Saturday, 9 March 2013

EPL + FA Cup + UEFA Champions League Analysis and Coverage:

Hello everyone and welcome to my latest blog post where I have analysis of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League Matches that were played during midweek, along with the 4 EPL matches being played today and two FA Cup 6th Round Matches.

UEFA Champions League:


Manchester United 1 Real Madrid 2 (aggregate 2-3)

This was part 2 of the enthralling encounter between two of the best teams in the world, going head-to-head at Old Trafford for a vital place in the Last 8 of the Champions League.

United started the match brightly with Welbeck causing the Real defence problems with his electric pace and skill, and Vidic having a header inside the box hit the crossbar.

The first-half ended 0-0, with United having the edge without scoring any goals. If the match stayed goal-less, the hosts would progress through to the Last 8, despite the feeling that there would at least be 1 goal in this match.

This feeling was not wrong, with United going ahead in the 48th minute after a cross was turned into his OWN net by Spainsh defender Sergio Ramos. 

Change of fortunes: Sergio Ramos taps the ball past Diego Lopez into his own net to give United the lead.

Then, the controversy began when United winger Luis Nani was given a straight red card for a high studs-up challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa. The match turned right on its head from this point on, with United having to play ultra defensive for the last 30 minutes while Real were consistently pressing the defence looking for a way back into the match. 

Controversy: Luis Nani was given a straight red card for a high challenge on Arbeloa.

Right or wrong? This red card has been the subject of conversation for millions of football fans all over the world over the past few days.

Real eventually found a way past the United defence, and scored twice in 2 minutes with a 25-yard wonder strike from former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric who beat De Gea with his stunner before the ball hit both posts and went into the net.

Amazing: Former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric equalised for Real with a stunning strike from 25-yards out.

Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain unleashed a great low cross into the box, for former United winger Ronaldo to tap past De Gea into the net to make it 2-1 to the defending Liga BBVA champions with 20 minutes to play.

Slick: Higuain picks out a cross for Ronaldo to latch onto before slotting into the back of the net.

Muted: Ronaldo shows respect towards his former club United by not celebrating his goal.

If only he didn't: A United fan lifts up a sign telling Ronaldo that they want him back, but he should NOT score against them.
Wayne Rooney (who was the main story for not starting the match) came on to try and help regain the lead for United, but it was too late and he was ineffective as Real dominated the rest of the match on a very tired United squad.

A bit of a shock: English striker Wayne Rooney warms up from the bench against Real.

Real Madrid progress to the Last 8 of the CL, with United being knocked out against a world-class side.

Borussia Dortmund 3 Shakthar Donetsk 0 (aggregate 5-2)

This was the second leg of an interesting tie, as German champions Dortmund hosted Ukrainian champions Shakthar Donetsk. 

Mario Gotze, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Felipe Santana all scored for the hosts, as Dortmund swept the floor with Shakthar as they progressed to the Last 8.

Ahead at home: Gotze doubles the lead to give Dortmund a comfortable 2 goal cushion in the tie.

On top: Gotze celebrates his goal with his welcoming team-mates.
Ahead at home: Brazil defender Felipe Santana scores a header inside the box to give Dortmund a 1-0 lead.

Thanks for that: Santana is mobbed by 7 of his team-mates after scoring the opening goal.
3 and easy: Polish winger Jakub Blaszcykowski celebrates making it 3-0 to the home side.
Other Results:
Juventus 2 Celtic 0 (aggregate 5-0)
PSG 1 Valencia 1 (aggregate 3-2)

UEFA Europa League:

Anzhi Makhachkala 0 Newcastle United 0

This match was played in Moscow, as tough side Anzhi hosted Newcastle United in Russia. Hatem Ben Arfa started his first match since December when he injured his hamstring, but was not able to make any magic and the match ended goal-less in the first leg of the Last 16. 

Return: Hatem Ben Arfa played his 1st match in 3 months on Thursday against Anzhi on his 26th birthday.

Close but no shave: Ben Arfa was close to scoring a goal in Russia on Thursday, but was denied by Gabulov.

Former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o was denied by Newcastle's fringe goalkeeper Rob Elliot twice, who kept a clean sheet in a tough match and Pardew's side earned a solid 0-0 draw where they can work on it at the Sports Direct Arena next week for the second leg. 

