Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Foxes Five Clear While Gunners Cup Run Ends

A unique first in terms of reviews as gameweek 30 in the Premier League is coupled with the FA Cup fifth round replay and sixth round schedule.

First up is the FA cup fifth round from the previous week as Hull City and holders Arsenal met at the KC Stadium with the Tigers keen to finally gain revenge for their defeat in the 2014 final to the Gunners.

A close knit first half looked to be ending goalless between the sides but a 41st minute effort from Olivier Giroud gave the Gunners the lead and ended the equality for 1-0. Theo Walcott doubled the lead as he made it 2-0 on 68 minutes before a six minute double from Giroud saw him strike on 71 minutes before completing his hat-trick in the 77th minute to wrap up a 4-0 success.

The sixth round began on Friday night with a London derby between Championship side Reading and top flight side Crystal Palace. The sides seemed to be evenly matched in a goalless first half and the tight defences remained shut long into the second half before a late show from the visitors. Reading went down to ten men with five minutes remaining as Jake Cooper was sent off and the resulting penalty saw Yohan Cabaye make it 1-0. The win was sealed for the Eagles in added time as Fraizer Campbell completed the 2-0 success.

Saturday's action came from Goodison Park as Everton hosted Chelsea, the two sides met in the 2009 final with the Blues coming out on top and a trip to Wembley was just one win away for either side. The game was a close one in the first hour or so with the sides locked at 0-0, the Toffees managed to strike an opening as former Blues striker Romelu Lukaku made it 1-0 on 77 minutes He struck again in rapid fashion just five minutes later to double the hosts' lead before Chelsea's hopes all but ended with the 84th minute dismissal of Diego Costa for an altercation with Gareth Barry and three minutes later Barry was also dismissed for a second booking. 

Sunday saw the final two ties of the round which began with holders Arsenal hosting Watford in a London derby at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners went into the game knowing just two more wins would seal a third title in a row. However, such success would see them needing to come from behind after Odion Ighalo put the Hornets in front in the 50th minute.

Adlene Guedioura doubled the lead for the visitors on 63 minutes to leave the Gunners defence of the title hanging by a thread. Arsenal's comeback came late on as Danny Welbeck made it 2-1 on 88 minutes to set up a tense finale but to no avail as the Hornets became the first side to beat the Gunners in the competition since 2013.

Manchester United played host to West Ham United at Old Trafford in the final action of the round with both hoping to secure a win that would see a welcome return to Wembley for either side.  Alike the majority of the other games, the first hour or so was a tight encounter but the Hammers ensured there was at least one goal in the game in style as Dmitri Payet's dazzling free-kick made it 1-0.

However, the hosts did well to get back on level terms despite leaving it late as Anthony Martial made it 1-1 on 83 minutes with the effort proving to be enough to force a replay. The Premier League action saw just five games with all of the top three in action across the weekend.

Saturday's early game came from Carrow Road as strugglers Norwich City hosted title chasing Manchester City. The pre-match build-up saw an easy Manchester City win expected as the likely outcome but it result was far from such hopes as the sides played out a 0-0 draw which left the Canaries happier with a point that a City side who missed the chance to close the gap at the top.

The first of just two 3pm games saw Bournemouth host Swansea at the Vitality Stadium with both sides knowing a win would surely confirm safety from relegation worries. Max Gradel opened the scoring for the Cherries on 37 minutes only to see his effort rapidly cancelled out by an equaliser from Modou Barrow within two minutes.

Josh King regained the lead for the hosts on 50 minutes but again the Swans drew level with Gylfi Sigurdsson levelling on 62 minutes but the odd goal in five went to the hosts who secured a 3-2 win on 78 minutes with a strike from Steve Cook.

Stoke City hosted fellow Europa League chasers Southampton at the Britannia Stadium with both knowing a win would put them in a good position to challenge the top four. Graziano Pellé put the Saints ahead early on with an 11th minute strike before adding a second goal on the half hour mark for 2-0. Marko Arnautovic pulled one back for the Potters on 52 minutes for 2-1 but it proved to be only a consolation despite the late dismissal of Sadio Mané for the visitors.

Relegation threatened Aston Villa knew a win was a must as they hosted title challengers Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon. The visitors secured a 2-0 with a brace from Harry Kane within three minutes of the second half with Kane's strikes enough to move Spurs clear in second spot and leave Villa nine points from safety.

