Arsenal v. Birmingham City (Carling Cup Final)

I watched the Carling Cup on Television in a small Morpeth pub. Here is what I observed..

This clash was seen as an easy opportunity for Arsene Wenger’s young side, which is not so young anymore, to prove their potential and end Arsenal’s six year wait for a trophy.
Not many people were giving unfancied Birmingham a chance, despite the fact they have impressed greatly since their return to the Premier League and have picked up some astonishing points against quality sides this season.

It looked like the Blues were in for a rough day when Bowyer ran free of the Arsenal defence and poked the ball around Wojciech Szczesny.
The young Gunners keeper took his legs out from under him however a dubious offside call denied a penalty and an almost certain red card.
Arsenal had the next chance when Samir Nasri danced through three Birmingham defenders with lightning quick feet however his shot from a tight angle went wide.
In the 27th minute, Sagna inexplicably gave the ball away with a horrid pass when under no pressure and Keith Fahey sent in a cross which was cleared by Koscielny for a corner.
Roger Johnson won the resulting corner, heading the ball towards goal, with big man Zigic rising high in contention with Szczesny to flick the ball into the net.
Arsenal immediately sought to reply and Van Persie’s header from a Nasri cross went agonisingly past the top corner.
More poor defending from Arsenal in the 33rd minute saw Szczesny make a decent save from Zigic after the striker found himself free one on one with the keeper.

Arsenal had been struggling to find a way through an inspired Birmingham midfield that was pressurising and pushing the players in red back into their own half.
However in the 39th minute, Jack Wilshere inspired an attacking move which ended with the young England International crashing a fierce left-footed drive against the crossbar.
The ball fell for Arshavin who turned Ridgwell and rushed past him to the by-line, his cross met by Van Persie who somehow wrapped his leg around Johnson’s body to score a fantastic volley.
Arsenal finished the stronger side as Nasri’s shot from outside the box was parried by Foster, yet the Gunners fans could feel lucky to have come to the interval on an even keel with Birmingham.

Arsenal started the second period strongly, with Rosicky’s shot from the edge of the box zipping just past Jaaskelainen’s post.
Birmingham replied in the 58th when Djourou’s mistake in defence opened up a path for Fahey, whose second attempt smashed against the left post.
Play slowed down to near boring as Arsenal controlled possession but failed to create meaningful chances, a Wilshere effort which was deflected for a corner the only notable action.

Bendtner was called off the bench in the 70th minute to replace Van Persie, preferred over Marouane Chamakh.
In the 75th a fast break from Arsenal saw a Nasri shot saved only by Foster’s face, while moments later the former Man Utd. keeper did well to save a Bendtner effort after the Dane had cut in from the left wing.
Arsenal reverted to a 4-4-2 when Chamakh finally entered play, replacing the often frustrating Arshavin.
A long range Nasri effort brought a full stretch save from Foster, before Birmingham made a move, pulling off Fahey for the creative but unpredictable Obafemi Martins.
He proved to be the difference as Koscielny and Szczesny simultaneously attempted to clear a loose ball in the box, however they both missed the ball and Martins was in the right place and the right time to tap home an easy finish.
Arsenal were too far out of it to get anything out of the game from there on, with the side failing to test Foster again as the final minute ticked by.

It was a huge disappointment for Arsenal fans who are still waiting for a trophy despite being one of the top sides in Europe for the past decade.
For Birmingham it was a huge achievement, whose only other piece of silverware had come in the same Cup back in 1963.
The Gunners now have to bounce back and concentrate on fighting for the Premier League and FA Cup, while they also need to regather for their crucial second-leg Champions League tie against Barcelona next week.

