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.
You have to say that at a reported fee of £20million, Alberto Aquilani is looking like the biggest flop to be seen in the Premiership after Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson confirmed the club were looking to loan him to an Italian team.
Since his high-profile move from Roma, Aquilani has consistently warmed the bench or physios table while failing to do very much of note on the pitch at all. In the minds of Liverpool fans, the Italian arrived to replace their pass master Xabi Alonso, although the players are different in style. However after signing a five-year deal in one of the biggest transfers in the club’s history, Aquilani failed to make his debut for a further two months due to injury.
While that could be forgiven, it appeared once the Italian was fit that he was no longer a part of Rafael Benitez’ plans. Consistently left out of the matchday squads, Aquilani was seemingly written off before he had managed to get into any kind of stride. Having failed to impress Benitez, the Italian set about pre-season trying to impress the incoming boss Roy Hodgson. He made statements insisting he “owed Liverpool” and that he going to stay at Anfield to pay back the faith shown in him. However Roy Hodgson has now revealed that after just 28 first team appearances (I know I didn’t realise he’d played that many games either) the Italian is going home. On loan.
So after paying roughly one million pounds for each of his appearances, is it fair to say Aquilani has been the worst purchase in Premier League history? There have been some stinkers to be fair and high-profile ones at that. Juan Sebastian Veron at Man Utd? Shevchenko didn’t set the world alight at Chelsea while Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger splashed out millions on young Francis Jeffers before deciding never to sign English players again (sort of).
Aquilani is a serious puzzler though. To sign him as an injured player was a decision uncharacteristic of Rafael Benitez. He knew there was little money to spend but chose to blow his transfer budget on one man in the hope he would propel them to the next level. Aquilani’s arrival saw Liverpool’s worst league finish for many years and the exit of Benitez. Clear then, why Roy Hodgson isn’t prepared to take the same gamble.
Wonder would Benitez be interested in bringing the Italian to Inter Milan. No, didn’t think so.
Manchester City forward Craig Bellamy has threatened to quit football altogether if he is left to linger on the Man City sidelines this season.
The comments come just a day after goalkeeper Shay Given claimed whoever wears the number one jersey for City against Spurs on Saturday will be the preferred goalkeeper for the season and that if it is Joe Hart, Given will seek a move elsewhere.
Bellamy, who also revealed he turned down options to move already, including to German side Wolfsburg, said: “I feel strongly that I can offer something at the club. But if I don’t get in the 25-man squad, I don’t know what I will do. I might finish, full stop, or look at every option I get. This game is as ruthless as any. I sort of feel I am not going to be part of it (at Manchester City). I can see it from a distance. I find that very difficult to take because I really enjoy playing for Manchester City. I think I have shown that with my commitment this year.”
For the record, Bellamy was Man City’s top provider last season, setting up 14 goals (eight of which came in the Premiership) while scoring 11. The Welsh international is clearly disillusioned with the fact that no matter how good a player he was last year or the year before that, Italian manager Roberto Mancini is always likely to prefer a Balotelli, a ‘big name’ and someone who is ‘his player,’ not a remnant of the Hughes era.
Bolton have completed the signing of Ivan Klasnic on a free, two-year contract.
Klasnic becomes boss Owen Coyle’s fourth signing of the summer after Martin Petrov, Robbie Blake and Marcos Alonso. The Croatian striker mutually agreed to terminate his contract with Nantes last week and has now moved back to the club where he played on loan last year and scored eight goals from 27 appearances in the process.
The signing will please Owen Coyle who said at the start of the summer that he would love to take Klasnic back and having secured some valuable additions already, is shaping up for a good first full season in charge. Coyle said: “I’m absolutely delighted to get Ivan back. He is a proven goalscorer and someone who has played at the top-level. Last year he was obviously on loan but I’m now thrilled that he is our player for the next two years. He was desperate to come back and join us and I’m delighted that we have to come to an agreement where everybody is happy. It’s a terrific piece of business because if we wanted to buy him last year then it would have cost £2m. Along with Martin, Robbie and Marcos we have strengthened our squad with real quality players.”
Various media outlets are reporting that Chinese businessman Kenneth Huang has tabled a formal offer to buy Liverpool’s debt and thus take control of the club.
And the news gets even better for Liverpool fans: American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett (Jr) could be left without making a cent in profit. According to the terms of the bank’s loan to Liverpool, the pair are obliged to sell up by RBS if the offer is found to be in the club’s best interests. However they are also obliged to listen to any bids that come through the club’s American co-owners. The Guardian reports: “Gillett is said to have told RBS that he is in negotiations with the Syrian businessman and former international football Yahya Kirdi. Sources suggest the offer is unlikely to come to anything, and is being used in an attempt to prise more money from Huang.”
Huang was linked to a takeover of the club less than a year after Hicks and Gillett got involved(in 2007) but was put off by the asking price which is believed to have halved from the £650 million figure quoted then. However he has now appointed a British media relations firm to represent him “in respect of his interest in Liverpool Football Club”.
And the news gets better for Liverpool fans. Media sources are reporting that Huang is keen to secure ownership of the club as soon as possible in an attempt to provide Roy Hodgson with much-needed transfer funds before the window closes on August 31. A source close to Huang told the BBC: “A deal has to be done before the transfer window closes. Huang has made a firm proposal. The club’s board has to sanction the sale and it could be sewn up in days.”
