Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 4

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on June 3, 2012
Glasgow Celtic champions 2012

Glasgow Celtic won their 43rd league championship in Scotland this season

In the final installment of Stoppage Time – International Football Blog’s review of the season nine leagues, ranging from Spain to Turkey and Scotland to Wales, are featured to complete this 2011-12 round-up:

SCOTLAND

Scottish football has gone through some emotions in the past nine months as Glasgow Celtic won their first league championship for four years whilst their arch rivals Glasgow Rangers are facing a very different fight with the tax man as the club’s very survival is at stake. Celtic won the league title by a massive 20 points from Rangers who had been deducted ten points as a result of going into administration. Neil Lennon’s Celtic side had the chance to land a treble but lost out to Hearts of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup semi-final with the Edinburgh based club going on to beat their city rivals Hibernian FC in the final to win the competition for the eighth time. Celtic then lost out to Kilmarnock FC in the Scottish League Cup with “Killie” having won the game 1-0 in the dying minutes to claim their maiden title. Motherwell FC will replace Glasgow Rangers in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League next season. At the bottom Dunfermline Athletic go straight back down and will be replaced by Scottish First Division (2nd tier) champions Ross County.

SERBIA                                                                            

Partizan Belgrade are champions for the fifth time in a row after seeing off bitter rivals Crvena Zvezda with a twelve point margin separating the two giants of Serbian football. Crvena Zvezda won the Serbian Cup for the second time in three years following an easy 2-0 win over FK Borac Čačak. The losing cup finalists will drop into the second division next season having finished in the bottom two of the Super Liga along with Metalac Gornji Milanovac.

SLOVAKIA

MŠK Žilina won the Slovak league and cup double for the first time. The league championship was won for the sixth time with just two points separating them from runners up Spartak Trnava whilst their maiden Slovak Cup triumph came with a 3-2 extra-time win over FK Senica. With only one relegation spot in the twelve team league, bottom club Dunajska Streda find themselves going down into the second division next season.

SLOVENIA

NK Maribor won their tenth title in Slovenia finishing a massive twenty points clear of second place Olimpija Ljubljana. In the Slovenian Cup final the champions made it a double as Maribor defeated NK Celje on penalties following a 2-2 draw to claim the cup for the seventh time. At the bottom NK Nafta Lendava went down automatically to the second division with the possibility of ND Triglav Kranj joining them depending on the outcome of the end of season promotion/relegation play-off with NK Dob.

SPAIN

Real Madrid are back at the top of La Liga for the first time since 2008 as José Mourinho’s men finally got one over FC Barcelona, winning the league by nine points to seal a record extending 32nd title. FC Barcelona did gain some consolation by extending their own record of wins in the Copa del Rey to twenty six as they thrashed Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the Spanish Cup final. For Athletic Bilbao the pain of domestic cup defeat was doubled by that on the European stage as they also went down 3-0 to Atlético de Madrid in the final of the UEFA Europa League. Barcelona and Real Madrid are joined in next season’s Champions League by Valencia CF and Malaga CF but a team who started the season in Europe’s top competition will not even feature in the top flight next season. Villarreal CF surprisingly finished in the drop zone and will go down to “la Segunda” along with Sporting Gijón and Racing Santander. Deportivo de La Coruña, who went down last season, will return having won the second division title.

SWITZERLAND

FC Basel reclaimed the Swiss Super League title for a third successive season by strolling to a 21 point margin of victory over nearest challengers FC Luzern to claim their 15th championship. The top two also fought it out in the final of the Swiss Cup where FC Basel would take the honours again with penalties needed to decide the outcome following a 1-1 draw.  At the bottom of the league Neuchâtel Xamax would have their licence revoked at the beginning of the year and would not be able to see out their last 16 league games whilst FC Sion were deducted 36 points for allegedly fielding ineligible players and finished the season as the de facto bottom club. They did, however, put some gloss on the season by defeating FC Aarau 3-1 in a two-legged play-off to help preserve their place in the Super League next season.

