Thursday, November 30, 2006

Round up of last night`s matches

Manchester United beat Everton 3-0 to maintain its lead atop English soccer's Premiership over Chelsea, which beat Bolton 1-0. Fulham defeated Arsenal for the first time in 40 years.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrice Evra and John O'Shea scored for United, which rebounded after blowing a lead and tying Chelsea 1-1 tie at Old Trafford three days ago. Chelsea has won four straight at Bolton.

Fulham beat Arsenal 2-1, Portsmouth snapped Liverpool's six-game winning streak at home with a 0-0 draw at Anfield, and Manchester City extended its unbeaten run to 10 games against Aston Villa, winning 3-1 away.

Manchester United has 38 points to 35 for Chelsea, the two- time defending champion. Portsmouth moved into third on goal difference ahead of Bolton with 24, while Arsenal remained sixth following a third straight league game without a win.

Ronaldo scored in the 39th minute, with Everton wasting a chance to tie when James Beattie failed to control a ball in the United penalty box. Evra got his first United goal in the 63rd minute, taking a pass from Wayne Rooney, and O'Shea finished the scoring in the 89th.

United manager Alex Ferguson kept leading scorer Louis Saha and midfielder Paul Scholes on the bench. Everton was without its two top scorers, Tim Cahill and Andy Johnson.

Michael Ballack, Germany's captain, put Chelsea ahead three minutes into first-half injury time when he headed the ball into the net from a corner. Chelsea earned the corner when Andriy Shevchenko forced Jussi Jaaskelainen into a diving save.

Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini preserved the win by stopping El Hadji Diouf in the 79th minute and once more in injury time.

U.S. striker Brian McBride gave Fulham the lead in the sixth minute with a header from a corner kick, and Tomasz Radzinski made it 2-0 after Luis Boa Morte set him up by getting past two defenders. Robin van Persie scored for Arsenal with a 30-yard free kick before halftime.

Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos was ejected in the 66th minute for a second yellow card.

Liverpool failed to turn its possession into goals, with the Reds also missing central midfielders Xabi Alonso, Bolo Zenden and Momo Sissoko because of injuries.

Arsenal and Liverpool trail Manchester United by 16 points.

Darius Vassell scored for the fifth time in five games against his former club and Joey Barton made it 2-0 within 32 minutes for Manchester City, which won for the first time on the road this season.

Gavin McCann scored for Aston Villa in the 66th minute before defender Sylvain Distin restored the two-goal advantage in the 75th.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Draw for United and Chelsea

Quite a number of pundits forecast a draw between the 2 giants, and they were right.

There was nothing to chose between these two heavyweights of English football - Manchester United taking the honours in the first half.

If there is an advantage to be gleamed from the situation, it is that Chelsea possess the stronger of the two squads.

For the first 45 minutes, the Premiership leaders showed why they still enjoy a three-point advantage over the champions.

With Cristiano Ronaldo rampaging down the right and Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha switching around with the ferocity of bees round a honey-pot, United were in control.

Rooney's second-minute header from a Giggs cross set the stall for the way the first half developed.

United broke the deadlock just before the half hour from a glorious move.

Giggs, midway inside his own half, found Rooney on the Chelsea corner of the centre circle and his swift, simple pass found Saha just outside the Chelsea box.

The Frenchman, whose fluffed sitter and missed penalty will be best remembered from United's European Champions League defeat at Celtic in midweek, controlled the ball superbly and curled his left-foot shot around Carvalho and just inside Cudicini's near post from the edge of the D.

Chelsea's two first-half chances centred on 20-yard shots by Geremi and Frank Lampard which United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar saved comfortably at his near post.

Chelsea brought on Robben for Geremi at the start of the second half, but United still had the better of the early exchanges.

Michael Carrick's glorious reverse pass set up Rooney on the left side of the Chelsea box and both Saha and Ronaldo were inches away from scoring from his dangerous low cross.

