Friday, 31 May 2013

5 reasons why United won the title with ease:

Manchester United have won the EPL title many times over the past ten seasons, with strong sides and star players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Edwin Van Der Sar all proving why they are some of the best players in the world. 

However, this season the United squad in general was not as strong as it has been in recent years and defensive frailties have been exposed by teams in Europe throughout during the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League campaign. 

This blog post covers 5 of the main reasons why Manchester United won the title with ease despite struggling to cope with many teams in Europe and what could happen in the future. 

Easy ride? In this blog post I explore the reasons why United on the title this season with ease.

Record-breaking: United won the title this season, with an overall average squad compare to usual seasons.

5 Reasons: 

  • Robin van Persie
  • Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham all being too busy worrying about CL qualification to challenge for the title
  • Sir Alex Ferguson and his impact on his last year before retirement
  • Mancini slacking at Manchester City
  • United's disappointment in Europe

The first reason has to be one of the most obvious reasons also - Robin van Persie.

Sir Alex Ferguson shocked the world last August announcing the arrival of the Dutch striker for a transfer fee of £24million pounds - which was considered controversial and intriguing at the time seeing as a 29-year-old injury-prone forward who had struggled to consistently perform for Arsenal in all but one of his seven years at the club was suddenly moving to United after an impressive season in 2011-12.

Main factor: Sir Alex Ferguson's £24m signing of Robin van Persie may be regarded as his best in charge.
Robin van Persie ended up being a major factor in United's title charge as he scored 30 goals in all competitions this season - and also won the coveted Golden Boot for the second consecutive year running with 26 EPL goals in-front of Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale among others. 

He hit a bad run of form with 1 goal in 10 games midway through the season, but bounced back with 3 goals in 2 games to prove his doubters wrong that his age is not holding his solid performances back. 

Football pundits and media alike now feel that the £24million pounds SAF spent on van Persie was actually a bargain but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to have the same effect for United next season under a new manager....

Another reason why United won the title easily this season was because it was basically a two-horse race throughout the campaign as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham were all too busy focusing on their respective European camapigns along with trying to secure their place in Europe for next season.

Arsenal and Chelsea both qualified for the CL - but Chelsea struggled in their group and finished in 3rd place which ultimately sealed their place in the Europa League. They got all the way to the final where they beat Portugese side Benfica to win their second European competition in two years.

Meanwhile, The Gunners crashed out in the Last 16 of the CL against Bayern Munich (who would eventually go on to win the competition) on away goal rule. 

Tottenham had a dramatic season in all competitions, even so in the Europa League where they qualified out of the group stage before beating Lyon and Inter Milan but losing to FC Basel on penalties in the quarter-finals. 

Bale has attracted interest from PSG and Real Madrid after impressive performances in the EPL and Europa League this season.

All three clubs were all busy in Europe - which City and United both had the privilege of not being involved (depends what you think) and meant it was a two-horse race.

When Manchester City started to crumble during mid-season, United took advantage of their rivals dropping points and increased the gap at the top of the table.

The third reason why United have had such success in England this year is because of Sir Alex Ferguson. 
Not many people knew at the start of the season that he would be announcing his retirement, but he confirmed a couple of years ago that he would be retiring soon yet no-one actually believd he would leave his post at United.

After the heartbreak of a late dramatic title loss to Manchester City on the last day of the season this time last year, SAF signalled his intent and hunger to win back his title crown signing Robin van Persie along with building on the team's weaknesses and fitness during pre-season.

The whole team was then determined and focused on giving their loyal supporters what they really wanted - a record 20th title.

The fourth reason why United won the EPL title with ease was because the other club involved in the two-horse title race struggled and were slacking throughout periods of the season with shock losses and draws against teams they should have been beating.

This team is of course Manchester City, who seemed to lack the ambition and desire to retain their EPL crown and kept looking over their shoulder before eventually giving up the fight mid-way through the season.

Here are a couple of results that show their lack of desire:

  • November 3: 0-0 vs West Ham
  • December 1: 1-1 vs Everton
  • December 26: 1-0 loss vs Sunderland
  • December 29: 4-3 win vs Norwich
  • February 9: 3-1 loss vs Southampton
  • March 16: 2-0 loss vs Everton
  • May 4: 0-0 vs Swansea
  • May 19 (last day): 3-2 loss vs Norwich

There is no hiding the fact that Manchester City HAVE had a poor season and a disappointing one at that - knocked out of the Champions League group stages, losing to Aston Villa in the 3rd Round of the Capital One Cup, losing in the FA Cup Final to Wigan in the last minute.

This is part of the reason why Manchester City have sacked Roberto Mancini along with the fact that he has no tactical awareness and just happens to argue and fall out with all of his players.

Backing: Some supporters wanted Mancini to stay - amid reports Manuel Pellegrino is taking over.

The fifth and final reason why United excelled in England this year was simple - They failed in Europe.

This may sound weird, but it actually spurred United on to win a trophy. 
They struggled against most of the European teams including Galatasaray and Braga because their leaky defence was exposed and they could not score many goals as well as the "injustice" as Spanish side Real Madrid beat ten-men United at Old Trafford in the Last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

Everyone else in the top 5 for the EPL (apart from City) was in European competition apart from United for the remainder of the season which caused fatigue and inconsistency from January onwards which helped United's title bid.

However, next season things may be very different... 

Manchester City - Pellegrini moving to City may be beneficial for the club, bringing some world-class players with him to challenge for the title next season including Isco and Cavani.

