Llanishen High in Welsh Cup Final

Diggy Bird converts the first try!

Manchester United Draw 0-0 In Marseille

Manchester United dominated play in their Champions League 1st leg match in France, however they may yet rue the fact they couldn’t turn their possession into goals. Now United will have to be wary of conceding an away goal at Old Trafford in the decisive return leg on 15 March.

Clear cut chances were few and far between but both sides could and probably should have had a goal with Darren Fletcher being quite unlucky with his crisp 18 yard drive which Mandanda gathered at the second attempt, while at the other end Brandao was unlucky not to get on the end of a cross come shot by Ayew.

Still 0-0 will brobably suit both sides and the return leg looks likely to be just as tight.

Match Attendance: 58,000

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Welsh Cup Clips

Clips from over the years from various Welsh Cup Finals.
Video Rating: 5 / 5

Welsh Cup Semi-finals 1992

Hednesford Town take on Colwyn Bay in the Welsh Cup semi-finals

Chelsea Back On Track With Big Win In Denmark

Talk of the ultimate demise of Chelsea’s season will have to go on hold for a few more weeks at least as the reigning Premier League Champions cruised to a comfortable victory at FC Copenhagen in front of a crowd of 28,000. This was Copenhagen’s first ever home defeat in the Champions League, and was no more than Chelsea deserved as they dominated possession.

Although there is no such thing as a formality it would be a major shock if the Danes managed to overturn this deficit and Carlos Ancelotti can rest a little easier at least until their next game when they entertain Manchester United. 

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Rhys Griffiths Port Talbot goal. Welsh Cup

A classic Griff goal started by him on his own 18 yard line with great vision and finished in the opposition six yard box after a typical Lee John run. Welsh Premier League Football
Video Rating: 3 / 5

Chelsea Face Tough Task in Copenhagen As They Try To Savage Their Season

When the Champions League kicked off in earnest it looked like Chelsea were set to sweep all before them, However things have not continued in that vein and defeat tonight could effectively end their season. They face one of the Champions Leagues surprise teams in FC Copenhagen and the Danes will be well rested for the match given they are on a winter break.  Further the Danes have never lost at home in the Champions League, having beating the likes of Celtic and Manchester United in recent years and they gained an excellent draw against Barcelona in this seasons group stage.

This might just be the biggest game in Danish Club football, however Chelsea have not played that badly of late despite not getting the results they wanted and I have the feeling they will bounce back to form tonight and should at the very least avoid defeat and possibly take a couple of goal lead bat to Stamford Bridge. Whether that will be enough to save Ancelotti’s job is another matter.

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Steve Davis: CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal preview

With the departure of veteran stalwarts, Columbus needs the likes of Robbie Rogers to become more consistent.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The CONCACAF Champions League’s chief imperfection may be the awkward gap separating group play and quarterfinal action, which begins this week.

Twenty-four teams from the United States, Mexico, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean began competing for the regional crown last summer. Next came the 16-team group stage, which wrapped up in October. Now it’s on to the quarterfinals, the “knockout phase,” where eight teams meet in four elimination series starting this week.

So the possibility always exists that a team undergoes significant turnover in the four-month interim — which is precisely what has happened to the Columbus Crew.

Columbus is one of two MLS sides remaining in Champions League, now facing an uphill climb as a bunch of new faces oppose reliably steady Real Salt Lake. Still, the prize at the end is a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Here is a look at all four quarterfinal matchups:

Columbus vs. Real Salt Lake

First leg: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Real Salt Lake at Columbus

Second leg: 10 p.m. March 1, Columbus at Real Salt Lake

The contrasts are stark. Real Salt Lake is perhaps the most stable of MLS teams, getting set to punch away in 2011 with pretty much the same core that won MLS Cup two years and ago and made such a fashionable account last year. Meanwhile, a roster in serious flux couldn’t possibly come at a worse time for Columbus.

Gone are longtime Crew staples Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk, Brian Carroll, Adam Moffat and Gino Padula — essentially the heart of the side that captured MLS Cup 2008. Others are gone, too, like forwards Jason Garey and Steven Lenhart. Plus, the Crew is dealing with injuries to Eddie Gaven, Danny O’Rourke, Shaun Francis and Dilly Duka. All are likely 2011 starters when healthy, but their status remains in question for Tuesday’s first leg. Coach Robert Warzycha admitted that age-related roster turnover was further complicated by the expansion draft and by the league’s re-entry draft.

“There were more changes than we anticipated,” Warzycha said. “I’m not saying that’s good, I’m not saying that’s bad. We just have to do what we can.”