The final game of the weekend saw table toppers Leicester City host struggling Newcastle United with the Foxes having the chance to go five points clear and for the Magpies, a win would see them rise out of the bottom three.

Despite the vast difference in their league positions, the goal was settled by just a single goal but it was a stunning strike as Shinji Okazaki's overhead kick on 28 minutes proved to be enough to secure the win for the Foxes.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Europa League Last 16 First Legs Review

The draw for the last 16 of the Europa League saw a unique first as fierce rivals Liverpool and Manchester United were paired in Europe while Tottenham's pairing with favourites Borussia Dortmund meant the chance of two English sides in the last eight was a small one.

Thursday's action began with the tie between Dortmund and Tottenham and for the English side, it was a night to forget as they were outplayed in a 3-0 defeat that left them needing a miracle at White Hart Lane in the second leg. Pierre Aubameyang opened the scoring for the Germans on the half hour mark before a second half brace from Marco Reus in the 61st and 70th minutes wrapped up the three goal success.

FC Basel hosted defending champions Sevilla looking to start an end the Spaniard's stunning run in the tournament over the last few seasons. However, the sides were evenly matched across both halves of the game with the score remaining at 0-0 at the end of the 90 minutes. The only blot on the visitors evening came late on as Steven N'Zonzi was sent off in the 87th minute.

Fenerbache played host to Sporting Braga with both sides looking to place a mark in a tie between two sides who boasted rich European experience between them. The game itself proved to be a close one as the Turks sealed a narrow 1-0 win with a Topal strike in the 82nd minute.

Another tie between two experience sides saw Shakthar Donetsk welcome Anderlecht with both sides keen to move a step closer to the last eight. Shakthar raced into a 2-0 lead inside 25 minutes via strikes from Taison and Kucher on 21 and 24 minutes. Acheampong responded for the visitors to make it 2-1 on 68 minutes but any chance of a comeback was all but ended on 79 minutes as Eduardo sealed a 3-1 win.

In the first of two battles between domestic rivals, Atletico Bilbao hosted fellow La Liga side Valencia. The hosts had won both of the league meetings between the sides this season and they completed a trilogy of successes with a narrow 1-0 win. The crucial strike came in the 20th minute as Raul Garcia struck to leave the Catalans needing to score in the second leg after failing to claim a potentially vital away goal.

The first ever European meeting between Liverpool and Manchester United took place at Anfield as the Reds looked to gain revenge for the league double they suffered at the hands of their rivals. The Reds opened the scoring inside 25 minutes with Daniel Sturridge converting superbly from the penalty spot on 20 minutes. United's recent form has seen them struggle to not only score but register a number of shots on target in a game and this time around was no different as a second goal for the hosts on 73 minutes from Roberto Firmino was enough to confirm a comfortable 2-0 victory.

Sparta Prague hosted Lazio in a tie between two sides who eased into the last 16 but in the tie proved to be closely matched as they drew 1-1. The hosts took an early lead through Frydek in the 13th minute before a 38th minute leveller from Parolo secured a potentially vital away goal for the Italians in an otherwise tight encounter.

The final tie of the night saw Villarreal host Bayer Leverkusen with the sides meeting at this stage for the second time after the 2010/11 meeting which saw the Spaniards come out on top. The prospect of  repeat was boosted early on as Bakambu opened the scoring inside four minutes. He doubled the lead for the hosts with his second goal on 56 minutes and the misery for the visitors was completed late on with the dismissal of Jedvaj in added time to couple the 2-0 defeat.

Champions League Last 16 Second Legs Part One

The elongated last 16 round of the Champions League saw the first four spots in the last eight confirmed in midweek with the remaining spots to be filled in the second part of the round next week.

Tuesday night saw Real Madrid continue their charge to an 11th title as they hosted AS Roma, the La Liga side went into the second leg with a 2-0 lead from the opening game. The sides played out a goalless first half before the hosts kicked into gear with two goals in the space of four minutes after the hour mark. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring on 64 minutes before James Rodriguez wrapped up a 2-0 win on 68 minutes to complete a 4-0 rout on aggregate.