TURKEY

There has been much controversy in Turkey this season with match-fixing scandals and allegations of corruption rife throughout the league. However there was an exciting climax to the league season with just one point separating eventual champions Galatasaray from arch rivals Fenerbahçe as the race for the Turkish Super League went to the wire. “Gala” topped the regular season with a nine point advantage but ended the season with just the solitary point keeping them apart from “Fener”, both of whom drew 0-0 against each other in the last match of the season to help Galatasaray win their 18th championship. Fenerbahçe did win some silverware just three days after the league campaign when thrashing Bursaspor 4-0 in the Turkish Cup final to win their first cup in 29 years. Samsunspor, Manisaspor and Ankaragücü all drop down into the second division next season.

UKRAINE

Shakhtar Donetsk claimed the league and cup double for the second successive season as their dominance of Ukrainian football shows no sign of waning. The Miners got the better of arch-rivals Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Premier League, winning the title by four points to take their tally of championship wins to seven. Shakhtar’s record in the Ukrainian Cup is even better having claimed their eighth win of the competition when defeating local rivals Metalurh Donetsk 2-0 in the final. At the other end of the standings Obolon Kyiv and PFC Oleksandria finished in the bottom two and will go down into the second division next season.

WALES

The New Saints have reclaimed the Welsh Premier League title. The club won its sixth championship by getting the better of outgoing champions Bangor City to the tune of five points. Third place Neath Athletic should’ve been fighting it out for a UEFA Europa League spot but the third placed club lost out when applying for FAW and UEFA licences and were forcibly relegated, thus sparing Newtown AFC from the drop this season. In the cup competitions The New Saints secured the double with a 2-0 win over second tier Cefn Druids FC whilst Afan Lido FC won the League Cup after finally seeing off the challenge of Newtown AFC in the final via a penalty shoot-out to win the cup.

Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 3

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on June 3, 2012
Ajax Amsterdam champions 2012

Ajax Amsterdam won their 31st Eredivisie title this season

In the third part of Stoppage Time’s 2011-12 season review we look at the leagues from Malta to San Marino.

MALTA

Valletta FC are the champions of Malta for the 21st time having finished top of the table in both the regular season and Championship Pool finishing eight points ahead of Hibernians FC. The latter gained some consolation in the Maltese Cup final defeating Qormi FC 3-1, thus sealing their ninth victory in the competition. Mqabba and Marsaxlokk will both suffer relegation this season after finishing in the bottom two spots of the Relegation Pool.

MOLDOVA

Sheriff Tiraspol have wrestled the Moldovan league title back from last season’s champions Dacia Chişinău. It was another close fight between the top two with Sheriff persevering with a four point margin of victory to lift their 11th league championship. FC Milsami Orhei won the cup for the first time in their history with a penalty shoot-out win over CSCA Rapid following a goalless final. The losing cup finalists will also see themselves drop down into the second division next season as they, along with FC Costuleni, finished in the bottom two.

MONTENEGRO

There was a tight contest in Montenegro where FK Budućnost Podgorica clinched their 2nd league crown by virtue of a three point gap separating them from runners up FK Rudar Pljevlja. There would be double disappointment for FK Rudar in the Montenegrin Cup final as they would suffer a 2-1 reverse at the hands of first time cup winners FK Čelik. At the bottom end of the table FK Bokelj are automatically relegated whilst FK Dečić and FK Berane have yet to feature in end of season play-offs.

NETHERLANDS

Ajax Amsterdam, under the management of Frank de Boer, won their 31st Eredivisie title finishing six points ahead of old rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam. The latter, though, would’ve been happy at their second place finish following some poor campaigns in recent years. Both teams will play in the Champions League next season whereas PSV Eindhoven will play in the Europa League following their 3-0 KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) win over Heracles Almelo. Excelsior Rotterdam finished bottom of the table and went straight down whilst De Graafschap Doetinchem also went down following an unsuccessful play-off against Den Bosch. VVV Venlo will remain in the top flight after overcoming Helmond Sport in the play-offs whilst Willem II will return after a one year absence and will bring Eerste Divisie champions FC Zwolle along for the ride.