Hicks and Gillett have been a target of protests from the Liverpool fans after a disastrous three-year spell at the helm of the club. Fans say they have failed to back the club financially and deliver on promises they made at the time of the takeover. Before Liverpool’s game against Manchester United last October, hundreds marched around Anfield protesting and calling for the owners to leave.
The duo have also fallen out with each other and former manager Rafael Benitez whose decision to leave was thought to be primarily due to his poor relationship with the pair. Sources say there are no viable alternatives to Huang’s offer and any attempts to bring them to the bank are in an effort to secure more money from the Chinese businessman.
A few facts about Kenneth Huang (with thanks to http://www.live4liverpool.com):
- Had the unique honour of becoming China’s first graduate to work in the New York Stock Exchange in the 1980s
- After graduating in 1984 with a BA degree from Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, his hometown, he moved to study in the US at Columbia University before moving to New York to complete his Masters degree at St Johns.
- One of his crucial partners in America was with Les Alexander, owner of the NBA Houston Rockets, with whom he helped to bring Chinese Basketball superstar Yao Ming to the NBA team. Huang bought a 15% stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers leading to speculation in the US that Ming would link up at Cleveland with then Cleveland all-star Lebron James.
- Huang has exceptional contacts in the Far East and has brought lucrative sponsorship deals from China to the US and vice versa.
- News of his potential takeover is attracting headlines worldwide already from US sports websites to France football must L’Equipe.
The deal could also be crucial in bringing in new players to challenge for the title and keep the likes of Fernando Torres’ future on Merseyside. However, Liverpool fans have been here before, and will remember the optimism that swept through the club when the current owners were brought in.
Is this the start of a bright new dawn Liverpool fans? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
Newcastle today completed the signing of former Spurs and Arsenal central defender Sol Campbell. The experienced English man will apply further steel to a solid back line that Newcastle hope will keep them in the Premiership this term. He’s in his final years as a footballer, and has definitely suffered from a lack of pace in the past few seasons, but showed in the tail-end of the season for Arsenal last year that he can still lead the line in defence, especially playing at home in front of vociferous support.
Behind Sol Campbell is Steve Harper, an extremely able deputy for many years to Shay Given, Harper achieved in his first season what Given never had in his time at Newcastle, a winners medal. Granted, it was for winning the Championship, a division below Given’s experience at St James’ Park, but Harper has proved an excellent deputy, and is now number one after signing for the Ton Army in 1993 and having bided his time patiently as number two to one of the finest keepers in England in Shay Given.
Alongside Campbell in central defence there are options to use Steven Taylor, a potential England international (with just a ‘B’ cap to his name but almost 30 U-21 appearances) who was expected to move on when Newcastle were relegated in 2009 but stayed to help his boyhood team enter the Premiership at the first time of asking. Strong, a tough tackler and good in the opposing box, Taylor and Campbell can provide an impressive foil to Premiership attacks this year. However Taylor can also play at right/left back, meaning Argentine Fabricio Coloccini could line up at centre back.
Has there ever been a summer with more transfer activity surrounding English players? For a team that did pretty poorly in the World Cup it would appear that the likes of Cole, Gerrard, Milner and co are still hot property.
However one man who didn’t make it to the World Cup is Scott Parker. Spurs have the right idea in bidding for one of the Premiership’s top midfielders in Parker. Outstanding for West Ham last year, Parker played like a man attempting to lift his team to a Premiership crown, rather than a man playing for a team on the slide in West Ham. That Fabio Capello thought he wasn’t worth a place in the squad is to the Italian’s detriment as Parker would surely have played with passion and intensity that was lacking elsewhere. Which is why Hammers fans will be thrilled to hear some pretty strong words coming from chairman David Sullivan when quizzed about Parker’s future.
On the club website, Sullivan said: “I made a promise that I would not sell Scott and I will not, for any amount of money, break that promise to the West Ham supporters. Scott is not for sale at any price, to anyone. West Ham supporters, for far too long, have had owners that sell their best players and promise one thing and do another. This is a new era. We are building a bigger, better West Ham and when we make a promise, we honour it.”
A statement added: “The club would like to state that regardless of the size of the bid, nothing will break the promise that chairman David Sullivan made to our supporters. As repeatedly stated, Scott Parker is not for sale and there are no circumstances and no amount of money that will cause us to break that pledge to the fans. The club informed Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy prior to him making the offer that we would not welcome any approach to unsettle the player. Scott Parker has three years left on his contract and the club has opened talks with his agent over a new five-year deal.”
Liverpool are also believed to be sniffing around Scott Parker if, as expected, Javier Mascherano leaves for pastures new and for a hefty fee. However the smart money has to be on Parker going nowhere as Sullivan would be made to look like a complete fool if the 29-year-old leaves now, although he would command a bigger fee now than he will in a years time.
The only question now is whether Parker’s interest in a move will come to the fore. Playing for Spurs would be an attractive proposition, particularly given the lure of Champions League football. Player power has never been more prevalent in the modern game, so watch this space.
Perhaps Spurs have been using their scouting department to look at videos such as this: