Friday, 1 December 2017

Who's Got Us, Then?

England have been drawn with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia in Group G at next year's World Cup in Russia. Gareth Southgate's men will begin their tournament against Tunisia on Monday 18 June in Volgograd. They will then face World Cup debutants Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June before playing top seeds Belgium four days later in Kaliningrad. Russia play Saudi Arabia in the opening game in Moscow on 14 June. There is no one group that obviously stands above the rest as being the toughest. In terms of ranking positions, Group B appears to be the most difficult. European champions Portugal, ranked third in the world, have been drawn with 2010 World Cup winners Spain as well as Iran - who went unbeaten in ten Asian qualifying matches - and Morocco, who topped an African group that featured Côte d'Ivoire. Group F also looks tricky for the reigning champions. Germany, who beat Argentina 1-0 in the 2014 final, will likely face three robust examinations against Mexico, Sweden and South Korea as they try to retain the title for the first time since Brazil did so in 1962. Resurgent Brazil - thrashed seven-one by the Germans in the 2014 semi-final in Belo Horizonte - have also been handed what looks like a quietly exacting group. Alongside Brazil in Group E are Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia while Lionel Messi and his Argentina team-mates play debutants Iceland - who reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 - Croatia and Nigeria. Egypt and Uruguay complete Group A with Russia and Saudi Arabia, Group C consists of France, Australia, Peru and Denmark and Group H features Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan. England will know all about Belgium, given the large number of their squad who play in the Premier League. Moscow Chelski FC's Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne of Sheikh Yer Man City are both enjoying superb seasons so far while The Scum's Romelu Lukaku recently became the country's leading all-time top scorer. England have not lost to Belgium in their past eleven meetings - and their only defeat against them in twenty games was in 1936. Although, it should be noted that this current side is the best Belgian squad in the country's history. The Three Lions have met Tunisia twice before, drawing a friendly in 1990 and beating the North Africans in their opening game of the 1998 World Cup in France. Tunisia's coach Nabil Maaloul says he 'knows all about' England's players and when asked about whether he was happy to be in the same group as them, he said: 'Yes and we will win.' England have never met Panama at international level and won't be overly familiar with their players with only three of their current squad playing in Europe. The Panamanians sealed their place at a first World Cup at the expense of the USA when they defeated Costa Rica two-one.
Gary Lineker was busy hosting the World Cup Draw, but amid carrying out his duties, he still found the chance to have a bit of a dig at Diego Maradona. 'Diego has picked out Croatia to play against his Argentina,' Gary said. 'But, Diego has always been good with his hands.'
In fact, dear blog reader, the undoubted highlight of the World Cup draw, by a mile, was Maradona's snazzy tie.
Well, that and the fact that he was accompanied on-stage by an Ooompa Loompa, seemingly.
Jack Butland should be England's number one choice as keeper because Wankhands Joe Hart is making 'terrible mistakes,' says 1966 World Cup winner Gordon Banks. Hart is currently on-loan from Sheikh Yer Man City at a West Hamsters United side currently in the Premier League relegation zone. Wankhands Hart has won seventy five caps - and made almost as many bloody awful smug shampoo adverts - but Banksy (who knew a thing or two about shot-stopping) told BBC Sport: 'I don't think he is playing well, especially when they kick it to him and he can't pick up. I see him make terrible mistakes, lots of times he is lucky they don't score.'
If you're good enough, you're old enough is a common phrase in sporting parlance and Irish Premiership club Glenavon FC have taken it to heart by playing a goalkeeper in their first team at the age of fourteen. Conner Byrne made his debut for the Lurgan team as they triumphed against derby rivals Portadown on Monday night to reach the Mid-Ulster Cup final. The head of Glenavon's academy, Ryan Prentice, said that he was 'delighted' the teenage shot-stopper had been picked by first team manager Gary Hamilton. Prentice believes the youngster is more than capable of handling the physical demands of the modern game. 'I think it's fantastic for Conner as a player to play in the first team and credit should be given to the manager for taking the chance on youth, as it doesn't always happen at other clubs,' he said. 'He's tall, brave and dedicated to training and works very hard with the coaches. The physical side has to be managed, but the flip-side is that the game is not as physical as it maybe was twenty or thirty years ago, when goalkeepers got clattered. He's also marshalled by experienced players who will look after him. For example, the club's first team coach Kris Lindsay, who has vast experience as an Irish league player, was playing in the game against Portadown - so he was keeping an eye out for him too.' Youth has been at the heart of Glenavon's progress under Hamilton recently, with Bobby Burns, eighteen, and Mark Sykes, twenty, among the players making an impact in the first team. However, Byrne's selection is on another level in terms of age. Prentice said that the Glenavon boss had watched the boy's development 'for a number of months,' before taking the plunge. 'Our academy went through a big change about four-and-a-half years ago, with a number of us coming into the academy to restructure it, that is no criticism of what went before,' he said. 'We had various trials and that's when Conner arrived. Gary Hamilton has been aware of him for about a season-and-a-half, he regularly watches our games and has been aware of his progress. Conner has been doing very well, he has played with the under-twenty team before and has been training with the senior squad for a number of months. He has always played at a level ahead of his age.' One of Northern Ireland's most famous goalkeepers, Pat Jennings, was eighteen when he began his football career in England with Watford, while Italian international Gianluigi Donnarumma is a current star between the sticks after making his debut for AC Milan at sixteen. But Prentice says that it is important not to get carried away about his prodigy's prospects. 'You don't want to speculate at this stage, it's easy to get ahead of yourself,' he added. 'If he continues to work hard, it would be nice if he could make a living out of football.' Especially if he does shampoo adverts. Obviously.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Them World Cup Willies

World Cup qualifying has ended and we now know all thirty two teams who will compete at next summer's finals in Russia. From Europe, hosts Russia and group winners Belgium, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Spain are joined by play-off victors Croatia, Denmark Sweden and Switzerland. Africa's representatives are Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. From North and Central America and the Caribbean, it is Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama. South America's sides are Argentina - who only clinched their qualification thanks to a Lionel Messi-inspired victory over Ecuador in the final game, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay and the Asian qualifiers are Australia, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
       The World Cup finals draw is on Friday 1 December at Moscow's State Kremlin Palace concert hall. Teams will be seeded based on the October 2017 FIFA world rankings. There are four pots - each containing eight teams. Russia will be joined in pot one by the seven highest-ranked teams, with the next eight in pot two, the following eight in pot three and the lowest ranked eight in pot four. No teams from the same confederation, with the exception of UEFA, will be drawn in the same group. A maximum of two European countries can be in any group. England will be seeded among the second batch of teams, which means they will definitely not play Spain, who are also among the second seeds, in the pool stage. A tough scenario would see them drawn in the same group as, for instance, five-time winners Brazil, seven-time Africa Cup of Nations champions Egypt and Serbia, the highest-ranked in pot four. An easier draw, on paper, would see them in a group with, for example, Poland, Iran and Panama.
     Defending champions Germany are the bookmakers' favourites, followed by Brazil, Spain, Argentina, France, Belgium and then England. Joachim Löw's Germany are bidding to become the first country to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. Germany have not lost a World Cup finals or qualifying game since the 2010 semi-final against Spain. They came through 2018 qualifying with ten wins from ten - scoring forty three times and only conceding on four occasions. Belgium, Spain and England also came through European qualifying unbeaten. Albeit, in the case of the latter, often with some very uninspiring performances.
       Brazil cruised through South American qualifying - but only after replacing manager Dunga with Tite midway through the campaign. They had only won one of their opening six qualifiers, but under Tite they won ten and drew two of their final twelve games to finish ten points clear. In Asia, Iran came through two different groups unbeaten - eighteen games without defeat that included a run of twelve consecutive clean sheets. Morocco qualified without conceding a goal in their six-game African group, finishing top ahead of Côte d'Ivoire. Central American nation Panama reached their first World Cup thanks to an eighty eighth-minute winner against Costa Rica, which also eliminated the United States. President Juan Carlos Varela declared a national holiday following their qualification. Iceland are the only country with a population of under one million to have ever reached a World Cup. The Nordic nation had never qualified for a major tournament before Euro 2016, when they infamously beat England on their way to the quarter-finals.
      The biggest shock of the qualifying campaign came from Europe. Four-time winners Italy missed out on a World Cup for the first time since 1958, losing to Sweden in their play-off. The Swedes had reached the play-off on goal difference in their group ahead of the Netherlands, meaning the Dutch have failed to qualify for the past two major tournaments. The Czech Republic, Wales, Scotland, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey were among the other countries to miss out in the group stages - with the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Greece losing in the play-offs.
      In the CONCACAF region the United States finished below Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras as they failed to secure even a play-off berth. It is the first time since 1986 that the American will not compete at a World Cup. And, they are so pissed off about it they are reportedly threatening to hold their own competition. With blackjack. And hookers. Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Ghana - all of whom were in Brazil in 2014 - were among the African nations to miss out. Chile, ranked ninth in the world, went out in South American qualifying, missing out on a play-off on goal difference to Peru.

