Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

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.

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.

Premier Leagues under way in all four corners of the UK

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on August 14, 2011
Steven Reid

Steven Reid's own goal helped Manchester United to a 2-1 win

All of the four major championships in the United Kingdom are under way for the 2011-12 season. The big kick-off took place in the English and Welsh Premier Leagues on Saturday whilst the Northern Irish championship and Scottish Premier Leagues are two and four weeks old respectively.

It may only be the opening weekend but The Barclays Premier League saw, just like in previous seasons, yet another round of games in which champions Manchester United enjoyed a late win whilst many of their title rivals dropped points to lesser teams. Sir Alex Ferguson’s United were being held 1-1 by West Bromwich Albion before a Steven Reid own goal gave the Red Devils three points with eight minutes remaining. This happened on a weekend in which Chelsea (0-0 v Stoke City), Arsenal (0-0 v Newcastle United) and Liverpool (1-1 v Sunderland) all faltered early on to ensure that the Premier League kept up its tendency to allow perennial champions United the opportunity to take advantage of opposition ineptitude. Bolton Wanderers take the plaudits for their 4-0 thrashing away to newly-promoted Queen’s Park Rangers whilst Wolverhampton Wanderers came from behind to defeat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at Ewood Park. There were opening day draws for Fulham (0-0 v Aston Villa) and Wigan Athletic (1-1 v Norwich City) whilst Manchester City begin their campaign at home to Swansea City on Monday night. The game between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, scheduled to be played at White Hart Lane on Saturday, was postponed due to the recent rioting that affected the area last week.

The Welsh Premier League also began this weekend with a win for the champions Bangor City. In a highly entertaining game Bangor gained some revenge for their Welsh Cup final defeat last season to Llanelli AFC by defeating the same opponents by three goals to two. Alan Bull scored twice including the winner in the 85th minute to ensure that the champions got off to winning ways. The biggest winners of the opening weekend were Neath Athletic for whom Lee Trundle scored twice in a 4-2 win over Aberystwyth Town. Elsewhere the other two teams enjoying a winning start to the new season were Newtown AFC (1-0 v Carmarthen Town) and Prestatyn Town (1-0 v Afan Lido) whilst five-time champions The New Saints could only draw 1-1 to Bala Town which was the same score line seen at the Airbus UK versus Port Talbot Town fixture.

The Carling Premiership sees familiar faces at the top of the table with both Linfield FC and Glentoran FC as the only teams to enjoy a 100% record after two matches. Defending title holders Linfield FC put five past Donegal Celtic this weekend with Philip Lowry getting on the score sheet four times in their 5-0 win. Glentoran FC scored both goals in their 2-0 win over Dungannon Swifts in the first half as an Adam McMinn own goal and Darren Boyce strike sealed the three points for the home side. Elsewhere Ballymena United and Cliftonville followed up opening day wins with closely fought draws with the former involved in a thrilling 3-3 at home to Glenavon and the latter saw a first half lead equalized midway through the second half by a Leon Knight goal in a 1-1 draw.

The Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League began a couple of weeks early this season and, having played four matches so far, Motherwell FC are currently enjoying life at the top of the table. They sealed their third win of the season this Saturday when defeating St Mirren 1-0 thanks to a Tom Hateley free-kick in the penultimate minute of the match. Both of the Old Firm also enjoyed wins as Glasgow Celtic thrashed Dundee United 5-1 while Glasgow Rangers made hard work of a 2-0 win away at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. With the Old Firm having a game in hand Motherwell may not find themselves in first place for very long. At the bottom of the table Aberdeen FC find themselves struggling along with Inverness and Perth-based St Johnstone as the only clubs in the league without a win. It is a blow for former Scotland coach Craig Brown who left Motherwell FC in controversial circumstances last season to take up the job at Pittodrie which has become something of a poisoned chalice in recent seasons.

UK: 2010-11 Season Review (+video)

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on May 25, 2011
Man United Champions

Manchester United sealed their 19th title this season

All four championships of the United Kingdom have been completed for another season. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the situation in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

ENGLAND

Manchester United finally broke the stranglehold of their arch-rivals Liverpool FC and won a record 19th English championship thanks to a combination of some late-winners and ineptitude of their fellow title challengers. The Red Devils were unbeaten for their first 24 matches of the Premier League season despite the fact that they played far from free-flowing football but the team’s spirit allowed them to remain at the top of the table for most of the season. Manchester City, forever living in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours, finally had a trophy to show for their efforts as they defeated Stoke City in the English FA Cup final. Chelsea FC, who were defending the title at the start of the season, started superbly but saw their form dip from November into the early weeks of the new year and allowed North London rivals Arsenal FC to overtake them as United’s main challengers. However Arsene Wenger’s men also collapsed in a manner which used to befit the English national cricket team as they saw their chances of winning four trophies in one season reduced to dust in the last couple of months and they finished the season empty-handed. Tottenham Hotspur pipped Liverpool FC into fifth place and the final UEFA Europa League spot but both teams will consider the season to have been a disappointing one. At the other end of the table West Ham United lost their first four games of the campaign and remained rooted to the bottom of the league all season. Birmingham City, who defeated Arsenal FC in the Carling League Cup final, also drop into the Championship (2nd tier) next season along with Blackpool FC.

