Amsterdam based football club Ajax had an easy passage into the Dutch KNVB Cup up final beating second division side Go Ahead Eagles 6-0. They will division rivals Feyenoord who advanced after beating league leaders FC Twente from Enschede 2-1.
This will be the teams first final meeting since 1980 when Feyenoord won 3-1 thanks largely to two goals from current Iceland assistant manager Pétur Pétursson. It should be a good final and Ajax will be hoping for another league and cup double, which they won in the 2001-2 season.
In the Fa Cup Quarter Final replay at White Hart Lane Tottenham finally overcame a plucky Fulham side to secure a Wembley Semi Final against Portsmouth. In a classic game of two half’s Fulham dominated large periods of the 1st half and were deservedly leading 1-0 at half time thanks to a Bobby Zamora goal in the 17th minute, which will act as a reminder to Fabio Capello of his credentials as a potential World Cup Striker. However the second half saw Spurs make two inspired substitutions bringing on David Bentley and Roman Pavlyuchenko both of whom scored as Tottenham ran out comfortable 3-1 winners.
They will now fancy their chances of progressing to the Final as they face a struggling Portsmouth side who have been devastated by their sorry plunge into administration. As for Fulham they can be proud of a successful cup run and still have a great chance of progressing in the Europa League .
With The Scottish League Cup already in the trophy cabinet and an almost unassailable lead in the Scottish Premier League Rangers had high hopes of completing another domestic treble. However it was not to be as Dundee United grabbed a last gasp winner against an admittedly under strength Rangers team.
Dundee United will now play 1st Division side Raith Rovers in the Semi Final for the chance to play either Celtic or Ross County in the Scottish Cup Final.
Thanks to a late winner Ross County have earned a Scottish Cup Semi Final place against Celtic something even their most die hard fans could only have dreamed about 15 years ago when they were becoming members of the Scottish League.
The remaining English representatives in the Europa League had greatly differing fortunes in the draw which could lead to Fulham appearing in their 1st ever European Final. Liverpool on the other hand will have done it the hard way should they make it.
Fulham after their stunning win over Juventus have been rewarded with a quarter final tie against German club Wolfsburg who scraped past Russian side Rubin Kazan in extra time. If Fulham reproduce the fighting quality they showed against Juve they should easily reach the Semi Finals where they will met the winner of Hamburg and Standard Liege, neither of whom are setting their respective leagues alight this season. If you could have hand picked your path to the Final this would have been the route.
Liverpool on the other hand have a really tough tie against current Portuguese league leaders Benfica who will prove to be no pushovers and should they get through that one will have to face the winner of the all Spanish clash between Valencia and Athletico Madrid. Valencia are playing well this year and are currently best of the rest in La Liga.
Liverpool are playing ok at the moment though and with a bit of luck we could see an all English final in Germany latter this year.
The 1st legs of the Champions League kick off this week and all the ties look close and the remaining English teams are by no means certain to make the semi finals.
Manchester United take on old adversaries Bayern Munich who are currently top of the German Bundesliga, thanks mainly to their formidable home record where they remain undefeated in the league. However they were a tad lucky to get past Fiorentina needing an 89th minute goal to win the home leg against 10 men and then progressing on away goals after losing 3-2 in the away leg. My view is that Manchester United will be too strong for them at Old Trafford and providing they don’t do anything stupid in the 1st leg should justify their position as favourites to progress. Given they will play the winner of the all French clash they will fancy their chances of making the Final.
Arsenal however have a much harder task against holders Barcelona who are in great form with Lionel Messi scoring for fun, and showing that Argentina will have to be taken seriously in the World Cup Finals this year. They only trail Real Madrid on goal difference in La Liga and with an extra home game to play are probably just about favourites for the title. Arsenal are also in good form, but have came out second best against the bigger teams in the Premiership this season and this just puts a question mark against their ability to rise to the occasion. Much as I would like to see them advance I expect Barcelona to progress.
The all French clash between Bordeaux and Lyon should ensure good crowds and plenty of interest in their native country and I expect Lyon to hand the baton over to Bordeaux as the French challenge for Champions league honours this year, although it should be close.
The final tie sees Jose Mourinho fresh from his success over old club Chelsea take on CSKA Moscow who are the 1st Russian side to reach the Champions League quarter-finals since Spartak Moscow in 1995-96. Providing Inter don’t underestimate the Russians they should progress so setting up a mouthwatering semi final prospect against Barcelona.
Overall it is looking increasingly like there could be a repeat of last years final with Manchester United taking on Barcelona again.
Stevenage Borough played out a 0-0 draw with Kidderminster Harriers to book their place in this years FA Trophy Final against AFC Barrow yesterday.
Already leading 5-1 from the 1st leg Stevenage didn’t show any real urgency and to be fair Kidderminster played a whole lot better than they did in their home leg.
Stevenage who are now in their 3rd FA Trophy final in 4 years will no doubt be strong favourites to complete the Conference Title, FA Trophy double and should do ok in the Football League next season.
In front of a 3000+ crowd Barrow secured a lucrative trip to Wembley in the FA Trophy winning 2-1 at Holker Street against Salisbury City for a 3-1 aggregate victory. Barrow looked to be coasting following an early second half Jason Walker penalty which made the score 2-0 on aggregate, however it was a somewhat nerve racking last half an hour as Salisbury pulleda goal back via captain Darrell Clarke. Salisbury then hit the post to add to the drama and give some hope to the 153 travelling fans.
Barrow finally made the tie safe in the 90th minute when Walker struck again to secure Barrows long trip to the Final.
- Image by coda via Flickr
Mexico looked far from impressive against North Korea during their a 2-1 victory in La Comarca last night. To be fair the North Koreans dit play 11 men behind the ball for most of the match but only Javier Hernandez and possibly Braulio Luna looked anything like the standard needed to make an impression in the World Cup in South Africa especially given their tough group. On this showing North Korea will make things difficult for their opponents but it will take a miracle for them to progress through the group stages.
Liverpool’s comfortable win against an in form Lille last night will have come as welcome relief to beleaguered coach Rafael Benitez as they progressed to the last 8 of the Europa League. This is Liverpool’s only realistic chance of silverware and despite trailing 1-0 from the away leg there was little doubt that Liverpool would progress especially as Fernando Torres is looking like he is back to his best.
In the match an early penalty from Steven Gerrard and two goals from Torres was enough for an easy victory and both the England and Spanish international managers will be pleased by the performances of these two key players as they begin their World Cup Planning.