Saturday, 21 October 2017


Substitute Mikel Merino scored a late winner as yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable ... for the moment, anyway) Newcastle beat Crystal Palace Nil to keep Roy Hodgson's side firmly rooted to the bottom of the Premier League. The Eagles had scored their first goals and got their first points of the campaign with a win against champions Moscow Chelski FC last week and looked more likely to take the three points for periods at St James' Park. But Merino headed in five minutes from time in a game that did not see a shot on target until the final twenty minutes. Yohan Cabaye's naughty late scissor tackle on DeAndre Yedlin was an early flash point, but the Palace midfielder escaped with a yellow card against his former club. Newcastle owner Mike Ashley put the club up for sale this week and several potential suitors are reported to be interested in a takeover, but while there is some uncertainty surrounding The Magpies off the pitch, on it the club have now made their best start to a Premier League season since 2011. Ashley said that he hopes to conclude a deal by Christmas - music to the ears of boss Rafa Benitez, who felt he did not get the backing he needed in the transfer market this summer following promotion from The Championship and has been quick to talk up the club's potential. The Spaniard's side have made a promising start to their first year back in the top flight, but they looked short of ideas in attack for large parts of the game against Crystal Palace Nil and Benitez will no doubt be asking for reinforcements in January. The former Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws manager brought midfielder Merino on ten minutes into the second half and it was the Spanish Under-Twenty One international who provided The Magpies' spark. He rose highest in the box to meet Matt Ritchie's corner and head into the roof of the net, earning the hosts their fourth Premier League win of the season.
Sheikh Yer Man City moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League as second-placed The Scum's unbeaten run surprisingly ended at Huddersfield Town. City's quality eventually shone through in a three-nil home win against Burnley as Sergio Aguero equalled the club's all-time scoring record. The Argentine tucked in a first-half penalty to equal Eric Brook's tally of one hundred and seventy seven before City, who had previously been free-scoring at Etihad Stadium, wore down the visitors and added further goals though Nicolas Otamendi and Leroy Sane. Neighbours The Scum had only conceded twice in their opening eight league matches, but Jose Mourinho's side lost their defensive solidity against newly-promoted Huddersfield. Aaron Mooy and Laurent Depoitre took advantage of first-half errors as The Terriers beat The Scum for the first time since 1952, despite Marcus Rashford's strike setting up a nervy finish. In the lunchtime kick-off, Moscow Chelski FC came from behind in a thrilling four-two win against Watford. Aiming to avoid a third league defeat, Antonio Conte's side trailed two-one before two goals from substitute Michy Batshuayi and another from Cesar Azpilicueta lifted The Blues above Watford into fourth. Leicester's players might have been 'raw' after the sacking of manager Craig Shakespeare earlier in the week, but they showed few ill-effects as caretaker manager Michael Appleton began with a two-one win at Swansea. Federico Fernandez's own goal and a strike from Shinji Okazaki lifted the 2016 champions to thirteenth, despite Swans defender Alfie Mawson pulling a goal back with more than half an hour to play. Dirty Stoke dropped into the relegation zone as they paid the price for a slow start against Bournemouth. Andrew Surman and Junior Stanislas put the visitors in control inside the opening eighteen minutes and, despite Mame Biram Diouf narrowing the gap, the second-bottom Cherries held on to win and move to within one point of safety. In the evening kick-off, Sofiane Boufal scored a sensational solo goal to give Southampton a victory over West Bromwich Albinos, their first home win since August. The Baggies remain without a league win since the second day of the season. Meanwhile, West Hamsters United manager Slaven Bilic says that he is 'not worried' but is 'realistic' about his future after The Hamsters lost three-nil to Brighton & Hove Albinos at the London Stadium on Friday evening. The home fans booed throughout the game and thousands left the ground early following Brighton's third goal, which sealed the visitors' first away win of the season. West Hamsters slipped to seventeenth in the table. Brighton took the lead after ten minutes when the unmarked Glenn Murray headed in Pascal Gross' free-kick. Moments before the break Jose Izquierdo curled past Wankhands Joe Hart from distance, despite the England goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball. Murray added his second from the penalty spot in the seventy fifth minute after he was fouled by Pablo Zabaleta. Although they dominated possession, West Hamsters had only two shots on target, long-range efforts from Pedro Obiang and Manuel Lanzini. Chris Hughton's Albinos climbed to tenth in the table.
In Sunday's two games, soon-to-get-the-tin-tack Ronald Koeman said that he can turn Everton's fortunes around after they slipped into the relegation zone with a five-two defeat by The Arse at Goodison Park. Everton were embarrassed in front of their own fans and have now not won in five games in all competitions. 'The team is underperforming. It is in a difficult situation mentally,' the Dutchman said. And, a Harry Kane double inspired Stottingtot Hotshots as they punished a poor defensive performance by Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws at Wembley. Kane scored the opener after four minutes as Kieran Trippier's chipped pass went over Dejan Lovren's head and the England striker took the ball around Simon Mignolet, who had rushed from his goal, to score. Eight minutes later Spurs doubled their lead as Hugo Lloris' long throw was not dealt with by Lovren, who missed a header on the halfway line and Kane was able to square to Son Heung-min to slot home. Liverpool got a goal back as Jordan Henderson's cross-field pass found Mohamed Salah, who outpaced the Spurs defence and finished off the inside of the post with a scuffed shot. Liverpool boss Herr Klopp responded by taking off Lovren for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after thirty minutes, but Dele Alli added a third for Spurs just before half-time as he lashed in a volley from eighteen yards. Kane got his second in the fifty sixth minute as he followed up a rebound from Jan Vertonghen's shot after Mignolet failed to clear a free-kick.

Leo Bonatini scored twice as title favourites Wolverhampton Wanderings survived a late scare to beat Preston Both Ends three-two at Molineux and remain top of The Championship. The hosts looked set to cruise to a second successive win after Bonatini built on Ivan Cavaleiro's first-half opener with a penalty on the hour and his second from close-range five minutes later. But the visitors reduced the deficit within a minute through Jordan Hugill, before a Conor Coady own goal twelve minutes from time led to a frantic finale in which Preston's Alan Browne was sent off. Cardiff stayed second after a late Joe Ralls penalty proved enough to give Neil Warnock's men a hard-fought win at The Middlesbrough Smog Monsters. Sheffield United stayed level on points with The Bluebirds after a two-one win over struggling Reading at Bramall Lane. Paul Coutts marked his return from injury by firing The Blades in front and Billy Sharp's fifth goal of the season made it two-nil before half-time. Roy Beerens reduced the deficit for Reading six minutes from time. Dirty Leeds bounced back from three successive losses in style and ended Bristol City's run of twelve games unbeaten with an emphatic three-nil win at Ashton Gate. Samuel Saiz struck twice in the first fourteen minutes to get the visitors off to a flying start and a Pierre-Michel Lasogga header completed an impressive performance. Both sides were reduced to ten men late on when a clash between Gaetano Berardi and Matty Taylor resulted in both players receiving straight red cards. At the bottom there was more woe for Blunderland who blew a two-goal lead to draw three-three at Brentford and extend their winless run to eleven games. The Mackem Filth responded well to Nico Yannaris' early opener for the hosts, with Lewis Grabban equalising and a Daniel Bentley own goal putting Simon Grayson's men apparently in control. When Grabban hit his second from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time it looked like The Black Cats' fortunes were finally turning - but late goals from Florian Jozefzoon and Neal Maupay earned The Bees a point. Which, to be fair, was funny. Bottom club Notlob were denied a second straight win as Idrissa Sylla's seventy eighth minute strike salvaged a draw for Queens Park Strangers at the Macron Stadium. The hosts, fresh from last week's morale-boosting win over Sheffield Wednesday, had led through Darren Pratley's header. Derby capitalised on the fourth minute sending-off of Sheffield Wednesday's Glenn Loovens to cruise to a two-nil win at Pride Park. John Terry scored his first goal for Aston Villains in a two-one home win over Poor Bloody Fulham. Stefan Johansen equalised Terry's header before half-time, but Albert Adomah won the game with a goal early in the second half. Fraizer Campbell's seventy eighth-minute effort gave Hull a win at Barnsley. That victory ended a twenty four-game wait for an away win. Goals from Barry McKay and Eric Lichaj saw Nottingham Forest beat Burton Albinos at the City Ground. Millwall condemned Steve Cotterill to his first defeat as Birmingham boss with a two-nil win in the late kick-off at The New Den. Blues defender Maxime Colin turned a Steve Morison cross into his own net two minutes into the second half and Ryan Tunnicliffe sealed the Lions' win fifteen minutes from time.
The Brazilian football club Íbis Sport hadn't won a match for two years. But now, the self-styled 'worst team in the world,' which plays in the lowest division of the Pernambuco state championship, has achieved three consecutive victories – and can make it a record-breaking four if they can beat Centro Limoeirense this weekend according to the Gruniad. But, far from welcoming this sudden reversal of fortune some fans claim the club's 'roots and identity' are at stake. Following the latest one-nil victory against Ferroviário do Cabo, fans stormed a local bar where the players were enjoying a post-match barbecue and beers to demand 'please stop winning.' 'This is destroying our history,' said one protest leader, Nilsinho Filho. Other fans went on to social media to complain, or call for resignations. 'This is a worrying situation in the long term. To stop being an icon and to be just another winning team. It's the coach’s fault,' read one typical tweet. From a moron. Between 1980 and 1984, the team went three years and eleven months without winning a game' and entered the Guinness Book Of Records as 'the worst football club in the world.' The club's Maradona-permed former midfielder Mauro Shampoo, boasts that he scored just one goal in ten years and has also criticised the recent victories. 'If we keep winning, we are going to lose our brand,' he said. The club's president, Ozir Junior, however insisted that the club's ambition is to get to the first division of the state championship. He attributed the string of sudden victories to several new players who had joined the team after recently becoming unemployed. 'We are not the worst team in the world – that was a thing of the 1980s. We are not even the worst team in Pernambuco,' he said. 'The first division is our dream, but it's going to be a lot of work.'