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India v. Australia – (0-4)

Australia beat India by a decent scoreline, however they could and probably should have had a few more goals. I only grabbed the final 20 minutes of the first half and final 10 of the second half.
From what I saw in the first half the team were playing some fine, fluid football though in the second period they seemed to become complacent and seemed to be putting a lot of passes off target.
McDonald once again failed to break his duck during his 20 minute spell, while I thought Nathan Burns impressed during his cameo and McKay looked comfortable at least in central midfield.
Ognenovski also looked solid enough next to Neil and hopefully the defensive partnership can perform against South Korea in the next match.
The Indian keeper, Subrata Paul definitely prevented the scoreline from getting higher, with two notable saves from Cahill late in the first half.
Kewell’s goal was a well placed rocket from outside the area, while Holman’s was a free header in the box from an accurate Emerton ball on the right sideline.
I missed both Cahill’s goals so I have no idea what they were like yet…

Team:
Schwarzer;
Carney, Ognenovski, Neil, Wilkshire;
Kewell (McDonald 72nd), Culina, Jedinak (McKay 61st), Emerton (Burns ?);
Cahill, Holman

Goals:

Cahill 11th, Kewell 25th, Holman 45th, Cahill 65th

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Week 22 A-League Games

Friday:

Brisbane Roar v. Perth Glory(1-1)

Brisbane were held to a draw by Glory. Sterjovski had opened the scoring in the 31st minute after some neat play from Fowler, however Henrique came off the bench for the Roar and injected some creativity into their play, providing the 63rd minute cross from which Mitch Nichols steered home. Perth dug deep and frustrated Brisbane to secure a draw

Saturday:

Sydney FC v. Gold Coast United(2-0)

A classy first half strike from youngster Petratos and a 90th minute finish from new signing Juho Makela secured the first bak-to-back wins for Sydney this season. Gold Coast were poor and had Steve Fitzimmons sent off in the second half.

North Queensland v. Newcastle Jets (1-3)

After three successive defeats the Jets secured a vital win against a poor Fury side. A Zadkovich free kick, which was weakly handled by debuting keeper Sebastian Usai and a Haliti strike within three first half minutes all but sealed the win. A fantastic run from Tarek Elrich then allowed Ryan Griffiths to notch his frst goal in the A-League. Mark Hughes grabbed a consolation goal from the penalty spot after Wehrman had brought down Panagiotis Nikas in the box in injury time.

Sunday:

Melbourne Victory v. Adelaide United(1-4)

Adelaide smashed Melbourne Victory to secure their hold onto 2nd place. Flores opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Van Dijk grabbed two goals in the 58th and 75th, while a Barbiero strike between the Dutchman’s brace sealed an emphatic win. Victory managed a consolation goal in the 90th minute through Mate Dugandzic and had Kevin Muscat sent off in the 65th minute.

Central Coast v. Wellington Phoenix (1-0)

McGlinchey scored the winner from a Danny Rose cut back just before half-time, after an inspiring run from Patricio Perez. Zwaaanswijk hit the crossbar with a header just after the break, with the Mariners securing a well-deserved win.

Tuesday – Re-scheduled from Week 11:

Newcastle Jets v. North Queensland

Wednesday:

Central Coast v. Brisbane Roar

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2011 AFC Asian Cup

The Socceroos start their pursuit of the Asian Cup in 2 days, having played their last friendly before the tournament against UAE, which they drew 0-0.

Lucas Neil had a goal ruled out for an apparent offside against defensive partner Sasa Ognenovski. Matt McKay and Nathan Burns got starts, while Tommy Oar, Robbie Kruse and Neil Kilkenny all got run-outs with Holger Osieck resting most of his stars.

Australia play India in their opening match on 11th January, before a game against South Korea on the 14th and Bahrain on the 18th.

They will then face either Iran, Iraq, North Korea or UAE in the Quater-Finals on 22nd January if they finish first or second in their group.

The Semi-Final is to be played on 25th January and the Final on 29th January.

A tournament which we should and can win, it will be a big test for Holger Osieck and his ageing stars and promising youngsters. I hope Qatar either loss all their games and fail to score a goal, or they make it to the Final and we thrash them 5-0. Oh and I also hope there are absolutely no supporters at the games and someone dies from heat exhaustion. Thankyou.

