Archive for the ‘Cups’ Category

Live Report: Arsenal v Wigan Thoughts


A few thoughts on last night’s victory over Wigan…

The performance wasn’t a vintage one but this was partly down due to the awful conditions. Freezing temperatures, falling snow and swirling winds did not for flowing football make. The atmosphere was pretty good all things considered but there were certainly far fewer people then the advertised 59,525.

I’m sure many people felt that they’d rather sacrifice the tenner they paid instead of sitting in the cold for two hours. Indeed, the guy sitting next me bailed at half time, clearly thinking “Sod this, I’m freezing”.

Kick off

On the pitch there were a few impressive performances. Wilshere kept things ticking at a reasonable pace, hitting probing passes and telling people where he wanted them to run. Van Persie, the captain for the night, had some lovely touches including a couple of flicks that Vela should really have finished off. His set pieces were always hit at a threatening pace too.

Kieran Gibbs has been getting rave reviews whenever he’s played and this game was no different. Always comfortable in defence, he consistently overlapped Vela down the left wing. The crosses/cutbacks didn’t always pick someone out but as many others have said, Gael Clichy should be looking over his shoulder.


You could argue Vela, Walcott and Bendtner were disappointing, and I suppose they all had presentable chances to score (the latter of course did) – however it would be unfair to simply judge them by the scoresheet. Bendtner of course is still working his way to full fitness and as usual was often in the right place at the right time; his scoring touch will come.

Walcott didn’t really trouble Figueroa in the 1st half but found a little more joy in the second where he started to roam. Indeed his best effort came when cutting in from the left and curling a shot just wide.

Vela was the most interesting. He missed two glorious chances which he normally puts away but generally was always available as an outlet. He’s in the trickiest situation of those three, I just don’t see where he fits in long term.

Swirling snow.

I should mention Wigan’s performance which wasn’t especially bad but lacked a butting edge. Their early tactic was to hit balls out wide to the left where Victor Moses was situated – clearly they thought Eboue was not fully fit. However he went off with a dislocated shoulder towards the end of the 1st half and with that Wigan’s threat somewhat disappeared.

They had some half chances but these stemmed from sloppiness on Arsenal’s part rather than any real creativity. Perhaps I was most impressed with the fact that Caldwell, Alcaraz and Boselli all wore short sleeve shirts and no gloves. Hardcore!


Once the second goal had gone in the game somewhat petered out. A few chances were missed and everyone was willing the final whistle. Some mild entertainment was provided by a pitch invader who ran the length of the touchline to shake Wenger’s hand.

Clearly the cold had numbed the stewards’ reactions. This was proven a few minutes later when two more kids tried their luck. They were more interested in putting on a show and spent the next minute or so sliding around the Emirates pitch whilst players stood bewildered and stewards chased in vain.

Eventually Eboue got them to stop. It wasn’t particularly clever on their part but I do think it is an isolated incident unlikely to be repeated. The combination of freezing cold weather, bored kids and stewards who weren’t alert is not a particularly common one. After all the one near me was sharp enough to spot me swigging from a hip flask. Given the choice/ultimatum of confiscating it or drinking it all at once in the concourse, I chose the latter naturally.

Pitch invaders...

An intriguing night all in all, with the victory being the most important aspect. The news that Ipswich will be the semi-final opponents should provide a great opportunity to play at Wembley in February.



Season Predictions 09/10 – How They Turned Out


Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’m still in two minds about whether to do season reviews for each club – to be honest I’m in World Cup mode now. Perhaps I’ll still get round to it though.

Back in August I played a mug’s game and tried to predict how everyone would finish. Here’s what actually happened:

'Expert' predictions...

Looking at the results showed I got just three clubs spot on: Man City in 5th and basement dwellers Hull and Pompey taking the bottom two places. In my defence I was only one place out with six other clubs but really this table looks like what it is, rubbish punditry.

I think if Gareth Southgate and Garth Crooks had a bastard lovechild it would look something like this predictions table (enjoy those nightmare thoughts kids).


In terms of the thinking, I had found it really tricky to split the top three when writing pre-season predictions. My loyalties to Arsenal may have played a part in placing them second while I couldn’t bear to predict Chelsea as Champions even though deep down I knew they had retained the most strength over the summer.

A similar scenario led to placing Spurs 7th – I was hardly going to predict them a Champions League spot was I?! I underestimated Liverpool’s decline and overestimated Sunderland’s improvement.


The biggest mistake was Birmingham, a full nine places out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who had them down to struggle. Fair play to Alex McLeish (who I had as first sacking!), he brilliantly led them to a top half finish.

The bottom half was slightly better predicted clubs wise, if not positions wise. The dearth of quality is such that it’s pot luck as to where the likes of Bolton and Wigan finish. I got three of the bottom four right and on another day would have predicted Burnley to come in 18th not 17th.


In terms of the cups and other stuff it went like this:

And I thought the league prediction was bad...

Oh dear. Only Bayern Munich correct and I suppose West Brom for promotion. If the Premier League table was the Southgate/Crooks lovechild then this is the resulting mess when said lovechild had a threesome with Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp. I literally couldn’t do any worse at being a pundit. Like I said at the beginning, it’s time for the World Cup…



Road To Wembley – Semi Final – Tottenham vs Portsmouth


When this whole road to Wembley idea started back in November it was meant to be fun, not a chore that has to be fulfilled every time another round occurs. Not for the first time I accidently missed a round due to genuinely not being interested in the FA Cup. I think it’s the fact that we’ve reached the semi final stage and I’m still only on my third team. It’s more fun when it’s someone new each time.

Anyway, enough of my moaning. Last time we were here, Portsmouth were about to face local rivals Southampton in the fifth round. In a one-sided contest the Saints were swept aside 4-1. That’s a little unfair I suppose as it was level for three quarters of the game but the superior fitness of Pompey must have told as three late goals from Dindane, Belhadj and O’Hara ensured there was no shock.

The quarter-final saw a home tie against Birmingham, who have had a great season under Alex McLeish. Once again, Portsmouth put aside their off-field and league worries and ran out quite comfortable 2-0 winners. A quick fire double from Frederic Piquionne saw off the Blues, who judging from the match report had a goal incorrectly disallowed. It’s unlikely Portsmouth will care really, given that victory gave them a bit more prize money and TV cash.

fa cup semi final

The big game! Or something...

The semi final draw produced an interesting proposition for Portsmouth – a meeting with ex manager Harry Redknapp, who was in charge when they won the whole thing just two seasons ago. Whatever your views on Redknapp’s responsibility for Portsmouth’s current plight (and I happen to think he should take a fair proportion of the blame) you can deny it was a great achievement in winning their first trophy in decades. He’s now trying to win Tottenham’s first proper trophy since 1991 (you can shove your Carling Cups where the sun doesn’t shine) and in doing so has plundered Portsmouth for about 43 of their players (ok, ok, just four).



The less said about Portsmouth’s league form the better. They’ve had nine points deducted and will go down officially shortly. They drew their last game but haven’t scored in three games including a 2-0 defeat to Spurs. Tottenham had won four straight before losing 3-1 last week against Sunderland. Their next three league games are against the top three so they I imagine they’ll go all out for this.


Team News:

Likely teams from the Guardian.

Basically Spurs have about seven central defenders out injured while Portsmouth have a bunch of players who will cost them appearance fees if they play again after the semi.


Old Boys:

Concentrate. Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar and Younes Kaboul were all at Pompey but now Spurs. Except Defoe who was at Spurs then Pompey then back to Spurs. Kevin-Prince Boateng used to be at Spurs but is now at Porstmouth, as is Ricardo Rocha who is really rubbish and Michael Brown who is really average. Jamie O’Hara is owned by Spurs but on loan at Portsmouth. Kyle Walker was on loan at Pompey but is now back at Spurs. Both O’Hara and Walker are cup-tied. Harry Redknapp was manager at Pompey and is now at Spurs and his assistant in both cases is Joe Jordan. Clear?

tottenham portsmouth

Just merge already.


How Pompey Got Here:

2-1 v Coventry A after a 1-1 H draw

2-1 v Sunderland H

4-1 v Southampton A

2-0 v Birmingham H


How Spurs Got Here:

Beat Peterborough 4-0 at home in the third round, Leeds 3-1 away in a fourth round replay after a 2-2 draw, Bolton 4-0 at home in a fifth round replay after a 1-1 draw, and Fulham 3-1 at home in a quarter final replay after a 0-0 draw at Craven Cottage. The semi can’t go to a replay as far as I’m aware so the job will need to be done first time round.