Saturday, 7 October 2017


An 'unfortunate error' in subtitling led to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United being described as 'black and white scum' during the BBC's Match Of The Day 2 programme. Commentator Guy Mowbray said that Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws' Daniel Sturridge had scored five goals against the Magpies in previous games during last weekend's one-all draw at St James' Park. But, allegedly, software allegedly confused the word 'comma' - spoken by a subtitler - and put 'scum' into the on-screen text. Although, quite how even a machine can confuse 'comma' with 'scum' is a question probably well worth asking. The BBC claimed, very unconvincingly, that the error was 'spotted and corrected' immediately. Which it obviously wasn't since football writer Paul Brown spotted it and tweeted a screenshot from the show on Sunday evening, saying 'MOTD2 subtitler evidently not a Newcastle fan.' During the commentary, Mowbray said: 'Sturridge has scored in all four of his previous Premier League starts at Newcastle. For The Reds against the black and whites, he boasts five goals in five appearances.' Football commentary is re-voiced for subtitles by someone known as a 'respeaker.' A BBC spokeswoman said: 'Our live subtitling service is normally very accurate and makes our content much more accessible, but there are times when unfortunate errors occur. On this occasion the error was spotted and corrected immediately.' One or two people even believed her.
Harry Kane's injury-time winner secured England's qualification for next summer's World Cup with victory against Slovenia on Thursday - but this was a display designed to dampen any sense of expectation or excitement amongst England supporters. Kane, England captain for the night, bundled in Kyle Walker's cross for his eleventh goal in twenty two international appearances to finally break down Slovenia's stubborn resistance as they looked likely to hold out for a point at Wembley. It meant manager Gareth Southgate can now start planning in earnest for Russia but could not cover up the cracks in a piss-poor England performance which was lifeless, uninspired and thoroughly mediocre. Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling almost broke the deadlock before Kane made his breakthrough, the hosts were also grateful to much-criticised keeper Joe Wankhands Hart for some crucial interventions. England and Southgate have,nevertheless, achieved their main goal. It was not, however, achieved in a manner that will start alarm bells ringing for any likely future World Cup opposition. Elsewhere in the group, Scotland kept their qualifying hopes alive in dramatic fashion as a late Martin Skrtel own goal gave them victory over ten-man Slovakia at Hampden Park.
Meanwhile, Slovakia's head coach Jan Kozak has claimed that his side were 'subjected to underhand tactics' during their unsuccessful trip to Scotland. The Slovaks had Robert Mak sent off early on in their World Cup qualifier at Hampden. When asked about the red card, Kozak 'hinted at a wider issue' around what was a must-not-lose match for the Slovaks. 'To be honest, since our arrival in Scotland there have been too many coincidences,' he said. 'I'm too experienced to believe in coincidences but I won't say any more.' He was then asked if he was talking about his team's baggage being delayed at Glasgow Airport, and he replied: 'That's how it started.' He then refused to answer any more questions on the issue.
So, England are there - and so are holders Germany - but a World Cup place for the other home nations hangs in the balance before the final group qualifying matches. Wales can still win their group, Northern Ireland are guaranteed a top-two finish and Scotland have the chance to finish second in their group, which may well seal a place in the play-offs for Russia 2018. But coming second and staying in contention are not necessarily the same thing. Meanwhile, three-time runners-up the Netherlands face a desperate battle to go through, Argentina are in serious trouble and Syria are in a play-off to keep their unlikely World Cup dream alive. Despite two defeats against Germany in Group C, second-placed Northern Ireland have more points than some group leaders. Seven clear of the Czech Republic in third, they are guaranteed a top-two place as they look to reach their first World Cup since 1986. A play-off place looks likely and will be sealed by a draw in Norway, or other results going their way. 'Please don't take me home,' sang the fans as Wales marched to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Now, they want to cheer them in a second World Cup, with their only previous finals appearance coming in 1958. On Friday, Wales won in Georgia in Group D, but the Republic of Ireland also picked up three points to set up a huge meeting on Monday between the sides. The winners in Cardiff will finish at least second, with a draw enough for Wales. Leaders Serbia lost on Friday night to a last-minute Austria goal, meaning either Wales or the Republic could earn automatic qualification if Serbia slip up. Eight of the nine European runners-up go into a two-legged play-off for four places at next year's finals. That means the runner-up with the fewest points will miss out. That unfortunate position is currently occupied by Bosnia-Herzegovina, although plenty can change over the coming days. It is important to note that results against the bottom side in each group do not count in the final play-off standings. The ranking of second-placed teams in the qualifying groups is determined by the highest number of points. If teams are equal on points, positions are decided by goal difference, goals scored, goals scored away from home and fair play points. They may be three-times World Cup runners-up but the Netherlands are in a real scrap to reach next year's tournament. The Dutch are in third place in Group A, behind France and Sweden and will be out if they fail to at least match Sweden's next result. Surprise Euro 2016 quarter-finalists Iceland, the smallest nation to qualify for a major tournament when they reached Euro 2016, are in pole position to win Group I after a fine win in Turkey on Friday night. Portugal, while sure of at least making the play-offs, face a critical final match at home to Group B leaders Switzerland on Tuesday as they aim to make up a three-point deficit. Syria remain in contention for the World Cup despite the odds being stacked against a nation that is in the middle of a six-year war. The team have no funding because of sanctions and play their home games in Malaysia, a nine thousand-mile round trip. But they made it through to a play-off against Australia, with Omar Al Somah's late penalty earning them a first-leg draw on Thursday. The return leg takes place in Sydney on Tuesday. The winner will face a CONCACAF side in another two-legged tie the following month for a place at the World Cup. It seems almost inconceivable that Lionel Messi will not be at football's biggest tournament, but his Argentina side are in serious danger of missing out. The two-time champions, who have not missed the World Cup since 1970, are out of the group qualifying spots after a goalless draw with Peru on Thursday. Only the top four in South American qualifying are guaranteed a place in Russia and Argentina are sixth with one game left. Argentina must win their final qualifier in Ecuador to claim at least fifth spot, which sets up a two-leg play-off against New Zealand.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was jeered by fans as Spain qualified for next summer's World Cup with a comfortable three-nil home win over Albania. Pique said before the game that he would not be driven out of the national team by fans opposed to his public support for the Catalonia independence referendum. Jeers rang out from Spain fans each time the thirty-year-old touched the ball in Alicante. Goals by Rodrigo, Isco and Thiago sent Spain through with one match to spare.
Côte d'Ivoire's Seydou Doumbia is facing two months on the sidelines after injuring himself whilst diving trying to win a penalty for his Portuguese club, Sporting Lisbon. He is set to miss The Elephants' final two 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Mali and Morocco. Côte d'Ivoire's Belgian coach Marc Wilmots confirmed that Doumbia had torn a tendon. Doumbia - whose disastrous loan spell with yer actual Keith Telly Topping beloved (though unsellable) Magpies a few years ago is the stuff of legends. Really bad legends - was shown a yellow card for diving and then limped off the pitch during Sporting's European Champions League loss to Barcelona. The twenty nine-year-old went down on the edge of the area as he tried to go past Gerard Pique and then stayed on the ground needing treatment from the Sporting medical team. He was substituted minutes before half-time. Crystal Palace Nil's Wilfried Zaha and Toulouse's Max Gradel both missed out on the latest Côte d'Ivoire squad due to injury. Since The Elephants squad was named Adama Traore, Jean Michael Seri and Gervinho have also had to withdraw with injuries.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Get Yr Draws Down

Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws endured a familiar frustrating afternoon in front of goal as they were held to a one-all draw at yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle. Herr Klopp saw his side dominate possession and create several chances but, once again, they failed to capitalise as former Reds boss Rafa The Gaffer Benitez guided the hosts to a battling draw at a rocking St James' Park. Philippe Coutinho gave The Yee-Haws the lead with a fine twenty five-yard curler but poor defending allowed Joselu to equalise before the break after a pinpoint through-ball by Jonjo Shelvey. Liverpool were dominant for the majority of the second half but could not find a way through as Benitez continued his record of never losing against Liverpool during his managerial career. Herr Klopp's side have now won but one of their last seven games in all competitions and are seventh in the Premier League. The Magpies, who defended stoutly and looked dangerous on the counter-attack, were well worth their point and remain in ninth place with ten points from their seven games. In Sunday's two earlier Premier League matches, Jeff Hendrick finished off a magnificent Burnley team move to beat Everton Soft-Centred Toffees at Goodison Park as The Clarets' impressive start to the season continued and The Arse beat Brighton & Hove Albinos two-nil. Nacho Monreal put The Gunners ahead at The Emirates when he shot through a crowded penalty area and, later, a slick passing counter-attack was emphatically finished by Alex Iwobi.
