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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Title looks set to stay in Manchester…but not at United

3:20 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , No comments
Alvaro Negredo - one of City's big summer signings

There are only a few days to go before the start of the Premier League season and out of the main title contenders Manchester City look the strongest to me.
You have to look at who has gone out and spent some money to strengthen their squad and City fit the bill.
And it is not just with players either. In Manuel Pellegrini they have brought in a manager who I'm a big fan of. Okay, he hasn't won many major European trophies but he has turned teams around and built them into strong sides which have constantly caused upsets and punched above their weight.
City had the strongest squad last season too but what they were lacking was a good man-manager. Pellegrini is much better in that department than Roberto Mancini and that could be the biggest improvement at the club from last season.
They have lost Carlos Tevez who was an important player over the last three seasons, but they have bought good players at the right age – youngish, but not inexperienced.
Defensively there are still some concerns but attacking wise they now have plenty of options after the signings they've made

Manchester United joy v Manchester City
It has been all change in the manager's dugout for Manchester United but not on the pitch and they really need to try and bring in a 'wow' signing before the end of the transfer window. Even the players need that new face to keep them on their toes. It is what you need to do after winning a league.
They cruised to the title last season but there were some worrying signs creeping in at the end of the campaign and that could carry forward and result in a slow start.
The one thing United really lack for me is pace in the team. Yes they've got Wilfried Zaha, but he is young and likely to be somewhat inconsistent - even Cristiano Ronaldo was like that when he first signed for the club.
Have they really moved forward? They still have Nani who was very poor last season and Antonio Valencia who is another who has dropped off. There is still a lot of work for United to do before they can convince anybody they are really ready to defend their title.
It won't be easy for them on the opening day against Swansea either. Michael Laudrup's side have brought in a few players and will be primed after beating Malmo in the Europa League.
You love to play as an underdog at home against a big team on the opening day of the season. United have never found it easy at Swansea but it will be an extra tough fixture as a season opener because it is always such a great occasion for the home club and everyone will be buzzing.
Chelsea have a great chance to emerge as City's main rivals. They haven't brought in the big name players you might have expected, instead signing Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel, but the style Jose Mourinho implements is what most interests me.
When they won those two titles in three years during his first spell at the club everything was very back to front and not the most entertaining to watch. He would bring on an extra defensive midfielder if needs be and was happy to win matches 1-0. Will he try and replicate that with this squad? If he does I think it will be a mistake.
Some Chelsea fans might not admit it, but I'm sure they enjoyed watching how the team played in the closing stages of last season when Rafael Benitez was in charge. They arguably were the best team in the league during the closing weeks of the season.
Their biggest new addition could be a player they've already owned for a couple of seasons – Romelu Lukaku. He looks like he could have a bigger impact that Didier Drogba did when he first arrived because he is younger, stronger and quicker than Drogba was and maybe not as rash either, so that loan spell at West Brom could do him good.
One concern I would have about Chelsea is how much Mourinho persists with John Terry. If he gets plenty of playing time then that could be a problem. Terry lacks pace now and when he starts, the opposition will know how Chelsea will want to play because Terry needs to be deep or his slowness will be exposed. If Mourinho is willing to make the big decision and leave him on the bench that will help.
I think we might see a different Mourinho in the Premier League this time too after his time in Spain. Someone who is more willing to show more respect to others, because if you want respect, you have to give it back.
Fourth place for me is still between Arsenal and Tottenham. I don't see Liverpool being a threat there. Liverpool have concentrated their spending on young players. Brendan Rodgers seems happy enough to deal with youngsters rather than experienced stars and I can understand why as he is not handling the Suarez situation particularly well. So he is looking for players who he can control.
If I'm to pick a wild card team for the season then I would go for Sunderland – they will be fascinating to watch as they really could go either way.

Paolo di Canio, Sunderland 2013
Paolo Di Canio seems to have bought a brand new team. Are they going to go out there and surprise everybody by playing the type of passionate football Di Canio was known for as a player or are they going to go the way that Mark Hughes' Queens Park Rangers did where there was no continuity?
I'm waiting to see if that blue touch paper gets lit and then how long it is going to take to burn down because everyone knows that Di Canio is a ticking time bomb!

Paper Round: Suarez and Rooney both to stay put

3:15 AM Posted by Moto Musashi , No comments

Luis Suarez will stay at Liverpool and may even sign a new contract at Anfield, while Manchester United have taken the decision to keep Wayne Rooney, no matter how much Chelsea offer - here are the main transfer stories making headlines in today's papers.

Liverpool to keep Suarez: The Daily Mirror reports that Suarez has told a high-profile Latin American journalist he will not leave Liverpool. The journo, Martin Chaquero, said that it is "likely" Suarez will sign an extension to his current contract at Anfield, despite having agitated for a move to Arsenal all summer long.
Paper Round's view: By all accounts, this is a journalist of some repute and his words should not be taken lightly. Perhaps Suarez has finally realised that he cannot force a move through if the club digs in their heels - as John W Henry indicated last week. Let's hope if he does pen a new deal with Liverpool, there is somewhat more clarity over certain clauses contained within.
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United will not sell Rooney to Chelsea: A Guardian exclusive claims that United have taken a "top-level" decision that Rooney will not be sold to Chelsea, "no matter how much money is offered or whatever the potential risks of keeping an unhappy player". The report adds that the hard-line stance is irreversible and that even if Rooney hands in a transfer request or goes public with his desire to quit Old Trafford, the club will keep him. Manager David Moyes will ask United fans to recognise Rooney's contribution over the last nine years and refrain from making their displeasure known when he returns to the team, the paper says.
Paper Round's view: The Guardian is usually a reliable source, so if this is true, are we witnessing the beginning of the demise of player power? With Rooney and Suarez both frustrated in their efforts to leave their respective clubs, perhaps those reports last week of the Glazer family and Liverpool's American owners teaming up to make a stand against contract-breaking players were indeed on the money.