Despite failing to control Gabriel Heinze's left-wing cross, Ronaldo still managed to get the ball from the far post to Saha six yards from goal. But Terry bravely blocked his efforts.

But Chelsea were now beginning to rest control from United.

In the 63rd minute Lampard tested Van der Sar with a powerful 25-yard shot and, six minutes later, Chelsea were level.

The goal stemmed from a slip-shod free-kick by Giggs for United in the Chelsea half.

The Londoners eventually won a corner and Lampard's deep delivery to the far post saw Carvalho leap above Heinze to head home from eight yards with the ball going in off Saha's head and the underside of the bar.

Sir Alex Ferguson said after seeing his side maintain their lead at the top of the table: "We proved we can compete and that when we reach the high levels of performance we are the best team in the country at the moment.

"The test for us now is to step forward from this, because winning championships is about beating other teams. If we want to win the title, consistency is the name of the game.

"It is disappointing to draw because we were in a winning position and allowed them to get an equaliser.

"It was a big opportunity for us, but they got the break they needed.

"But Chelsea should take credit from the game. They never stopped fighting, although we did not allow them to break up our rhythm."

Rooney signs contract extension

Wayne Rooney signed a two-year contract extension on Saturday with Manchester United through to 2012.

The deal was announced on the eve of Sunday's showdown between Premier League leader Man United and second-place Chelsea at Old Trafford, the biggest league game so far this season.

The 21-year-old Rooney has scored seven goals this season — all in the league.

There were no details about any salary increase.

"It is something I have always wanted," Rooney said in a statement. "There is so much I want to achieve with this club starting, hopefully, with the Premiership this season.

"It is an exciting time at the moment and I am relishing the challenge that goes with it. The team is developing with a mixture of experience and youth and I am just glad I play my part in it."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Celtic progress to next phase of Champion`s League after 1-0 win

As Alex Ferguson once said: "Football, bloody hell." Celtic progressed to the knockout stages of the Champions' League last night with a 1-0 victory over Manchester United, whose own qualification hopes now lie in the balance after a pulsating, incident-packed denouement to their Group F match. This time, all Ferguson could say was: "We threw it away."

The barest fact of a famous victory on a night when the atmosphere went from rousing to flat and back to cauldron hot is that Celtic's Japanese midfielder, Shunsuke Nakamura, scored with a sweet free-kick in the 81st minute to settle the game. United, who had been dominant for large parts of the game, had a penalty superbly saved by Artur Boruc from Louis Saha in the dying minutes, and really should have scored one goal from open play at the very least.

Celtic's captain, Neil Lennon, said afterwards that Gary Neville, his United counterpart, had predicted that Saha would miss the spot-kick and Lennon felt Saha's "head was gone" due to an earlier blunder.

Had Saha not mistakenly thought he had heard a whistle for offside when in front of goal with the ball at his feet, he could have netted and changed the complexion of the contest much earlier. An internal inquest at United is sure to follow.

The upshot? Joy unrefined for the Celtic faithful, having seen their club through to the knockout phase for the first time ever. And déjà vu for United. This time a year ago they went into their final group match, facing Benfica, who needed a win themselves to go through and eliminate United. The same applies now. Last time, when the game was at Benfica, the Portuguese won. A consolation for United this time is that the decider in a fortnight is at Old Trafford.

Celtic sit atop the group this morning on nine points and are guaranteed a place in the last 16 because they are ahead of Manchester United on away goals in the crucial head-to-head department that separates sides on the same points.

"We're disappointed," Ferguson said. "We threw it away, no question. You need to score goals. We had some good opportunities but our finishing was disappointing. We always seem to do things the hard way. To qualify we need to get a point against Benfica. We'll try to win."

Evidently the defeat had surprised Ferguson, who looked almost bemused afterwards. He agreed that he "couldn't believe" United were still not qualified having taken nine out of nine points from their first three games. "[I can't believe it] given our start. But we need to score. If you don't take your chances you're left with egg on your face."