NORTHERN IRELAND

There appears to be no stopping Linfield FC at the moment. The Belfast club notched up its 51st league title with a healthy 14 point margin separating them from Portadown FC. The club also managed to secure a double following their 42nd win in the Irish Cup, where they easily saw off Crusaders with a 4-1 victory in the final. Despite defeat in the Irish Cup final, Crusaders had a great year in knockout football and managed to get their hands on the Irish League Cup for only the second time in their history when beating Coleraine by one goal to nil whilst in the cross-border Setanta Sports Cup they saw off Republic of Ireland outfit Derry City on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the final. At the bottom of the league Carrick Rangers must drop straight back down to the second division just one season after gaining promotion to the top flight and will be replaced by Ballinamallard United.

POLAND

Śląsk Wrocław won only their second Ekstraklasa title, their first since 1977, after narrowly pipping record champions Ruch Chorzów to the title by a single point. Ruch Chorzów would also suffer in the Polish Cup at the hands of capital club Legia Warszawa who took the honours with a 3-0 win in the final, claiming the trophy for a record 15th time. ŁKS Łódź and Cracovia Krakow are the unfortunate teams who will drop down into the second tier of Polish football next season.

PORTUGAL

FC Porto are league champions once again. The club from Portugal’s second city are still hoping to become Portugal’s first club in terms of honours having won their 26th championship, now only six behind SL Benfica’s record. The Dragons finished six points ahead of Benfica with the latter having to be content with winning the League Cup for the fourth successive year with a 2-1 win over Gil Vicente in the final. Benfica’s cross-town rivals Sporting lost out in the Portuguese Cup final, going down to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Académica de Coimbra who enjoyed their second triumph in this competition. At the bottom of the table CD Feirense and União Leiria must say their goodbyes as they finished in the bottom two.

ROMANIA

CFR Cluj claimed their third league championship in five years after pipping FC Vaslui to the title by just a single point. Vaslui led the table with just two games remaining but Cluj managed to overtake them on Matchday 33 thus leaving them needing only the draw against Steaua Bucureşti, which they duly did, to clinch the title. In a fiery Romanian Cup final, Dinamo Bucureşti emerged triumphant in a 1-0 win over local rivals Rapid to lift the trophy for the 13th time. Four teams – Târgu Mureş, Voinţa Sibiu, Sportul Studenţesc and CS Mioveni – are all relegated in to the II Liga next season.

RUSSIA

Zenit Saint Petersburg  won their third Russian Premier League title with four games to spare. The gap between themselves and nearest challengers CSKA Moscow was a distant 13 points and ensured that the second city club can bask in the success of this hard-earned championship win in a season which was effectively 18 months long due to the changing of the football calendar in Russia to correspond to the autumn-spring season enjoyed by most top European leagues. Tom Tomsk and Spartak Nalchik finished in the bottom two places of the relegation group and promptly go down whilst FK Volga and FK Rostov remain in the Russian Premier League next season following play-off wins over FK Nizhny Novgorod and FC Shinnik Yaroslavl respectively. The Russian Cup was won by Rubin Kazan following a narrow 1-0 win over Dinamo Moscow in the final.

SAN MARINO

Tre Penne won the San Marino championship for the very first time having negotiated their way through the end of season play-offs. After finishing third in Group B during the regular season, Tre Penne won the rugby league style play-offs by defeating Cosmos, Faetano and last season’s champions Tre Fiori en route to defeating Libertas in the final. La Fiorita won the San Marino Cup for only the second time in their history when getting the better of Pennarossa 3-2 in the final. There is no promotion/relegation structure in San Marino.

Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 2

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on June 3, 2012
Manchester City champions 2012

Manchester City dramatically won their first English championship since 1968

In the second part of Stoppage Time’s 2011-12 Season Review we take a look at how the season finished from England to Macedonia.