So several players need to graduate this year from JAG status (“Just a guy”) to game-breaker status, and fast. That means names like Robbie Rogers, Emmanuel Ekpo and Andy Iro, men long on potential but still short on full arrival. The time is here especially for Rogers, who is just 23 but already entering his fifth season at Crew Stadium. He has just two goals and five assists over 42 regular season games in the last two years, hardly enough for a primarily offensive presence.

Warzycha said Rogers has been more of a “track star” much of his career, and he wants the fringe U.S. international winger to become more of a “soccer player.” Tuesday would be a great place to start.

Either way, the Crew will make things tough, especially in Ohio, where game time temperatures in the high 20s, possible snow flurries and a frozen or bumpy field could hammer RSL’s possession game. With good servers for Columbus hitting balls to Chad Marshall and Iro, set-piece plays and determined defense seem the home team’s best way forward.

The more technical Real Salt Lake may not be at its tiptop best so early. Still, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Javier Morales and Andy Williams could easily overwhelm a lesser-tested Crew midfield, where the important holding position looks highly unstable.

Real Salt Lake’s players were bitterly disappointed at last year’s first-round MLS playoff elimination. A longer march through this year’s postseason and a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup would surely help atone for this confident group.

“This year, there’s so much out there for us to win, it’s real easy to keep everybody motivated,” Beckerman said last week after a preseason workout in Arizona. “It had to be intense right from the start. Most of the time, when the preseasons are longer, you can take the first two or three weeks and ease into it a little bit. This gave us something meaningful to look forward to right off the bat. For me, I was looking forward to it. It was a good change.”

Cruz Azul (Mexico) vs. Santos Laguna (Mexico)

First leg: 10 p.m. Tuesday, Santos at Cruz Azul

Second leg: 8 p.m. March 1, Cruz Azul at Santos

Five-time CONCACAF champion Cruz Azul has things moving in the right direction once again, currently second among six teams in the Group 3 of the Mexico’s Clausura. That includes a 2-1 win over Atlas on Saturday. Emanuel Villa is the danger man of the moment, striking for his team-leading fourth goal of the spring campaign Saturday. The Argentine has scored at a rate of about once every two matches since coming from Derby County in 2009.

As always, Gerardo Torrado is the Cementeros’ heart and soul; He’s been a holding midfield staple for the Mexico City side since 2005.

Santos (3-3-1 in the Clausura) travels to Estadio Azul in Mexico City off a hugely disappointing loss at home to Querétaro on Saturday. Queretaro had previously captured all three points in only one game of six.

To make matters worse, Argentine coach Ruben Romano was sacked Monday after he criticized the team’s fans for jeering his players. Newspaper photos had shown Romano making a finger gesture as he was leaving the pitch and facing the stands at the end of the Querétaro match.

Toluca (Mexico) vs. Monterrey (Mexico)

First leg: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Monterrey at Toluca

Second leg: 8 p.m. March 2, Toluca at Monterrey

Perhaps the Guerreros of Santos Laguna weren’t the only ones guilty of peeking ahead to this week regional competition.

No team was in better form than Toluca going into the weekend, undefeated in six matches with just one goal conceded in the Clausura before Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Necaxa. Plus, Toluca has a big match ahead this Sunday at famed Club America.

Still, this represents huge opportunity for Toluca, based in Mexico’s eighth largest city. A club from Mexico will definitely be in the Champions League final, given the bracket breakdown. A place in the FIFA Club World Cup would certainly be a grand day for Toluca and its popular midfielder Sinha, who has appeared 49 times for Mexico.

Monterrey is mid-pack in its Clausura grouping. But Chilean striker Humberto Suazo and inform setup man Dario Carreño can certainly make a difference. Suazo has five goals in seven matches this year, although the Chilean injured his shoulder against Tigres on Saturday and could miss Monterrey’s next two games.

Saprissa (Costa Rica) vs. Olimpia (Honduras)

First leg: 8 p.m. Thursday, Olimpia at Saprissa

Second leg: 8 p.m., March 3, Saprissa at Olimpia

These are the power brokers of their respective countries, so it’s odd that both have fallen on some hard times lately in domestic play. The Costa Rican giants didn’t even qualify for their country’s playoffs last year, although they did successfully negotiate Champions League group play.

Olimpia has won just once in its last five in the Honduran Primera division going into Monday’s match with rival Marathon.

Meanwhile, Saprissa’s Mexican manager Juan Manuel Alvarez made things sound downright dire when he told a Honduran newspaper that his team is lacking even the simplest of elements at the moment. Still, Champions League offers an escape hatch of sorts for both clubs; the winner here faces an MLS side in March that could be distracted by its league season, which opens about the same time.