WATCH MANCHESTER UNITED DRESSING ROOM CELEBRATIONS HERE:

SCOTLAND

It was a troubled season in the Scottish Premier League but, despite the negative headlines which affected Scottish football in the last few months, there was a fantastic title chase between the two Old Firm giants. Glasgow Rangers finally managed to clinch a world record extending 54th domestic championship on the final day of the season when their 5-1 victory away at Kilmarnock saw them over the line. Outgoing manager Walter Smith leaves the club having won his tenth SPL title with the Ibrox club and will go down as a club legend, especially as he also sealed a double triumph having beaten arch-rivals Glasgow Celtic to the CIS Insurance League Cup in a tense Hampden Park final in March. At least the green and white half of Glasgow had some silverware of their own to celebrate as they won the end of season showpiece Scottish FA Cup final with a 3-0 win over Motherwell, allowing manager Neil Lennon the chance to reward the loyal fans who had stood behind him during difficult times. Outside the Old Firm Hearts of Midlothian showed signs of a title challenge in the early months of the season which, sadly for them, evaporated as the season progressed but at least the Edinburgh club could claim to be the “best of the rest” finishing third in the table. They will play in the UEFA Europa League next season along with fourth place Dundee United whilst, at the bottom of the table, Hamilton Academicals will go down into the First Division (2nd tier) next season.

WATCH GLASGOW RANGERS TITLE CELEBRATIONS HERE:

WALES

The Welsh Premier League had a final day title decider which was worthy of the name. With just a single point separating them, Bangor City and defending champions The New Saints would face off on the final day at the former’s Farrar Road stadium to decide the destination of the title. Bangor City scraped a 1-0 win and claimed their third league title by just two points allowing them the opportunity to compete in next season’s UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds. Bangor City were in line to celebrate a league and cup double for the first time in the club’s history having also reached their fourth consecutive Welsh Cup final but blew their big chance, going down to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Llanelli AFC which proved to be a maiden Cup triumph for the victors. The New Saints got their hands on the final piece of silverware, winning an exciting Welsh Premier League Cup final against Llanelli by four goals to three. As well as the two victorious cup sides, Neath Athletic will also feature in the UEFA Europa League next season after they won an end-of-season play-off tournament. At the bottom Haverfordwest County look set to drop down into the second tier having only accumulated 19 points in 32 games.

WATCH BANGOR CITY v THE NEW SAINTS TITLE DECIDER HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

NORTHERN IRELAND

There appears to be no stopping Linfield FC at the moment. The dominant force of the Northern Ireland Premiership easily won their 50th championship from nearest challengers Crusaders FC by a gaping margin of eleven points. The latest league triumph was the fifth in the last six years for Linfield who also secured the Irish Cup at the hands of Crusaders winning the final in their Windsor Park home by two goals to one. The League Cup final saw a new name on the trophy as Lisburn Distillery defeated Portadown and, at the very least, allowed somebody else to experience some success. Crusaders, Glentoran and Cliftonville FC will compete in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds next season whilst Newry City will find themselves playing second division football in 2011-12 having finished bottom of the table.

WATCH LINFIELD FC v PORTADOWN FC & TITLE CELEBRATIONS HERE:

Ireland: Cross-Border tournament to begin sixth edition

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on February 12, 2011

Setanta Sports CupThe sixth edition of the all-Ireland Setanta Sports Cup, named after the Irish sports station, kicks off on Monday with an expanded tournament and a different format. Twelve teams will compete, six from Northern Ireland’s Carling Premiership and six from the Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland, with four of those teams – Crusaders, Glentoran, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers – given a bye into the quarter-finals.

At the beginning of the tournament the clubs from Northern Ireland are well into their domestic season with every team having played nearly thirty games of the Premiership campaign. At the time of writing Linfield FC lead the Carling Premiership by ten points from Crusaders and appear to be the team most equipped from Northern Ireland to take the honours in the cross-border competition. Linfield, far and away the most decorated team from Northern Ireland, were the inaugural winners of this event in 2005 and will hope to begin this campaign with a victory over Dundalk in the first round. Traditionally this competition favours the clubs from the Republic of Ireland who have won each of the four tournaments played since 2006. Current champions Bohemians FC of Dublin, who defeated local neighbours Saint Patrick’s Athletic in last season’s final, begin the defence of their title with a tie against a struggling Portadown side on February 21st but they, like all sides from the south of the Emerald Isle, have yet to fulfil a fixture in their own domestic championship which doesn’t begin until March 4th.

Instead of group stages, the tournament is now embracing a straight knockout system with each round consisting of two legs until the final which will be played as a single match in May.

SETANTA SPORTS CUP – 1st Round Draw

Linfield FC v Dundalk

University College Dublin v Lisburn Distillery

Bohemians v Portadown

Cliftonville v St Patrick’s Athletic

The top two fixtures to be played on February 14th and 28th. The bottom two fixtures to be played on February 21st and March 1st.


