Cardiff have beaten Crystal Palace to reach the Carling Cup final after winning 3-1 on penalties at the end of a 1-0 win and a 1-1 aggregate draw tonight.
A seventh minute own goal by Anthony Gardner and the dismissal of Palace captain Paddy McCarthy just over ten minutes from time were the main highlights of the game, watched by new Wales manager Chris Coleman.
However Cardiff were unlucky not to win the match with three shots hitting the woodwork and Speroni pulling off some decent saves. The pick of the efforts was a Kenny Miller swivel and left footed shot in the first half that ricocheted off the post, while Gunnarsson hit the bar from a free header with barely a minute left of the 120 for Cardiff.
Miller blazed a penalty horrendously wide with the first effort and I was beginning to think the £20 I invested in Cardiff to qualify in the second half of extra time was a goner. But Heaton was the hero in the Palace goal with two fine saves.
In truth, Liverpool and Man City won’t be too worried. Palace with the likes of Zaha (see below), Scannell and the right-back who looked really bright (and has been linked with a move to Man Utd) Nathaniel Clyne could have posed a few unforeseen problems and a bit of trickery. Cardiff were better, but will play more into the other semi-final winner’s hands.
I watched to see what to make of Wilfried Zaha, the Palace youngster who’s been linked with Liverpool. He looks handy, strong enough despite getting a kicking, but seems to get his head down too much when looking up and spotting the right ball to play would set him apart from the rest.
He has skill, pace and looked one of the fresher players towards the end despite being at times triple-marked and playing in a side with ten men for almost 40 minutes. Think £10m is a bit steep, but he was brave and could be shaped into a good player.
Again, not sure Anfield is the place for him to do that though. Touch of the Ryan Babel about him in that he probably needs a club who’ll let him play, give him space and a chance to get a regular run of games to show what he can do.
Personally I preferred Clyne at right-back. Looked a real player, current England U-21, and out of contract at the end of the season.
Kenny Dalglish did the only thing he could on Saturday to deflect from the criticism that was bound to come his way following the poor defeat at Bolton.
The buck doesn’t necessarily stop with the manager if players are underperforming, but it does hint at something wrong with man management at the very least.
Dalglish had his finest successes in an era before Wenger, Zola, Cantona even, excluding his efforts at Blackburn. The foreign, modern influx of player that made the Premiership faster, fitter, was a rarity in his 80s glory days with British staples Rush, Barnes and Hansen the main men, but the signings of Carroll, Downing, Adam and Henderson are fast proving the moves of a man who is out of touch.
Dalglish has reverted to the old ‘Boot Room’ philosophy passed down across generations from the time of Shankly to Roy Evans when it fast became apparent that times had changed and that Liverpool needed to bring in a foreign coach in Gerard Houllier to show they were moving on from resting on the laurels of the glory days.
Criticism has been kept in-house. Suarez has been defended, to the detriment of the club’s image around the world. Carroll has been defended despite being criticised to the point of ridicule and regularly finding himself on the bench. Dalglish even went so far as to say Downing is ‘better than he thought’. A real head-scratcher that one.
Mistakes don’t get criticised. It’s all about the team and about Liverpool being the best football club in the world. A fortress. Siege mentality like the one Ferguson built around him to survive in the early 90s and turn into the most successful period in the club’s history.
But that changed at Bolton in an act of unusual outspoken criticism from the Scot. Players like Carroll, Downing and Adam to a slightly lesser extent are surely already worrying about their long-term places at the club. The Suarez incident needs sorting.
How he will fit back into the team and respond to the constant abuse he will receive at the hands of opposition players and fans only he will know. The smart money says it won’t be pretty. Dalglish has a massive battle on his hands keeping morale going at Anfield for the remainder of the season.
Despite that a Wembley final looms with a home semi final and a 1-0 advantage over Man City to come on Wednesday. Then Manchester United on Saturday, when the booing of Evra will bring up more problems in them media. And Liverpool remain within sight of Chelsea in fourth despite a wretched series of performances. The season can be salvaged, but after the performance on Saturday it’ll take one of the greatest feats of King Kenny’s Liverpool career to-date.
If Manchester City beat Spurs and Arsenal beat Manchester United the title will be switching sides in for once in a blue moon.
That opening statement is a little controversial, but hear me out. The loss of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva in recent weeks, coupled with a tough, and strange, run of fixtures that saw City play twice in 48 hours at one point and then once in nine days afterwards, has left them in a rocky patch.
The linesman wondered why Platt and Mancini were singing opera – Pic from Daily Mirror
Don’t mind what Mancini or the players say. They have lost to Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester Utd in recent weeks. That can’t do anything but leave a niggling doubt as to their ability to consistently beat the big boys. Now it’s time for Spurs. This is a crucial game.
Adebayor is a massive loss for Spurs, despite Defoe’s better goal tally in spite of fewer games. Kompany’s absence would leave City vulnerable to Adebayor’s strengths and in particular his new-found attitude to playing for the team, from which Spurs have gained considerable reward this season.
Defoe is Defoe no matter who’s in defence. Might smack one in from 30 yards. Might smack six wide and keep on trying his luck…Savic will be happier competing against the man linked with a move away from White Hart Lane. His struggles against Carroll in the Carling Cup against Liverpool were washed away by a capable performance against trickier customers at Wigan in Rodallega and Moses.
So if City were to win on Sunday, in the earlier kick-off, piling the pressure on Manchester Utd as they travel to the Emirates, it would be a crucial result without their captain and would bring his league suspension to an end, before Everton the following Saturday with the Carling Cup second leg in between.
Man City V Spurs. 1.30. Sky Sports 1
Arsenal V Man Utd. 4pm. Sky Sports 1
And in other news…
(1): Manchester United’s trip to Arsenal fills me with a sense of foreboding for gunners fans. Maybe it’s because the last time these two teams met Ferguson’s troops racked up almost a goal a minute. Kind of. And Arsenal don’t have a defence to speak of.
(2) Joey Barton on Twitter (Jan 20):
“If I talked about Neil, he’d do well to get another job. Twitter cost him his job???? I can think of a million other things!
And: “Lost his job and the guy is blaming everyone but himself! Embarrassing, time to look in the mirror mate. Last thing we need right. Big week.”
And: “Not a big fan of people that try to make scapegoats out of others. If u live by the sword, u die by it.”
QPR manager Neil Warnock on Barton’s arrival (August 26)
“We’ve got a very, very good player on our hands, he’s very enthusiastic. People will say one or two things about him, but they’ve said stuff about me in the past too, so I won’t worry about that.”
Warnock on QPR chairman Tony Fernandes (Aug 27)
“I’ve been speaking to him (Fernandes) most evenings, I’ve never had that kind of support anywhere. I’ve given him the names and he’s said go for it – you can’t have any more than that as a manager.”
For the record Neil Warnock will be appearing on BBC’s football focus tomorrow.
(3): Carlos Tevez. I’ll give you a fiver to piss off.
Reason number one. Mario Balotelli.
The weekend’s talking points:
(1): Man City are eight points off the leaders Chelsea after Molineux shocker.
Wolves claimed a victory over Manchester City whose manager Roberto Mancini described his teams performance as the worst in his tenure as boss. City went ahead through an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty but were pegged back by Wolves who followed up a good Carling Cup performance at City’s rivals Manchester United in midweek with a deserved victory.
City ‘s mutinous dressing room shows no signs of breaking out in peace with Mancini reproaching first teamers including Joe Hart and Adam Johnson for a midweek drinking session in Scotland, after allegations of a bust-up between James Milner and Yaya Toure at half-time of City’s miserable 3-0 defeat to Arsenal last week. Adebayor and Vincent Kompany became embroiled in a row during Saturday’s defeat while big-money signing Mario Balotelli produced a shocking performance, compounded by a yellow card for dissent in the second half.
Verdict: Wolves get a much-needed win their performance deserved but are still lagging behind in the league. Mancini will be nervous after an awful City display and a non-existent team morale. City look nowhere near good enough to challenge for the title on this evidence.
(2): The goal that was. But shouldn’t have been. But was.
Nani scored a controversial second for Manchester United in their 2-0 win over Spurs in the late kick off on Saturday. The Portugese saw appeals for a penalty waved away before stopping the ball with his hand. Spurs’ keeper Gomes placed the ball down (nowhere near the hand ball it has to be said) as if he was taking a free-kick. Nani stopped rolling around and went to close the free-kick down, took a look at referee Mark Clattenburg who appeared to indicate nothing untoward as Nani rolled the ball into the net. Cue consultation with linesman amidst furious appeals and the goal stood.
United manager Alex Ferguson blamed Gomes, rightly so the keeper should have played to the whistle. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp blasted Clattenburg, rightly so, as not only did Nani take a theatrical tumble but he deliberately hand-balled and the referee should have blown his whistle. The goal took the gloss off a good win for United.
Here’s a better look, albeit without English commentary, at the goal.
Verdict: Good game, farcical end. Spurs should be worried about being a club that seems intent on qualifying from the group stages of the Champions League rather than retaining a place in the competition. They will probably qualify from the group. They will have a hard time qualifying for the competition via the league. A good win for United, who are staying in touch with Chelsea and Arsenal, despite not hitting top gear, or anything like it.
(3): Newcastle 5 Sunderland 1.
What a performance from Newcastle. Occasionally brilliant this season, sometimes woeful, a Kevin Nolan hat-trick and cracking performances all over the pitch, particularly from Andy Carroll and Joey Barton helped the Toon Army celebrate a famous win over their neighbours.
But it could have been a different story had on-loan Danny Welbeck squared to an unmarked Darren Bent with the game tied at 0-0 in the first half. A tap-in would have given Sunderland the lead. Newcastle never looked back. Barton was sublime, superb passing and leaving defenders chasing shadows. Carroll showed impressive movement and link-up play and was unlucky not to register a goal. Shola Ameobi scored a perfect penalty and a cracking second. And while Kevin Nolan’s annoying wind-up-the-goalie routine continues from his days under Sam Allardyce at Bolton, seven league goals already this season is an impressive return.