The Scum loaded more misery on Crystal Palace Nil as Juan Mata's early opener, followed by a Marouane Fellaini double and a Romelu Lukaku strike, downed the hapless visitors on Saturday. The Eagles, who are still yet to register a point or score this season, saw their game-plan go out of the window almost immediately as Mata prodded home after just three minutes in United's first attack of the game. Fellaini followed up in the thirty fifth minute to double The Scum's lead as he latched onto Ashley Young's cross at the back post. The Belgian then doubled his tally after half-time when he met Marcus Rashford's delivery to head past Wayne Hennessey. With four minutes remaining, the in-form Lukaku grabbed his now expected strike - his eleventh in ten appearances for The Scum. Roy Hodgson's Palace remain goalless - as Alison Rudd pointed out on Sky's Soccer Supplement, they are the only club in a top division in Europe who are yet to score this season - and, indeed, pointless. Hodgson himself subsequently described his side as 'like a boxer fighting in a class he's not able to handle.' Bournemouth and Leicester's troubled starts to the season continued as the pair played out a tame goalless draw at The Vitality Stadium. Eddie Howe's Cherries had the majority of chances but were unable to deliver a crucial blow to the misfiring Foxes. Peter Crouch's late winner helped Dirty Stoke snatch victory after Maya Yoshida's spectacular scissor-kick appeared to have earned Southampton a share of the spoils. Mame Biram Diouf had handed The Potters the advantage five minutes before the break but Saido Berahino (who, like Crystal Palace Nil hasn't scored in ages) squandered a golden chance to give Dirty Stoke a two goal lead as his penalty was saved by Fraser Forster. It looked as if that miss could have cost Mark Hughes' side as Yoshida equalised with a delightful finish in the box. But Big Crouchy was to have the final say as he turned the ball past Forster to seal the win. Richarlison scored a dramatic late equaliser to earn Watford a deserved share of the spoils as they came from two goals down at West Bromwich Albinos. The Baggies took the lead courtesy of Salomon Rondon, before Jonny Evans doubled the advantage three minutes later. Abdoulaye Doucoure reduced the deficit before the break but it looked as if Watford's efforts would go unrewarded until Richarlison levelled five minutes into injury time. Diafra Sakho's late strike handed Slaven Bilic and West Hamsters United a vital three points in their clash with Swansea City. In a game of few chances - and limited quality - the Senegal striker redeemed himself, after trying to force an exit in the summer transfer window, by netting his first league goal of the campaign in the fourth minute of injury time. Harry Kane said that he has probably had his 'best month' after taking his September goal tally for Stottingtot Hotshots to thirteen with two in a four-nil victory at Huddersfield. The twenty four-year-old bettered his own record for goals scored in a calendar month as The Terriers became the fifth club side to suffer at the hands of the England marksman this month. Kevin de Bruyne scored an excellent winner as Sheikh Yer Man City beat Moscow Chelski FC to go back to the top of the league. City - without injured striker Sergio Aguero, who broke a rib in a car crash in Amsterdam on Thursday - were the better side against the champions. To make matters worse for Moscow Chelski, top scorer Alvaro Morata limped off with an injury in the first half.
Wolverhampton Wanderings stormed into an automatic Championship promotion place after a resounding four-nil victory at struggling Burton Albinos. Nuno's side raced out of the blocks with two goals in the opening eleven minutes from Jota and Romain Saiss. Ruben Vinagre added a third just before the break and Leo Bonatini put the game beyond any doubt after sixty two minutes. Burton have failed to score in five of their last six Championship games but second-placed Wolves are now just a point behind leaders Cardiff. The Bluebirds were held to a goalless draw by Derby at the Cardiff Stadium, but extended their unbeaten run in the league to four games. Sheffield United failed to take advantage. The Blades weren't sharp enough as they fell to a two-one defeat at Nottingham Forest and slipped to third place. Birmingham City's new boss Steve Cotterill watched on as The Blues fell to a comprehensive six-one pants-down spanking at Hull. The Blues appointed Cotterill as Hapless Harry Redknapp's successor on Friday, but Lee Carsley was left to take the team at the KCOM Stadium. Under-pressure Blunderland boss Simon Grayson - having controversially appeared to criticise The Mackems' support earlier in the week - picked up a valuable two-two draw against his former club Preston Both Ends at Deepdale. George Honeyman broke the deadlock for The Black Cats in the twenty eighth minute, but Josh Harrop levelled with a free-kick ten minutes after half-time. The hosts took the lead two minutes later courtesy of a Jordan Hugill strike before Aiden McGeady hit back for The Mackem Filth, who have still won only once in the league all season and remain rooted in the relegation zone. Notlob are rock bottom, one place below Blunderland, and without a victory this term after a defeat at Aston Villains. Jonathan Kodjia picked himself up after being fouled by Mark Beevers to convert a penalty after thirty nine minutes before Neil Taylor was sent off for the hosts. Martin Braithwaite scored his first goal for The Middlesbrough Smog Monsters in the two-two draw against Brentford at The Riverside Stadium. Elsewhere, Barnsley and Bristol City both picked up three-one away wins at Millwall and Ipswich respectively. Goals from Josh Brownhill and Famara Diedhiou put Bristol City two-nil up before Martyn Waghorn pulled a goal back for Ipswich. But Bobby Reid made sure of the three points. Norwich City extended their unbeaten run to seven games as they inflicted a fourth loss in six matches on Reading in Saturday evening's game. James Maddison's curling free-kick put Norwich ahead but the hosts levelled promptly through Liam Moore's header. Cameron Jerome then side-footed against the post for the Canaries, before heading them in front after half-time, unmarked at the far post from a corner. Fulham won two-one at Queens Park Strangers on Friday night.
Shrewsbury continued their strong march at the top of the League One table to maintain a four-point lead thanks to a two-nil victory over Scunthorpe. Stefan Payne's first-half header put the leaders ahead before Carlton Morris sealed maximum points with three minutes left as their opponents dropped to seventh. Second-placed Wigan Not Very Athletic recorded a win by the same score thanks to a brace from Will Grigg. The Northern Ireland international smashed home his first from close range on the half-hour mark and he made no mistake from the spot when awarded a penalty after he was felled by James Wilson ten minutes after the break. Charlie Wyke and Nat Knight-Percival were on target as Bradford claimed a two-nil win against local rivals Doncaster to move up to third. Peterborough dropped to fourth as Oxford fought back for a four-one victory after Jack Marriott had given the London Road side the lead. Josh Ruffels equalised three minutes after the break, before Jack Payne set up both Wes Thomas and Joe Rothwell, while Agon Mehmeti added a fourth eight minutes from time. Dominic Samuel's fifth goal of the season was enough for Blackburn Vindaloos as they defeated Gillingham at Ewood Park and edged into the top six, while Tarique Fosu-Henry's hat-trick saw Charlton win three-one at Fleetwood, who equalised through Bobby Grand midway through the first half. Eoin Doyle came back to haunt his former club with a goal in each half as Oldham claimed their second consecutive win and moved out of the bottom four with a two-one victory at Portsmouth, who scored a late consolation through Brett Pitman. MK Dons stretched their unbeaten run to four matches after claiming a two-nil win at Bury thanks to Osman Sow's early opener and Ethan Ebanks-Landell's header. Southend moved up a couple of places to twelfth following a two-one win at home to Blackpool thanks to goals from Anthony Wordsworth and Simon Cox. Kyle Vassell replied for the visitors. Bottom side Plymouth Argyle suffered more misery as they lost two-one at Bristol Rovers and lost Gary Miller to a straight red card for serious foul play. Elsewhere, Kieffer Moore's fifty second-minute effort was enough as Rotherham edged Northampton and the game between AFC Wimbledon and Rochdale finished goalless.
League Two leaders Notts County saw their six-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt with a three-one defeat at local rivals Mansfield. Danny Rose made it four goals in as many games for The Rampant Stags with a second-half brace before a Richard Duffy own goal sealed the points - all three goals inside sixteen pulsating minutes. Carl Dickinson grabbed a consolation for Kevin Nolan's County two minutes into added time with a twenty five-yard free-kick but the win extended Mansfield's unbeaten run against The Other Magpies to ten league matches. Jayden Stockley scored a brace as Exeter returned to winning ways with a four-one win over Morecambe - a result that left them level with County on twenty five points. Troy Brown and Dean Moxey were also on target for Exeter, with Vadaine Oliver hitting a consolation for The Shrimps. Seamus Conneely hit the only goal as third-placed Accrington Stanley beat Forest Green, a result which leaves the hosts rooted to the foot of the table. Duckens Nazon's early strike saw Coventry overcome Crewe and a pair of Danny Hylton goals helped Luton to a three-one win over Newport. Stevenage made it three wins in a row with a two-nil victory over Port Vale thanks to goals from Tom Anderson and Anthony de Freitas. Wycombe Wanderers also made it three successive victories as goals from Adebayo Akinfenwa, Josh Umerah and Nick Freeman gave them a three-one win over Barnet. Swindon picked up just a second home win of the season, with goals from on-loan pair Keshi Anderson and Harry Smith seeing off Cambridge. Grimsby and Lincoln played out a goalless draw and Jack Lester's reign as Chesterfield manager started on a losing note with a pair of goals from Mohamed Eisa giving Cheltenham a two-nil victory. Elsewhere, Hallam Hope's strike gave Carlisle a win at Crawley and Colchester beat Yeovil one-nil thanks to Sean Murray's effort.
The Premier League's six richest clubs are reported - by the Gruniad Morning Star if not anything more reliable - 'facing stubborn resistance' against their efforts to seek a greater share of income from the next multi-billion knicker round of TV deals. In a plan allegedly 'believed by the fourteen others' to be supported by The Scum, Sheikh Yer Man City, Moscow Chelski FC, Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws, The Arse and Stottingtot Hotshots, the Premier League is proposing to end the system by which money from international TV rights sales is shared equally by all twenty clubs. Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's chairman, is 'understood,' the Gruniad claim, to have presented a proposal to a meeting of the other fourteen clubs held at Tthe Pullman Hotel in London on Wednesday, for thirty five per cent of the next international TV money to be distributed according to 'merit' – in other words, where clubs finish in the league. That would be a major change to the arrangement which has operated by agreement since the original 1992 breakaway of the then First Division clubs to form the Premier League, which was itself motivated by the bigger clubs no longer wanting to share TV money with the Football League's other three divisions. Income from international TV rights twenty five years ago was negligible, so the clubs agreed to share that money equally, while only a third of British TV income is divided equally, the other two-thirds shared according to where clubs finish in the league and how many times they are shown on television. Now, though, the Premier League's popularity has made it prime content for burgeoning pay-TV operations around the world, delivering approximately three billion smackers to the twenty clubs in the 2016 to 2019 round of deals. That bonanza added to the five billion quid from the competition between Sky and BT for British subscribers, plus other highlights deals, makes a total of £8.4bn in the current three-year cycle. The distribution of TV money last season showed that the champions, Moscow Chelski FC, received one hundred and fifty one million smackers in total while bottom-placed Blunderland were paid ninety three million notes, but the booming international income was shared equally, the twenty receiving thirty nine million knicker apiece. The so-called 'Big Six' clubs argue that as the global revenue rises, as it is expected to again when the 2019 to 2022 deals start to be negotiated later this year, they should receive a larger share because they are the ones which international viewers tune in to watch. The other fourteen clubs - including this blogger's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies have been resisting these moves, in an effort to hold on to their equal share of the money and arguing that the Big Six are, in fact, a bunch of greedy fuckers who should be given a good, hard slap in the mush. They are arguing that the sharing arrangement helps them to sign high-quality players - or, not sign quality players in the case of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies - and keep the league, as Scudamore describes it, 'competitive and compelling' and therefore attractive on TV. Three of the smaller clubs are said to have been 'inclined' at the meeting to agree the new thirty five per cent merit payment arrangement, but the agreement of all fourteen is needed to effect such a substantial change, and eleven 'remain firmly opposed.'