SOCCEROOS SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Mark Schwarzer, Nathan Coe, Bradley Jones

Defenders: Lucas Neil, David Carney, Sasa Ognenovski, Luke Wilkshire, Jade North, Matthew Spiranovic, Jonathon McKain

Midfielders: Jason Culina, Brett Emerton, Harry Kewell, Brett Holman, Michael Jedinak, Carl Valeri, Matt McKay, Tommy Oar, Neil Kilkenny

Forwards: Tim Cahill, Scott McDonald, Nathan Burns, Robbie Kruse

While I’d love to see Spiranovic get experience, I think it’s best to give Neil and Ognenovski the central defence roles in order to get Sasa up to speed with playing for the Socceroos. Carney and Wilkshire would take the wing-back positions.
The midfield should be made up from Culina, Kewell, Holman and Jedinak, with Emerton used from the bench and Oar and Kilkenny as back-up.
Up front we’d of course have Cahill and although McDonald has had more chances than anyone deserves I think he should be given the starting berth and this could be seen as his last chance to impress.

If I had my way Neil, Emerton and Schwarzer wouldn’t be there though I think Osieck has chosen a decent squad barring the inclusion of Kruse, which baffles. He is not a player who could play at a World Cup, so why take him? Anyway, really the minimum target here is winning the thing, whether that’s too high of an expectation…with the experience in the squad it has to be the aim…

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Week 21 – New Years Games

Central Coast v. Melbourne Victory(1-2)

Melbourne bounced back from an own goal by defender Adrian Leijer to take home a massive three points from their visit to Blue Tongue Stadium. Two goals in the final 5 minutes of the match from Diogo Ferreira and Grant Brebner secured the win after Adam Kwasnik had been sent off for two yellow card midway through the second half.

Melbourne Heart v. North Queensland (2-0)

Second half goals from John Aloisi and substitute Gerald Sibon secured the three points for the Melbourne Heart at home to North Queensland, pushing them into a finals spot ahead of Wellington and Newcastle.

Adelaide United v. Brisbane Roar(0-1)

Brisbane affectively secured the Premiership with a 1-0 victory over fellow title challengers Adelaide away from home. Jean Carlos Solorzano continued his fine goalscoring form with an effort in the second half.

Newcastle Jets v. Sydney FC (1-2)

I watched the second half of this match, which was proved frustrating. I got the time-difference wrong and woke up in England to a 2-0 halftime score.
With Jeffers injured for his final match at the club, Ryan Griffiths made his debut in the A-League alongside Marco Jesic up front. Milicevic who had recently lost his captaincy due to his decision to return to Europe at the end of the season started, yet was forced off with an ankle injury after only 13 minutes.
Sydney had gone ahead at halftime due to goals from Hirofumi Moriyasu and a Bruno Cazarine effort just before the break.
The first was poor defending from a corner, as Moriyasu was able to score his first goal for the club when he volleyed in at the back post under no challenge. I think it was Wheelhouse who drifted inside the box…
The sceond was even worse, as the usually reliable Wehrman (playing centre back) sent a weak back pass to Kennedy. Although the keeper managed to put a boot to the ball, it fell nicely for Cazarine to finish into a virtually empty net despite a heavy first touch.
Many things were wrong with this goal, the backpass, Kennedy’s inexplicable decision to kick the ball when he could have dove at with his hands, and Abbas’ decision to dive to the ground instead of standing strong in front of Cazarine’s shot. Fuck me.
The Jets came out stronger in the second half but were lacking the creativity in the final third and Branko brought on Haliti and Petrovski for the struggling Jeisc and debutant Ryan Griffith in the 63rd minute.
The goald after some fine play down the right hand side, Zadkovich opting to cut back in the box in stead of crossing when on the byline, and Haliti expertly (I know, what?) drove the ball into the roof of the net.
It was good work from Zadkovich, however he had earlier had a golden opportunity to test the keeper and characteristically blasted his shot over the bar.
The Jets pushed on and had a few more chances to grab an equaliser, teh best coming when a fluffed shot from Haliti fell onto Petrovski’s head, however the veteran could only knock it onto the crossbar.
Zadkovich also had a great chance when put through on goal (I think it might have been from Fiorentini?) however for the first time in his life (possibly) he elected not to shoot and tried another cutback to Haliti.
However the ball was behind the striker and his shot went wide.
While the Jets controlled possession for the remainder of the match, Sydney actually looked the more likely to score and the game petered out without much goal action for the Jets.
A disappointing result in front of a good crowd of 12,000 too. Hopefully the team can make a good finals push in their final 8 games, though they will have to do it without Francis Jeffers who has completed his short-term contract.
Also just on a side note, poor form for the section of the crowd who booed off Nicky Carle. I know he said that the only team he’d play for in the A-League would be us, but we have Con to blame for the decision not to sign him. He needs to make a livelihood.
Ona second side-note, Terry McFlynn should not have been on the pitch by the end of the game, with two filthy, dirty tackles resulting in not even a yellow card. Shocking again from the A-League referees..