Chelsea - Mourinho has been heavily linked with the Chelsea job over the past few months, especially after leaving Real Madrid just after the end of the season after only one trophy in three years capping off a disappointing spell at Real. He is quite literally worshipped at Chelsea, and a move back to England would boost both morale and The Blues' desire to win something under him again.

Arsenal - Transfer rumours are running rampant for The Gunners as they reportedly have up to £70million to spend as they look to win their first piece of silverware in 9 years and break the history books with a decent crop of players. Among the players rumoured to move to north London are Asmir Begovic, Gonzalo Higuain and Stefan Jovetic, but we will have to wait and see again if Wenger is willing to spend his money now that he has it.. 

Tottenham Hotspur - They are determined more than ever to qualify for the Champions League, and they know that Gareth Bale may not be there for long if they continue to fight in the Europa League. Therefore Andre Villas Boas needs to make some big signings to have a significant impact on his Spurs side, as well as a striker to take some of the load of his Welsh talisman Bale....

Manchester United - It will be re-building time for United as they announced their first new manager for over 25 years in the form of David Moyes. Many players and staff will still be shocked at the retirement of SAF, but Moyes needs to spend well in the transfer market to ensure that his squad is strong enough to defend from the advances of their title rivals.
At the moment United are linked with many midfielders including Fellaini, Fabregas, Bender and a potential move back to England for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Whatever happens, next season's EPL will be very intriguing.. 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

UEFA Champions League Final LIVE Commentary:

Final showdown: German rivals Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will go head-to-head

Hello and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have a LIVE commentary of the hotly contested German rivalry between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Today, they continue their rivalry at Wembley in the Champions League final, with one of the two teams getting the pleasure and riches of lifting the prestigious CL trophy. They will also automatically be entered into the UEFA Super Cup Final which will be played in August against Europa League winners Chelsea for some more European glory.

Before I begin, I would like to apologise that the Europa League Final Review + Analysis post has not been published as of yet, but it will be published very soon as I have been busy over the last few days and unable to access my blog without being able to finish the post itself. What can I say, I don't like to publish things that are not fully done. 

Anyways, here are the two teams' road to the final:

Bayern Munich: 

The favourites started their journey to the final in Group F, alongside Spanish side Valencia, French club Lille and underdogs BATE Borisov. 

They unsurpisingly dominated their group, winning 4 out of 6 and only losing once to BATE Borisov as they moved swiftly on to the Last 16. 

They met English side Arsenal, who were well beaten 3-1 at The Emirates in the first leg, and despite a late charge in the second leg with a 2-0 win over the Germans, Bayern progressed due to the away goal rule.
In the quarter-finals, Bayern hosted tough Italian side Juventus for a place in the Last 4. They proved too strong for Juve quite early on in the first leg, with left-back David Alaba having a thumping drive past Gianluigi Buffon from 25 yards out within the first MINUTE of the match. 

They eventually beat them 4-0 on aggregate, 2-0 each leg and found themselves against 2011 winners Barcelona in the semi-finals. 

They played very well, and dominated from the start in a performance that shocked the world as they cruised to a 4-0 lead after the first leg thanks to some great teamwork involving Robben, Muller and Gomez. 

Javi Martinez and Schweinsteiger were also both key as they snuffed out any Barca attacks, including closing down the world's best player Lionel Messi and he was not able to make an impact on the game. 

Unfortunately for Barca, Messi picked up a knock that ruled him out of the second leg at the Nou Camp and Barca were not able to pick themselves up after this. 

There were murmurs of a remarkable Barca comeback, but this never happened and Bayern just proved their dominance in Europe this year with a 3-0 away win to make it 7-0 on aggregate and send them to the final with everyone still in shock at how comfortable they were.

Meanwhile, main underdogs but dark horses Borussia Dortmund showed their class and teamwork to get to the final in a professional display, despite late drama, controversy and hard times throughout this season. 

Borussia Dortmund:

The darkhorses Dortmund... started this season's Champions League in arguably the toughest group of them all. The "Group of Death" which featured the champions of four different leagues of 2012. 
Manchester City, Ajax, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund were all in Group D, and the media were expected Dortmund to be fighting for the Europa League spot (3rd place in their group) 
Oh how wrong they were...

Dortmund started their group stage campaign off well, getting 4 points from 2 matches after beating Ajax and drawing against Manchester City. 
Then, the shocks began with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid showed the world why they were the dark horses in the competition to do well.

A 2-2 draw with Real followed, before a 4-1 thrashing of Dutch champions Ajax proved that they wanted to focus most of their energy on the Champions League after going so long without winning it (last won it in 1997)

They ended up as group winners after a 1-0 win over Manchester City in their last match, before a 5-2 aggregate win over Shakthar Donetsk proved that they were a real force to be reckoned with. 

They played against Spanish side Malaga in the quarter-finals, and defied the odds with a dramatic 3-2 win in the second leg after a 0-0 draw in Spain. 

They were losing 2-1 with 3 minutes of added time to play, but late goals from Marco Reus and Felipe Santana helped them progress to the semi-finals, where they would play against an old rival - Real Madrid. 

Their past results did not matter anymore - they were both in the semi-finals and they both wanted to win.

Real Madrid had a poor campaign in the Liga BBVA this season, falling behind Barca and Atletico Madrid in the title race, while Dortmund had all but relinquished their Bundesliga crown being 20+ points behind rivals Bayern Munich who had only lost once all season in the League. 