A fan who hit a Premier League player during a game has been banned from watching football for three years. Jordan Woods, from Blackburn, admitted assaulting Burnley's Ashley Westwood during the club's EFL Cup game against Blackburn Vindaloos in August. Woods also received a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, at Blackburn Magistrates Court on 14 September. Woods was one of two fans who ran onto the pitch after Jack Cork's opening goal for Burnley in the second round tie on 23 August. He grappled with Ashley Westwood before tangling with a steward as he was led away. Woods admitted two counts of 'assault by beating' and also encroaching onto the pitch at Ewood Park. After the match Burnley's manager Sean Dyche criticised the time it took stewards to remove the Blackburn supporter. 'Our players had to eventually defend themselves and that can't be right anywhere in football,' he said. Four other fans received bans arising out of disturbances during the match. The football banning orders exclude the men from 'all UK football matches' as well as prohibiting them from being within a five-mile radius of the centre spot of specific football stadia in Birmingham, London and Manchester on match days. Although quite why a bunch of Blackburn fans would be in Birmingham, London or Manchester - as opposed to any other towns or cities in the country - is a question perhaps best left for another day.
More than thirty people have now been arrested in connection with violence before a pre-season football match between Blunderland and Glasgow Celtic. Police were called in after trouble flared at a book signing in Blunderland by the English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson on 29 July. Initially twenty four people were arrested, but Northumbria Police have said this week that figure had now risen to thirty one. An eighteen-year-old man suffered a head injury during the disturbance. A force spokesman added that further arrests were likely. At the time officers said the majority of arrests were unrelated to Robinson's book signing and included people being drunk and disorderly, committing a breach of the peace and using illegal pyrotechnics. Robinson was wearing a Glasgow Rangers shirt - the arch rivals of Celtic. Footage posted on social media showed a flare and other objects being thrown towards a shop where the signing was taking place before fighting broke out on the street with kids gettin' sparked and aal sorts. The spokesman added: 'Most of the fans who came along were, as we expected they would be, good-natured. It was very disappointing to see a small handful tarnish the city with their disruptive and violent behaviour. Since the disorder we have been working relentlessly to identify those involved which has resulted in further arrests.'

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Stop The Season I Want To Get Off!

Captain Jamaal Lascelles scored his second goal in as many games as yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies beat Dirty Stoke to record their third successive Premier League win and climb into the top four. Excellent. Now, can we just stop the season at this point please cos, that'll do this blogger. Just seconds earlier, the defender had been arguing with referee Stuart Atwell over his refusal to award a penalty - and that anger energised Lascelles to make sure he was first to the ball from the resumption. Christian Atsu put the hosts in front from a wonderful Matt Ritchie ball in the first half at a rockin' St James' Park, before Xherdan Shaqiri curled in an equaliser from long range. But Lascelles, who headed wide from a similar opportunity before the break, met another Ritchie delivery to win the game. While Lascelles will again hog the headlines for his heading prowess as United won three top-flight matches in a row for the first time since 2014, he will doubtless acknowledge Rob Elliot's contribution. The goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Shaqiri from levelling, but pulled off a superb one-handed stop from a Mame Biram Diouf header soon after. Magpies forward Joselu had several chances to put the game beyond his former side, but was wasteful and, when he did get the ball on target, found Potters goalkeeper Jack Butland in good form. At least Joselu put his heart into battling Stoke's defence. How Mark Hughes must have wished the same could be said of the much vaunted Jesé, who proved particularly disappointing. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Diouf spurned decent opportunities but Hughes was not fooled. 'Our loose passing played into Newcastle's hands,' the Dirty Stoke manager said. 'We didn't play particularly well.' It was Stoke's first loss in the league since an opening-day defeat by Everton. This is the first time since 2000 that Newcastle have won three of their opening five Premier League games. Their stay in the top four will probably be brief, but after what appeared to be a summer of frustration, disharmony and missed transfer targets for the Spanish boss, he will be delighted by the performance of the squad at his disposal. The wonderful left foot of Ritchie laid on both goals for the hosts, with Atsu drifting in at the back post to poke home a well-weighted cross for the opener. Lascelles said after the game that Newcastle could have had 'three, four or five' goals, but it was his header that proved to be the winner from another teasing Ritchie delivery. The twenty eight-year-old former Bournemouth winger made three key passes as he and Ghana international Atsu drifted between the lines to cause Dirty Stoke problems, especially in the first half. Joselu, facing his former club for the first time since joining Newcastle in August, was one of those guilty of not putting more gloss on the scoreline, with only one of his five shots finding the target. Shaqiri's brilliance was a rare clinical moment for the visitors, who saw Diouf head wastefully wide when unmarked in stoppage time having earlier sliced off target from inside the area. Dirty Stoke have taken points off The Arse and The Scum in recent weeks, but Hughes called for his side to be more 'vigilant' after they were too easily prised open by Newcastle. Hughes opted for a back three, in which Kurt Zouma shone, as the Moscow Chelski FC loanee won one hundred per cent of his aerial duels and proved a starting point for Dirty Stoke to attack. But it was fellow defenders Bruno Martins Indi and Kevin Wimmer who struggled with Joselu's relentless running before the ex-Potters striker was replaced late on. Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez, who was back in the dugout after missing the win at Swansea last week following surgery, said 'Normally I am a little bit more agitated, but today I have to be careful, it will take some time to heal, but at least winning is always easier.'
Elsewhere, Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick as Sheikh Yer Manc City stormed to the top of the Premier League with a six-nil rout of Watford at Vicarage Road. Aguero laid on a goal for Gabriel Jesus while Nicolas Otamendi and Raheem Sterling also scored in another stunning performance by Pep Guardiola's men. Victory means that City have now scored fifteen goals without reply in their last three games after big wins over Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws last week and Feyenoord in the Champions League in midweek. Watford had started the day hoping to reach the summit themselves but a quickfire double by Aguero either side of the half-hour mark soon erased that unlikely prospect. Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws endured more frustration, being held to a one-one draw by battling Burnley at Anfield. Scott Arfield put The Clarets ahead with their first shot on target and although Mohamed Salah quickly restored parity, Herr Klopp's men failed to turn their dominance into further goals. Philippe Coutinho, welcomed back to Anfield despite handing in a transfer request, was one of a number of home players who came close as they finished with thirty five shots but just nine on target. Roy Hodgson's first game as Crystal Palace Nil manager following the sacking for Frank De Boer, ended in a defeat to Southampton and lumbered The Eagles with another unwanted record. Steven Davis scored the only goal of the game after just six minutes when he tucked the ball home after Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey palmed a Dusan Tadic cross into his path. Their defeat means Palace have become the first top-flight team in history to lose each of their opening five league fixtures without scoring a goal. Huddersfield Town were forced to settle for a one-all draw at home to Leicester City after Elias Kachunga's second-half header was controversially ruled out for offside. Making his full Premier League debut, Laurent Depoitre had put The Terriers in front less than a minute into the second half but Jamie Vardy equalised for The Foxes four minutes later from the spot. Whinging David Wagner's men thought they had won it when Kachunga rifled home and video replays suggested the effort may have been wrongly disallowed. Gareth Barry made his record-equalling six hundred and thirty second Premier League appearance but that was the only redeeming feature of a truly dismal goalless draw between West Bromwich Albinos and West Hamsters United at The Hawthorns. Pedro Obiang hit the bar from long range while James Morrison should have scored for The Baggies in a game of little quality which will nonetheless have eased the pressure on Hamsters boss Slaven Bilic. Stottingtot Hotshots were frustrated by a disciplined Swansea as they lost ground on their title rivals. Spurs, who beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League at Wembley on Wednesday, are yet to win a Premier League game in their temporary home. The hosts enjoyed seventy five per cent possession in the goalless draw in Saturday's evening game and managed twenty six shots, compared to Swansea's four, with the visitors playing with three centre-backs for much of the game.
