As expected Shaktar Donesk, Arsenal and Roma secured their Champions League knock out stages last night. Arsenal could only finish second and given they cant meet one of the other English clubs until the Quarter Finals they will now face the prospect of meeting the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid.
A midweek FA Cup replay trip to Evo Stick Premier side FC United of Manchester is not a cup tie any side would relish, however Brighton made it look easy with a convincing 4-0 win in front of a very impressive 7,000 crowd.
FC United who are playing at Gigg Lane Bury at present may be struggling in the league but their cup form has been impressive knocking last last years FA Trophy winners AFC Barrow out in the final qualifying round and following this up with a great 3-2 win at Rochdale in round one. Still on the night with expectations riding high it was Brighton who showed real composure as they piled the pressure on early taking a two goal lead into the break.
In the Second Half FC United had the chance to get back into the game when they were awarded a penalty but Jake Cottrell put his kick wide. This spurred Brighton back into action and they added two late goals to wrap up the win and earn themselves a home tie with South Coast Neighbors Portsmouth in round three.
- FC United dream ended by Brighton (mirror.co.uk)
We now know Thirteen of the last 16 in this years Champions League who are :
Tottenham Hotspur who qualified a group winners with some very impressive attacking displays. Gareth Bale has come of age in this competition and with a kind draw a Quarter Final place is a distinct possibility.
Inter Milan will be disappointed at finishing runners up and it is clear to see that Rafeal Benitez’s lack of management skills was no flash in the pan at Liverpool as he has taken charge of last seasons Treble winners and managed to make them look pretty ordinary. Anything is possible but on last nights performance its impossible to see them defending their crown, or for Benitez to keep his job for that matter.
Schalke 04 won a fairly weak group B thanks to a good win in Benfica. They have scored a few goals and could pose problems but they could struggle in the last 16 if they don’t get a very kind draw. Still this has been a great achievement for one of Germany’s lesser known clubs; Schalke have not won their domestic title since 1958.
Lyon finished runners up and look like one of the teams every group winner will be hoping to get. They don’t look anywhere near as good as their sides of recent seasons and will probably be focusing on the French League after the knock out stages.
Manchester United cruised through with the minimum of fuss with 4 wins and 2 draws in their 6 games. Nobody will fancy drawing them in the knockout round.
Valencia finished second almost by default given the groups structure. They look sharp and no one will fancy meeting them in the knockouts.
Barcelona as expected qualified with the minimum of fuss drawing a couple of games but overall never really looking extended. They are justifiably one of the favourites and look destined for the last 8 at least.
FC Copenhagen have the honour of becoming the first Danish side to reach the last 16 of the Champions League and showed when holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw that they are capable of giving anyone a game on their day. Its hard to see them progressing to the last 8 although if they were to draw Schalke 04 or possibly Shaktar then it could be close. Anyone else and they will bow out having probably exceeded their own expectations.
Bayern Munich, last seasons beaten finalists have qualified with a game to spare admittedly from an easy looking group. They will be hoping for one of the weaker second place teams as they attempt to go one better this year.
Chelsea have strolled through their group winning all 5 matches so far and have racked up an impressive 14-3 goal difference in the process. Tonight’s match against Marseille is somewhat academic give both have qualified and Chelsea are guaranteed top spot.
Marseille are guaranteed second spot and after a slightly shaky start look quite good. No one will looking forward to facing them in the last 16.
Real Madrid were second seeds and have comfortably qualified from what looked like a group of death. They have made it look kind of easy and the self proclaimed Special One Jose Mourinio could be on his way to the Final again. He could now face his old side Inter Milan in the last 16 which would be quite a spectacle.
AC Milan have also qualified with a game to spare and although they were clearly second best to Real Madrid they cant be written off. Some poor group winner will be unlucky enough to draw them and that could end their campaign. Hopefully it will not be one of the English clubs.
Group H is still wide open although Arsenal & Shakhtar Donetsk should fill the final two places barring an unthinkable set of results. The unlucky team will be FC Braga who have improved as the group went on and with this experience under their belts they could go a long way in the Europa League.