A masterclass show from Robert Lewandowski in particular in the first leg - scoring 4 goals against Real Madrid in style and a nervy 4-3 aggregate win at The Bernabeu puts Dortmund through against their German rivals Bayern at Wembley tonight.

We had French dominance, Italian, English, Spanish and now is it time for German dominance? 

Here are the team line-ups for tonight's game:

Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer, Bender, Gundogan, Blaszczykowski, Reus, Grosskreutz, Lewandowski.
Subs: Langerak, Kehl, Leitner, Sahin, Kirch, Schieber, Felipe Santana.

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba, Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Robben, Muller, Ribery, Mandzukic.
Subs: Starke, Van Buyten, Shaqiri, Pizarro, Gustavo, Gomez, Tymoschuk. 

No controversial midfield playmaker Mario Gotze today for Dortmund, he is ruled out with a hamstring injury and there were already doubts whether he would play in the first place against his future club Bayern who he will move to in July of this year after they activated his release clause of £32million pounds. 

Controversy: Mario Gotze has been ruled out of the final due to a hamstring injury

While for Bayern, Robben starts again in a CL final after having a nightmare last season against his former club Chelsea - missing a penalty and many chances to win the match for Bayern.
Mario Gomez is among the subs on the bench, as Mario Mandzukic is the lone striker up-front. 

19:35 - 10 minutes until kick-off at Wembley! 

19:45 - The epic match is about to start at Wembley, with an amazing atmosphere inside the stadium at the moment from both sides. Bayern are the favourites, but Dortmund like the term "underdog" as they always seem to play better with it. 

Despite the fact Bayern won the Bundesliga title by 25 points this season, Dortmund have focused their energy on the Champions League - and it is evident in their team performances. 

Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus will be very important for Dortmund tonight, with both players having to communicate with each other up-front as Gotze is not playing and not dictating the pace and possession of play. 

0: The referee has blown his whistle to a ferocious roar from both sets of the crowd. You can tell this match will not stay goal-less for long.

4: Both teams are not showing any signs of nervousness so far, with Bayern trying to settle in their own half before looking for space to run into with the ball. 

Dortmund know they may have to play a patient game tonight, without much of the possession but need to be clinical with their chances on the counter attack. 

6: Dortmund corner after Jerome Boateng heads clear from a set-piece. Schweinsteiger caused the free-kick after a clash of legs with Blaszcykowski from 30 yards out. 

10: Dortmund always look dangerous on the counter attack, and they did again just now. Robben and Muller tried to make a quick interchange just outside the box, but the pass was intercepted by Subotic and cleared away to Reus who drove through into the middle of the pitch before finding Grosskreutz on the left wing, but his shot was over the bar and failed to trouble Neuer. 

12: No real attempts at goal, in terms of being on target for either side so far. 

13: Very close to a chance for Dortmund. Jerome Boateng stuck too tight to Robert Lewandowski who skinned him for pace before trying to whip a cross into the box, but he was closed down and he ended up letting the ball go out for a goal-kick. 

14: CLOSE! Robert Lewandowski had a powerful driving shot from 25 yards out, but Manuel Neuer acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar for a Dortmund corner. 
So far, so good for Dortmund but still 0-0.

15: CLOSE AGAIN! Blaszcykowski finished a nice piece of passing play between Reus and Gundogan with a turning shot on his right foot, but his effort was parried away out by Neuer who got down low to deny the Polish winger from breaking the deadlock.

Improvise: Manuel Neuer prevents Blaszcykowski from scoring with an outstretched leg save

17: Panic stations for Bayern... they are trying to keep possession now but they need to start making chances of their own as Neuer may not be able to save all of the shots fired at him by the pace and power of Dortmund tonight. 

21: Manuel Neuer is the much busier of the two goalkeepers tonight, he has had to make 6 saves so far and only 20 minutes have been played. 
Marco Reus and Sven Bender have both come close with counter attack strikes, and Bayern just can't seem to catch them on the break.

That's their special weapon - the counter attack. 

25: The boos have started now as Lewandowski is on the ground clutching his face after a challenge by Ribery.
Replays show Ribery elbowed the Polish striker in the face after a shoulder barge, but Lewandowski is eager to get the game restarted and does not argue with the referee and goes back to his forward role.

26: CHANCE! A great cross into the box is fed into the middle for Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic, who jumps highest to head the ball towards goal, but goalkeeper Weidenfeller (who has not had much to do so far) does well to get a touch to the ball and tip it over the bar. It hit the crossbar on the way, and Bayern will be eager to continue this momentum as they look for the first goal. 

Acrobatic: Weidenfeller parries the ball over the bar from Mandzukic's header. 

The first goal in this match is crucial - if Dortmund score the crowd will go wild, if Bayern score they may just dominate afterwards.. 

31: Bayern launch a counter attack of their own, with Muller feeding Robben the ball on the wing who runs into space before shaping to shoot, but Weidenfeller reacts quickly and parries the ball out for a corner. 

Quick reactions: Weidenfeller parries Robben's effort after Bayern went on the counter attack

Robben is full of adrenaline, he is eager to take the corner and take advantage of this Bayern spell of pressing for the goal. 

The balance of pressing has shifted slightly, with Bayern having a couple of good goal-scoring opportunities in the last few minutes.

34: CHANCE! Robert Lewandowski finds space to run into while being marginally onside, before beating Dante with pace before trying to chip Neuer, who parries the ball away to safety. 

He may well get man of the match tonight Neuer, if it was not for him Dortmund would be in-front for sure. 

40: Bayern are trying to dominate possession as they look for another opening, but Dortmund are tired of waiting patiently for a loose pass and are pressing them high up the pitch. 

