Sunday, January 30, 2011

United Battle Back to Overcome Saints Threat in Cup

A second string Manchester United side progressed to the 5th round of the FA cup after coming from behind against an exciting Southampton side. The Saints had taken a deserved lead late in the first half after Richard Chaplow blasted home an emphatic finish from inside the box past Manchester United debutant Anders Lindegaard. Much has been made of the arrival of United's new keeper following the announcement by Edwin Van Der Sar that he will retire at the end of this season - but the Dane could do nothing to prevent Chaplow's emphatic finish. However, instinctive second half finishes by United forwards Owen and the lively Hernandez broke Saints hearts.

     In the build up to the game there had been a great deal of hype surrounding Southampton's young star Oxlade-Chamberlain who has already been making a big impact for the League 1 side this season - with Gunner manager Arsene Wenger publicly announcing his interest in the pacey prodigy earlier in the week and rumours having circulated that Arsenal had tabled a substantial £10 million bid for the Southampton starlet. The winger produced a competent if not spectacular display, but it was Southampton's team performance and patience that were rewarded to give the side a warranted lead at the break. United had offered little in a first half display that had relied heavily on the lung bursting runs of left full back Fabio Da Silva - although recalled Michael Owen had earlier unintentionally struck the bar with a looping cross. With all of the club's regular back 4 absent for the trip to Saint Mary's it was perhaps understandable that United would look jittery but a highly competent footballing display from Southampton had put them under some serious pressure.
     After issuing the hair drier treatment to his inexperienced lineup during the break, Alex Ferguson opted to bring out the cavalry for the second half The introduction of the evergreen Ryan Giggs and the pace and trickery of winger Nani just before the hour mark had a particularly noticeable impact on the flow of the tie. After 65 minutes Michael Owen did what he does best, finishing instinctively from close range following Obertin's cross. The former England star had been playing in a deeper role than was expected in the first half - but in spite of a quiet game proved he is still a fox in the box by drawing United level.  

     With the goal you could immediately sense the direction of the tie had immediately turned and suddenly Southampton looked a shadow of the side they were in the first half. United could sense the weakness and began to up their game. And it was only 10 minutes later that Hernandez put the visitors into the lead. The "little pea" timed his run to perfection after being fed by a wonderfully weighted pass from Ryan Giggs and in spite of having seemingly lost his balance at the vital moment managed to slide the ball home into the bottom corner beyond Bialkowski. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blackpool Heap More Misery on Liverpool

The latest chapter in the ongoing terrifying saga of humiliation and mediocrity for Liverpool football club unfolded last night in front of a jubilant crowd at Bloomfield Road. The Seasiders – enjoying the first taste of top flight football in their history – completed an improbable double over their North Western counterparts to pile further misery on Kenny Dalglish and his beleaguered side, winning 2 – 1 in front of their home fans.
     The match had started well for the visitors when Fernando Torres showed Liverpool fans what they had been missing in recent weeks – clinically smashing the ball home after being put in the clear by one of Liverpool’s hopes for the future; Martin Kelly. The full back has showed promise in recent games having stepped in for England international Glenn Johnson who’s form has seemingly deserted him in recent weeks and with the opening goal coming inside 3 minutes it looked as though Liverpool had perhaps started to turn a corner under new boss Kenny Dalglish.

     However, after such a promising start, things went rapidly downhill for Liverpool. Shabby defending allowed Gary Taylor-Fletcher to level matters for the home side. Liverpool looked shell shocked and as the match wore on the confidence and self belief that had been instilled in their players from their early lead soon evaporated as they descended into the kind of abject performance they have subjected their fans to on numerous occasions away from Anfield this season.
     Liverpool’s misery was complete when more abysmal defending allowed DJ Campbell to head hoe from close range in the 69th minute, with the result condemning the Merseysiders to a 5th successive away defeat – unthinkable for a club of such stature in English football. Even with an Anfield legend at the helm having replaced Roy Hodgson, it seems on the evidence of recent displays against Blackpool and Manchester United there is little to suggest that Liverpool will improve significantly on their lowly 13th position in the Premier League.