Ferguson again pointed to the home side's support as a factor that helped Celtic. In a poor first half for the hosts, the crowd was relatively quiet but, after half-time changes and an increase in tempo, they responded. "Celtic's support certainly help them," Ferguson added.

Ferguson's counterpart, Gordon Strachan, looking even more drained than his former manager, said: "I did not know until 15 minutes after the end that we'd qualified. I didn't believe it. I still don't. I hadn't considered the permutations. I'll probably go to sleep and find we've lost a goal somewhere now. But I'll get up early and if I see it on Teletext I'll believe it."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Red Devils stay at the Top

The season`s one third the way through, and here`s how things currently stand:-

Wayne Rooney scored two goals Saturday for Manchester United to beat Sheffield United 2-1 and maintain their three-point lead atop the Premier League.

Rooney scored in the 30th and 75th minutes, rallying the Red Devils who fell behind to a 13th-minute goal by Keith Gillespie. It was Man United's seventh straight league victory.

Two-time defending champions Chelsea kept winning too, beating West Ham 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Geremi's 22nd-minute free kick.

Chelsea have never lost at Stamford Bridge in 51 games under manager Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United have 34 points, three more than Chelsea.

Portsmouth moved into third place with 23 points, rallying for a 2-1 victory on a late penalty in the 89th by Lomana LuaLua.

Arsenal slipped further off the pace, drawing 1-1 at home against struggling Newcastle for 22 points.

Kieron Dyer gave the Magpies a 1-0 lead in the 30th, and Thierry Henry -- rested in the first half by manager Arsene Wenger -- equalised in the 70th.

In other results on Saturday, it was: Everton 1, Bolton 0; Manchester City 3, Fulham 1; Reading 2, Charlton 0 and Middlesbrough 0, Liverpool 0.

On Sunday, Wigan play Aston Villa and Blackburn play Tottenham.

Man United manager Alex Ferguson credited his midfield for the victory.

"A certain maturity is helping us," Ferguson said. "I think Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes are using all that experience in the midfield, taking their time, being patient, probing away for opportunities.

"And when you've got front players like we've got -- if we get chances, one or two will take them."

Mourinho gave credit to Geremi, who seldom plays for the Blues but got the winner on a perfectly placed free kick.

"He [Geremi] takes free kicks, but he doesn't play a lot," Mourinho said. "He practises a lot, but I don't give him a lot of chances to play. So now I am giving him chances to play and he's playing well."

Wenger defended his decision to start Henry on the bench after he'd played for France a few days earlier.

"He was tired from the France game, and that was my decision," Wenger said. "You cannot play Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Tuesday. It is impossible for one man."

Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta scored in the 60th, giving Everton a 1-0 victory over Bolton.

Man City, 3-1 winners over Fulham, put the game out of reach with three goals in the first half. Bernardo Corradi scored twice -- in the 12th and 32nd minutes -- with Joey Barton adding the third in injury time. Collins John scored in the 62nd for Fulham.

Reading continued to be the best of the promoted teams, beating last-place Charlton 2-0 on goals by Seol Ki-hyeon and Kevin Doyle.

Liverpool and Middlesbrough drew 0-0. It left the Reds with 18 points and Boro with 15. Liverpool have scored only one away goal in seven league games this season -- and that was from a penalty kick.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Adu on trial at United

Manchester United are keen on signing Freddy Adu if the Ghanaian-born American teenager can prove himself, Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed.

Asked if he was interested in signing the midfielder, Ferguson said: 'I think so, he's only a young lad but we have known of him for a long time. 'We tried to get him here some years ago but he signed for DC United and that stopped the progress of us keeping tabs on him.' United had previously denied any interest in the American star, who has been a considered a massive prospect ever since Inter Milan offered a six-figures fee for him having watched him in just one junior tournament prior to his 14th birthday.

United beat Blackburn Rovers by 1-0 today to stay top of the Premiership.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Southend dump United out of Carling Cup

Southend dumped Carling Cup holders Mcr United out of the competition at the fourth-round stage with a stunning victory at Roots Hall.