The night's other tie saw Wolfsburg host KAA Gent with the Germans holding a 3-2 advantage from the first leg leaving the Belgians with a big task to overcome three away goals. However, such a task was made harder by the fact that the game remained at 0-0 long into the second half. The hosts confirmed their place in the last eight with a 74th minute winner from André Schurrle to complete a 4-2 aggregate success.

Wednesday night began with Zenit St Petersburg hosting Benfica looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Portugal. The sides played out a goalless first half with the equality continuing past the hour mark until the Russians levelled the tie at 1-1 with a 69th minute opener from Hulk. Gaitan levelled for 1-1 on the night and put the visitors 2-1 ahead overall with five minutes to go before Conceicao wrapped up a 2-1 win and 3-1 aggregate success in added time.

Chelsea played host to perennial Ligue 1 champions Paris St Germain looking to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg and become the first English side to reach the last eight. The visitors extended their aggregate lead to 3-1 inside 16 minutes as Rabiot put them ahead on the night. Chelsea responded on 27 minutes through Diego Costa but were unable to level the tie before Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed a 2-1 win and 4-2 success on aggregate in the 67th minute.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Foxes Safe on Top While Reds Late Show Denies Palace

After finally catching up with my results from previous weeks, along came gameweek 29 in the Premier League as the season began to journey towards the final straight. An exciting weekend saw seven sides score two or more while just four claimed a shut-out.

The weekend began with possibly the most important North London derby in the league's existence as Tottenham Hotspur hosted fellow title challengers Arsenal at White Hart Lane.  The Gunners opened the scoring with six minutes left of the first half as Aaron Ramsey struck before a triple blow for the visitors in a seven minute period. Francis Coquelin was sent off on 55 minutes before goal from Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane on 60 and 62 minutes put Spurs 2-1 ahead. However, the points would be shared after Alexis Sanchez sealed a 2-2 draw with a 78th minute leveller.

The first of six 3pm games saw Chelsea host Stoke City at Stamford Bridge with the Blues looking move into the top half of the table for the first time since the first third of the season. Their hopes were boosted just before half time as Bertrand Traore continued his scoring streak with the opener on 39 minutes. However, Stoke salvaged a point late in the second half as Mama Biram Diouf fired in an 85th minute leveller for 1-1.

Everton hosted West Ham United at Goodison Park with the Toffees keen to move into the top half while the Hammers still had their hopes of reaching the top four. The Blues got off to a great start as Aaron Lennon opened the scoring on 13 minutes but suffered a blow on 34 minutes with the dismissal of Kevin Mirallas. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Everton doubled their lead through Romelu Lukaku on 56 minutes before a superb Hammers double in the space of three minutes made it 2-2.

Michail Antonio continued his scoring streak in the 78th minute before an equaliser from Diafra Sakho on 81 minutes. The comeback was completed late on as Dmitri Payet sealed a 3-2 win for the Hammers in added time.

Manchester City looked to bounce back from their midweek defeat at Anfield as they hosted bottom side Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium. A tight first half saw the sides remain level at 0-0 but Villa were soon in big trouble as City fired in a quartet of goals in an 18 minute period. Yaya Toure got them off the mark three minutes after the restart before a ten minute brace from Sergio Aguero made it 3-0. The rout was completed on 66 minutes as Raheem Sterling made it 4-0.

Relegation battlers Newcastle United hosted Bournemouth with the Cherries knowing that a win at St James' Park would put them close to safety from the drop zone. An early boost for the visitors came on 28 minutes as Steven Taylor hit into his own net for 1-0. The Magpies did well to keep the deficit to a single goal but were unable to draw level before a second for the Cherries came on 70 minutes through Joshua King. Ayoze Perez cut the gap to 2-1 on 80 minutes before the win was sealed for the visitors in added time through Charlie Daniels for 3-1.

Southampton hosted Sunderland at St Mary's Stadium looking to close on the European places while the visitors were keen to move out of the drop zone. The game proved to be a tight one despite the sides differing league positions before a double boost came for the visitors with the dismissal of Jose Fonte on 79 minutes followed by Jermain Defoe's 85th minute opener. However,the ten man Saints did well to claim a point with Virgil Van Dijk salvaging a 1-1 draw in added time.

