sweden in the World Cup play-offs, Portugal have also climbed back into the top 10.

All the nations in the top 20, except for Ukraine, have booked their tickets to Brazil next year.

The leading eight seeded teams for the draw are Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Colombia, Belgium, South American champions Uruguay and Switzerland.

FIFA will announce the second, third and fourth-ranked seeded nations before the draw in Salvador da Bahia on Dec. 6.

Top 10 and rankings of World Cup qualifiers outside the leading 10: (Last month's positions in parentheses):

1. (1) Spain

2. (2) Germany

3. (3) Argentina

4. (4) Colombia

5. (14) Portugal

6. (6) Uruguay

7. (8) Italy

8. (7) Switzerland

9. (8) Netherlands

10. (11) Brazil

Rankings of remaining World Cup qualifiers:

11. Belgium

12. Greece

13. England

14. United States

15. Chile

16. Croatia

17. Ivory Coast

19. France

20. Mexico

21. Bosnia

22. Russia

23. Ecuador

24. Ghana

26. Algeria

31. Costa Rica

36. Nigeria

41. Honduras

45. Iran

48. Japan

51. Cameroon

54. South Korea

59. Australia

Dembele grabs rare goal as Spurs win to ease strain on AVB

3:21 AM Posted by Moto Musashi No comments

Tottenham eased the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas by winning Europa League Group K with a 2-0 win over Norwegian minnows Tromso.

Vlad Chiriches and Mousa Dembele both scored their first goals of the season to seal a 2-0 win that confirms Tottenham as winners of Group K with one match to spare.

Those were the positives from a sub-zero night at the northern tip of Norway, but there were also a few negatives for the north London club and their under-pressure manager.

Roberto Soldado again looked isolated up front, the visitors' momentum was slow and Nacer Chadli missed a big sitter in the first half.

If Spurs beat Anzhi Makhachkala in a fortnight's time, they will have won all six of their Europa League group matches.

But the reality is that neither Anzhi, Sheriff nor this Tromso team are anywhere near good enough to play in the Barclays Premier League.

They are certainly nowhere near as good as the Manchester United team who head to White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Villas-Boas, who rejected claims his job was under threat on Wednesday, will no doubt try to put a positive spin on the game, but it is important to remember that Tromso were relegated from Norway's top flight three weeks ago.

The Norwegians caused the visitors many problems, and will feel that they should have beaten Brad Friedel at least once, but at least Spurs can head back to London having put an end to their damaging losing streak.

Once the tractors cleared the afternoon snow from the pitch, Tottenham emerged into the freezing cold to hear chants of "AVB's blue and white army".

The early praise was soon drowned out by gasps from the home supporters as Zdenek Ondrasek bore down on goal after giving Michael Dawson the slip with just 33 seconds on the clock.

Fortunately for Spurs, Ondrasek is not as good a finisher as Manchester City's Jesus Navas and he dragged his shot wide.

The Czech striker was creating mischief two minutes later when he entered the box and went down under pressure from Vlad Chiriches. Spurs breathed a sigh of relief, though, as referee Levgenii Aranovskyi waved play on.

The snow stopped falling after 10 minutes but passing conditions remained difficult for the visitors, who struggled to find their rhythm and their build-up play was painfully slow at times.

Andros Townsend was Spurs' most dangerous player early on. The England winger used his skill to gain a yard of pace and set up Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Iceland striker dragged his shot wide.

Etienne Capoue's deflected shot dribbled just wide while Morten Moldskred was rooted to the spot. The Tromso goalkeeper was still not tested until the 23rd minute when he saved Townsend's low skidding long-range shot.

Sigurdsson then carved open the Tromso back line with a beautiful curling pass with the outside of his right boot, but Chadli leaned back and thumped the ball into the empty uncovered stand behind the home goal.

The tractors came on at half-time to clear the excess snow that had settled on the pitch. That allowed Spurs to pass the ball more smoothly, but Tromso still looked dangerous.

Ondrasek built up some speed and darted at the Tottenham defence from the halfway line. Dawson pulled the striker down with a cynical foul, but the referee only produced a yellow card.

Sigurdsson had the ball in the net moments later, but Soldado was rightly penalised for handball in the build-up.

Tromso then had Spurs on the ropes after a couple of threatening attacks. Capoue and Soldado resorted to fouling the dangerous Thomas Bendiksen and they both entered the book as a result.

