Swiss side FC Sion have been docked 36 points by their national federation, the Schweizer Fussball Verband. The deduction came into force with the club losing three points for every game which featured any of six ineligible players – namely Stefan Glarner, Pascal Feindouno, José Julio Gomes Gonçalves, Billy Ketkeophomphone, Mario Mutsch und Gabriel Garcia de la Tore – in the country’s Axpo Super League.
This means that the club, who are already in the midst of a bitter dispute with European football’s governing body UEFA and world football’s governing body FIFA over this issue, will drop from third place in the current league campaign to rock bottom with their points total dropping from thirty one to minus five. This leaves FC Sion a massive sixteen points behind eleventh placed FC Lausanne and almost certainly will confine the club to relegation.
Swiss football is currently in the mire as FC Sion have already been involved in a lengthy legal process in trying to overturn their expulsion from this season’s UEFA Europa League. As a result of the continued wrangling FIFA has threatened to expel all Swiss clubs and the national team from international competition if the situation isn’t resolved by January 13th.
Universidad de Chile crowned a fantastic year by winning the Clausura championship final last night. Following a goalless draw in the first leg played last week, “La U” saw off final opponents Cobreloa with a 3-0 score line with all of the goals coming in the first half. Gustavo Canales, Eduardo Vargas and Matias Rodriguez scored the goals which settled the championship which was La U’s 15th Chilean championship title overall.
Having won the Apertura championship title earlier in the year Universidad de Chile have arguably been the team of the year in South America, even allowing for Santos FC’s Copa Libertadores triumph, as the Chilean champions have won three domestic titles in a row as well as picking up their first international trophy in the form of the 2011 Copa Sudamericana, a tournament in which La U remained unbeaten in twelve matches.
CATCH ALL OF THE GOALS IN THIS 12 MINUTE VIDEO
While the rest of European football shuts down for a well-earned break at Christmas time there is no such luxury in the United Kingdom. It has long been a traditional within the Home Nations to continue over the festive period and this season will should see some interesting action.
In England there is the very real possibility of the top two teams pushing away from all the rest to indulge in their own private dual to win the Barclays Premier League. Manchester City (Played 17, Points 44) will top the standings on Christmas Day for the first time since 1929 but they only have a two point advantage over arch-rivals United who, as usual at this time of year, are peaking are just the right time. Having trailed City by seven points only a few weeks ago, United are now breathing down their neighbours’ necks and have dropped only two points out of the last 24 available since they suffered an embarrassing 6-1 at the hands of City in the Manchester derby.
City will hope to preserve their place at the top but will face tough challenges against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Boxing Day followed by a home tie against a Sunderland team revitalized since Martin O’Neill became their manager a fortnight ago. Roberto Mancin’s men have done well to remain at the top given all of the antics happening on and off the field. The Carlos Tevez saga has annoyed and bored everybody in equal measure whilst Mario Balotelli remains a constant source of fascination whether he is setting off fireworks in his home United, meanwhile, will play two home games, both of which look very winnable on paper. Wigan Athletic have taken points from both Chelsea and Liverpool in their last two games but recent history suggests that the Latics will do very well to take anything off United as the Lancashire side have lost every game against United in thirteen matches since they came into the Premier League in 2005. Blackburn Rovers are the visitors to Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve with Rovers fans’ campaign to get rid of their coach Steve Kean likely to take up the headlines going into that match.
In case either of the Manchester teams slip up Tottenham Hotspur are still the best placed team to take advantage despite their 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea FC on Thursday night. Spurs face two of last season’s three promoted sides in the form of Norwich City and Swansea City over the festive period. Three-time Premier League champions Chelsea hope to maintain their top four ambitions with wins in the local derby at home to Fulham FC and against struggling Aston Villa. Just outside of the Champions League places Arsenal FC have two home games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers whilst Liverpool, who have had to contend with recent allegations of racism towards star player Luis Suarez, also have two home games with Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United providing the opposition. Nothing less than six points will do for the Reds who have struggled for consistency and dropped too many points against teams they should’ve beaten this season. If Kenny Dalglish’s men are to challenge for the Champions League spots then they really need to start a good run from here.