In a battle at the bottom end of the table, Swansea City hosted fellow strugglers Norwich City with the Swans knowing that a win would open up a huge gap between them and the bottom four. The win they craved came via a single goal as Gylfi Sigurdsson sealed a 1-0 win with a strike in the 61st minute.

Saturday's evening game saw Watford hosting table toppers Leicester City with the Foxes having the chance to open up a five point lead at the top. The game was settled by a single goal in the second half as Riyad Mahrez sealed a 1-0 win that leaves the Foxes in a superb position at the top of the league.

Super Sunday began with Crystal Palace's hosting of Liverpool with the Eagles hoping to extend their hoodoo over the Reds with the 2014's title dent the most famous in recent seasons.

The sides played out a tight and goalless first half before Joe Ledley put the Eagles ahead within three minutes of the restart. The Reds suffered a further blow with the dismissal of James Milner on 62 minutes but they battled back into the game with ten men as Roberto Firmino levelled on 72 minutes. The game was settled deep into added time with the Reds earning penalty which substitute Christian Benteke tucked away to claim a 2-1 win.

The final game of the weekend saw West Bromwich Albion host Manchester United with the Baggies looking to close on the top half and the Red Devils hoping to keep in the top four battle. United suffered a blow midway through the first half with Juan Mata being dismissed on 26 minutes before the Baggies took advantage of the extra man on 66 minutes. The winning goal came from Salomon Rondon who piled more pressure on the United manager Louis Van Gaal with the 1-0 win.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Domestic Catch Up

A busy week has meant a delay in the reviews and images so a catch up features just images of results from the last two gameweeks of the Premier League and the Capital One Cup final outcome.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

English Trio Seal Europa Extension

In a busy fortnight for action both domestic and European, the Europa League second legs took place on Thursday night with the three English sides all with work to to do to seal a place in the next stage.

The action began on Wednesday night as Sporting Braga hosted FC Sion with the visitors looking to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg. The Swiss side levelled the tie at 2-2 with the opening goal from Gekas on 16 minutes before being pegged back on the night by a 27th minute penalty from Josué who put Braga 3-2 ahead overall. Gekas struck his second just two minutes later to put Sion 2-1 up and levelled on aggregate but the crucial strike came on 48 minutes as Stojiljovic levelled the game at 2-2 but in doing so sealed a 4-2 aggregate victory for the Portuguese side.

Lokomotiv Moscow hosted Fenerbache in the first of the remaining ties on Thursday night with the visitors taking a 2-0 lead to the Russians after the first leg. Lokomotiv cut the gap on aggregate with a an opening goal on 46 minutes through Samedov but were unable to level overall across the half. The Turks confirmed their spot in the next stage on 83 minutes as Topal made it 1-1 on the night while sealing a 3-1 win on aggregate.

Athletic Bilbao played hosts to Olympique Marseille who looked to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg. The visitors' pursuit to draw level in the tie came just before half-time as they opened the scoring on the night on 40 minutes through Batshuayi to level overall. However, they were denied the chance for extra time as the hosts levelled on the night with nine minutes left courtesy of an effort from Zulonga whose strike sealed a 2-1 aggregate success.

Bayer Leverkusen hosted Sporting Lisbon hoping to build on a 1-0 advantage from the first leg and they doubled the aggregate lead inside the first half an hour through Bellarabi before Eduardo levelled on the night and cut the overall score to 2-1. Bellarabi made it 2-1 on the night and 3-1 overall with his second strike on 65 minutes before Calhanoglu completed a 3-1 success and 4-1 aggregate rout in the 87th minute.

Schalke 04 hosted Shakthar Donetsk with both sides going into the second leg level after a goalless first leg. The Ukrainians opened the scoring on the night in the 26th minute through Bonfim before Ferreyra doubled the lead just after the hour mark. The winners of the tie and the spot in the next round were confirmed on 77 minutes as Kovalenko made it 3-0.

Krasnodar had a 1-0 deficit from the first leg to overturn as they hosted Sparta Prague and the Czechs took until six minutes after half-time to add to their aggregate lead as Marecek opened the scoring on the night.  Frydek doubled the advantage on the night before the hosts suffered two blows in as many minutes with the 68th minute dismissal of Kaporé followed by a third goal for Sparta from Fatai who in making it 3-0 completed a 4-0 rout on aggregate.