Very cold: The Newcastle players on the bench are wrapped up in blankets in sub-zero temperature conditions.

Steaua Bucharest 1 Chelsea 0

This was a shock result in Bucharest, as Chelsea conceded a penalty goal away from home. 

English full-back Ryan Bertrand pulled back the striker, and he powerfully slotted the ball past Cech into the net.

Silly foul to give away: Bertrand slides in on Raul Rusescu to give away a penalty.

Nicely done: Rusescu makes no mistake from the penalty spot, drilling the ball past Cech into the net to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Job to do: Chelsea now have to overturn a 1-0 deficit at home next week to avoid crashing out of the Europa League.
Ahead in tie, but job not finished yet: Steaua celebrate their 1-0 win over last years Champions League winners.
Under-fire: Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez looks on as his side lose away from home.

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Inter Milan 0

In-form Welsh winger Gareth Bale, Sigurdsson and Vertonghen all scored for the hosts as they comfortably dominated former Italian giants Inter Milan by 3 goals to nil at White Hart Lane in the first leg of their Last 16 "Champions League - like" clash. 

Come back to haunt you again: Bale heads Tottenham ahead at White Hart Lane against Inter Milan.

Red-hot form: Bale is attracting a lot of interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern.
2 goal cushion: Sigurdsson makes it 2-0 to the hosts with a tap-in shot.

Rare: Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates his 4th goal of the season.- having hardly played for Spurs all season.
Above the rest: Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen heads Spurs into a comfortable 3-0 lead at home.

Comfortable home lead: Vertonghen celebrates his goal with wingers Bale and Lennon.
Unfortunately for the hosts, Bale will not be eligible to play the second leg in Italy as he picked up a booking during the match for "simulation" otherwise known as diving which he and Suarez are heavily criticised for. 

Shameful: Bale was given a yellow card for this dive after Walter Gargano's challenge and will miss the 2nd leg at the San Siro

Arguing the toss: Bale appeals the yellow card towards the referee

However having said that, Tottenham have a comfortable 3-0 home lead to take to Italy, and it will be nearly impossible for Inter to progress now unless they score 4 goals without any reply from Spurs.  

Other Europa League results:

Stuttgart 0 Lazio 2
Viktoria Plzen 0 Fenerbahce 1
Basel 2 Zenit St. Petersburg 0
Benfica 1 Bordeaux 0
Levante 0 Rubin Kazan 0

                                   Today's EPL and FA Cup Action:

EPL - 3 relegation battle matches were played today, including QPR vs Sunderland as 6 of the teams at the bottom of the table went head-to-head while West Brom and Swansea were the two in the top half:

Norwich City 0 Southampton 0

This match was played at Carrow Road, as 13th placed Norwich hosted 14th placed Southampton in a bottom of the table clash. 

This was an end-to-end match throughout, as these two sides battled well despite adverse weather conditions with sleet and rain. 
Holt, Lambert, Lallana, Rodriguez and Ramirez all had goal-scoring chances, but they all were denied.

Controversy almost cost Southampton a well-earned point away from home, with young full-back Luke Shaw giving away a penalty in the last few minutes of the match after a 50/50 with Grant Holt ended up in the latter going down on the floor despite going down softly on the edge of the area. 
Justice was then done, as Artur Boruc saved Holt's resulting penalty and the match ended 0-0 with both sides taking away a point. 
QPR 3 Sunderland 1

QPR hosted Sunderland at Loftus Road as they looked to win back-to-back matches after their 2-1 win against Southampton last week. 

The hosts started the match well and brightly, after Jamacian winger Junior Holiett got past Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner on the wing with pace, before having his shot JUST wide of the goal, having beaten Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.   

Townsend and Holiett continued to press Sunderland with blistering pace and shots, despite being off target and it was looking good for the hosts until...... 
Against the run of play Sunderland broke the deadlock with a counter attacking move which saw winger Adam Johnson cross the ball into the box for Fletcher who tapped the ball over Green's head into the net to make it 1-0 to the away side in the 20th minute.

Breakthrough: Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher taps the ball past Robert Green into the net.

11th of the season: Fletcher celebrates his goal - against the run of play with his team-mates.

QPR felt hard done by after all of their efforts were rewarded with them conceding a goal, and they came right back at Sunderland to try and force an equaliser. 