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King’s Lynn chief wants FA Vase repeat

King's Lynn's man-of-the-match Ross Watson celebrates Town's 2-1 FA Vase success over St Neots on Saturday. Picture: Matthew Usher.

King’s Lynn chairman Buster Chapman is looking for an FA Vase encore after Town landed a home quarter-final tie against Rye United on March 5.

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Lynn must overcome the Sussex-based side to reach the last four following Saturday’s historic win over UCL title rivals St Neots in front of more than 1,600 fans at The Walks.

The Quarterboys beat Leverstock Green to clinch a quarter-final place but their pending trip to Norfolk is United’s seventh away draw in eight rounds of this season’s competition.

“It’s amazing. I’m over the moon with a home draw,” said Chapman. “That is a brilliant result for us and let’s hope we can do the same again. I’m not looking beyond the next game. I would never do that so we’ll just keep our heads down and keep working at it. It’s so exciting for everyone at the minute. I hope people will come along and support us again.

“I’m really enjoying it. I never thought I would become so involved with football. It felt fantastic at the final whistle (on Saturday). I was so proud. I looked at Boony (Kevin) and Setch (Gary Setchell) and all the hard work they have put in and the players and everyone else. There’s been plenty of early starts and late nights getting the stadium ready over these past few months and its all worth it for days like that and the crowd played their part. The noise in the second half was unreal and it drove us on.”

Joint boss Boon is predicting another memorable occasion against the Sussex County League Division One side.

“It is one of the best draws we could have got looking at the teams left in but that doesn’t mean we take anything for granted,” he said. “We know how tough it will be and any side who has got through to this stage of the competition deserve respect. At home we have to be confident and we know that if we can win it guarantees us another home tie in the semi-final as it’s played over two legs.

“We are a good side at home. We proved that again over the weekend and I know it will be a fantastic day. I honestly feel we can aim for a 2,000 or 2,500 crowd because it won’t just be supporters and people from the town but the surrounding villages and the whole area. Any young aspiring footballers can come along and see just what it means to get this far in a national competition.”

Boon admits Town have to get back to business quickly after the euphoria of completing a league and cup double over the Saints.

“For me and Setch and the players we have to let everybody else got on with it, put it on the back burner and focus on the games between now and then,” he said. “We’re still going strong in two other cups and the league is a priority as we have maintained all along. I’m just pleased for the people behind-the-scenes and Buster and his family who have put so much effort and money in to build the club up and get us to this point. The supporters are guaranteed another great occasion.”

In other ties, holders Whitley Bay face a Northern League derby at Dunston whilst Ridgeons Premier Division title contenders Leiston travel to Midlands outfit Coalville. Highly-fancied Poole entertain Torpoint in the final last eight tie.

Full FA Vase quarter-final draw

Poole v Torpoint, Coalville v Leiston, King’s Lynn v Rye United, Dunston v Whitley Bay.

Ties to be played Saturday, March 5. The winners of the quarter-final ties earn £1,500 in prize money.

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Will Money Ruin The FA Cup

With attendances having dropped around 30% and the tournament beginning to lose a little of its prestige The FA are now planning to tamper with the rules and structure of the World’s oldest and still most respected competition. However as per usual with The FA some of the changes might be aimed more at corporate sponsors rather than football fans. Possible changes to the FA Cup which could take effect from 2013 include moving the final to a 5.30pm kick off in order to attract a bigger global audience.  This is not a bad idea and would benefit those who have a long way to travel as well as making it more of an occasion with more time for the build up al la the Super Bowl in America. However the other changes are much more sinister  and include the seeding of the top clubs in order to avoid the likes of Manchester United playing Arsenal in the Third Round of the competition. The real Magic of the FA Cup was and still is the fact that nothing is staged and a big team clash on 3rd Round day is almost as exciting as when a non league club makes it there. Seeding would have the effect of sloping the playing field in favour of the big clubs again and would do nothing for the already skewed income distribution in football.

Also on the list of possible changes is the the scrapping of replays. Wonderful idea that! Many smaller clubs survive to fight another day on the revenue generated from a money spinning replay and with all the concern about declining attendances what’s the point of removing games which must have the effect of reducing gross attendances further.

Then there is the talk of playing more ties in midweek, another sure fire way to reduce attendances as people (outside the FA anyway) have work and travel considerations when planning a mid week match.

Other possibilities such as planning more regional ties looks good on paper, but again the attraction of the FA Cup is the unexpected and if regionalising means that the likes of Hartlepool will be playing Darlington nearly every year in the early stages then eventually this will become boring and attendances could decline further.

The FA Cup has ran fine since 1872 and it will be a crying shame for football fans everywhere if the tail gets the chance to wag the dog and corporate sponsorship dictates who plays who and when they play it.  

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