41: Marco Reus has a chance on the wing using his pace to get past Javi Martinez with ease but his shot is wayward and just past the post not troubling Neuer.

Manager Jurgen Klopp is trying to encourage his side to continue what they are doing, he likes them creating chances out of nothing.

42: CHANCE! Arjen Robben might just be having another one of those days... he was free inside the box one-on-one with the goalkeeper but he just lashed at the ball which hit Weidenfeller in the face and Dortmund clear again.

He could have easily scored one or two goals by now and this might just be a case of who can be the first to break the deadlock.

45: The referee signals for half-time at Wembley, with both sides walking down the tunnel with the scoreline still goal-less after 45 minutes of interesting and dramatic play. 

Both goalkeepers (Neuer and Weidenfeller) have done well to deny the opposition from scoring so far, but there have been so many goal-scoring chances that you can just feel someone will score eventually - but you are not sure who..

20:46 - The second half has begun at Wembley, with 45 minutes to play and the scores still at 0-0.

54: Tempers are starting to flare for both teams after a few small fouls that have been over dramatized by team-mates and the players involved themselves. 

55: Great defending by German centre-back Mats Hummels to shoulder barge and shield the ball away from French winger Franck Ribery just inside the box as the attack was looking dangerous. Applause all-round in the stadium. 

56: The match is decreasing in terms of the excitement slightly, as the referee keeps stopping the game for minor tackles and fouls from both sides. These constant stoppages in play will suit Bayern more than Dortmund who want to keep momentum but need to get the ball back from Bayern every time they concede a free-kick. 

59: GOAL! Bayern are rewarded with the first goal of the game just before the hour mark after some patient build-up play on the wing by Franck Ribery before he ran into space to feed Robben the ball inside the area. 

Robben ran towards the line before having a shot parried behind the back of Weidenfeller, into space for Mandzukic to easily tap the ball into the net to break the deadlock.
And now the Bayern fans have gone wild! 1-0 and the match has exploded into life again.

63: The referee has stopped play again after Dortmund defender Neven Subotic barges into Franck Ribery sending him flying onto the ground clutching his face in apparent pain.
Subotic casually walks away from Ribery who slowly gets back up to his feet before getting back into position.

66: PENALTY! Sloppy Bayern defending by Jerome Boateng who leaves the wing exposed for Marco Reus to run into, and the ball bounces off the turf into mid-air. Dante tries to win the ball inside the penalty area with a high leg outstretched, but instead catches Reus in the ribs with a boot and the referee has no choice but to give a penalty. 

Great chance for Dortmund to equalise... Lewandowski is not stepping up to take it, but German playmaker Ilkay Gundogan steps up to take it.

Gundogan vs Neuer... GOAL! Dortmund have equalised with just over 20 minutes to play in the second half.

The atmosphere has exploded now, with the Dortmund fans continuing to sing now!

71: GOAL-LINE CLEARANCE! Thomas Muller almost put Bayern back in-front after a dangerous counter attack saw Weidenfeller come out of his area to try and deny the German from scoring. Muller did a fake shot before weaving past the goalkeeper and slotted the ball towards goal - but Serbian defender Neven Subotic sprinted to clear the ball away and keep the scores level - for now!

75: 15 minutes to play, and it is back-and-forth like a tennis match right now. Bayern attack, Dortmund clear, Dortmund attack, Bayern clear and counter... 

76: CHANCE! Great save by Weidenfeller again in this match to deny young left-back David Alaba from giving Bayern the lead again with a swerving 25 yard shot which was parried away at full stretch.

77: Goal-kick to Dortmund, but Bayern are furious that they have not been awarded a penalty after Muller was brought down just as he passed the ball across the box to Mandzukic who hit the side netting. 

His pass was too late, and Dortmund are relieved that the referee did not point to the penalty spot for the second time in ten minutes. 

80: 10 minutes remaining of the regulated 90, with both teams and sets of supporters starting to get a bit nervous as the clock edges closer to full-time.

If it stays like this, it will go to extra-time (15 minutes each half) but we will cross that bridge IF we get to it. 

FACT: It would be the second time in two years that the CL final has gone to extra time....

82: Bayern have a corner, and they are continuing to press for the winner now... Robben to take.
Weidenfeller parries the ball out, the ball falls to Schweinsteiger who hits a strike which flies high and wide of the goal, goal-kick.

83: The match facts do not lie;
23 shots so far tonight, 13 corners.

84: Muller feeds Robben the ball on the Bayern counter attack, who runs with pace towards goal but the ball is intercepted by Ilkay Gundogan who tries to clear but is knocked down by Robben. Gundogan wins a Dortmund free-kick after some good defensive work to deny Robben from having a chance to score..

85: 5 minutes to play, the longer this continues the more chance of the match going to extra time... 

Perhaps a repeat of what we saw two week's ago on Wednesday in the Europa League Final? 

Ivanovic scored a late winner for Chelsea in the Europa League Final - could anyone repeat that?

89: What did I say?!? Bayern have just scored! A dangerous counter attack finds Robben on the ball in space, and he proved his doubters wrong with a tap-in past Weidenfeller into the net to make it 2-1 to Bayern.

#LateWinner #UCL #Robben

90: The fourth official has signalled for 3 minutes of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the match tonight - with both sides making a substitution. 
Nuri Sahin and Luiz Gustavo have both come on with just minutes to play.
Can Dortmund replicate their 3-2 win over Malaga with just three minutes to play? I don't think so...