Verdict: Newcastle were arguably better in this performance than the 6-0 drubbing of Aston Villa earlier in the season. Chris Hughton’s future had been the source of great speculation in recent weeks. Today they sit seventh in the league. A decent run recently comes to an end for Sunderland and with just eight points separating Newcastle from bottom-of-the-league West Ham, Bruce knows it will be tight at the bottom and Sunderland could find themselves in trouble if the allow themselves to be torn apart like they did.
(4): Hodgson’s Maxi delight
They left it late and it wasn’t pretty, but Liverpool have won back-to-back games for the first time under Roy Hodgson and gone to a stadium where it is tough to get wins against a well-organised Bolton team under Owen Coyle. A win for Bolton yesterday would have left them joint-fifth with Spurs. Liverpool’s win now leaves them level with Coyle’s men in mid-table.
That said, Torres and Gerrard, the men Liverpool fans hope will fire them up the table were awful yesterday. Gerrard hardly managed to complete a pass in the first half while Torres was worse, missing a one-on-one in the early stages that he normally found so easy in his first three seasons at Anfield. That Liverpool managed to win will be a mighty tonic for Hodgson with his star men so off-form. Excellent performances from the likes of Kyrgiakos, Lucas and Meireles helped, but David Ngog’s appearance from the bench will give the manager food for thought. The French man opened up the game as Liverpool applied some belated pressure late-on with Torres limping and out of form. It should of course be noted that bad game or not, the Spaniard’s back-heeled through ball for Maxi to score was sublime. Chelsea next for Liverpool after Napoli in the Europa League. The star duo will miss out on Thursday and Hodgson knows that his team are beginning to grow in confidence and if his stars show up on Sunday it could be a big test for the visiting league leaders.
Verdict: For Bolton, Gary Cahill showed once again why he is capable of performing on the biggest stage. Outstanding throughout, he was unfortunate to be nutmegged by a piece of brilliance from Torres but will have caught the eye regardless. Forwards Davies and Elmander played well without truly threatening Pepe Reina in Liverpool’s goal, but Bolton will fancy their chances of a top-half league place on this performance.
In a statement to assembled media this afternoon, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has confirmed the news that will have the club’s fans up in arms, Wayne Rooney wants to leave.
In a broadcast on the club’s TV channel MUTV, Ferguson revealed the shock news that Rooney first told club officials that he was leaving on August 14 of this year. This will lead to greater belief that the player does genuinely mean to quit the club, as he made the initial statement two months ago before prostitutes and ankle injuries turned his world into a soap opera.
While Ferguson refused to answer questions on the subject, he issued a full statement where he confirmed that Rooney’s agent has informed chief executive David Gill that the player wants to leave. Ferguson also revealed that Rooney will miss Wednesday’s Champions League tie with Bursaspor on Wednesday with an ankle injury. It is believed the injury is genuine after Rooney left training earlier in the day with the problem.
The manager went on to say that he was shocked at the news, and felt that the club had always looked after Rooney through his personal problems. He refuted allegations that the pair had argued and were not speaking and said he would be leaving the door open to the player to stay due to his talent.
Via The Guardian: Ferguson says he was disappointed that Rooney said what he said in the mixed zone following the England v Montenegro game. “A scan showed he had a minor injury. He adds that United “have to keep the door open because he is such a good player”. He adds: “We have done nothing but help him since he came to this club, that is why this is such a mystery to us. We’ve helped him with his private life and other matters … so we’re as bemused as anyone can be because we can’t understand why he would want to leave a club that is successful as we are in British football.”
The focus after an exceptional piece of media management by Alex Ferguson, will be on the player and the intriguing prospect of Man Utd fans turning on their hero. Rooney will not play on Wednesday but could line out this weekend away at Stoke. If he fails to play there, Wolves await in the Carling Cup on Tuesday followed by the most likely fixture, a home clash with Spurs on the Saturday.
Ferguson said: “We are as bemused as anyone can be, we can’t quite understand why he would want to leave. I was in the office on 14 August and David phoned me to say he (Rooney) wasn’t signing a contract,” Ferguson added. “I was dumbfounded. Only months before he was saying he was at the greatest club in the world. I asked to have a meeting with the boy. He reiterated what his agent said, that he wanted to go.”
Journalists at the press conference said they had rarely seen Ferguson so willing to let down his guard and that he seemed genuinely upset at what has happened.
Daniel Taylor of The Guardian said: “Rarely seen Fergie so impassioned, so willing to bare his soul, in public – he is extremely let down.” Phil McNulty of the BBC said: “Ferguson impressive there. Pretty full disclosure. Door open but hard to see any way back for Rooney. Man Utd fans will be unforgiving” while Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph added: “Brilliant by Fergie. Huge pressure on Rooney now. Its a recession and he’s asking huge sums + #MUFC looked after him when off-field problems.”
Talk will now turn to the fans and whether Rooney will respond under huge pressure. Ferguson has in many ways left the star out to dry and in one press conference stamped his authority back on the club. Rooney will now be under pressure to explain himself and win over the fans who have supported him for years and idolised him as the latest Manchester United legend.
To watch the press conference, go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/m/man_utd/9107091.stm