Saturday, 26 October 2013

Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal (Arteta 47' (pen), Giroud, 87')

Ian Holloway is one of football's more passionate individuals. Strange then, that the first match after his resignation saw his old Crystal Palace side deliver one of their more energetic performances of the season. Perhaps that in itself is a mark of how burnt out he had become, that his side no longer bore that hallmark.

Against Arsenal however, you need more than passion and energy. Arsene Wenger's men are masters at sitting back, lulling you into a false sense of security, then leave you dumbfound with a ten-second array of tricks and treats. Their second goal today was one of those moments. With Palace pushing forward, attempting to press home their man advantage, gaps were left, and Aaron Ramsey's beautifully weighted cross was headed home by Oliver Giroud with the force and aplomb that betrayed the feelings of a man in the form of his life, secure in the knowledge that he is currently Wenger's go-to man up front.

Keith Millen, Palace's caretaker manager, sent his side out determined to nullify an Arsenal side that saw the return of both Mathieu Flamini and Santi Cazorla, and for the first quarter of an hour, despite hardly touching the ball, he would have been satisfied that their goalkeeper was rarely in possession either.

Flamini, making his return after concussion, lasted only eight of those minutes before limping off with some sort of groin complaint. He seemed to leave his spirit on the pitch however, as Arsenal continued to dominate the midfield in those early exchanges. Serge Gnabry gave more thrust going forward, while Ramsey and Mikel Arteta sat back, blunting Palace's energetic forays forward.

Those forays did become more frequent however as the half wore on - the home side's confidence growing, with Marouane Chamakh putting himself about impressively against his former club, with a couple of decent efforts and a poorly timed free-header attempt showing Palace's growing influence in the game.

The turning point arrived right after the break. In a similar fashion to Monday night's meltdown against Fulham, a moment of madness from Adlene Guedioura to chop down Gnabry allowed Arteta to slam home a well-taken penalty, and Arsenal were well on their way to another easy three points.

Or so they perhaps thought. Chamakh again causing problems; Arteta went from hero to zero as he pulled back his ex-teammate. The red card he received was harsh, as it was by no means the clearest goalscoring opportunity you would ever see.

Buoyed by this sudden numerical advantage, Palace poured forward, and so began a phase of the match where Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny proved his class, keeping his side's nose in front. Two world-class flying saves from two thunderous right-footed shots - one from Joel Ward and the other from Mile Jedinak - were the standout attacking moments that had the stadium on their feet, and rightly so.

Palace were giving it everything, but after that you sensed that they had peaked. Arsenal had ridden out the storm - Giroud's header sealing the three points - and Wenger was content to see his side move five clear at the top of the table. After years of struggling to even reach the top four, could he be about to deliver one last great side to remember him by?

Crystal Palace

  • 01 Speroni
  • 02 Ward
  • 21 Moxey
  • 08 Dikgacoi
  • 19 Gabbidon
  • 27 Delaney
  • 46 Bannan (Gayle - 77' )
  • 15 Jedinak
  • 29 Chamakh
  • 31 Guédioura (Kébé - 72' )
  • 14 Thomas (Bolasie - 58' )


  • 03 Mariappa
  • 07 Bolasie
  • 12 O'Keefe
  • 13 Puncheon
  • 16 Gayle
  • 28 Kébé
  • 34 Price


  • 01 Szczesny
  • 03 Sagna
  • 28 Gibbs
  • 20 Flamini (Wilshere - 8' )
  • 04 Mertesacker
  • 06 Koscielny
  • 16 Ramsey
  • 08 Arteta Dismissed
  • 12 Giroud
  • 11 Özil
  • 19 Cazorla (Monreal - 72' )


  • 05 Vermaelen
  • 07 Rosicky
  • 10 Wilshere
  • 17 Monreal
  • 21 Fabianski
  • 23 Bendtner
  • 44 Gnabry (Wilshere - 69' )
Ref: Chris Foy
Att: 20,050

Monday, 21 October 2013

Crystal Palace 1-4 Fulham

Two wonder strikes and two corners undid Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park as Fulham came from behind to inflict a 4-1 defeat on their fellow strugglers.