90+3: The referee blows his whistle to end the match at Wembley. Tonight has been an epic night of CL football, with both German sides showing their quality and world supremacy.
Dortmund played well throughout and did not deserve to lose the match in the way they did, but having said that you cannot deny the fact that Bayern have dominated European football this season and deserve the CL trophy after what has happened over the last year. 

Very dramatic end to a very entertaining match of football, 90 minutes of footballing greatness. Any player that wants to find out how to play the game? Watch Bayern vs Dortmund. 
Arguably better final than last year's at the Allianz Arena, and Bayern have got their redemption from being heartbroken last year against Chelsea.

The Dortmund fans and players look absolutely distraught (what else would they look?) and you have to feel sorry for them as they line up to pick up their runners-up medals.

The Dortmund players have picked up their runners-up medals after a guard of honour from their rivals, and Bayern are walking up to take their winners medals and recieve the UCL trophy. 

Right-back and captain Phillip Lahm lifts the UCL trophy and all the players look happy as the supporters rejoice in their victory. Much deserved 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

EPL Final Day LIVE Coverage:

Today is the final day of what has been a dramatic and interesting EPL season. All twenty teams are all in action, at the same time. The champions and the three relegated sides have all been confirmed, so that part of the traditional last day will not be present this afternoon. However, there are still Champions League places to fight for along with a couple of places that can be moved around and shifted in mid-table with a win today. 

4th placed Arsenal travel to Newcastle knowing they need a win to confirm CL football again next season ahead of 5th placed rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Depending on whether Chelsea win at home against Everton, the two teams may have to play a play-off match next Sunday to decide who has to qualify for the CL and who gets automatic qualification into the group stage. Complicated stuff but it will all be sorted out by 6pm tonight :)


Chelsea 1 Everton 1
The new Europa League winners Chelsea host Everton at Stamford Bridge knowing that they need a win to secure automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.  
So far they are not doing that, drawing 1-1 despite going ahead thanks to Spainsh playmaker Juan Mata. Scottish striker Steven Naismith equalised just seven minutes later, and it has stayed that way so far.

World-class: Juan Mata celebrates scoring his 11th EPL goal of the season to make it 1-0

Liverpool 1 QPR 0
Superb Liverpool signing and midfielder Phillipe Coutinho has broken the deadlock for The Reds in the 23rd minute against already relegated QPR. 

Bullet: Phillipe Coutinho breaks the deadlock for Liverpool at Anfield after 23 minutes

Superb: Coutinho has impressed massively in the EPL since his move from Inter in January 

Manchester City 1 Norwich City 2
Yes, you read the scoreline correctly. Norwich are leading 2-1 away from home against last season's EPL winners.  

Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 1
The Gunners have made a significant step towards Champions League qualification, with a slender 1-0 lead away from home thanks to French defender Laurent Koscielny who scored with an acrobatic effort into the net.

Acrobatic effort: Laurent Koscielny finds himself in space before having a half-volley fly into the net. 

Crucial: Koscielny celebrates his goal with Cazorla and Mertesacker which puts Arsenal in the driving seat.
Southampton 1 Stoke City 1
Peter Crouch and Rickie Lambert have both scored for their respective clubs, as the scoreline is 1-1 at St. Mary's Stadium.

Tale of two strikers: Peter Crouch celebrates breaking the deadlock for Stoke...

Guess who: Before.... Rickie Lambert celebrates equalising for Southampton to make it 1-1.

Swansea 0 Fulham 1
Young striker Alex Kacaniklic has broken the deadlock for Fulham away from home in Wales. 

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Sunderland 0
Spurs know they need to win and hope that Newcastle get a good result at home against Arsenal to secure Champions League football next season. At the moment, this will not happen as Arsenal are in-front, and despite dominating Spurs are not doing the same. 0-0. 

West Brom 2 Manchester United 4
Sir Alex Ferguson's last match in charge of Manchester United, which is also his 1,500th for United. 

Guard of honour: Sir Alex walks out onto the pitch with a guard of honour before the match. 

Landmark: This is Sir Alex Ferguson's last match in charge of United - and his 1,500th

His side are winning away from home at The Hawthorns by 4 goals to 2, thanks to Kagawa, Buttner, van Persie and an own goal but the hosts have put on powerhouse striker Romelu Lukaku who looks impressive today and has already scored a goal soon after coming on. 

Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa celebrates a rare goal for United to break the deadlock.

West Ham 2 Reading 2
Already relegated side Reading are giving West Ham a run for their money on the last day of the season. They have come back from 2 goals down to equalise with 30 minutes to play. They are leaving the EPL, but leaving it with style. 

Star man: Kevin Nolan celebrates his goal with on-loan striker Andy Carroll.
Comeback: Reading celebrate making it 2-2 thanks to goals from Adam Le Fondre and Gareth McCleary.

Wigan Athletic 2 Aston Villa 2
Wigan start life in the Championship next season after their 4-1 loss to Arsenal during midweek sealed their relegation fate cruelly. They host Aston Villa who have had troubles of their own recently but are lucky to still be in this league after this season.

At the moment it is 2-2 in an end-to-end game at the DW Stadium.



Chelsea 2 Everton 1
The Blues sealed a 3rd placed finish with a 2-1 win at home against a tough Everton side who were unlucky to lose.
Fernando Torres scored his 2nd goal in 2 matches to win the game for the hosts in the 76th minute. 

Liverpool 1 QPR 0
Coutinho's goal was the only thing that separated the two teams at Anfield, apart from the hosts' touching tribute to defender Jamie Carragher who retires from professional football today after 737 appearances as a Liverpool player. 