Gold Coast United v. Perth Glory (0-0)

Perth held onto a scoreless draw away to the Gold Coast.

Wednesday Midweek Game:

Wellington Phoenix v. Melbourne Victory(2-0)

Wellington put in a blistering offensive performance against the Victory to move them to within a point of 6th place Melbourne Heart.
Having had numerous chances in the first half they had to wait until the 67th for the breakthrough.
Marco Rojas, who had a brilliant game, crossed for Macallister, who finished his own saved header from the rebound.
Rojas then got a goal of his own, with Macallister turning provider for the youngster to smash a shot past Petkovic.
Victory had had chances of heir own, mainly through Hernandez and Ricardinho but it was a deserved performance for the Phoenix.
Danny Allsopp made his return for the Victory as a 35th minute substitute.

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Week 20 – Festive Games

I flew out of the country on the 28th December which explains the lack of a post in the past week or so..I haven’t managed to see any of the games apart from the second half of the Sydney v. Newcastle match yesterday…so here’s just a rund-down of recent games.

Boxing Day Games:

Central Coast v. Adelaide United(2-0)

The Mariners grabbed the win thanks to two second half goals, the first from Matt Simon, while the second was an own goal from Sergio van Dijk

Brisbane Roar v. Gold Coast United(2-2)

Brisbane continued their unbeaten run after coming from behind twice against the Gold Coast. Kosta Barbarousses had cancelled out Dino Djulbic’s effort in the first half, before Robson put the Gold Coast ahead again in the 55th minute. Jean Carlos Solorzano brought Brisbane level however, and the Queensland side could have won had it not been for the inspired keeping of Glen Moss.

Day After Boxing Day Games:

Melbourne Victory v. Newcastle Jets(2-1)

I watched this game, and it was a hard one to take. I thought we were by far the better side and despite dominating the first half we were behind at half-time to a Hernandez long range effort. Wheelhouse (I think) and Wehrman had allowed the Costa Rican to turn way to easily near halfway and then the little man’s outrageous shot should really have been kept out by Ben Kennedy.
We started the second half brightly and were back in the game after Zadkovich had pulled one back and we looked the more likely side to score a winner.
However substitute Ricardinho poked hom the winner in injury time to leave the side with an up-road battle to make the finals.

North Queensland v. Wellington Phoenix(1-1)

The Fury and Wellington both missed the chance to secure a vital victory, with Chris Payne’s first half effort beign cancelled out by a Dylan Macallister effort in the 74th minute, with both sides sharing the spoils.

Later on the Wednesday:

Adelaide United v. Sydney FC(2-0)

Adelaide got back to winning ways against a struggling Sydney outfit, who just couldn’t find the back of the net. A Sergio van Dijk effort in the first half was followed by a Hayden Foxe own goal in the second as the Reds moved back into 2nd place.

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Week 20 – Sydney v. Melbourne Heart – (0-1)

I only saw the final ten minutes of this match and it took a great piece of skill from Gerald Sibon to break the deadlock in what I was told was a fairly even, drab game.

The game looked to be heading for a stalemate before Sibon brought down a high ball, got ahead of his marker with three classy touches and then set Adrian Zahra free inside the box.
The youngster’s first touch was heavy but he reacted well and took a quick shot on the half-volley to send the ball flying into the corner past a stranded Reddy.
Brilliant goal, absolutely brilliant. Sibon is a male.
Apart from that Jason Hoffman, who started the game (yes, you’re not dreaming), should really have put the game beyond doubt when set free one-on-one with Reddy, but he made his shot too obvious for the keeper and though it was from a tight angle he should have finished.

The win puts the Heart into 5th position and sends the Jets back to 7th, though we have four games in hand. While I’d love to see the Heart make the finals I think we’ll catch them easily and I think Victory will take out the last finals spot after that. Sydney meanwhile, are well and truly out of it and need to start rebuilding for next season.

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