Freddy Eastwood's 10th goal of the season made the difference as he curled in a superb free-kick in the 27th minute.

The Shrimpers, who are bottom of the Coca-Cola Championship, were saved on numerous occasions by goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan, who denied Cristiano Ronaldo more than once, while David Jones also hit the post for the Red Devils.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

3-0 victory over Portsmouth see United stay top

Manchester United celebrated 20 years under Alex Ferguson's command with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Portsmouth to stay top of the Premier League on Saturday.

The points were effectively in the bag after 10 minutes at Old Trafford thanks to a Louis Saha penalty and a dazzling free kick from Cristiano Ronaldo. Nemanja Vidic headed the third midway through the second half.

With champions Chelsea not in action until Sunday, United forged three points clear with 28 from 11 games. Chelsea have 25 while third-placed Bolton Wanderers (20) lost ground after a 1-0 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

20 years in charge for Sir Alex

When Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United in November 1986, Margaret Thatcher was still the British Prime Minister, Mikhail Gorbachev the leader of the Soviet Union and Wayne Rooney had not even learned how to walk.

Twenty years on, the Scot has become a knight, United are one of the richest clubs in the world and the trophy cabinet is stacked full.

Ferguson will no doubt celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his arrival at Old Trafford on Monday night with a glass of red, but even as his 65th birthday approaches, he shows no sign of slowing down.

Gary Neville, one of Ferguson's trusted stalwarts over the past decade, believes his manager can continue for another 10 years and with no immediate plans to retire and with the full support of his club, Ferguson's future would seem to be in his own hands.

Having broken the stranglehold of Celtic and Rangers in Scotland in his time as Aberdeen manager, which also included a European Cup Winners' Cup title in 1983, Ferguson replaced Ron Atkinson at United on November 6, 1986, with the club in all sorts of trouble.

It seems hard to believe now, but in January of 1990, after stabilising the club, United were again bottom of the table and Ferguson was staring the sack in the face.

If it hadn't have been for Mark Robins' goal in the third round of the FA Cup which saw off Nottingham Forest, Ferguson would have been fired. As it was, United won the FA Cup that year to give Ferguson his first trophy and suddenly the board and the fans were believers.

Always a strong disciplinarian, Ferguson dished out plenty of stick to his players and to opposing managers alike. Never one to suffer fools gladly, Ferguson rid United of their image as a drinking club and turned them into winners.

Along the way, of course, the United manager has been the subject of fierce debate. His players have related the 'Ferguson%

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bad night for the Reds in Copenhagen

Marcus Allback notched FC Copenhagen's first ever goal in the UEFA Champions League as Manchester United slumped to a 1-0 defeat in Denmark.

United made six changes from the side that won so convincingly at Old Trafford a fortnight ago and were made to pay in tough conditions at the Parkstadion.

A win would have booked Sir Alex Ferguson's side a place in the last 16 of the competition with a win, but the Danish champions kept the pressure up to record their inaugural victory of the competition proper, to keep their hopes of qualification from Group F alive.

Only Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo showed glimpses on a poor night for United, as The Red Devils were forced to finish the match with 10 men because of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's late hamstring injury.

No Giggs, Saha or Neville for Denmark trip

Manchester United will have to cope without a key trio of injured players if it is to extend its perfect record in the Champions League against FC Copenhagen on Wednesday.

Ryan Giggs, Louis Saha and captain Gary Neville are sidelined for the English league leader's attempt to clinch qualification from Group F.

"It's a blow not to have such experienced players but we've got a big squad," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "But we do have players like Wes Brown and Gabriel Heinze to come in so things are not so bad."
United leads the Group F standings with a maximum nine points from three games and beat Copenhagen 3-0 two weeks ago. The Danish team has yet to score in its first season in Europe's top club competition.

Neville is suffering a recurrence of a calf problem which has plagued him for much of the season. Giggs is out after reporting a hamstring injury, while France striker Saha has been ruled out with a knee problem.