QPR will return to the Championship next season where they will look to re-group, lick their wounds and bounce back up to the Elite league in England. 

Manchester City 2 Norwich City 3
Manchester City failed to end their unpredictable season on a high after a 3-2 defeat to Norwich at home. Young midfielder Jack Rodwell (who has not featured much throughout this season) scored a double for the hosts as they looked to beat Norwich comfortably in-front of their frustrated fans, but they kept going behind thanks to goals from Grant Holt, Anthony Pilkington and Jonny Howson. 

They could not equalise for a third time and ended this season knowing they must do better in 2014 if they are to regain their EPL title from rivals Manchester United. 

Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 1
The Gunners took the coveted 4th placed spot and last Champions League place after a dramatic day of football. Tottenham left it late at home, with Gareth Bale scoring an amazing strike from 25 yards out to give them the lead.

In the end, Spurs were unable to stop Arsenal from winning in their match, with French defender Laurent Koscielny scoring the only goal of the game with an acrobatic effort past retiring goalkeeper Steve Harper. 

Southampton 1 Stoke City 1
Both sides took a point away on the final day at St.Mary's Stadium, as Southampton and Stoke City were both unable to score again to win the match late in the second half.

Former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Michael Owen retires today, and he played in the last 15 minutes of the match but was not able to provide much attacking threat for the visitors.

Last farewell: Michael Owen gives a round of applause to the travelling Stoke fans at full-time. 

Swansea 0 Fulham 3

Striker Dimitar Berbatov and midfielder Urby Emmanuelson added to The Cottagers lead after the break, and capped off a comfortable win for Fulham away from home on the last day of the season. 

Slotting home: Dimitar Berbatov doubles Fulham's lead against Swansea.

2 for now.... Berbatov celebrates making it 2-0 to Fulham.

3 and easy: Emmanuelson celebrates his finish to make it 3-0 to Fulham. 

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Sunderland 0
This match was played at White Hart Lane, as 5th placed Spurs hosted Sunderland at home in a match that would decide their European future next season.

They needed to win and hope that Newcastle got a decent result against Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League, or else they would have to settle for Europa League football once again next season. 

They left it late despite dominating the match, but talisman winger Gareth Bale broke the deadlock in the 89th minute with an amazing curling strike from 20 yards out which flew past Mignolet into the top corner of the net. 

Within minutes: Bale was celebrating his amazing finish in the 89th minute to break the deadlock

And crying his eyes out after realising Spurs had narrowly missed out on CL football again. 

Meanwhile, Arsenal were still leading against Newcastle thanks to a goal from Laurent Koscielny - his 2nd of the season. 

This meant that at full-time, Spurs won 1-0 but were confined to the Europa League for another season. 

West Bromwich Albion 5 Manchester United 5

This match was played at The Hawthorns, as United manager Sir Alex Ferguson managed his last game in charge of Manchester United.

Goals from Kagawa, Hernandez, van Persie, Buttner and an own goal from Jonas Olsson had given United a 5-2 lead after 63 minutes - before West Brom pulled off the impossible. 

They made a dramatic comeback to spoil SAF's farewell party thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku (scoring a hat-trick on the day from the bench) and Youssouf Mulumbu.

West Ham 4 Reading 2

Two second half goals from English midfielder Kevin Nolan gave the hosts a 4-2 win at home despite Reading's 2-goal comeback. 
Wigan 2 Aston Villa 2

The score stayed the same at the DW Stadium, as Wigan played their last home match before they move into the Championship next season and try to improve their squad depth to comeback stronger soon... 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Arsenal 4 Wigan 1, Manchester City 2 Reading 0 - match reports

The Gunners hosted newly crowned FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic at The Emirates on Tuesday night, knowing that they had to win to move back up into 4th place in-front of CL rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Wigan on the other hand had a task on their hands - win or they would join QPR and Reading... in the Championship next season.

The Gunners started the first half quickly and with purpose, taking Wigan by surprise after their FA Cup exertions on Saturday night against Manchester City. 

They opened the scoring after just eleven minutes thanks to a combination of poor marking and positioning at a corner by the Wigan players, who left Podolski free in the centre of the box to nod the ball over Joel into the roof of the net. 

Nodding home: Podolski takes advantage of some poor positioning to break the deadlock.
In-front, but not for long: Podolski celebrates his first of two goals with his team-mates.

After this, the match tempo slowed down and Arsenal dominated the possession of the ball without having many clear cut chances to widen the lead before half-time.

Wigan suddenly woke up after 30 minutes, and started to rattle the Arsenal defence gradually as they tried to get back into the match.
A controversial free-kick was given to Wigan from 20 yards out after Shaun Maloney appeared to lean into Mikel Arteta before falling down, but the referee felt Arteta pushed him down. 

Maloney hit the ball sweetly over the 4-man Arsenal wall, and the ball swerved at the last second past Szczesny into the bottom corner of the net to equalise just before half-time. 

Swerving free-kick: Shaun Maloney equalised for Wigan just before half-time.
Slight hope: Maloney celebrates his equaliser just before half-time.

The Gunners went into half-time feeling hard done by, and that spurred them on to win in the second half. 

Ivorian striker Arouna Kone was denied well by Szczesny after the break, before Cazorla forced a double save out of loanee (from Atletico Madrid) goalkeeper Joel Robles soon afterwards.