Pajtim Kasami will be on all tomorrow's back pages, as the newly capped Swiss international all but dared his national coach Otmar Hitzfeld not to pick him for the World Cup Finals next summer.

His wonderful volleyed equaliser will surely be goal of the season by the time he makes his inevitable trip to Brazil, and it was a strike that lit Fulham's blue touchpaper right when they needed it most.

Ian Holloway's Palace side had made the more promising start, a fact underlined when Adrian Mariappa headed in from a looping and deflected Jason Puncheon cross in the seventh minute.

Yet for all Palace's early endeavour, they lacked the composure and quality on the ball to control the match, and it wasn't long before Fulham found their range.

Martin Jol's side had provided a somewhat limp opening quarter of an hour, but when Kasami chested down a long pass from Sascha Riether and expertly volleyed past Julian Speroni, Fulham were in dreamland, with the under pressure Jol thanking his lucky stars that owner Shahid Khan had picked this match to show his face.

The match petered out for a time, as both sets of fans got their breath back after what they had seen. There was one last sucker punch before the break however, as Steven Sidwell pounced on a blocked free-kick to volley a goal that in any other match would have been the pick of the bunch.

Two of the best goals Fulham will score this season had left Palace punch drunk at the break, and the Cottagers' superiority was confirmed in the second half.

Darren Bent almost made it three soon after the teams switched sides, but Speroni's outstretched leg merely delayed the inevitable. From the resulting corner, Dimitar Berbatov outmuscled Palace's earlier hero Marriapa to glance home Fulham's third of the night.

Five minutes later, another right-hand corner found Philippe Senderos at the back post, and Speroni's best attempts could not stop his volley from creeping over the line.

While Palace could not really be faulted in the first half - Fulham's two goals the definition of unstoppable - Holloway would have been disappointed with his side's lack of organisation at set pieces, as any hopes of remaining competitive in the game subsided.

To the Eagles' credit, they embodied the same never-say-die spirit of their manager, and Dwight Gayle had a consolation goal dubiously ruled offside midway through the second half.

In the end however, it was Kasami who nearly made it 5-1 as he channeled his undoubted confidence into an ambitious outside-of-the-left-boot shot, which Speroni did well to tip wide.

Dean Moxey nearly got in on the act at the other end with a good long-range effort, but the damage was already done.

Jol and Fulham may look back on Kasami's outrageous moment of brilliance as the moment that turned their season around. The Dutchman has been feeling the heat this year as form has dipped, but he still possesses a squad capable of brilliance. He must hope Scott Parker's return can add some brawn to a side occasionally lacking in a solid engine room.

For Palace, a seventh defeat in eight league games spells danger. Holloway was much-maligned by some observers for his gung-ho style at Blackpool, but a more conservative approach at Palace with an admittedly inferior squad looks like resulting in the same outcome of relegation, although in today's panic culture, he sadly may not even survive to see the drop.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Irish League round up

Linfield's seven-match winning run was ended as Crusaders held them to a 0-0 draw at Windsor Park. However, results elsewhere meant they increased their lead to four points at the top of the league.

This is a welcome turn around in fortunes for the Blues, after a poor start of two points from four games.

Crusaders were reduced to ten men after the 72nd minute sending-off of Declan Caddell, but lie joint second with Glenavon after a solid start to the season.

Elsewhere, Ards returned to their home-from-home of Clandeboye Park with a bang and a third win of the season, beating title challengers Portadown 3-1 - although they remain bottom of the table on goal difference.

Fellow newly promoted outfit Warrenpoint also can leave this weekend with their head held high, after coming close to shocking the champions Cliftonville. Martin Murray salvaged a late 1-1 draw at Solitude as the home side's title defence continues to falter.

Dungannon fell to a third straight defeat, while Ballymena secured a first away win in seven attempts as they beat the Swifts 3-2 in the rain at Stangmore Park.