ENGLAND

Manchester City captured their first league championship for 44 years in dramatic fashion. Roberto Mancini’s side turned around a 2-1 deficit at home to Queen’s Park Rangers in stoppage time to win the game 3-2 and thus seal only the club’s third ever league title on goal difference from arch rivals Manchester United. Chelsea FC, struggling under Andre Villas-Boas in the first half of the season, came back much stronger under interim coach Roberto di Matteo after the former was sacked. The Stamford Bridge club not only claimed their sixth FA Cup title, beating Liverpool FC 2-1 in the final, they also sealed European success by defeating FC Bayern München in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool FC struggled in the Premier League but reached two cup finals, losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup but winning a first trophy in six years when defeating Cardiff City to lift the League Cup. At the bottom Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers have to drop into the second tier and will be replaced by Reading FC, Southampton FC and West Ham United.

FRANCE

Montpellier HSC pulled off a remarkable league triumph this season securing their first ever title with a three point margin separating them from Paris Saint Germain. Olympique Lyonnais reached both domestic cup finals but had mixed success. They won the French Cup for the fifth time after a 1-0 win over US Quevilly but they lost out to Olympique Marseille in the League Cup final, going down by the same score line and which helped ensure that OM won the trophy for the third consecutive season. At the bottom end of the table the biggest casualty was AJ Auxerre who must face up to the anguish of relegation after a 30 year spell in the top flight. They will be joined by Caen and Dijon in Ligue 2 next season.

GEORGIA

FC Zestaponi are celebrating back-to-back wins in the Umaglesi Liga but it was a close championship race which was decided by goal difference and which saw Metallurgi Rustavi finish as runners up in such unfortunate fashion. Georgian Cup winners FC Dila Gori denied the league champions in the cup final defeating FC Zestaponi 4-1 to lift the trophy for the first time. FC Gagra Tbilisi, Guria Lanchkhuti, Spartak Tskhinvali and Mertskhali Ozurgeti will all drop down a division next season.

GERMANY

Borussia Dortmund continues to excel under Jürgen Klopp with the Schwarzgelben sealing an 8th German title. Dortmund won the Bundesliga with a record 81 points this season and sent out a statement of intent to Rekordmeister FC Bayern München who had to be content with playing second best in every competition they played this season. Not only did they lose out to Dortmund in the league, they lost to them 5-2 in the German Cup final and then lost out in dramatic fashion to Chelsea FC in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Schalke 04 and surprise package Borussia Mönchengladbach qualified for the UEFA Champions League next season along with the top two. At the bottom there are sad farewells for 1. FC Kaiserslautern, 1. FC Köln and Hertha Berlin, the latter losing out to Fortuna Düsseldorf in a play-off. Next season will see 2. Liga champions Greuther Fürth come up as well as a welcome return for traditional club Eintracht Frankfurt.

GREECE

Olympiakos sealed a record extending 39th Greek league championship with a month of the campaign remaining. Olympiakos won the title by seven points over eternal rivals Panathinaikos but the latter gained some consolation by finishing top of the post-season Champions League play-offs to help secure their place in next season’s competition. Olympiakos made a very good season even better by defeating Atromitos 2-1 in the Greek Cup final and secure yet another double for the club. At the bottom Ergotelis, Panetolikos and Doxa Drama face up to life in the second division next season.

HUNGARY

Debreceni VSC won their sixth league title thanks to an eight point margin separating them from last season’s outgoing champions Videoton FC. The champions also went on to win the Hungarian Cup in dramatic style; following a 3-3 draw in the final against MTK Budapest, Debreceni prevailed 8-7 in a penalty shoot-out to claim their sixth win in this competition. The Hungarian League Cup was won for the third time in five years by Videoton FC who defeated Kecskeméti 3-0 in the final and helped gain some revenge for last season’s Hungarian Cup final defeat. At the bottom Zalaegerszeg and Vasas Budapest will be relegated next season to be replaced by Egri FC and MTK Budapest, the latter making a welcome return following their shock relegation last season.