Brad Friedel then saved from Bendiksen and Jaroslaw Fojut as Tromso continued to pile on the pressure.

Just when Tottenham looked in danger of going behind, they took the lead thanks to a slice of good fortune.

Sigurdsson drilled a low ball into the box from a free-kick and found Chiriches. The Romanian's shot was going in, but Adnan Causevic helped it over the line.

Jan Vertonghen, Lewis Holtby and Erik Lamela entered the game but surprisingly, the youngsters who had been brought on the trip stayed on the bench.

Dembele then made sure of the win with 15 minutes left when he placed the ball into the far corner after being slipped in by Sigurdsson.

Tottenham fans suddenly became full of festive cheer as chants of Jingle Bells rang out around the Alfheim Stadium despite the bitter weather.

Tottenham will have to up their game on Sunday if they are to leave that encounter in a similar mood, though.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

England move step closer to Brazil with draw in Kiev

4:50 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , , , No comments

World Cup qualifying Group H, Olympic Stadium, Kiev - Ukraine 0 England 0

England remain top of Group H with two games remaining after earning a 0-0 draw with Ukraine from a turgid World Cup qualifier in Kiev.
Chances were at a premium for both sides, but that suited Roy Hodgson's side in their final away match of this section after thwarting the home side's advances with a solid defensive effort.
England are one point clear of Montenegro on 16 and two ahead of Poland, but remain without a win against their three closest rivals in the section from eight matches.
England know home wins over Montenegro on October 11 and Poland four days later at Wembley will be enough to see them through to next summer's finals in Brazil as group winners.
They might well have stolen three points at the end when Frank Lampard - winning a 100th cap for his country - nodded wide in injury time from a long Kyle Walker throw-in.
But Artem Fedetskyy also blew a golden chance when he failed to connect with a free header five yards out from a corner with 20 minutes remaining as Joe Hart gratefully scooped up the loose ball.
Hart also seemed to fell Roman Zozulya in the opening seconds. The referee strangely awarded a corner rather than a penalty, but England were good value for their draw.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea): An outstanding performance from the defender in what was a night for big hearts in a stout defensive effort.
PRE-MATCH: MILNER STARTS - England with one change from the side that thumped Moldova 4-0 on Friday as James Milner starts in place of the injured Danny Welbeck. Rickie Lambert earns his third cap up front bidding for a third straight goal after netting against Scotland and Moldova. He leads the line on his own with Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere selected to offer him as much support as possible from slightly deep.
2' UKRAINE PENALTY CLAIM - Ukraine are denied a clear-cut penalty. Joe Hart late on Roman Zozulya, but the referee gives a corner. Hart punches the corner away. England so fortunate.
5' WALCOTT THREAT - Brilliant run by Theo Walcott. He bounds into the Ukraine box, but goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov is off his line to make a brave stop.
58' GERRARD TO THE RESCUE - Loose ball bouncing around that England box, but Gerrard is quickly back to clear the danger. Andriy Yarmolenko doing well with an intelligent flick.
73' BEST CHANCE OF NIGHT - Artem Fedetskyy with a golden chance, but can't connect with the free header in the England box. Easy for Hart in the end. A major scare.
90+1' LAMPARD CHANCE - Frank Lampard nods inches wide of goal from the Kyle Walker long throw-in. What a chance that was to finish off matters in some style.
Will England reach the finals? This was not the greatest of performances, but England got what they came for. With two matches against Montenegro and Poland to conclude the campaign, you must fancy Roy Hodgson's side to qualify as Group H winners. If Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge are available, all the better for their hopes.
England have only beaten two teams in World Cup 2014 qualifying so far; Moldova and San Marino.
England completed 77.7% of their passes in the first half; their lowest accuracy of the qualifying campaign.
Ukraine failed to manage a shot on target against England during the first half.
England have found the net in 15 of their last 17 competitive away games, with the blank coming against Ukraine (0-1) and this match.
Centurion Frank Lampard became the eighth player to win 100 caps for England.
Ukraine: Pyatov 6, Fedetskiy 6, Khacheridi 7, Kucher 6, Shevchuk 6, Stepanenko 7, Edmar 6, Gusev 5, Yarmolenko 6, Konoplianka 7, Zozulya 6...subs: Seleznyov 7, Khomchenovskiy 6, Bezus 6
England: Hart 7, Walker 6, Cahill 8, Jagielka 8, Cole 7, Lampard 7, Gerrard 7, Wilshere 6, Walcott 6, Lambert 6, Milner 6...subs: Cleverley 7, Young 6.