Aiden O'Brien scored the only goal as Millwall beat leaders Dirty Leeds one-nil to end the only remaining unbeaten record in The Championship. The Lions dominated the match and O'Brien gave them a deserved victory in the seventy third minute when he tucked home a loose ball in the penalty area. His goal ended a run of six straight clean sheets for Dirty Leeds, who finished with ten men after defender Pontus Jansson went off injured with all three substitutes on the pitch. Cardiff are level on points with Thomas Christiansen's side after Sol Bamba netted a ninety fifth-minute equaliser to snatch a draw against Sheffield Wednesday. The visitors had looked to be on course for a third straight win following Gary Hooper's opener just before the break but they were denied at the death. Wolverhampton Wanderings moved above The Bluebirds on goal difference courtesy of Diogo Jota's double in a two-one victory at Nottingham Forest. The Portuguese midfielder opened the scoring two minutes after half-time and then netted an eighty first-minute winner after the excellently named Mustapha Carayol had drawn Forest level. The Middlesbrough Smog Monsters twice came from behind to beat Queens Park Strangers three-two to move to within a point of the play-off places. David Wheeler and Jamie Mackie scored either side of Lewis Baker's effort to put the visitors in control but goals from Ashley Fletcher and Britt Assombalonga won it for The Smoggies. Yanic Wildschut scored the only goal as Norwich became the first side to leave Sheffield United with three points this season. David Meyler rescued a late point for Hull after James Vaughan had given Blunderland hope of a first win in six games, while Reading also snatched a one-one draw at Brentford as Liam Kelly's penalty cancelled out Josh Clarke's early opener. Fourth-placed Preston Both Ends scored three second-half goals as they came from behind to win three-one and pile more pressure on Birmingham boss Hapless Harry Redknapp. Maxime Colin scored before the break to put The Blues ahead but goals from Daniel Johnson, Jordan Hugill and Tom Barkhuizen inflicted a fifth straight defeat on Redknapp's side. And, within a couple of hours, Hapless Harry got the old tin-tack. Which, admittedly, was very funny. Bristol City banged in four goals after the interval to hammer Derby County four-one. Gary Rowett's side took the lead through Matej Vydra's first-half spot-kick only for goals from Cauley Woodrow, Bobby Reid, Jamie Paterson and Famara Diedhiou to give the in-form Robins all three points. Goals from Stephen Warnock and Lucas Akins earned Burton Albinos a two-one win over Fulham, who had equalised through Oliver Norwood, while Cole Skuse and David McGoldrick struck as Ipswich beat bottom side Notlob two-nil.
Shrewsbury pulled five points clear at the top of League One after a seventh win in eight games, this time winning two-one at Oldham Not Very Athletic. The in-form Stefan Payne slid in to open the scoring, though he injured himself in the process. Craig Davies equalised and then sent Eoin Doyle through to hit the post, but Jon Nolan's well-taken goal sealed the points for the leaders before Doyle was sent off in stoppage time. Second-placed Peterborough were controversially held to a one-all draw against Walsall and were joined on seventeen points by Bradford and Blackpool, who both won on Saturday. The Posh trailed to Erhun Oztumer's first-half goal and while they drew level through Gwion Edwards' mishit scissor-kick, then were left seething after a late Junior Morias goal was disallowed for offside. Blackpool were quickly into their stride against Oxford, Kyle Vassell opening the scoring from twenty five yards in the sixth minute and Callum Cooke also on target from long range ten minutes later. Despite James Henry's late consolation, Vassell scored again to make it three-one. Romain Vincelot headed the only goal midway through the first half for Bradford against a Rotherham team who had Joe Mattock sent off. Nick Powell scored but then went off injured before half-time in Wigan's three-nil win over Bristol Rovers. Powell curled home a free-kick after Ryan Sweeney was sent off and Will Grigg tucked away the second from Nathan Byrne's cross. Jamie Jones preserved the Latics' clean sheet with a penalty save from Ellis Harrison after Lee Evans handled Tom Nichols' free-kick, and Gavin Massey scored a late third with a solo effort. Portsmouth enjoyed a largely comfortable afternoon, beating Fleetwood four-one at Fratton Park. Brett Pitman book-ended the scoring, despite collecting a bloody nose as he nipped in ahead of defender Cian Bolger to head the opener. Jamal Lowe also scored twice. Devante Cole had briefly drawn Fleetwood level with the pick of the goals, a superb volley. MK Dons came out on top in a pulsating five-goal home encounter with Rochdale, helped by two goals form Gboly Ariyibi. The striker cancelled out Brad Inman's opener and then put the hosts ahead with a ferocious twenty five-yard strike. Matty Done equalised before half-time but Ryan Seager grabbed a late winner after being sent through by Ousseynou Cisse. Gillingham moved out of the relegation zone with their first win of the season, one-nil over Charlton as Tom Eaves turned in Max Ehmer's low cross. Southend scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half to draw two-two with Northampton. The Cobblers had led through Leon Barnett's effort, via a deflection off Nile Ranger and Matt Crooks' twenty-yard curler but Jason Demetriou's deflected effort and Anthony Wordsworth's deft finish levelled matters. Kwesi Appiah's solo goal was enough for AFC Wimbledon to win at Blackburn Vindaloos while Bury and Plymouth, both in the bottom three, drew nil-nil.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Good Medicine

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United earned a second successive Premier League win as captain Jamaal Lascelles proved their match-winner in both attack and defence at Swansea. A slow first half was enlivened by a flurry of late chances at both ends and a failed Newcastle appeal for a penalty after Mikel Merino appeared to trip over thin air as he passed Alfie Mawson. Lawdy, issa miracle. Tammy Abraham was a whisker away from giving Swansea the lead but, after he rounded Rob Elliot, his shot was superbly cleared off the line by Lascelles. The Newcastle centre-back then rose highest from a Matt Ritchie corner to score the game's only goal with a thumping header. A first away win in the Premier League since 2015 sees The Magpies climb to tenth in the table, while The Swans slip to fifteenth after losing their opening two home league games of the season for the first time since 1985. Newcastle were without manager Rafael Benitez on the touchline as the Spaniard recovered from surgery to deal with an infection from a hernia operation two years ago. He had overseen a first win of the season in the previous game before the international break - a handsome three-nil victory over West Hamsters United - but his side initially struggled to reproduce that form in his absence. The visitors, however, eventually settled down and Joselu's glancing header was brilliantly palmed away by Lukasz Fabianski. Newcastle grew in confidence in the second half and looked increasingly threatening in attack, with the breakthrough coming after seventy six minutes. There was further good news for Newcastle as assistant manager Francisco de Miguel Moreno told BBC Sport that Benitez would return to the club later this week. 'He wanted to attend [today] but the weather conditions were not the best,' said De Miguel Moreno. 'He has been active in the game and kept in touch with us throughout the game. After the game, Rafa rang us and congratulated all the team because they did a fantastic job. He said "we are now under way."' In Sunday's other Premier League game, Chris Wood scored on his full debut as Burnley beat Crystal Palace and increase the pressure on Eagles boss Frank de Boer.
Sheikh Yer Man City thrashed ten-man Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws five-nil in an eventful Premier League clash at The Etihad Stadium, where The Reds forward Sadio Mane was sent off in the first half. City went ahead in the lunchtime kick-off through Sergio Aguero before Mane clattered into goalkeeper Ederson with a high challenge at the edge of the penalty area. Referee Jon Moss brandished a straight red card to the forward, with Ederson subsequently taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Claudio Bravo. City made the most of their advantage, as Gabriel Jesus nodded in a second before the break. The Brazilian added third goal in the fifty third minute after being set up by Aguero, before substitute Leroy Sane added a fourth from close range and then curled a superb twenty-yard effort during stoppage time. The Arse eased the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger with a three-nil win at The Emirates Stadium over Bournemouth, who suffered a fourth straight Premier League defeat. Danny Welbeck bundled the Gunners ahead after six minutes, before a fine finish from club-record signing Alexandre Lacazette doubled the lead. Five minutes into the second half, Welbeck slotted a low shot into the far corner as The Arse bounced back from their four-nil drubbing at Liverpool before the international break, with Alexis Sanchez, who looked to be leaving ahead of the transfer deadline, coming on for the closing stages. Brighton & Hove Albinos secured their first win in the Premier League, beating West Bromwich Albinos three-one at a bouncing Amex Stadium. Pascal Groß hooked the ball in at the far post to put The Seagulls in front on the stroke of half-time for what was their first goal since being promoted. The German, signed from Ingolstadt in the summer, added a second on forty eight minutes, before turning provider for Tomer Hemed to head in a third just after the hour. James Morrison pulled a goal back for the Baggies with thirteen minutes left. Stottingtot Hotshots won three-nil at Everton, where Blues forward Wayne Rooney started having last week made headlines for the wrong reasons with his drink-driving charge. Harry Kane opened the scoring when he curled a looping shot from wide on the right over Jordan Pickford. Christian Eriksen added a second before half-time after Everton failed to clear their lines. Kane, who scored twice for England in the World Cup qualifying win over Malta, settled matters with a third goal for Spurs when scoring from close range early in the second half. Champions Moscow Chelski FC won two-one at Leicester, where summer signing Alvaro Morata again found the target. The sixty million smackers capture from Real Madrid broke the deadlock four minutes before half-time with a header, before former Foxes midfielder Ngolo Kante netted a long-range effort. Leicester reduced the deficit through a penalty from Jamie Vardy just after the hour, but Antonio Conte's men closed out a third straight league victory since losing on the opening day at home to Burnley. Watford won two-nil at Southampton to end The Saints' unbeaten start. Abdoulaye Doucoure put the visitors ahead with a low, twenty-yard strike and Dutch defender Daryl Janmaat curled in the second. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored twice as Dirty Stoke ended The Scum's one hundred per cent start to the new Premier League season in Saturday's evening kick-off. Choupo-Moting put Dirty Stoke ahead, powerfully finishing a fine team move for his first goal for the club. That was the first goal The Scum had conceded in five hundred and thirty five minutes of league football, a run stretching back to last season, but Jose Mourinho's side equalised less than three minutes later. Paul Pogba headed towards goal from a corner and the ball was inadvertently directed into the net off the back of Marcus Rashford's head. Romelu Lukaku put The Scum in front shortly after the break but Choupo-Moting levelled in the sixty third minute, heading in Xherdan Shaqiri's corner at the back post.