ISRAEL

Ironi Kiryat Shmona surprised most observers to win the Israeli league by fourteen points from the next three clubs, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Netanya. The champions also won the League Cup title for a second consecutive season with a penalty shoot-out win over Hapoel Tel Aviv who, in turn, claimed the Israeli State Cup for the third consecutive year with a 2-1 win over Maccabi Haifa. At the bottom Maccabi Petah Tikva, Hapoel Rishon LeZion and Hapoel Petah Tikva drop into the second division after finishing in the bottom three spots in the relegation play-off group.

ITALY

Juventus are back in the big time having won lo Scudetto for the first time since 2002-03. Their 28th league title came on the back of an unbeaten season (played 38, won 23, drew 15) and helped them pip outgoing champions AC Milan by four points. Another team who have recaptured trophy winning ways is SSC Napoli who won their first Coppa Italia since 1987 when defeating Juventus 2-0 in this season’s final in Rome. It proved to be a sad year for Lecce, Cesena and Novara, all of whom will play in Serie B next season and will be replaced by Pescara, Torino and one of Sampdoria or Varese who play in a two-legged play-off on June 6th and June 9th.

LIECHTENSTEIN

There is no domestic league in Liechtenstein but the national cup saw USV Eschen/Mauren finally end the dominance of FC Vaduz. The latter had won the cup in every year since 1998 with the previous three wins coming at Eschen/Mauren’s expense. But good things have to come to an end sometime and FC Vaduz’s dominance came to a close thanks to a penalty shoot-out win following a 2-2 draw. USV Eschen/Mauren, cup winners for the fifth time, will be rewarded with a place in the UEFA Europa League next season whilst FC Vaduz will continue to play their league football in the Swiss Challenge League (2nd tier).

LUXEMBOURG

F91 Dudelange won the National Division title for the seventh time in eight years but it wasn’t so easy for them this time around, claiming the title with a three point margin over record champions Jeunesse Esch. The champions also got the better of Jeunesse in the Luxembourg Cup final to help themselves to the double courtesy of a 4-2 win, helping “Diddeleng” claim their 5th win in this competition. US Hostert and US Rumelange went down automatically whilst FC Wiltz 71, who went down last season, will come back up after a one year absence following a 6-2 play-off win over Swift Hesperange.

MACEDONIA

FK Vardar Skopje claimed the Macedonian championship for the first time in eight years having cruised their way to a nine point win at the top of the table over nearest challengers Metalurg Skopje. FK Renova won their very first cup title after defeating FK Rabotnički 3-1 in the Macedonian Cup final. FK Ohrid and FK 11 Oktumvri go automatically down into the second division whilst FK Teteks Tetovo and FK Turnovo have won promotion/relegation play-off matches and will stay up next season.

England: Drogba set to leave Euro champs Chelsea

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on May 22, 2012
Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba is set to leave European champions Chelsea after eight years

Didier Drogba will be leaving European champions Chelsea FC, it has been announced by the club today. The Ivorian, who signed for the West London club from Olympique Marseille in 2004-05, has scored 157 goals in 341 games for the Blues and won an assortment of medals including three English Premier League, four FA Cups, two League Cups, two FA Community Shields and the UEFA Champions League. The latter he won in Saturday’s final in which Drogba scored the equalizer in the last minute of normal time before going on to score the winning penalty in the shoot-out. It is understood that Drogba now seeks a fresh challenge elsewhere with China looking the most likely destination, having been linked strongly with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua.

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England: Kenny Dalglish sacked by Liverpool

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on May 16, 2012
Kenny Dalglish

Dalglish had a difficult time at Liverpool this season

It has been announced in the last hour that Kenny Dalglish has been sacked as Liverpool FC manager after just 18 months in charge. After taking over from Roy Hodgson in January 2011, Dalglish initially steadied the ship at Anfield towards the end of the 2010-11 season but has found it much more difficult in the 2011-12 season in which his club finished eighth in the English Premier League although he did take the club to two domestic cup finals.