In Scotland defending champions Glasgow Rangers (Played 19, Points 48) have an early kick off today away to St Mirren with three points essential if the Gers are to at least preserve their current four point lead going into next Wednesday’s Old Firm derby against eternal rivals Glasgow Celtic. Neil Lennon’s Celtic side have a home tie against sixth placed Kilmarnock today with the former having enjoyed a run of seven straight wins following a tough start to the season. Old Firm games always have something riding on them and Wednesday’s encounter will be no exception. The first meeting between Rangers and Celtic this season saw the former etch out a 4-2 win over the latter after Celtic had led the game 2-1 at half-time. Celtic, however, will have home advantage next time and go into the game in better form. Even so coach Lennon must prove that this is a Celtic team that will be capable of taking the champions all the way in this season’s title race following a three year title drought at Parkhead.
Outside of the Old Firm, Motherwell have had a great season under Stuart McCall and they hope to continue their impressive form with wins against Heart of Midlothian, who have been beset by internal upheaval with players in dispute over unpaid wages throughout the season, and Dunfermline who are currently bottom of the table on goal difference with Edinburgh side Hibernian just above them on goal difference. Speaking of Hibs they will face local rivals Heart of Midlothian in the capital city derby on January 2nd in a game neither club dare lose given their current predicaments.
In the Welsh Premier League there is currently an exciting tussle at the top with the best three sides – Llanelli AFC, The New Saints and Bangor City – all separated by just two points. With just two games left before the twelve team league is split up into two groups of six it is imperative for clubs to see out 2011 on a high. League leaders Llanelli (Played 20, Points 45) will face off home and away against fourth place Neath Athletic, who are ten points behind the league leaders, whilst The New Saints and defending champions Bangor City will also face double headers against Newtown and Prestatyn Town respectively.
In Northern Ireland table toppers Linfield FC (Played 22, Points 52) have a five point lead over Portadown and Cliftonville going into the festive period. Record champions Linfield, who won their 50th championship last season, will meet fifth placed Glentoran and ninth placed Glenavon over the next seven days. Should Linfield slip up then Portadown and Cliftonville will be looking to close the gap. Portadown, whose last league title came in 2002, have games against Glenavon and sixth placed Crusaders to look forward to whilst Cliftonville, whose most recent title triumph came in 1998, meet Crusaders and fourth placed Coleraine FC.
Bahrain have won the Gold Medal at the 2011 Pan Arab Games football tournament in Qatar.
Bahrain had qualified for the final by virtue of topping their group in the first stage, defeating Iraq and gaining a much needed point against Qatar, before eliminating Palestine in the semi-final ahead of yesterday’s final match. Jordan were Bahrain’s opponents in the final and they had qualified by finishing top of their group with five points from three games, defeating Palestine 4-1 in their opening group match before two goalless draws against Sudan and Libya followed. Jordan needed extra-time to get past Kuwait in the semi-finals and thus set up the game against Bahrain.
The game looked to be heading for extra-time but was decided as late as the 89th minute with Ismail Abdul Latif taking advantage of a defensive lapse in the game’s dying moments. The win sealed Bahrain’s first ever triumph in the Pan Arab Games football tournament.
Just so I’m not accused of bias and favouritism by Real Madrid fans, some of whom I can count amongst friends, I also found this video worth sharing with the wider world. In a similar fashion to the Lionel Messi video (previous blog), here are all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals from the 2011-12 season so far crammed into a 90 second piece. Enjoy!
Every so often comes a video which you have to sit and watch and it’s a shame that the following video crams in Lionel Messi’s goals of the 2011-12 season so far in such a short space of time. Nevertheless I thought it a good choice to include on here as it will no doubt prove popular with many people to see the world’s greatest footballer doing what he does best. Enjoy!
DFB Pokal (German Cup) holders Schalke 04 were dumped out of this season’s competition by Borussia Mönchengladbach following the latter’s 3-1 home win in Wednesday’s Round of 16 tie.
Borussia Mönchengladbach ensured that there would be no repeat triumph for Schalke 04 in this year’s DFB Pokal. Juan Arango gave Borussia the lead on 18 minutes which was doubled ten minutes after the break when striking sensation Marco Reus bagged his first goal of the night. Schalke did make a fight of it and pulled one back through substitute Julian Draxler but the cup holders, who were down to ten men for virtually all of the second half after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar saw red in the 46th minute, saw their dreams for this season go up in smoke as Reus grabbed his second goal with two minutes remaining. Schalke’s night ended with Jermaine Jones also seeing red as the Ruhr Valley outfit went out in sorry fashion whilst Mönchengladbach continue their great season, lying fourth in the Bundesliga standings whilst through to the last eight of the cup.