On-loan winger Andros Townsend had an ambitious effort from 25 yards out, which deflected off former Manchester United defender John O'Shea into the path of French striker Loic Remy who took a touch to control the ball before slotting the ball away from Mignolet into the corner of the net to equalise for the hosts, and score his 3rd goal in 5 matches.

Clinical: Remy slots the ball past Mignolet into the back of the net to equalise for QPR.

French saviour? Remy has already scored 3 goals in 5 matches since his £10million move from Marseille.
The match ended 1-1 at half-time, and QPR continued to press Sunderland for the winning goal in the second half before on-loan winger Andros Townsend scored an absolute stunning strike which flew above Mignolet into the roof of the net to give the hosts the lead with 20 minutes to play.

Spectacular stunner: Andros Townsend makes it 2-1 to QPR with a deadly half-volley into the roof of the net.

Sending a message: Townsend celebrates his goal for QPR, showing Spurs what they are missing out on.
Free transfer from (Tottenham) midfielder Jermaine Jenas made it 3-1 to the hosts just before the final whistle in the 90th minute, with an identical strike from 25 yards out to Townsend, his Tottenham team-mate!

Identical: Jenas makes it 3-1 to QPR, with the almost IDENTICAL strike as team-mate Townsend.

Not without a fight: Jenas celebrates his strike to move QPR within 4 points out of the relegation zone.

QPR are still at the bottom of the EPL table, but are level on points with 19th placed Reading and 1 point away from 18th placed Wigan. 
Sunderland fail to move up to 12th place, and stay in 14th. 

FACT: QPR are 5 points off 16th placed Southampton.  

Reading 1 Aston Villa 2

This match was played at The Madejski Stadium, as 19th placed Reading hosted 18th placed Aston Villa in a vital match that would put the winners in a better position to survive the relegation battle.

Reading started the match quickly with purpose, when in the 2nd minute a cross was delivered into the box for "super sub" Adam Le Fondre who headed the ball well towards goal, but Brad Guzan denied an early opener for the hosts.

Benteke and Robson-Kanu both had chances for their respective sides and both went close but were denied by the bar (Benteke) and a save (Robson-Kanu), before Reading opened the scoring in the 32nd minute when a cross by Robson-Kanu went to McAnuff who did a backheel towards goal. 

Aston Villa's young defender Nathan Baker tried to clear the ball out to safety, but instead he miskicked it and it fell into the net for an own goal.

Two goals in quick succession from Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor followed for Villa as they held a 2-1 lead at half-time.

Back with a bang: Benteke scores his 12th EPL goal of the season, 1 minute after Baker conceded an own goal.
Bullet: Gabriel Agbonlahor puts Villa 2-1 ahead before half-time with a powerful shot which flew into the roof of the net.

Needed that: Agbonlahor wheels away to celebrate his goal against Reading.

Noel Hunt scored for Reading in the second half, but it was offside and he was booked for dissent. 

The second half was end-to-end, with both sides looking for a goal to either equalise or kill the match but despite many goalscoring chances, the match ended 2-1 to the away side, with Villa moving up into 17th place out of the relegation zone and Reading falling into more relegation trouble.
West Brom 2 Swansea City 1

This match was played at The Hawthorns as West Brom hosted Swansea in a 8th vs 9th placed match.
The hosts trailed 1-0 in the 33rd minute after a great delivery from a corner by midfielder Jonathan De Guzman fell to striker Luke Moore who scored with a cheeky backheader.

Romelu Lukaku scored his 13th EPL goal of the season with a tap-in to equalise for West Brom, and despite Lukaku having a penalty saved by Michel Vorm, the hosts took the lead in the 69th minute after a header bounced off Chico Flores and Jonathan De Guzman into the net, and it counted as a Guzman own goal. 

Slotted: Lukaku equalised for West Brom with a slick slot past Michel Vorm.
Back in it: Lukaku celebrates his 13th goal of the season to make it 1-1 at The Hawthorns.
Battle: West Brom took the lead after a header hit two defenders and bounced into the net.
FA Cup 6th Round - Two of the four quarter-finals were played today, as Everton hosted Wigan in an all EPL tie, while Barnsley made the long trip to Manchester to play against the defending EPL champions:
Everton 0 Wigan Athletic 3

Manchester City 5 Barnsley 0