Dalglish came back to the job due to popular demand following a wretched six month period in which his predecessor Roy Hodgson had been in charge. With Liverpool just six points off the relegation zone when he arrived, Dalglish made an impact towards the end of the 2010-11 season by taking the club up to a respectable sixth place. Hopes had been high for the 2011-12 season after the club signed core British talent such as Jordan Henderson, Stuart Downing and Charlie Adam to play alongside those that had been signed in the previous January transfer window such as Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Sadly for Dalglish his signings never really imposed themselves on the pitch with £35m recruit Carrol in particular coming in for lots of criticism until he started putting in a string of decent performances towards the end of this season. One thing is for sure, the likes of Downing and Henderson, who in my opinion have been every bit as poor as Carroll ever had been, should be thanking Carroll for keeping their mostly inept performances out of the headlines.

An argument that was bandied about throughout the campaign was that Liverpool were putting in some good performances but just not getting the luck but to use such arguments would be to pull the wool over one’s eyes. The fact that Liverpool hit the woodwork 33 times throughout the season should not be defended as a sign that the club were just unlucky, it is a sign that the players were not doing enough of what they are paid to do: score goals and win games. Liverpool had only lost three games in the Premier League at the half way stage and were lying in sixth place, eleven points behind both Manchester City and United. At the season’s end the club had lost fourteen league matches out of 38 and were a massive thirty seven points behind the top two, only qualifying for European football on the back of a hard-fought Carling Cup final victory against second-tier side Cardiff City.

But it wasn’t just on the pitch where Liverpool found life difficult. The Luis Suarez race row, in which he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, saw the club involved in many a PR disaster and Dalglish’s handling of the situation saw him brandished as arrogant and out-of-touch with the modern game. The game against Wigan Athletic in December saw the Liverpool team warming up before the match in T-shirts supporting Suarez in a move which fanned the flames before Liverpool were involved in two crucial league and cup matches against United early in 2012. After winning the cup game without Suarez in January, Liverpool then went to Old Trafford for a Premier League game in early February. Before kick-off there was controversy when Suarez refused to shake hands with Evra before the game and the move was damaging not just to Suarez as an individual but to Dalglish and his club who were always on the back foot before the club issued a long-awaited apology a week later. Unfortunately for Dalglish, in an era when football is as obsessed with public relations as it is with money, his press conferences were usually tetchy affairs which left a lot to be desired in terms of presenting the right image of the club to the wider world.

It was a culmination of on-field performances and results – barring the Carling Cup victory – and off-the-field public relations disasters that have ended up with Dalglish losing his job. Amongst the fans “King Kenny” will always be a legend, and rightly so, but it seems that a significant number of Liverpool supporters had already begun to think the unthinkable and reason that the club would be better off appointing a new manager for the 2012-13 season, a rationale that owner John W. Henry and representatives of the Fenway Sports Group concurred with after a number of meetings with Dalglish over the last 24 hours. The signs had been there in recent weeks with the sackings of director of football Damien Comolli and director of communications Ian Cotton and rumours had already been circulating on social media regarding Dalglish’s position which were then confirmed in a statement by the club which read:

“Kenny Dalglish is to leave his post today as manager after having his contract terminated. After a careful and deliberative review of the season, the club came to the decision that a change was appropriate. It is not a decision that was reached lightly or hastily. The search for a new manager will begin immediately.”

Wigan Athletic coach Roberto Martinez has initially been installed as the favourite to take the job but a host of other names including current Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers and former coach Rafael Benitez, who is currently without a club, are also in the frame.

England: Holders out as United triumph in Manchester derby

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on January 8, 2012
Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney celebrates as Manchester United win at neighbours City

The FA Cup third round saw very few shocks this weekend but did see some interesting results and a bit of controversy along the way.