Cazorla found Walcott inside the box on the counter attack for Arsenal with a powerful, low drilled cross straight to the forward who slotted the ball past the helpless Joel into the net to make it 2-1 after 63 minutes. 

Passion: Walcott wheels away to celebrate his finish to give Arsenal the lead again. 

The Gunners doubled their lead just five minutes later after Cazorla headed the ball into the path of Podolski who cheekily chipped Joel who came out of his area to try and intercept the ball, but he was too late and could not stop the German striker from scoring his 11th EPL goal of the season.  

Cheeky chip: Podolski saw Joel off his line and took advantage with a chip to make it 3-1.

Cazorla made his 4TH ASSIST of the match in the 71st minute after a clever pass on the wing found Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey on the ball.

He ran past two Wigan defenders with pace and intent, before darting quickly into the box with team-mates in support. He capped off a great solo effort by slotting the ball past Joel at the near post into the net to end Wigan's hopes of getting back into the match - and their survival hopes.

Great solo effort: Aaron Ramsey celebrates his great finish to cap off a historic win for Arsenal 

On the other side of the country, Manchester City already knew that they could not replicate last year's final day drama to win the EPL title again because they were 13 points behind rivals United, but they could close the gap to 10 points with a win against already relegated Reading. 

They dominated the match at The Madejski Stadium, one day after the sacking of City manager Roberto Mancini. 

Quick passing and keeping possession well was the game for the away side, despite being denied on several occasions by English goalkeeper Alex McCarthy (who incidentally just got called up to the England squad) 

Sergio Aguero broke the deadlock in the 40th minute after some slick passing play was clinically finished by the Argentinan striker for his 12th EPL goal of the season.

Edin Dzeko doubled the lead just before the end of the match in the 88th minute after finding space inside the box before doing a fake shot and slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net for his 14th EPL goal of the season. 

Manchester City moved within 10 points of EPL champions United with one match to play, while Reading made a good account of themselves against last year's champions. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

EPL 7-Match LIVE Coverage + Analysis:

Hello and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have LIVE coverage of the penultimate round in the 2012-13 EPL season. 
Yesterday, Chelsea beat Aston Villa 2-1, while Wigan beat Manchester City in the FA Cup Final with a dramatic goal in the dying seconds of the match. 

Lampard surpassed the all-time goal record for Chelsea with his double against Villa yesterday. 

Late winner: Ben Watson celebrates his header against City to win Wigan their first trophy in 81 years.

That blog post will be out later on today, don't worry.

Today's EPL Action:

Stoke City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2

Spurs have leapfrogged Arsenal into 4th place with a vital 2-1 win over tough test Stoke at The Britannia Stadium in the early kick-off today.

Defensive midfielder Steven N'Zonzi broke the deadlock in just the 3rd minute for the hosts to give Spurs a wake-up call before American forward Clint Dempsey scored his 7th goal of the campaign to equalize in the 20th minute. 

Early: Steven N'Zonzi heads the ball across goal and past Lloris into the net to make it 1-0. 

Stunner: N'Zonzi is mobbed by his Stoke team-mates as he scores the opening goal. 

Equaliser: Clint Dempsey celebrates his equaliser to make it 1-1 in the 20th minute. 

Stoke defensive midfielder Charlie Adam was sent off in the 47th minute for two yellow cards, and the hosts were in trouble from that point on with ten men. 

Down to ten: Charlie Adam was sent off for two yellow cards and Stoke were in trouble.

Emmanuel Adebayor scored his second goal in two games (after his strike against Chelsea on Wednesday) in the 83rd minute to ensure Totttenham went back to north London with the three points. 

Adebayor celebrates scoring the winner against Stoke to move them in-front of rivals Arsenal.

LIVE matches (3pm unless stated):

Everton 2 West Ham United 0 

The hosts are giving manager David Moyes a great send-off in his last home match as Everton manager before he leaves to join Manchester United at the end of the season. 

Belgian forward Kevin Mirallas has repaid Moyes' faith in him, scoring a double to make it 2-0 in the 70th minute. 

Impressive: Mirallas scored a double against West Ham to seal all three points on Moyes' last home game.

Mirallas celebrates his double against West Ham in-front of manager David Moyes. 

Fulham 1 Liverpool 2  

Liverpool are currently leading 2-1 away from home, thanks to a double by English forward Daniel Sturridge. 
Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring for Fulham in the first half, but the hosts are trailing with 20 minutes to play.

Talisman: Berbatov celebrates his goal against Liverpool to put Fulham ahead at Craven Cottage. 

Not for long: Sturridge cooly slots the ball past Schwarzer in the net to equalise. 

Can't hear you: Sturridge celebrates his first of his hat-trick against Fulham to level the scoring

Fulham need the points more than The Reds as they are still in a relegation battle, but they still have time to get a result. 

Norwich 3 West Bromwich Albion 0 

Robert Snodgrass, Grant Holt and an own goal by Gareth McAuley has given Norwich a comfortable 3-0 lead at home against 8th placed West Brom who have seemed to take their foot off the pedal after a solid season. 

Safe: Norwich striker Grant Holt celebrates his strike to make it 2-0 against WBA. 

QPR 1 Newcastle United 2

Already relegated QPR host relegation-threatened Newcastle. 
If it stays like this however, Newcastle should be safe from the drop zone.
Goals from French duo Hatem Ben Arfa (penalty) and Yoan Gouffran has given the away side the lead. 

Sunderland 1 Southampton 0

Defender Phil Bardsley has scored the only goal of the game so far in a fierce relegation battle match. 17th vs 14th.... 

Can The Saints get back into the match?