Italy win seals World Cup qualification

4:48 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , , No comments

World Cup qualifying Group B, Juventus Stadium, Turin – Italy 2 (Chiellini 51, Balotelli 54 pen) Czech Republic 1 (Kozak 19).

Italy were left celebrating another World Cup appearance after coming from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Turin.
An early goal from Libor Kozak threatened to spoil the party butItaly were good value for the victory, second half goals from Giorgio Chiellini and the ever influential Mario Balotelli sealing qualification.
It was a night of double celebration for Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon who equalled Fabio Cannavaro’s record of 136 appearances for Italy.
Italy dominated the early exchanges but the Czech Republic caught their hosts with a sucker punch on the counter attack 18 minutes in.
Tomas Rosicky released Petr Jiracek down the left flank and his perfectly weighted cross was slammed home by a grateful Kozak.
Italy were then guilty of squandering a hatful of chances, Balotelli the major culprit, first hitting the bar from four yards out before skying the ball over after Petr Cech fumbled an Andrea Pirlo shot straight into his path.
Cech then had to be at his best to beat out a close range Balotelli header 10 minutes before the break although the Milan man will again feel he should have done better.
Italy continued to press in the second half and it was an error from Cech that got them back into the game, the keeper getting nowhere near to the corner and Chiellini heading into an unguarded net.
Three minutes later they were ahead. Theodor Gebre Selassie brought down Balotelli and the Milan striker sent Cech the wrong way from the spot to give Italy the lead they required.
From then on they were never seriously troubled and booked qualification with two rounds to spare. But defeat for the Czechs leaves them with a mountain to climb as they dropped to fourth place below Denmark and four points off second placed Bulgaria. To compound their misery, substitute Daniel Kolar received his marching orders for a second bookable offence with just two minutes left on the clock.
PRE-MATCH: Gianluigi Buffon receives a silver salver celebrating his record-equalling 136th appearance for Italy.
18’ - GOAL: The Czech Republic go ahead after great work from Rosicky, Jiracek and Kozak with a neat finish.
23’ - CROSSBAR: Balotelli who somehow contrives to hit the bar from about four yards out.
24’ - MISS: Balotelli misses another sitter after Cech spills Giaccherini’s shot.
36’ - SAVE: Another great chance spurned as Balotelli plants his header straight at Cech
51’ - GOAL: Chiellini heads Italy in front
54’ - GOAL: Balotelli sends Cech the wrong way after being brought down in the box
89’ - RED CARD: Kolar is sent off for another bookable offence
Mario Balotelli (Italy): May have missed a couple of great early chances and got himself booked but was always a handful for the Czech defence and scored the goal that sent Italy to Brazil
Italy: Buffon 6; Bonucci 6, De Rossi 7, Chiellini 7; Maggio 6, Montolivo 7, Pirlo 7, Pasqual 6; Candreva 7, Giaccherini 6; Balotelli 8. SUBS: Osvaldo 6, Motta 6, Ogbonna 6.
Czech Republic: Cech 6; Gebre Selassie 5, Suchy 6, Prochazka 6, Sivok 7, M Limbersky 6; Plasil 6, Darida 6, Rosicky 5; Jiracek 6, Kozak 7. SUBS: Kolar 4, Vanek 6.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How Kagawa became a Manchester United misfit

4:21 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , , , No comments

Shinji Kagawa was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson 12 months ago from Borussia Dortmund. The Japanese star came with a reputation as an exciting attacking midfielder with an eye for a pass and an eye for goal.
Despite that he barely featured last season and David Moyes couldn't even find room for him on the bench in United's last game against Liverpool.
So we ask the question: should Moyes find a role for Kagawa at United?

Where Does Kagawa Operate Most Effectively?

Kagawa was utilised mainly as a left midfielder last season. This is not really his best position though, especially in United's formation where they ask their midfielders to provide width and cross the ball into the box. Kagawa is best when he comes into central positions, operating as a No.10 behind the striker. As we can see below, Kagawa creates the lion's share of his chances from central positions, not from out wide:
With a high pass completion of 90% last season and the ability to take on players, he is a very technical attacking midfielder who is best playing centrally but moves wide to find space, rather than going inside to out.
Kagawa is creating chances in the area where we'd expect a No. 10 to play. However, the Japan international only played the full 90 minutes on five occasions last season - starting 17 games but being hauled off in the other 12 fixtures.
The reason for this is that there is an intense competition for places at United. Wayne Rooney is occupying the No. 10 role and despite some criticism of his form last season, he was a very influential figure playing behind Robin van Persie.
Had Rooney left the club then Kagawa would have been incredibly important. However, as things stand Kagawa is finding it tough to find a role with Rooney in front of him in the pecking order. Recently Danny Welbeck has also been used off Van Persie, further limiting opportunities for Kagawa.