Lazio hosted Galatasaray with the sides level at 1-1 after a tight first leg and the tightness between the sides continued in a goalless first half in the second leg. The deadlock was broke on 59 minutes as the hosts took the lead through Parolo before rapid second from Gomes made it 2-0 on the night and 3-1 overall. The visitors pulled one back instantly via Oztekin but the tie was sealed on 72 minutes as Klose completed a 3-1 win and 4-1 success on aggregate.

Liverpool hosted FC Augsburg having drawn the first leg 0-0 in Germany and they made a stunning start to the second leg at Anfield as James Milner opened the scoring inside five minutes with a well taken penalty. The Germans battled to try and level the score and the tie itself but to no avail as the Reds held on to claim a narrow 1-0 aggregate success.

Rapid Vienna hosted Valencia with a huge task on the hands as they looked to overturn a 4-0 deficit from the first leg. They kept out the Catalans in the first half but were unable to reduced the aggregate deficit. Valencia extended their lead in the tie with a double either side of the hour mark from Rodrigo and Feghouli to make it 8-0 on aggregate. The Austrians were finished off by two further goals on 72 and 88 minutes as Piatti and Nunes Vezo completed a 4-0 rout on the night and a stunning 10-0 win on aggregate.

Basel hosted St Etienne hoping to overturn a 3-2 deficit from the first leg in France and got off to a good start with an opener from Zuffi inside 15 minutes to level the tie at 3-3.The Swiss side remained ahead on the night long into the second half and their chance of forcing extra time was boosted by the dismissal of Eysseric on 82 minutes before losing Embolo to a sending off within two minutes. Sall levelled on the night and put the visitors all but into the next stage in the 89th minute but their joy was soured by Zuffi's second in added time to seal a 2-1 win and 4-4 aggregate score with them winning on away goals.

FC Porto hosted Borussia Dortmund looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg in Germany and in a tight game second leg, just one goal proved to be enough to settle the tie. An own goal on 23 minutes from Porto 'keeper Iker Casillas sealed a 1-0 win for Dortmund and 3-0 success on aggregate.

Manchester United hosted FC Midtjlland hoping to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg while the Danes had their eyes on a famous double over the Red Devils. The visitors opened the scoring on 27 minutes as Sisto struck to open up a 3-1 lead overall but an own goal from Bodurov made it 3-2 overall on 32 minutes. A rapid double from United debutant Marcus Rashford on 63 and 75 minutes put the hosts 3-1 up on the night and 4-3 ahead on aggregate. Ander Herrera looked to have sealed the tie with an 87th minute penalty before two further blow for the Danes saw Romer dismissed ahead of a strike from Memphis Depay who confirmed a 5-1 win and 6-3 aggregate success.

Molde FK had the tough task of overturning a 3-0 first leg defeat against defending champions Sevilla. The hosts struck an opening goal in the 43rd minute through Helstad to cut the aggregate gap to 3-1 which was how the score remained until the end. They had secured a 1-0 win on the night lost 3-1 on aggregate as Sevilla moved a step further to defending their title.

Napoli hosted Villarreal looking to overturn a narrow 1-0 deficit from the first leg and they made a good start by levelling the tie with an opening goal inside 17 minutes through Marek Hamsik. Pina levelled on the night for the visitors on 59 minutes with his effort enough to wrap up a 2-1 aggregate success.

Olympiakos had a narrow 1-0 deficit to overturn as they hosted Anderlecht and they took just 29 minutes of the second leg to draw level in the tie with the opening goal seeing Fortounis convert from the penalty spot. The sides remained level at 1-1 on aggregate until the end of the 90 minutes forcing extra time and the Belgians secured a double success as Acheampong scored in the 103rd and 111th minutes to complete a 2-1 win and 3-1 aggregate victory.

The final game of the round saw Tottenham Hotspur host Fiorentina with Spurs looking to build on a 1-1 draw from the first leg. They started the game well with Ryan Mason giving them an aggregate  lead on 25 minutes before Erik Lamela made it 2-0 on the night and 3-1 overall in the 63rd minute. Fiorentina were out of the tie as a contest with nine minutes remaining as Rodriguez scored an own goal to seal a 3-0 win for the hosts and complete a trio of successes for the English sides with a 4-1 aggregate success.