Tottenham qualified as group winners last night, an incredible achievement in their first ever Champions League campaign thanks to a 3-3 draw with FC Twente. They were made to work hard for their win by a lively FC Twente side who created plenty of chances, but lacked real quality in front of goal. They will now descend into tyhe Europa League where they will pose a threat, while Tottenham will hopefully get a slightly easier draw in the knockout stages given the group winners are kept apart in the last 16. Having said that there are no easy games in the last 16 and they could end up with London Neighbors Arsenal if results go that way.
- FC Twente 3-3 Tottenham (guardian.co.uk)
Two of this years remaining non league teams face tricky FA cup replays tonight (weather allowing) when Droylsden travel to Leyton Orient and Crawley Town visit Swindon.
Crawley were slightly fortunate to get a draw against Swindon in their home game having to come from behind, however they did play well in the latter stages and should make a game of it. Swindon might be without 1st choice Keeper Phil Smith but that shouldn’t be too much of a handicap and we expect them to be too strong for Crawley with a 2 goal margin win being the likely outcome.
Leyton Orient are not having a great season and Droylsden gave a good account of themselves in the 1st game, however whether they can win at Brisbane Road and earn a trip to Norwich is debatable. We think they missed their chance in the home game and Orient should sneak this one by the odd goal.
The games are scheduled to kick off at 19.45 and coverage of the games will be available on local radio on the internet for those who cant get to the games.
For those of you with fairly long memories the final outcome of the 2010 World Cup and the voting for the right to host the tournament in 2018 will come as a bit of an eye opener when casting your mind back to Lord Triesman’s allegations of potential corruption in World Football.
Embarrassing at the time both for him and The FA given how his allegations came to light the suggestion that Russia would help Spain win the World Cup by bribing referees in exchange for their support in getting the 2018 hosting rights now looks uncannily accurate, and we hope he put a few quid on it at the huge odds he would have got to make up for him losing his job because of it.
Now with FIFA looking a bent as a nine bob note its time for football fans everywhere to make their displeasure known. Sepp Blatter is an embarrassment and needs to go and a full independent criminal investigation is needed into how International Football is ran.
The decision to award the 2022 Finals to those well known giants of international football Qatar is further evidence of FIFA losing the plot. Its ok trying to take the beautiful game to other countries but Qatar!!! Its in one of the Worlds most volatile regions, its searingly hot in the Summer when the finals will take place and hasn’t got a stadium worthy of international Football at this level. OK they have plenty of money (now there’s a coincidence) and 12 years to build some decent infrastructure, but the World Cup needs fans to fill the stadiums and I cant see there being a huge domestic following. The 2011 Asian Cup is scheduled for Qatar and will only use 5 stadiums, 4 of which are in Qatar’s capital Doha. The main stadium is the 50,000 capacity Khalifa International Stadium, while the Al-Gharafa Stadium will hold 25,000, the Qatar SC Stadium has a 19,000 capacity and the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium hold 15,000.
The reason for the small stadiums is that a top game will be lucky to attract 10,000 fans. The 2022 World Cup looks like being interesting to say the least.
Anyway if you want to read up on the Lord Triesman story there is a good article here.
- Triesman blames Fifa change (skysports.com)
- FIFA Decides Choose Russia and Qatar to Host 2018 and 2022 World Cup’s (bleacherreport.com)
Looking at the stats you would be excused for thinking that the scoreline was a typo – but its true Birmingham City are into the League Cup Semi Finals at the expense of last years runners up and bitter local rivals Aston Villa.
In a fiercely contested game Birmingham struck first with their first real chance when a clumsy challenge on Lee Bowyer led to a penalty, which Sebastian Larsson duly dispatched. Villa soon equalised and looked clearly the better team for long periods creating plenty of chances, however they did lack that cutting edge and ended up paying the price when Nikola Zigic bundled a hopeful cross in with less than 5 minutes left to make the score 2-1. Villa did plenty of huffing and puffing in the frantic final minutes but it was to no avail and now Birmingham are closing in on their second ever major trophy having only ever won the League Cup, that back in 1963 ironically against Villa.
They will now face West Ham in the 2 legged semi final after the Hammers dispatched holders Manchester United (well their reserve team anyway) 4-0 earlier in the week.
The game was slightly marred when ecstatic Birmingham fans invaded the pitch however the police were soon in control of the situation and no injuries were reported.
- Birmingham claim bragging rights and a semi-final spot beating Aston Villa (101greatgoals.com)