On-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was the hero for Aston Villains as he starred in the goalless draw against Brentford. The Bees are still without a win in the Championship but were the better side throughout the match. The Villains - pre-season favourites for promotion - struggled to create clear-cut opportunities and had to rely on Johnstone to keep a clean sheet and earn a point. Struggling Notlob Wanderings fell to their fourth defeat of the season as a Britt Assombalonga double and a Marvin Johnson strike handed The Middlesbrough Smog Monsters all three points. The fifteen million smackers summer signing from Nottingham Forest opened the scoring before grabbing a second nineteen minutes from full-time. Johnson added a third in the seventy eighth minute to keep Notlob rock bottom of the Championship table. Garry Monk's Smoggies rise to sixth after sealing their third win of the season. Cardiff City's one hundred per cent record is over but Neil Warnock's side remain unbeaten as Danny Ward's header cancelled out Ryan Sessegnon's seventy fifth minute strike. Fulham's seventeen-year-old wonderkid managed to fire into the bottom right corner to give the home side the advantage. But Warnock's impressive Cardiff side rallied and grabbed the equaliser seven minutes from time. The Bluebirds remain top of the Championship table on sixteen points while Fulham have now drawn four of their six league games. Thomas Christiansen's Dirty Leeds United promptly demolished Burton Albinos with a substantial victory at Elland Road. New signing Pierre-Michel Lasogga grabbed two goals in each half to round off an impressive debut performance after joining on loan from Hamburg on deadline day. Kalvin Phillips, Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe were also on the scoresheet as Dirty Leeds climb to second in the Championship table. Norwich bounced back from their poor early-season form as Nelson Oliveira's early finish was enough to beat visitors Birmingham. Timm Klose provided the assist for the Portugal striker to score from close range, in the fifth minute, and it is the perfect response for Daniel Farke's side after they were trounced four-nil by Millwall last time out. The win was Norwich's second of the season while Hapless Harry Redknapp's Birmingham - who added plenty of additions on deadline day - are yet to click into gear. It was honours even at Deepdale as Preston Both Ends and Barnsley shared the spoils. Sean Maguire put the home side ahead after twenty three minutes but Brad Potts, a summer addition for Barnsley from Blackpool, levelled the score three minutes later. Ipswich's impressive start to the season seems a distant memory after they fell to their second successive defeat. The Tractor Boys began the campaign with four straight victories but have hit a stumbling block as Queens Park Strangers ran out winners at Loftus Road. Jamie Mackie opened the scoring, just before half time for the home side, before Luke Freeman doubled the advantage shortly after the break. Ipswich raised some hope as on loan Sheikh Yer Man City midfielder Bersant Celina pulled a goal back late on but it wasn’t enough to gain a share of the spoils. Aden Flint's late goal secured all three points for Bristol City against Reading. With just six minutes remaining the defender fired past Vito Mannone. Clayton Donaldson enjoyed a delightful debut as the deadline day arrival scored twice to give Sheffield United victory. Jack Rodwell scored a stoppage time goal for Blunderland but it was too little too late for Simon Grayson's Mackem Filth. Donaldson opened the scoring in the twenty first minute, with a neat finish past goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter before doubling his tally in the second half. Diogo Jota's excellent strike gave Wolverhampton Eanderings victory over Millwall at Molineux. The on-loan Atletico Madrid midfielder has impressed so far for Nuno's side and his delightful one-two move with Leo Bonatini set him up to fire past Jordan Archer.
John Motson will call time on his BBC commentary career aged seventy two after the conclusion of the current football season. The broadcaster, popularly known as 'Motty', is in his fiftieth consecutive year with the corporation. He covered ten World Cups, ten European Championships, twenty nine FA Cup finals and more than two hundred England games. 'I've absolutely loved my time commentating for BBC Sport,' said Motson. 'I've been fortunate enough to witness some of the biggest moments in football history mere yards away from the action, so I've really been very lucky.' Motson, known for his trademark sheepskin coats and encyclopaedic knowledge of the game, wants to continue his links with the sport. 'I'm hoping to keep my association with football and with broadcasting - I'm not retiring from everything, I'm retiring from the BBC,' he said. He will commentate on eighteen games over the course of the Premier League season as part of a 'farewell tour' before a last appearance during the BBC's FA Cup final programme in May 2018. The announcement comes as Motson made his return to the Match Of The Day programme at Brighton & Hove Albinos versus West Bromwich Albinos on Saturday. Barbara Slater, BBC director of sport, said: 'John Motson is a real asset to the football world and he will be sorely missed. It isn't hard to see why he is so highly treasured, not just by the BBC but also by the nation, due to his instantly recognisable voice, wonderful sense of humour and his incredible dedication to the sport. As he moves on from commentating for BBC Sport, we wish him the best of luck for the future.' The son of a Methodist minister, Motty joined the BBC in 1968, following stints as a reporter on the Barnet Press and the Sheffield Morning Telegraph. After starting out as a sports reporter on Radio 2, he made his breakthrough on Match Of The Day during the infamous FA Cup replay between Hereford and yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though, even then, unsellable) Newcastle in February 1972. Originally billed as a five-minute segment, Hereford's shock two-one win - thanks to Ronnie Radford's flukey thirty-yard toe-poke that Willie McFall should have saved - saw the match promoted to the main game. Despite rivalry with Barry Davies, from 1979 to 2008 Motson was the BBC's voice on most major finals such as the FA Cup, European Championships and World Cup. That run included his record-breaking sixth World Cup final in Berlin in 2006 and his twenty ninth FA Cup final in 2008. In 2001, he became an OBE for services to sports broadcasting. 'I thought about wearing my sheepskin, but I didn't think it was appropriate,' said Motson, standing resplendent in morning dress. Research by speech experts that year found Motson had the perfectly pitched voice for football commentary. The study said he had twice the range, spoke at double the speed and could be twice as loud or soft as the average person.

Sunday, 3 September 2017


Spain struck a potentially decisive blow in the battle for top spot in their World Cup qualifying pool by sweeping aside Italy three-nil in Madrid on Saturday night. Two goals from Real Madrid's Isco, the first a glorious right-footed free kick into the top corner after thirteen minutes and the second a crisp left-footed shot from the edge of the area, set Spain on their way at the Bernabeu. A close-range finish from Moscow Chelski FC's striker Alvaro Morata completed a comprehensive win and lifted Spain three points clear of their opponents at the top of Group G. The two sides came into the match with identical records of five wins and one draw - the latter occurring in the reverse fixture last October - but Julen Lopetegui's men emerged as the overwhelming favourites to book an automatic spot at next summer's tournament in Russia. They have games against Liechtenstein, Albania and Israel to come. The Azzurri, who had not lost any qualifier since 2006, look comfortable in second spot, with a four-point lead over Albania following the latter's two-nil home win over Liechtenstein courtesy of second-half goals from Odise Roshi and Ansi Agolli. Liechtenstein have now lost all of their seven group matches, being outscored twenty six to one. Also in the same group, Israel slumped to a shock home defeat to Macedonia, Goran Pandev with the seventy third-minute winner in Haifa. Serbia moved two points clear of The Republic Of Ireland at the top of Group D thanks to a routine three-nil home victory over bottom side Moldova. Mijat Gacinovic opened the scoring in Belgrade in the twenty first minute, with Aleksandar Kolarov making it two eight minutes later. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle's Aleksandar Mitrovic wrapped up the win ten minutes from time as Serbia took full advantage of Eire dropping points in Georgia. Wales moved to within two points of second place in the group as seventeen-year-old substitute Ben Woodburn marked his debut with a brilliant winner four minutes after coming on against Austria. The Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws striker arrowed a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area to earn the hosts a narrow win in Cardiff and all but end Austria's hopes of qualifying. Ukraine took advantage of some bizarre circumstances in Group I to leap from fourth place to first with a two-nil win at home to Turkey. Borussia Dortmund's new signing Andriy Yarmolenko struck twice in the first half in Kharkiv to put Ukraine in pole position in the tightest of the nine European qualification pools. They were,at that stage one point clear of Croatia, who have a game in hand after their match at home to Kosovo was abandoned after twenty seven minutes due to heavy rain which left the pitch in Zagreb waterlogged. However, the game was subsequently re-staged on Sunday with Croatia winning one-nil. Iceland are also one point off Ukraine, although their hopes of qualification were hit by a surprise loss in Finland. Alexander Ring's eighth-minute free-kick ended up being the deciding goal in Tampere, while Iceland finished the match with ten men following the dismissal of Rurik Gislason, who picked up two yellow cards in the space of three second-half minutes. The Turks are two points further back in fourth place. Josh Magennis saved Northern Ireland from potential embarrassment as his second-half brace earned Michael O'Neill's men a three-nil win against minnows San Marino. The striker netted twice in six minutes at the Olimpico Di Serravalle while Steven Davis added a late penalty to give the Irish a vital three points. Magennis opened the scoring after tapping home from close range after fine work from Davis, before doubling his tally again from a few yards out with a header from a Conor Washington chipped cross. Also in Group C, Germany left it late to beat the Czech Republic at the Eden Arena after Mats Hummels scored in the eighty eighth minute with an header. Vladimir Darida thought he earned the Czech's what would have been a deserved point after his seventy eighth minute strike, but it wasn't to be as the Confederations Cup champions rallied in the closing stages. As the Germans often do. Earlier, Timo Werner had got Joachim Löw's side off to the perfect start latching on to Mesut Özil's fine pass to give Germany a fourth-minute lead. Elsewhere in Group C, Norway beat Azerbaijan two-nil in Oslo with a first-half penalty from Bournemouth's forward Josh King and an own goal from Rashad Sadygov. Azerbaijan finished the match with ten men after midfielder Javid Huseynov was sent-off in the final minute for a second caution.