In the tie of the round cup holders Manchester City lost in the derby match against record holders Manchester United by three goals to two. The Red Devils, who were the visitors to City’s Etihad Stadium, took a 3-0 lead going into the half-time break thanks to a brace from Wayne Rooney and a super strike from Danny Welbeck. Ten man City, who saw defender Vincent Kompany harshly sent off for a two-footed tackle on Nani as early as the tenth minute, did well to pull two goals back through Alexsandar Kolorov and Sergio Aguero but the dream comeback ended incomplete as United held out to eliminate their neighbours. United will now face arch-rivals Liverpool FC in the 4th round with another away trip looming for the Old Trafford outfit.

On Friday evening Liverpool’s third round tie at home to Oldham Athletic ended in a flattering 5-1 victory over the League 1 (third-tier) side but ended on a sour note with Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi on the receiving end of some alleged abuse from a home supporter. This episode along with the never-ending row regarding the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra affair, in which the latter accused the former of using racist language against him, continues to hang over the Anfield club who now need to move on and focus on football and regain some of the credibility which has been lost in recent weeks.

In other ties the main shocks came at League 2 Swindon Town who disposed of Premier League outfit Wigan Athletic with a 2-1 win. League 1 outfit Sheffield Wednesday got the better of West Ham United from the Championship (second-tier) with a late goal from Chris O’Grady separating the two sides. There would be no such upset at Stamford Bridge on Sunday where, in a repeat of the 2010 final, six-time winners Chelsea FC defeated Portsmouth FC 4-0 with Ramires bagging a brace for the West London side. Sunderland continue to flourish under the guidance of Martin O’Neill, this time winning away to Peterborough United. Sebastian Larsson proved influential for the Black Cats by scoring the opening goal and creating the second for James McClean as the Mackems notched up a fourth win in five games since O’Neill’s tenure began and will face a trip to nearby Middlesbrough in the next round.

It all pretty much went to form however as the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Aston Villa saw off lower league opposition in the form of Cheltenham Town, Tamworth and Bristol Rovers respectively whilst Newcastle United’s impressive season continued with a 2-1 home win against Premier League strugglers Blackburn Rovers.

FA CUP FOURTH ROUND DRAW

Brighton & Hove Albion/Wrexham v Newcastle

Sunderland v Middlesbrough

Dagenham & Redbridge or Millwall/Southampton

Hull City v Crawley

MK Dons/Queens Park Rangers v Chelsea

West Bromwich Albion v Norwich City

Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday

Arsenal/Leeds United v Aston Villa

Stevenage Borough v Notts County

Watford v Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool v Manchester United

Derby County v Stoke City

Everton v Fulham

Macclesfield Town/Bolton Wanderers v Swansea

Sheffield United v Birmingham City/Wolverhampton Wanderers

Nottingham Forest /Leicester City v Swindon

Ties to be played on the weekend of 28-29 January, 2012.

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UK: 2011 Festive football preview

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on December 24, 2011
Manchester City

Will Manchester City still top the English league after Christmas?

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.

Ally McCoist

Will Ally McCoist be celebrating further success in the Old Firm derby on Wednesday?

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.

UEFA: English clubs involved in glamour European ties

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on December 16, 2011

UEFA logoFollowing today’s draws in the European club competitions one can’t help but feel that there could’ve been some tastier matches upon the horizon going into the knockout rounds of each competition. Nonetheless the teams that do remain in each tournament will have their eyes firmly focused on the big prize.

In the UEFA Champions League the tie of the round appears to be that between seven-time European champions AC Milan and English side Arsenal FC. The former, following a couple of lean years since they won their most recent Champions League title in 2007, are hoping to show Europe that they mean business once again. Arsenal, however, have gradually built up confidence and consistency since a terrible beginning to the current campaign and these sides look more evenly matched than in recent years. Amongst the other games there is a big welcome to Cypriot champions APOEL Nicosia who, having topped their group, will meet French side Olympique Lyonnais in the next round and SSC Napoli whose maiden Champions League campaign will continue with an interesting tie against Chelsea FC. Defending European champions FC Barcelona have been given a fairly easy tie on paper, due to go up against German vice champions Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND OF 16 DRAW

Lyon v APOEL Nicosia

Napoli SSC v Chelsea FC

AC Milan v Arsenal

FC Basel v FC Bayern

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Barcelona

CSKA Moscow v Real Madrid

Zenit Saint Petersburg v SL Benfica

Olympique Marseille v Internazionale

In the UEFA Europa League the English clubs have been given some fascinating ties. Manchester United, who will now play for the only trophy yet to be won by Sir Alex Ferguson in his wonderful career, begin their quest with a tie against four-time European champions Ajax Amsterdam. Manchester City, fresh from elimination from arguably the toughest Champions League group against SSC Napoli, FC Bayern and Villarreal CF, will meet defending Europa League title holders FC Porto. Stoke City, for whom this is a first European campaign since 1974, play 2004 UEFA Cup winners Valencia CF. Amongst the other ties 2010 Europa League winners Atletico de Madrid plays against the last ever Cup Winners Cup champion SS Lazio and last season’s defeated finalists Sporting Braga continue their Europa League odyssey with a tough encounter against Turkish side Besiktas.

UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE ROUND OF 32 DRAW 

FC Porto v Manchester City

Ajax Amsterdam v Manchester United

Lokomotiv Moscow v Athletic Bilbao

Red Bull Salzburg v Metalist Kharkiv

Stoke City v Valencia CF

Rubin Kazan v Olympiakos

AZ Alkmaar v RSC Anderlecht

SS Lazio v Atletico de Madrid

Steaua Bucharest v FC Twente Enschede

Viktoria Plzen v Schalke 04

Wisla Krakow v Standard Liege

Sporting Braga v Besiktas

Udinese Calcio v PAOK Thessaloniki

Trabzonspor v PSV Eindhoven

Hannover 96 v Club Brugge

Legia Warszawa v Sporting Lisbon

UK: Shock news of Wales coach Gary Speed’s death

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on November 27, 2011
Gary Speed

Gary Speed, who died today, was 42 years old

An announcement has been made by the Football Association of Wales today with the shock news of the untimely death of former Leeds United, Newcastle United, Everton, Bolton Wanderers, Sheffield United and Wales star Gary Speed. The news has shocked all of the football scene in the United Kingdom, and in his native Wales in particular, his national team he had recently led to three successive wins and had signalled a turn in fortunes since he took the job in February this year.

His greatest honour as a player came with the triumphant Leeds United First Division title winning side of 1991-92, the last season before the top-flight became the Premier League, plus he also appeared for his favourite boyhood team Everton and appeared in back-to-back FA Cup finals with Newcastle United in 1998 and 1999, albeit on the losing side on both occasions. He also became the most capped outfield player with 85 caps for his country and became the first player to clock up 500 Premier League appearances, scoring in every season in which he was a professional footballer.

Stoppage Time would like to send its condolences to his family and friends at this most traumatic time.

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UK: Wonder goal helps Coleraine to victory (+video)

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on September 3, 2011

A wonder goal from Johnny Black helped Coleraine FC win their latest match at home to Portadown FC in the Northern Ireland Premiership.

His goal helped restore parity to the game after the visitors took the lead through Kevin Braniff in the fifth minute of the game. Following Black’s wonder goal in the 17th minute Tim Mouncey put Portadown back in front with just three minutes of the first half remaining only for the home side to equalize in stoppage time through Shane Jennings. The game continued in topsy-turvy fashion after the break as Coleraine took the lead for the first time midway through the second half thanks to Stephen Lowry but Portadown would ensure a grandstand finish as Jamie Tomelty made it 3-3 with five minutes to play. The winning goal in this entertaining contest came with two minutes left on the clock as Lowry bagged his second goal of the game to seal all three points for the home side who now lie in seventh place in the twelve team Premiership.

For Portadown they were left to rue the dropped points as perennial champions Linfield FC moved three points ahead at the top of the table thanks to a 2-1 away win at Ballymena whilst Cliftonville moved above Portadown into second place with a narrow 1-0 win over Glentoran which was secured in the last minute through Ryan Catney.