David Moyes' Preferred Tactical Set-Up

Moyes has arguably altered Manchester United's tactics to more of a 4-4-2, a system that doesn't suit Kagawa. Against Swansea and Liverpool, Moyes used Danny Welbeck as more of a second striker, rather than a No. 10. For all of Kagawa's quality he is not suited to playing in a 4-4-2 system as a second striker, or as a winger. Which makes it difficult to find a role for him in Moyes's tactical set-up.
Against Liverpool, Welbeck only attempted 27 passes, which is very low for a No. 10 and confirms the view that he was playing in a more advanced area, as his action-areas graphic highlights:
Welbeck spent very little time in his own half and was predominantly in advanced areas, not dissimilar to Van Persie's graphic from the game, with both players playing relatively close to each other in this tie. This is indicative of more of a 4-4-2, than the sort of fluid formation, such as a 4-2-3-1 that would suit a player like Kagawa and get the best out of him.
If we compare this to Kagawa from the 4-0 win against Norwich we can see a slight difference:
Kagawa spends more time in the centre of the park, as well as dropping back into his own half slightly more. Also he saw much more of the ball in comparison to Welbeck (from the Swansea and Liverpool game). Kagawa averaged 42 passes per game last season, which is quite high considering he only played 90 minutes on five occasions.


The problem Kagawa is facing at United is that he is primarily a No. 10, while Moyes is using a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 system which is not best suited to Kagawa, especially if Rooney is in the side. Rooney is the primary playmaker and if he doesn't start then Moyes has opted to select Welbeck as the second striker. Although Kagawa can play from the left he will not hold the width or cross the ball, but rather try to drift infield, something that isn't conducive to United's style of play. As a result, Kagawa might find opportunities limited this season, despite his obvious quality.

Blatter: Awarding Qatar World Cup may have been 'a mistake'

4:17 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , , No comments

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has admitted that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar may well have been "a mistake."

Staging the tournament in the Middle East has caused much controversy because if it is held over its traditional dates in the middle of the year, players will have to contend with searing 50 degrees Celsius heat.
Calls to move the World Cup to later in the year, during the European winter, have also been unpopular as it will cause major disruption to domestic league competitions in countries such as Spain, England, Italy, Germany and France.
Blatter said: "It may well be that we made a mistake at the time."
Blatter, who in May said it was "not rational" to play in Qatar in June and July, added: "On the other hand, you must also consider political and geo-political realities.
"The World Cup is FIFA's biggest, if not only, global event. Who are we, the Europeans, to demand that this event has to cater to the needs of 800 million Europeans above all?
"I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world any more, and that some former European imperial powers can no longer impress their will on to others in far away places.
"We must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport - it has become the world sport that billions of fans are excitedly following every week, everywhere in the world."
Blatter hopes FIFA's executive committee will endorse his proposal to switch the tournament to the winter.
If such a move is rubber-stamped, the Swiss added: "The next steps will include a close look at the international calendar and to establish what consequences the change would have.
"We would naturally need to speak to and consult with all interested parties and stakeholders."
Qatar defeated bids from South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States to win the right to host the tournament for the first time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ramsey brace sees Arsenal past Fenerbahce

3:17 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , No comments

Champions League, Emirates Stadium - Arsenal 2 (Ramsey 25, 72) Fenerbahce 0 (Arsenal win 5-0 on aggregate)

The Welsh midfielder has been central to the recovery staged by Arsenal following the opening day Premier League loss to Aston Villa, now boasting three goals in three appearances after strikes in each half against the Turkish champions.
Arsenal led 3-0 from last week’s first leg in Istanbul but manager Arsene Wenger elected to start a full strength team, with Olivier Giroud flanked by Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott in attack.
The hosts dominated possession early on but nearly fell behind in bizarre circumstances when a ricochet off Raul Meireles forcedWojciech Szczesny into a reflex save.
But Ramsey opened the scoring after 25 minutes, with Theo Walcott setting up the Welshman for a simple finish from six yards following a neat through ball by Lukas Podolski.
Fenerbahce came close to restoring parity on the night, but Emmanuel Emenike saw his powerful drive turned on to the post by Szczesny, which was followed up by a close range stop from the same opposition player.
Things turned somewhat sour for Arsenal after the break when Podolski picked up an injury, ending the match on a stretcher as Kieran Gibbs replaced him.
The Turkish side found fresh impetuous in the second half, hitting Arsenal on the break as the hosts pushed for a second.
Indeed the Gunners nearly made it 2-0 through Santi Cazorla, but the Spaniard’s low half volley was tipped round the post by Volkan, who was keeping his side in the contest.
Arsenal eventually doubled their lead when Ramsey placed a controlled side-foot volley into the corner of Volkan’s net after a good cross by second half substitute Gibbs.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Benzema guides Real Madrid past Granada

4:36 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , , No comments

Benzema latched onto the ball following some poor control from Cristiano Ronaldo to fire low past Roberto and score the only goal of the game in the 10th minute.
But the hosts will feel they should have had a late penalty kick for a Casemiro challenge on Diego Buonanotte.
Carlo Ancelotti again left Iker Casillas on the bench, with Diego Lopez taking his place in goal. Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Benzema all started for Real who were looking to keep up with the early pacesetters in La Liga.
The early signs were that Real would run away with the match as Ancelotti’s side quickly took the initiative.
The lively Di Maria slid the ball in for Benzema who lobbed it over the goalkeeper but out for a goal kick.
Real did not have to wait long to take the lead as Di Maria curled the ball in from the right, Ronaldo mis-controlled, but the ball rolled into the path of Benzema who fired home left-footed beyond Roberto.
Ozil thought he had given his side a 2-0 lead after 14 minutes when he ran onto a long free-kick from Di Maria and lobbed sublimely over Roberto. However, play was pulled back as the ball was moving when Di Maria took the free-kick.
Granada spurned a great chance to go level as Youssef El-Arabi found himself one-on-one with Diego Lopez who kept his nerve and saved what was ultimately a tame shot from the striker.
Benzema left an Alvaro Arbeloa cross to Ronaldo who made a hash of his shot before falling unceremoniously to the floor. It was a presentable opportunity for Ronaldo on the edge of the six-yard box.
Granada grew in confidence as the half progressed, with Marcelo and Pepe both going into the book as the Real defence was put under increasing pressure.

Sergio Ramos got his head onto an Ozil corner early in the second-half and Roberto initially fumbled before claiming the ball at the second attempt.
Isco skipped around Manuel Iturra and Roberto did well to get his right hand on the shot and deflect it onto the post.
Benzema passed up a presentable opportunity as he ran onto a through ball and shot wide of the near post.
This was a stuttering Real Madrid performance, although they were largely dominant in the final 20 minutes as Ronaldo, in particular, came to life.
The Portuguese attacker reacted quickly to head the ball beyond Pape Diakhate and fired in a low shot that Roberto managed to hold.
Ronaldo then cut in from the left and let fly with a powerful shot that Roberto punched away.
The game’s pivotal moment came in the 83rd minute when substitute Buonanotte went down under a challenge from Casemiro. The Brazilian youngster did not get anything on the ball but the referee waved play-on, much to the relief of the Real Madrid players.
Pepe made an invaluable clearance on a dangerous low cross from Piti as Granada ended the match strongly but Real held on to make it two wins in two games.

Rooney impresses as Manchester United draw with Chelsea

4:27 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , , No comments

Wayne Rooney produced an impressive all-action display as Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by leaders Chelsea at Old Trafford.

The England striker gave a typically spirited performance on a night where defences were on top.

The Red Devils dominated possession and went close through Tom Cleverley, Rooney and Danny Welbeck who arguably missed the biggest chance of the game when he fizzed wide from 10 yards just shy of the hour.

The hosts then had a penalty appeal waved away when the ball appeared to hit Frank Lampard's arm in the area while at the other end Ashley Cole was denied a spot-kick although he appeared to dive.

United continued to press late on but Robin van Persie saw a late volley blocked as David Moyes's first competitive home match in charge ended in a stalemate.

Chelsea's Juan Mata was an unused substitute on the night, which could spark further rumours about his future. Rooney, meanwhile, could yet stay at United after Jose Mourinho appeared to concede defeat afterwards.