On Sunday, in Group A, Davy Propper scored twice as The Netherlands kept their slim hopes of qualifying for the finals alive with a win over Bulgaria. The Brighton & Hove Albinos midfielder opened the scoring with a neat finish before Arjen Robben made it two-nil from close range. Georgi Kostadinov glanced in a free-kick to give Bulgaria some hope but Propper's header sealed the Dutch win. Group leaders Sweden brushed aside Belarus with Emil Forsberg, Christoffer Nyman, Marcus Berg and Andreas Granqvist scoring in a comprehensive four-nil away win which may have helped to erase memories of their unexpected three-two defeat to Bulgaria in Sofia on Thursday. Luxembourg had its first win in the group on Thursday evening with a one-nil home win over Belarus at Stade Josy Barthel. Luxembourg scored on the hour when Daniel Da Mota connected onto a pass from Aurélin Joachim. The men from The Duchy then created a second - even more dramatic - surprise on Sunday evening by holding France to a goalless draw in Toulouse.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick to move past Pelé on the list of all-time international goalscorers as Portugal beat The Faroe Islands five-one on Thursday to stay close to Switzerland at the top of Group B. Ronaldo netted with a neat volley from inside the area then added two further goals to lift his career tally to seventy eight and surpass Pelé, who scored seventy seven goals in ninety two internationals for Brazil. On the European list, Ronaldo remains six goals behind the Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskás. William Carvalho and Nelson Oliveira also scored for the defending European champions, who have won six straight matches since their opening loss to Switzerland. Switzerland themselves maintained their one hundred per cent record in qualifying, defeating Andorra three-nil in a match interrupted by poor pitch conditions under heavy rain in St Gallen. Haris Seferovic scored just before half-time and again after the break. Stephan Lichtsteiner added a third. Hungary kept pace with Switzerland and Portugal thanks to three-one win over Latvia. Tamas Kadar and Adam Szalai in the first half and Balazs Dzsudzsak added the third following the break after Gints Freimanis had scored for Latvia. In Sunday's two games, Portgual beat Hungary one-nil in Budapest thanks to a forty-eighth minute goal from Valente Silva from a Ronaldo cross and Gilli Rólantsson Sørensen scored the only goal as The Faroe Islands beat Andorra. In the former game, Hungary had Tamas Priskin sent off for an elbow on Pepe. Switzerland made it eight wins out of eight with a three-nil victory in Latvia.
In Group H, Belgium defeated Gibraltar nine-nil on Thursday in Liege, as the Red Devils equalled their all-time goalscoring record. The hosts were four goals up after twenty seven minutes. Dries Mertens opened the floodgates and strikes from Thomas Meunier, Romelu Lukaku and Axel Witsel started the onslaught. Witsel then saw a straight red for a horrific tackle on Jamie Bosio, but it didn't stop Belgium from overwhelming their part-time opponents. Lukaku and Eden Hazard added further strikes before half-time. Meunier scored twice after the interval to complete his hat-trick and Lukaku was presented his own treble from the penalty spot after Erin Barnett brought down Kevin De Bruyne. Meanwhile Mattias Kait scored an injury-time winner to give Estonia victory over Cyprus who had earlier staged a remarkable comeback, scoring three times in fifteen minutes to beat Bosnia & Herzegovina three-two on Thursday. Romelu Lukaku booked Belgium’s place in the finals after a dramatic finale severely dented Greece's own hopes of qualifying on Sunday. The Scum's seventy five million knicker summer signing deftly headed home on seventy four minutes in Athens after Gonçalves Rodrigues had cancelled out Belgium centre-back Jan Vertonghen's seventieth minute opener. Bosnia & Herzegovina leapfrogged Greece into second place in the group after a four-nil victory against Gibraltar in Faro.
In Group F, leaders England laboured to an eventual four-nil win over Malta. After a truly awful ponderous and lackadaisical first-half performance which, rightly, saw Gareth Southgate's men booed off the pitch by their own fans, Harry Kane finally broke the deadlock after fifty three minutes when he stroked home Dele Alli's pass. For a long-time the game seemed to be drifitng to a one-nil conclusion but Ryan Bertrand added a second with four minutes remaining and substitute Danny Welbeck lifted the ball over Malta's goalkeeper Andrew Hogg in stoppage time, with Kane providing further gloss in the dying seconds. Slovakia remain two points behind England ahead of their clash at Wembley on Monday night after a late goal from Adam Nemec secured a win over Slovenia in Trnava. Scotland kept their World Cup qualification hopes alive with a convincing three-nil win over Lithuania in Vilnius. Glasgow Celtic midfielder Stuart Armstrong headed in his first senior international goal after twenty five minutes and new Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws signing Andy Robertson curled in a second five minutes later. James McArthur made it three from close range to leave Gordon Strachan's side four points behind Slovakia, whom they host at Hampden Park next month.
In Group E, Denmark inflicted a first qualifying defeat on Poland with a stunning four-nil win in Copenhagen to move within three points of the group leaders. Thomas Delaney put the hosts ahead after sixteen minutes, with Andreas Cornelius doubling the lead just before half-time. Huddersfield defender Mathias Jorgensen came off the bench to make it three-nil on the hour, with Stottingtot Hotshots midfielder Christian Eriksen wrapping things up late on. Montenegro are also now on thirteen points, just above Denmark on goal difference and three behind Poland, after their three-nil win in Kazakhstan. Marko Vesovic put the visitors ahead after the half-hour. Fatos Bećiraj and Marko Simic were on target in the second half. Romania beat ten-man Armenia in Bucharest thanks to a last-minute goal form Alexandru Maxim. Armenia had defender Taron Voskanyan sent off for handball when conceding a penalty early in the second half, but Bogdan Stancu saw his spot-kick saved by Grigor Meliksetyan - only for Maxim to have the final word with a close-range finish.
Harry Kane has whinged about England's 'armchair critics' and told the stadium boo boys - who, let us remember pay his sodding wages - to 'remain patient' with the national team. England's travelling supporters booed and chanted 'we're fucking shit' during the victory over Malta. The performance also received much criticism from fans who watched the game on television. But, when asked about accusations that players do not have enough pride in the England shirt, Kane bleated: 'It takes a lot of commitment to reach the top ... start from a young age, dedication and you have to be a top professional to play for your country. Anyone who says that, I don't think they understand what it takes and it's probably why they're sitting at home watching and we're out there playing.' Ooh, get her. 'I am extremely proud to represent my country and I know the other players are,' Kane claimed. One or two people even believed him. Gareth Southgate said that the England players would 'have to get used' to fans showing their frustration and displeasure inside the stadium given that, you know, they've paid for the right to do so. Kane - who earns a reported one hundred grand a week - said that the England players 'accept' paying supporters will 'not be won over' merely by qualifying for the World Cup, following the disastrous Euro 2016 elimination to Iceland that Kane himself was a part of. 'Yes, that's understandable,' Kane weaselled when asked why, exactly, supporters who have watched a succession of below-par England performances should merely shut up and accept whatever they are given from a team of gutless, overpaid young men who could all do with a damned good dose of reality being shoved, hard, down their collective throat. 'At the end of the day, we've done well at this stage before but it's all about the tournament. That's nothing we can control for now, all we can try to do is qualify, try to play good football, try to learn and get better ... and then, what happens in a tournament, happens in a tournament.' Jeez, a once-in-a-generation brain, that one.
Luke Edwards passionate piece in the Torygraph on the bewildering chaos of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though, tragically, unsellable) current transfer policy is well-worth a read, dear blog reader. A necessary remind to all football fans of that old truism if you're longing for the day when a multi-billionaire comes along and buys your club; be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.
A very naughty man has been extremely jailed for trying to rob the footballer Andy Carroll of his twenty two thousand smackers wristwatch as the striker drove home from West Hamsters United's training ground. Jack O'Brien claimed he was not the rider who targeted the twenty eight-year-old footballer as he waited at traffic lights in North-East London, on 2 November 2016. Carroll told Basildon Crown Court that he believed O'Brien had a gun when he stopped beside him on a motorbike. O'Brien, of Romford, was sentenced to six years in The Pokey for his wilful robbing ways. He was jailed for another five years and three months, to run concurrently, after admitting to a series of other robberies between October and November last year, in which cash and jewellery were taken. O'Brien was found by police hiding beneath a mattress in a property in Dagenham ten days after the attempt to rob Carroll. The footballer told jurors that he was scared when the motorcycle rider pulled up beside him, said 'nice watch' then demanded Carroll give it to him. Carroll did a U-turn, but was forced to drive on the wrong side of the road as he was pursued back to West Hamsters' training ground where there were security staff. In a nine-nine-nine call played in court he was heard telling responders: 'There's two motorbikes, one's behind me pulling out a gun, I don't know what to do.' He also said that he had 'probably just hit about ten cars' during his getaway, part of which was captured on video. In a victim impact statement Carroll said that he had 'feared for his life' and now travels to and from training with security guards. Police seized a motorcycle helmet, Ducati jacket and a Suzuki motorbike which, they believed, were used by O'Brien during the foiled attempted robbery. DNA matching the twenty two-year-old was found on the helmet and jacket, but O'Brien claimed that while he had used the equipment for other robberies, 'somebody else' was wearing them when Carroll was targeted. No firearm was found by police. The second motorbike rider has not been located. Detective Sergeant Brett Hagen said that CCTV footage of the pursuit 'shows the persistent and reckless lengths this man went to in order to try to steal a high-value watch. I would like to thank the victim who showed great courage and calmness throughout this terrifying robbery attempt,' he added.