Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Reading 2-4 Swansea

Congratulations to Swansea who will be playing the English Premier League next season after a comprehensive 2-4 win over Reading in the play-off final. A remarkable achievement considering that only eight years ago Swansea were nearly relegated from the football league altogether.

Swansea though have turned their crisis into a windfall and are expected to receive £90m for their effort though the chairman Huw Jenkins was cagey as to how it would be spent during a Radio4 interview this morning. However, whilst yesterday was a great day in the history of the Welsh club one also has to feel sorry for Reading who were inches away from pegging the Swans back to 3-3 after being 0-3 down at the interval.

Nevertheless Swansea, like all good teams, rode their luck and were rewarded when Andy Griffin brought down Borini for a (dubious) penalty which Sinclair duly converted for his hat-trick.

Perhaps what will be most interesting about Swansea next season is their manager Brendan Rogers who could prove something of a revelation. Yesterday for example, Swansea played a 4-2-1-3 which has served them well this season by giving them width in attack through the dangerous Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer. Sticking with this philosophy next season could see them catch a lot of teams out and stretch defences across the line. They also appear more solid at the back that other teams promoted to England's highest league in recent times such as Blackpool and they have a better defensive record this season than fellow promotees Norwich. The only question mark over Rogers is his ability in the transfer market but having a lot of money to spend is a problem most managers would envy.

Friday, 27 May 2011

ADO Den Haag 5-1 Groningen

Den Haag almost made certain of a place in next season's Europa League last night as a Jens Toornstra hat-trick helped them to a 5-1 victory over Groningen in the first leg of the play-off final. This came despite the Hague based team finishing two places behind their opponents in the Eredivisie and having a poor run-in of four defeats including a 2-4 home defeat to Groningen.

There has been no sign of this poor form though in the play-offs as they beat Roda JC 6-3 on aggregate in the semi-final and looked unstoppable last night. The only hope for Groningen lies in their away goal but even then a 4-0 win is the minimum they will need.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Ireland 5-0 Northern Ireland

Amongst the controversy of "football apartheid" in Ireland, the high number of player absences and the pointlessness of the Nations Cup, the Republic of Ireland put in a confident performance on Tuesday night to dispatch their rivals north of the border.

Northern Ireland actually started the brighter of the two sides with young Wolves winger Johnny Gorman striking narrowly over as the ball came to him from a free kick however it didn't take the Irishmen long to get into their stride as Andrews rattled the crossbar from on 16 minutes. Ward eventually gave Ireland the lead less than 10 minutes later from a corner which he himself had won and they were three up before the half-time whistle through mistakes by Hodson and Cathcart.

Things went from bad to worse for the Ulstermen after the break as the home side continued to run riot at the Aviva stadium. Pressure culminated in a penalty for Ireland and a harsh red card for Thompson. The fifth was added later on in the game when Cox made a mockery of the Northern Irish defence and a Stephen Hunt strike which hit the woodwork only showed that perhaps Nigel Worthington's men were lucky it was only 5-0.

Overall this was a young Northern Ireland side who were never going to win. The inexperienced players such as Hodson were often caught out of position and the defence as a whole was no match for, what was at times, magical Irish combination play. An unfortunately easy derby game for the Republic but as the football saying goes; you can only beat the team put in front of you.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Basel Must Get a Win at the Stadio Olimpico

After losing their first two group games in Group E of the Champions League, tonight presents a must-win game for the Swiss Super League champions FC Basel. A defeat puts them all but mathematically out of the competition. This will be no easy task though as they travel to the Stadio Olimpico to take on AS Roma.

Basel do not have a great record on the road in Italy, being unable to get a win in any of their last four visits. Nevertheless they do have experience of knocking the Roman team out of major competition as when these two sides met in the Europa League knock-out stages last season.

Better luck for Roma this time around though in the Italian capital and back in Switzerland would put them in a commanding position in the group after a start which saw a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the hands of Munich. Both sides have had limited Champions League success in recent seasons and will be looking to start making amends tonight.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

England 0-0 Montenegro

Well this was by no means a great performance by England and though I hate to say it, I agree with Radio 5 commentator Alan Green that the game was dire. This suited the Montenegrin side who would have snatched your hand of if you offered them a draw at kick-off.

This though is not to say that Montenegro are a bad side and they are deservedly top of the qualifying group, undefeated after four games. It is my chance here to point you to a post I did on the football speak blog which sets out a timeline for the newest team to international football.

I still can't see any problems with England qualification even if it does have to be via a play-off or, more likely in my opinion, going through as the 'best second place team'. This all depends on how Montenegro play in the rest of their matches as I envisage little threat from anyone else in that group.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Tartu Haserv 1-0 Tulevik

Do you know how hard it is to find anything out about the winners of this Estonian Cup match? The result comes courtesy of Soccerway but according to them this is the first match that Tartu have ever played. A little more digging and you can find that the team is also playing in the UEFA Region's Cup at the moment; a competition I have to admit I didn't know existed!

Apparently in this latter competition they have played three and lost three including an 8-0 defeat to South East Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia and 4-0 to Eastern Northern Ireland, both of whom could be easier to pronounce.

Their abject failure in this competition though has not prevented success in the Estonian Cup and their surprise win last night sees them through to the round of 16 against Ganvix who actually play in the same league as Tartu (II Liiga South/West). This time round though it will be Tartu who will go out on to the pitch as favourites because as we come to the end of the season in Estonia, they are top of the league whereas Ganvix are 12th out of the 14 teams.

Nevertheless, Tartu will tell you that anything could happen in the cup though we will get a chance to see the teams against each other in the league before they play each other in the cup. When can you watch this match? Soccerway has the match on tonight but that seems unlikely given that Estonia are playing Serbia in the EURO Qualifiers and Tartu played last night. Meanwhile the official Estonian II Liiga South/West website has it on the 10th at 16:00 local time so I think I would trust that. It's a shame that there isn't enough information on these more obscure leagues and teams.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Rubin Kazan 1-1 Barcelona

My internet at my new flat here is awful but just a quick note to ask what exactly is it about Rubin that seems to bother the mighty Barcelona? It needed a 60th minute penalty from David Villa to rescue a point after the Russian side took a lead in the first half. A full report is here courtesy of ESPN http://soccernet.espn.go.com/report?id=307839&cc=5739 but in my opinion Rubin will still struggle to go through in a group which also has Copenhagen in and the Danish side were in top form tonight with a dominant win away in Greece against Panathinaikos.