4pm kick-off - Manchester United 0 Swansea City 0 

The late kick-off started not long ago at Old Trafford, on an emotional day for fans worldwide. 

Today sees legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson manage his last home game as United boss, while Paul Scholes plays his last home match as he announced his retirement (for the second time) yesterday night. 


Manchester United have broken the deadlock! Javier Hernandez scores his 49th goal in a Manchester United shirt in the 39th minute after a set piece is failed to be cleared away by the Swansea defence, before bouncing straight on the ground for the Mexican striker to pounce on and slot the ball beyond Dutch goalkeeper Michel Vorm into the net. 

49 for the club: Hernandez celebrates opening the scoring for United just before half-time 

1-0 to the hosts, and it's party time for the hosts! 


Half-time at Old Trafford, and it is full-time in all of the 3pm kick-off matches;

Everton 2 West Ham 0
Fulham 1 Liverpool 3
Norwich 4 West Brom 0
QPR 1 Newcastle United 2
Sunderland 1 Southampton 1

Southampton rescued a vital point against Sunderland in the 74th minute thanks to a strike by Jason Puncheon, while Daniel Sturridge completed his hat-trick against Fulham to secure all three points for The Reds. 

David Moyes won his last home match in charge of Everton, while Newcastle are safe from relegation after a 2-1 away win against already relegated QPR. 

Staying up: Newcastle celebrate Goufran's goal to secure their place in the EPL next season

That leaves Sunderland, Southampton and Fulham all looking behind their shoulder, getting a bit worried before the final day of the EPL season, this time next week - May the 19th. 

Earlier today, the Championship play-off semi-final second leg was played between Watford and Leicester, with the winner playing in the final at Wembley to decide which team would be the third to join the EPL next season.

Watford were victorious with a dramatic 3-1 (3-2) win, and they will face Crystal Palace or Brighton at Wembley in two weeks time. 

Bullet volley: Vydra was on the scoresheet for Watford as they progressed to the Wembley final 

Important goal: Vydra runs over to celebrate his finish with the Watford supporters. 

You can see what it means: Watford celebrate the winner against Leicester. 


The second half has started at Old Trafford, with Sir Alex Ferguson delivering his last team-talk at home before he retires from management. 


GOAL! Manchester United have conceded! Bargain of the season Miguel Michu equalizes for Swansea in the 49th minute with a great finish inside the box after some quick build-up play by The Swans. 

English winger Nathan Dyer ran down the wing with pace, before whipping in a cross for Michu to connect with, beating David De Gea with his strike straight into the net.

Great finish: Michu connects with the ball perfectly to beat De Gea into the net and equalise.

Bargain of the season: Miguel Michu celebrates his 18th EPL goal of the season.
Most of the Manchester United fans do not really seem that bothered that they have conceded, they cannot wait for full-time where they are presented with the EPL trophy. 


Ten minutes left of the match at Old Trafford, and Swansea are not giving United an easy time, I can tell you that. 

They are dominating the possession and passing the ball well.
Meanwhile, Michu and Scholes have both been replaced for Swansea and United respectively as both teams look to close the game out. 


GOAL! Manchester United have regained the lead, from an unlikely source!

Defender Rio Ferdinand has made it 2-1 in the 87th minute with a bullet strike, to score his first goal in over five years! 

Rocket shot: Ferdinand hits a stunner to win the match for United in the 87th minute. 

Long time coming: Ferdinand roars with delight after scoring his first goal in over 5 years.

The United flags are waving fiercely now! 

Waving flags: Manchester United fans waving flags before and during the match. 


The fourth official has signalled for 3 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the match at Old Trafford, with 72,000 fans chanting in perfect harmony. 
Great atmosphere, and this will continue long into the night and tomorrow when they parade the trophy. 


Swansea are trying to get the ball further up the pitch to try and make one more chance, but the home fans are booing them off the ball and United are pressing them each time they have the ball.


That's it! The referee has blown his whistle for full-time, and Manchester United celebrate their 28th win of the season.
Sir Alex is taking a round of applause, and giving some handshakes to some fans near the dugout. 


Very emotional speech from Sir Alex just now, addressing all of the supporters in the ground, telling them to support their new manager and thanking them for all their support over the last 25+ years along with the players including Paul Scholes (who retires today) and Darren Fletcher (who is recovering from bowel cancer).

Warm reception, and touching tribute from a legendary manager. 

Emotional speech: Sir Alex made a touching tribute to the club, thanking them for everything. 


Staff are getting ready for the unveiling of the Premier League trophy, getting the platforms and banners onto the pitch while the players wait in the tunnel.  

No-one is leaving the ground just yet! 


The preparations are almost finished, the Premier League trophy is in the tunnel and we are almost ready to celebrate United's title win. 


Hull manager and former United player Steve Bruce carries out the Premier League trophy to applause from the United fans.


The ceremony has begun, with the medals being handed out to all of the United players one-by-one including Rooney who was not involved in the match today, which was a major story as rumours run rampant about his future at the club. 

Champions: United wait patiently for the ceremony to begin by celebrating on the pitch.

The trophy has been unveiled! Sir Alex lifted it high in the air with a proud look on his face as the fans screamed and shouted, chanting "Glory Glory Man United"

Living legend: Sir Alex Ferguson lifts his 13th EPL title aloft, and United's record 20th. 

Thank you for reading my EPL Blog, I will speak to you all later on in the week with more analysis and coverage from today and upcoming last matches of the season (next Sunday).
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Have a great end to your day, and have a nice week :)