In their 13th game against African countries England managed a welcome win, but were far from convincing as their preparation for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa got underway. Against a skillful Egypt team fresh from their 7th victory in the African Cup Of Nations England failed to impress and went into the dressing room a goal down at half time.
Fabio Capello made some inspired changes at half time bringing on Peter Crouch and Michael Carrick and this turned the game with Crouch scoring the equaliser and England’s third.
A 3-1 win look convincing but had the linesman spotted that Peter Crouch was offside for one of his goals and the goalie made a better effort at stopping Shaun Wright-Phillips volley then things would have looked very different.
Still Fabio Capello will be happy with was England’s 500th win, even if he has lots to think about squad wise.
Barrow took another step towards repeating their 1990 FA Trophy win last night when holding on to win 2-1 over fellow Conference Premier side York City.
Barrow were ahead after 5 minutes and added a second with a 1st half penalty, however York pulled a goal back in the 70th minute making for a slightly anxious last 20 minutes.
Barrow now face Salisbury in the 2 legged semi finals for the chance to play either Stevenage Borough or Kidderminster Harriers at Wembley in what has been a successful season for them in the Cups which has included reaching the FA Cup 3rd round where they lost to Sunderland.
Barrow and York City will finally play in their FA Trophy Quarter Final match at Holker Steet tonight after two previous postponements due to frozen pitchs.
These two one time football league members will be relishing the chance of a possible trip to Wembley and the welcome gate receipts from the 2 legged semi finals against Salisbury City.
Both have to make changes for tonights game and York will be without leading scorer, Richard Brodie, who completes his three match suspension tonight, while Barrow are missing Nick Chadwick who is cup-tied having played for the now sadly defunct Chester earlier in the competition.
The winner will collect £16,000 in prize money for reaching the Semi Finals.
This weekend (6-7 March) is FA Cup Quarter Final weekend and the ties include a London Derby, a club desperate for the money and a sole representative from outside the Premier League in giant killers Reading. Every game has a bit of interest to it with plenty for the neutrals to enjoy.
The biggest game is arguably the all London clash between Fulham and Spurs which should be a close game as Fulham are no push overs at Craven Cottage. However Tottenham have finally matured into a genuine champions league challenger and they will expect to avoid defeat at the very least and should win a replay at White Hart Lane.
In the other London game FA Cup holders Chelsea take on Stoke who have overcome the odds this season beating Arsenal, Manchester City and non league York City on their way to this clash. All three games finished 3-1 (whats the odds of that) but they will find things tough away at Chelsea and it will be a major surprise if they manage to reach the Semi Finals.
Ordinarily Portsmouth V Birmingham would not be a tie to capture the imagination of the neutral, but given Portsmouth’s fall into administration many neurtral fans will be hoping they can progress to the Semi Finals and give their beleaguered supporters something to shout about. It will be difficult against a well organised Birmingham side and this might be another game heading for a replay.
The final tie pits the only surviving non Premier League team Reading who have already beaten Liverpool and Burnley in the earlier rounds against Aston Villa who were a tad unlucky in the League Cup Finals and will be well up for this as its their only realistic chance of Silver Ware this season.
Reading have played well in the cup despite their somewhat erratic league form but have needed replays against Liverpool and West Brom and one gets the feeling that their luck will run out soon. I think on this occasion Villa will prove too strong although it might take a replay again.
In the end I expect the last 4 to be Chelsea, Tottenham, Villa and Birmingham.
Manchester United added the 2010 Carling sponsored League Cup to their impressive list of trophy’s following a controversy tinged 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at The New Wembley on Sunday.
Although on the balance of chances United clearly deserved to win it could have been so different had Phil Dowd followed the rules and sent off Vidic for a professional foul on Villa Striker Agbonlahor in the 5th minute, a tackle which led to the penalty which put Villa 1-0 up. One can only assume that Phil Dowd didn’t think it was a goal scoring opportunity, however even Alex Ferguson to his credit admitted it probably should have been a red card. The final decision was no card at all and this again played a part in the second half when Vidic was booked.
Anyway controversy aside it was an entertaining game and once Michael Owen had leveled the scores there was only ever going to be one winner.
The Luckless Michael Owen who had looked sharp during the 1st half succumbed to and was replaced by Wayne Rooney, who inevitably scored the winner and could easily have added a second had his deft header not crashed against the post.
Villa played some nice football but never looked like getting back into the game after Rooney struck and despite bringing on John Carew with 10 minutes left united always looked comfortable and held out for the win they just about deserved.
Current FA Trophy holders Stevenage Borough have been drawn against Kidderminster Harriers in the 2010 FA Trophy semi-final which will be played over 2 legs. This is a repeat of the 2007 final played at the New Wembley (the 1st competitive match played there),which finished 3-2 to Stevenage.
In the other semi-final, Salisbury City will take on Barrow or York City depending on who wins the twice postponed quarter-final.
The teams winning their semi-final will receive the princely sum of £16,000 each from the Football Association’s prize fund a great benefit for any smaller club, but barely enough to keep a top premier league player in Champagne. Maybe it’s time football gave a little more thought to how the money is distributed within the game.
The Red half of Merseyside were the only ones cheering last night as Everton crashed out of the Europa League Cup losing 3-0 in the second leg to Sporting Lisbon. Leading 2-1 from the 1st leg Everton held out for 64 minutes before Miguel Veloso levelled the score stabbing the ball home from close range.
On 77 minutes the game effectively ended with Sporting’s second and the 3rd goal deep into injury time only served to rum salt into the wound as Everton’s last realistic chance of silverware this season evaporated.
Liverpool by comparison had a much easier time against Romanian side Unirea Urziceni. Already leading 1-0 from the 1st leg their only brief moment of worry was when Bruno Fernandes levelled the scored briefly in the 18th minute. However 1st half goals from Mascherano and Babel calmed Liverpool’s nerves and Gerrard struck a third in the 57th Minute to effectively kill off any hopes Unirea Urziceni had of pulling off a shock.
Liverpool join Fulham in the last 16 where they will face French club Lille while Fulham have a very tough game against Italian giants Juventus.
Stoke progressed to the FA Cup Quarter Finals after an extra time win over Manchester city in the replay at the Britannia Stadium. They will now face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on 7th March.
Although a great result for Stoke this will put considerable pressure on the Manchester City manager Roberto Manchini who was expected to bring some silverware to the club. Its short odds now that he will be replaced at the end of the season.
Manchester United and Aston Villa will compete in this years Carling (League Cup) Final in a repeat of the 1994 fixture which saw Villa win 3-1 and in doing so prevented United from winning the domestic treble.
Villa had a slightly easier path to the Final winning 7-4 on aggregate against a plucky Blackburn Rovers who played their part in a highly entertaining second leg which Villa won 6-4.
Manchester United on the other hand had a much tougher time of it having to comeback from a 2-1 1st leg deficit, which they duly did snatching the victory with an injury time goal from Wayne Rooney.
It should be a great final.
After causing upsets in the last two rounds in beating Conference Premier league sides Rushden and AFC Wimbledon, Workington Towns dreams of of a 1st Wembley appearance finally ended in a bruising encounter with FA Trophy holders Stevenage Borough.
Despite going 1-0 up Workington were finally out muscled and Stacey Long snatched victory for Stevenage in injury time.
Workington can take some consolation in the prize money gained which will help with their somewhat precarious financial status, while Stevenage will be hoping to retain the trophy and are well placed to achieve their long term aim of gaining promotion to the Football League.