Glentoran made it three wins on the spin as they remain in the top six with a 3-1 win at Coleraine, but Eddie Patterson will not be satisfied as they fix their eyes on rivals Linfield - five points above them in top spot.

On Friday, Ballinamallard's topsy-turvy season continued with a 3-2 win at Glenavon, but like last season, the Fermanagh side look to be in no danger of relegation.

West Ham 1-3 Manchester City

A Sergio Aguero-inspired Manchester City outclassed West Ham to record their first away league win of the season.

A clinical fnish from Aguero after 16 minutes set City on their way, before he doubled his account six minutes after the break with a free header from David Silva's free-kick.

Ricardo Vaz Te sparked a West Ham fightback with a well-executed finish, but Silva's thumping strike sealed the points late on.

Most of the pre-match talk was of West Ham's continuing lack of strikers, with the returning Carlton Cole confined to the bench for the 90 minutes, and the progress of the youngster Ravel Morrison.

However, a combination of Aguero, Silva, and some poor defending cost the Hammers all three points as Man City moved up to fourth in the table.

Manuel Pellegrini's side settled quicker, taking control of the middle of the park, setting the tempo without creating many clear-cut opportunities early on.

Aguero soon left his first mark on the contest however, and sped clear to finish off a well-worked move after 16 minutes.

The half went on with several more City opportunities going begging, and West Ham struggling to impose themselves.

After the break, Aguero doubled his tally after some woeful Hammers defending, finding himself unmarked from a Silva free-kick.

Sam Allardyce had clearly urged his side to up the tempo however, and West Ham soon fought back. Good work from wonderkid Ravel Morrison allowed Vaz Te to hook the ball over Joe Hart in the 58th minute.

West Ham's lack of an out-and-out striker was telling though, with the likes of Noble and Nolan not able to fully fill the gap left by an injured Andy Carroll and an unfit Cole.

City eventually finished off a spirited home side with Aguero turning provider for Silva with a lovely backheel, before Silva's unstoppable effort into the top corner.

It was a welcome victorious away day for Pellegrini as his side kept up the pressure on the top sides.

  • 22 Jääskeläinen
  • 20 Demel (O'Brien - 65' )
  • 08 Rat
  • 16 Noble
  • 05 Tomkins
  • 02 Reid
  • 23 Downing
  • 04 Nolan Booked (Petric - 83' )
  • 21 Diamé
  • 15 Morrison
  • 12 Vaz Te (Jarvis - 65' ) 


  • 01 Hart
  • 02 Richards
  • 22 Clichy Booked
  • 42 Yaya Touré
  • 14 Javi García
  • 33 Nastasic
  • 08 Nasri (Milner - 74' )
  • 25 Fernandinho
  • 16 Agüero (Jovetic - 82' )
  • 09 Negredo (Kolarov - 66' )
  • 21 Silva Booked

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

England 2-0 Poland

'Look at him go,' exclaimed one particularly fawning co-commentator to describe Andros Townsend. It was another stirring performance from the young man, but it was the more experienced pair of Wayne Rooney and captain Steven Gerrard who sealed England's passage to Rio.

It was a nervy night at Wembley, with Poland settling the quicker, but Rooney's 41st minute header and Gerrard's 88th minute goal rounded off two halves of football that unfolded in similar manners.

England were early on proving susceptible to fast counter attacks, with the central pairing of Gerrard and Michael Carrick slow at getting back occasionally and after a relatively uneventful opening 15 minutes Waldemar Sobota hit a warning shot for England to tighten up with an effort that under-pressure keeper Joe Hart saw wide at his near post.

Eight minutes later Dortmund hotshot Robert Lewandowski came even closer with a shot that he pulled just wide, and perhaps might have slotted home had he been draped in his club colours.

England's newest starlet Townsend however was finding plenty of space down the right-hand side and was injecting the home side's attacks with some much-needed vigour and trickery.