FC Bayern had Arjen Robben to thank on Tuesday as the Dutchman gave his side a 2-1 win with his goal coming in stoppage time at the end of a tight game against second division VfL Bochum. Giovanni Federico’s 26th minute goal gave Bochum the lead but Bayern, record winners of the Pokal with 15 successes, overturned the deficit with goals from Toni Kroos and Robben with the Bavarians favourites to win “The Pot” once more. SpVgg Greuther Fürth, second in the second division, overcame four-time winners Nürnberg on their home turf with Edgar Prib’s 15th minute strike proving the difference between the sides in a Franconian derby. The visitors saw defender Bernd Nehrig sent off with 25 minutes left to play but Fürth held out and secured a place in the last eight of the cup for the second time in three years.
In another shock Holstein Kiel got the better of 1.FSV Mainz 05 with a 2-0 victory courtesy of an Anthony Ujah own goal and Steve Müller’s 34th minute strike. Fortuna Düsseldorf, the current second division leaders, took Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund all the way in their Round of 16 but were unfortunate to lose in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless draw after extra-time. VfB Stuttgart eliminated Hamburger SV in their home Mercedes Benz Arena with Cacau grabbing both goals for the Swabians as they defeated their Hanseatic opponents with a 2-1 victory, William Kvist’s own goal providing a consolation for the visitors. Hertha BSC and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim make up the last eight after getting the better of first division opponents 1. FC Kaiserslautern and FC Augsburg respectively.
Hertha BSC v Borussia Mönchengladbach
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim v SpVgg Greuther Fürth
Holstein Kiel v Borussia Dortmund
VfB Stuttgart v FC Bayern
Ties to be played on 7-8 February, 2012.
FC Barcelona resumed domestic action last night following their triumph in the FIFA Club World Cup and helped themselves to a 9-0 rout over third tier side L’Hospitalet in the Round of 32 of the Copa Del Rey (Spanish Cup).
Barcelona, who already led 1-0 from the first leg of this tie, played a relatively strong side against their Catalonian neighbours and had Pedro to thank for getting the ball rolling after just 11 minutes when converting a penalty to open the scoring. Further goals from Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, Xavi and Cristian Tello helped propel the Blaugrana to a comfortable 5-0 lead at the half time break. In the second half further strikes from Alcantara and Tello, as well as a brace from Isaac Cuenca, secured Barça an all too easy victory.
Barcelona will face Osasuna in the Round of 16 in the competition and, if they emerge victorious in that round, could face a repeat of last season’s final with a tie against Real Madrid CF in this season’s quarter-finals.
AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado has had his red card from Wednesday’s Round of 16 KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) match against Ajax Amsterdam rescinded.
The keeper was attacked by an Ajax fan only for Esteban to retaliate on the attacker by kicking him whilst he was on the ground, a response which was deemed inappropriate by referee Bas Nijhuis who then sent off the keeper much to the astonishment and fury of the AZ players and staff. AZ coach Gert Jan Verbeek brought his team off the pitch and, with Ajax leading 1-0 at the time of abandonment, it is not yet known whether or when the game will be replayed. Ajax have identified the fan who has now been given a lifetime ban.
On a footballing note KNVB Beker holders FC Twente Enschede were knocked out of the competition suffering a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of PSV Eindhoven. All of the goals were scored in extra-time with Slovenian striker Tim Matavž proving to be the hero as he bagged both goals for PSV in his side’s win.
It may not have been the most difficult challenge that FC Barcelona would have to face in their quest to become FIFA Club World Cup winners. That, however, did not dampen the celebrations as the Spanish and European champions strolled their way past a poor Santos FC team courtesy of a 4-0 victory.
The game was over bar the shouting after the first 45 minutes of the game were played following strikes from Lionel Messi and Xavi, both of whom would go on to win the Golden and Silver balls as the best two players of the tournament after the game, and Cesc Fabregas who helped himself to their third goal on the stroke of half time.
Santos showed slightly more ambition in the second half after being overwhelmed in the first but chances from Neymar and Borges went begging. With eight minutes of the game remaining Barça sealed the deal once and for all after Dani Alves set up Messi for his second goal of the game to complete the rout. South American champions Santos FC were never in the game from the first kick and precocious teenager Neymar found out, just like Cristiano Ronaldo had done a week earlier, that Messi is still the main man on the big occasion.
FC Barcelona’s victory was their second triumph in this competition following their maiden win over Estudiantes de La Plata in 2009. Earlier in the day Asian Champions League winners Al Sadd had claimed third place in the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup having got the better of this year’s J-League champions Kashiwa Reysol by virtue of a 5-3 win in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless ninety minutes.