UK: 2010-11 Leagues Preview

Posted in UK Football by peterbein on August 12, 2010
Chelsea FC

Chelsea FC won the English Premier League in 2009-10. Will they do it again in 2010-11?

Football is well and truly coming home this weekend with each of the individual championships up and running in the British Isles. The Carling Premiership in Northern Ireland is already seven days old whilst its equivalents in England, Scotland and Wales all look forward to the big kick-off. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the weekend’s action.

ENGLAND

Many pundits are predicting that this could be one of the most open Barclays Premiership titles ever with a multitude of teams catching up to those clubs who have graced the top of the league for many years, namely Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. West Londoners Chelsea, who won their fourth English title in 2009-10, have what appears to be an easy start on paper at home to newly promoted West Brom. Manchester United, who were denied a history-making fourth consecutive Premiership title by a solitary point last season, also start off against a club who have risen from the Championship (i.e. 2nd tier), namely Newcastle United. Amongst the usual suspects Arsenal have the toughest start playing against a Liverpool side who are under the stewardship of former Fulham boss Roy Hodgson and hope to challenge for the title again after a dreadful campaign last term. Amongst the other title hopefuls there is an intriging first match of the weekend when Tottenham Hotspur, buoyed by last season’s fourth place finish, meet Manchester City in the 12:45 kick-off at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Everton hope to get off to a good start but will have their work cut out away at Blackburn Rovers whilst Aston Villa, still getting used to life after Martin O’Neill after the Irishman surprisingly handed in his resignation last week, face off against West Ham United. In games affecting the predicted strugglers Blackpool FC start life in their first ever Premier League with a home tie against Wigan Athletic, Sunderland meet Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers play Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers meet Fulham FC.

Glasgow Rangers

Glasgow Rangers celebrate their 53rd title against Hibernian in 2009-10.

SCOTLAND

Having won a record extending 53rd domestic championship last season Glasgow Rangers are under even more pressure to lift the trophy again after a very limited transfer market for the Ibrox club this time. With money scarce not just in the blue half of Glasgow but throughout the league most teams haven’t spent heavily on new recruits this time around. The only exception are Glasgow Celtic under new coach Neil Lennon and the Bhoys open up this weekend’s action in the the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League with an away tie at Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who return to the SPL after a twelve month absence. Champions Rangers have a home tie against Kilmarnock at Ibrox Park where the traditional unfurling of the championship flag will take place before kick-off. Dundee United, for whom Peter Houston enjoys his first full season in charge after taking over from Craig Levein midway through last season, hope to keep up momentum following a successful 2009-10 season with an away win against St Mirren. The usual wannabes such as Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian and Aberdeen will start afresh and will hope for winning starts against St Johnstone, Motherwell and Hamilton Academicals respectively. Once again the Scottish Premier League has maintained the “split league” system whereby after 33 matches the league splits into two halves of six teams each, with teams playing every other team in their section once.

The New Saints

Will The New Saints be celebrating another Welsh Premier League in 2010-11?

WALES

The Principality Building Society Welsh Premier League, to give it its full name, resumes this season with just twelve teams (reduced from eighteen) after the clubs voted to restructure the league in order to increase the quality of the competition and to provide a new criteria which aspirant clubs should adhere to if they wish to play in the Welsh Premier League in the future. Rhyl FC, Welsh Premier League champions in 2004 and 2009, were the biggest name casualities of the restructure as their stadium didn’t meet up to requirements and, thus, have been demoted to the Cymru Alliance which forms a new second tier of football in the principality. As a result of the restructure teams will play each other twice before the league splits for the top six and bottom six. The teams in each section will then play each other twice again to determine championship and relegation issues. This weekend sees The New Saints, who claimed their fifth title last term, get the new season under way on Friday night with a home tie against Prestatyn Town. Llanelli, runners-up in the last two seasons, begin away at Airbus UK Broughton whilst Bangor City, another team who hope to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season, entertain Neath FC. Three more games make up this weekend’s opening round with Haverfordwest v Newtown, Carmarthen v Aberystwyth and Port Talbot, third in last season’s title race, facing off against Bala Town.

Linfield FC

Linfield FC won the Northern Ireland Premiership last season.

NORTHERN IRELAND

The new Carling Premiership began last weekend in Northern Ireland with champions Linfield FC hoping to claim their 50th league championship this season but they got off to a goalless start last weekend only able to muster a 0-0 draw at home to Ballymena United and will hope to improve on that by beating Dungannon Swifts on Saturday. Glentoran, who last won the title in 2009, are hoping to reclaim the Premiership trophy and made a fantastic start to the new campaign with a 6-1 demolition of Lisburn Distellery in the opening round of games and will hope to keep up momentum at home to Coleraine this weekend. Two teams who didn’t get play last weekend get their new seasons under way with Portadown away at Glenavon on Friday and Cliftonville starting away at Newry with Cliftonville a good outside bet for the title after they finished five points behind Linfield in the championship race last season. In the other games this weekend Ballymena United play at home to Donegal Celtic and Crusaders, who won their opening match last weekend, at home to Lisburn Distillery. The Northern Ireland championship takes on a similar “split league” system as that in Scotland with twelve teams playing each other three times before they split into two groups of six.