The Spurs winger gave Wojciech Szczesny his first real scare in the Poland goal around 25 minutes in with a wonderful curling effort after he cut inside. Townsend hit the bar, and Daniel Sturridge forced a good save from the follow-up.

Everton left-back Leighton Baines was getting even more space down the opposite flank, and also proved useful with his customary set plays - a corner of his gave Daniel Welbeck an opportunity from six yards which the Man United man spurned.

Wayne Rooney also was proving a menace, as he forced another good save from the Arsenal keeper Szczesny.

Baines and Rooney were not to be denied however, as a pinpoint delivery from one of Baines' many forays forward gave Rooney the chance to head home a priceless goal as England got the goal their most recent efforts had deserved.

Just on half time Sobota had a tight offside decision go against him as he thought he had levelled Poland up.

The second half followed a similar trajectory with Poland putting some early pressure on the England goal. Lewandowski almost gobbled up Poland's best chance of the match on the hour mark as he lost Gary Cahill, forcing Hart to rush out and make himself big - sticking out a valuable arm to protect England's lead.

Again however, Poland's influence on the game waned and England took back control. Rooney and Sturridge both forced good saves from Szczcesny.

Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere and James Milner were all brought on as Roy Hodgson looked to push on and get a second goal.

That second goal arrived as Gerrard fought his way past a couple of defenders on one of his typical bursts forward to dink the ball over the on-rushing Sczczseny.

The final whistle brought relief all round - Ukraine's expected 8-0 trouncing of San Marino meant that only a win would do for England if they wanted automatic qualification. That win came in relative comfort, the group leaders remaining unbeaten.

England: Hart, Smalling, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines, Carrick (Lampard, 71), Gerrard, Townsend (Milner, 86), Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge (Wilshere, 82). Unused subs: Ruddy, Jones, Gibbs, Barkley, Defoe, Sterling, Lambert, Forster.

Poland: Szczesny, Wojtkowiak, Jedrzejczyk, Glik, Celeban, Blaszczykowski, Mierzejewski (Zielinski, 75), Krychowiak, Sobota (Peszko 65), Mariusz Lewandowski (Klich, 45), Robert Lewandowski. Unused subs: Boruc, Wasilewski, Jodlowiec, Polanski, Wawrzyniak, Sobiech, Rzezniczak, Fabianski.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

England's latest D-Day.

With real football taking a back seat to the endless home nation hand-wringing that is an international break, Roy Hodgson as I write is attempting to avoid joining the ranks of Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren, two former England managers who fancied their respective summers putting their feet up.

Another 4-1 win against the Poles will no doubt prompt a media frenzy, and awake previously sleeping expectations of a successful World Cup campaign in Rio. What was once an uninspired bunch of plodders being led by a soporific old gent will become a tight-knit bunch of sweat-bleeding lion-taming warriors being led to war by the calming voice of experience. That's certainly how it worked in the Sven era anyway - yet a series of wake-up calls on the field and the much maligned world rankings have given the country a sense of humility, and most importantly perspective.

Certainly, England would not swap with any of their fellow home nations right now - Scotland hoping to avoid finishing bottom of their group with a first home win of the campaign; Wales losing twice as many as they have won, despite the world-class talents of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, and the enigmatic managerial genius of Chris Coleman; and Northern Ireland passing themselves off the park with a string of powderpuff displays.

Things are comparitively rosy in the English country garden, and they presumably always will be with the obvious advantage in having a money-drenched top division. Despite being doomed to toil in the constant shadows of rank outsiderhood, what is the genuine chance of a team to match the technical prowess of the Spanish, German, French, Dutch, Portugese... and then there's the Africans and the small matter of South 'Messi' America.

Without turning into the English cricket team in terms of 'imported' talent, movement and technique will remain generations away, and it's best to love our national sides for what they are, not what they could be.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Glenavon 1-3 Linfield

Linfield moved top of the league on goal difference with a comfortable 3-1 win over Glenavon at Mourneview.

Seeking six wins on the spin, the Blues fell behind midway through the first half through a Guy Bates header, but the deficit did not reflect their dominance of the game.

Before the break, Carville slotted home the equaliser, followed by two goals in two second-half minutes from a Waterworth penalty and a Lowry header.

A big talking point of Linfield’s trip to Glenavon was William Murphy being named as captain against his former club.

Murphy and the rest of the Glenavon defence were busy in the first half as Linfield set up camp in the Lurgan Blues’ half.

Andy Waterworth had a rebound effort disallowed for offside in the eighth minute.

Murphy made his presence felt with a tackle on Peter Thompson which caused a fracas between the two captains as Michael Gault squared up to him, leaving David Jeffrey an unhappy man on the sidelines as he loudly appealed for action from the referee.

After 18 minutes, Michael Carville had long-range effort well tipped over by keeper John Connolly as Linfield began to exert some pressure. Soon after, Waterworth pulled a shot wide when in a good position after being put off by Glenavon’s defensive attentions.

Against the run of play however, Glenavon took the lead, with a fantastic looping Guy Bates header from an Andy McGrory right-wing cross in the 22nd minute.

Linfield merely came back stronger though, not to be denied a say in proceedings. A Peter Thompson effort was quickly blocked by Murphy to keep the Glenavon lead intact.

If Linfield were feeling the frustration, it was beginning to show, as captain Gault was perhaps lucky to get away with just a yellow card following a feisty challenge on Ciaran Martyn.

Andy Mcgrory almost got on the scoresheet himself after his earlier assist, with a cross-come-shot which nearly left Jonathan Tuffey stranded in the Linfield goals.

Linfield got the equaliser their play deserved when Waterworth got down the right-hand side, and cut a good ball across for Thompson to shoot. His shot was blocked but Carville was there to tap in.

Two minutes into the second half, Jamie Mulgrew was well through before a Martyn tackle stopped him in his tracks.

In the 50th minute, a more illegal challenge was rightly punished Linfield were awarded a penalty after Gault was brought down by Gareth McKeown in the box. Waterworth slotted home the resulting spot kick as the away side took the lead.

David Jeffrey had clearly asked his side to just carry on as they had been before the break, and a minute later the lead was extended as Lowry headed home a pinpoint Mulgrew cross.

In the 63rd minute, Lowry had a further sight of goal but his shot screwed well wide as Linfield pressed to extend their lead.

Gary Hamilton rolled the dice in the 64th minute with a double change, bringing himself on for David Rainey, and Kyle Neill on for Mark Patton.

Glenavon began to up the tempo after the changes, but Linfield remained dangerous on the counter attack.

Waterworth made a good burst down the right hand side in the 69th minute but had his shot well tipped wide by Connolly in the Glenavon goal.

Jamie Mulgrew was taken off for Aaron Burns in the 83rd minute as Linfield looked to rest the midfield man before the clash with the Glens on Tuesday.

The home fans began to stream for the exits as Glenavon failed to put the Linfield goal under any sustained pressure, although near the end, Bates dribbled his way down the right hand side, forcing a good save from Tuffey on his far post.

Linfield nearly got a fourth in stoppage time as Carville rattled the crossbar with a fine effort.
In the end it was a professional performance from Linfield as they took advantage of Portadown’s draw with Warrenpoint Town to top the table for the first time in two seasons.

Glenavon - Connelly, Murphy (c), Kilmartin, Bates, Rainey (sub Hamilton 64), Patton (sub Neill 64), McGrory, Marshall, McKeown, Martyn (sub Farren 78), Singleton.

Goals – Bates (22)

Subs not used – McCallion, Lyndsay.

Linfield - Tuffey, Mcvey, Gault (c), Waterworth, Lowry, Thompson, Carville, B.J. Burns, Ward, Mulgrew (sub A. Burns 83), Quinn.

Goals – Carville (39), Waterworth (pen, 50), Lowry (51)
Subs not used – Knowles, Tipton, Ervin, McCaul.