Expert Predictions:

Lawro says:

Both teams come into this with injury worries – Tottenham defensively, in particular, and Portsmouth, well, everywhere you look in their squad. I know some people will have already written Portsmouth off, but the fact is this is their Cup final for so many reasons; they are relegated all but mathematically, every single one of their players is playing either for a move or for a new contract, and the financial reward for reaching a Cup final would be massive for the club.
Every single person connected with the club has a massive incentive in this match. And if I was [Portsmouth boss] Avram Grant, I’d be urging my players to make it extremely uncomfortable for Spurs. He’s not going to turn Portsmouth into an irresistible attacking force overnight so they have to grind the opposition down, flood the midfield and sneak a result. Saying that, I can’t really see past Tottenham winning. I definitely see it being tight, possibly going to extra-time, but Spurs will always cause you problems with their attacking players and that might just be enough to see them through this one.
Prediction: 1-0

John Barnes (not an expert): Home win
Tony Cascarino (not an expert): Home win
Graham Poll (not an expert): Home win



Can he do it again?

Spurs are heavy favourites going into this tie and I’m sure Harry Redknapp would be delighted to get on over his old side. However logic hasn’t really applied to Portsmouth’s cup run so far and maybe, just maybe they can pull off another shock result. You can get 10/1 on Portsmouth winning which is a ridiculous price and worth a pound of anyone’s money. Tottenham have a few defensive problems and somehow I think they’ll just mess it up. Let’s go with 1-0 Portsmouth with a late second half goal. Either that or heavy Spurs win. You know, whatever…



Road To Wembley – 5th Round – Southampton vs Portsmouth


Since November I’ve been following a team in the FA Cup all the way from the 1st round to the final in May. As luck would have it I’ve only had to focus on two teams thus far thanks to some impressive results. I completely forgot to do a 4th round preview (which would also have had a 3rd round review) so it’s time for a little recap.

fa cup

Four games from Wembley (three if you count the semi finals).

We started off following Conference side Luton Town who faced League Two side Rochdale in the first round. After a victory in the replay, Luton went on to beat another League Two team in the second round – Rotherham. So far, so impressive.

The third round saw them face League One Southampton but the extra step in class was too much, Southampton winning 1-0. By all accounts it was a close game but that extra bit of quality told in the end. Southampton’s reward in the fourth round was a home game against Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town, again a game which would have been in the top flight not so long ago.

Southampton's top scorer.

As it happens they both played Championship football in 2008/09 but Southampton’s administration and subsequent relegation put paid to that to this season. Perhaps it was the fact they took four points from Ipswich in 08/09 or maybe it was just the magic of the cup but either way the match ended with a 2-1 victory to Southampton.

Defender Wayne Thomas scored a peach of a goal to give Southampton the lead and they wrapped it up in the second half with a strike from Antonio, before Counago got a late Ipswich consolation. With the victory Southampton become the only remaining League One side in the competition (I think Nott’s County are the only other lower league side left).

So we’re up to date at last and to make things interesting Southampton have a cracking opponent this weekend – their arch-rivals Portsmouth. I’m kind of glad the focus is on the home team here as I’d be writing all night if I was looking at Pompey’s recent history.

Predicted teams from the Guardian.

Having gone through administration, Southampton are now stable again, albeit in mid-table in League One. They have a new owner in Markus Liebherr and I read somewhere that when he took over it was one of the few instances where creditors got all their money back, which is nice of him.

Portsmouth on the other hand are about a week away from going bust at any given stage and have had more owners this season then a pyramid timeshare scheme run by Bernie Madoff. As it stands, they exist and the TV money this game brings in will help something or other no doubt.

Portsmouth's next owner?

In many ways the cup has been a nice distraction for Portsmouth, as they’ve put aside their awful league form to despatch first Coventry and then Sunderland to reach this stage. They haven’t won in the league this year so the occasional cup win is probably keeping spirits up.

Though Southampton are two levels below Portsmouth these days, they’ve never lost to them in four FA Cup meetings and are unbeaten at St. Mary’s the last five times the sides have met. That said, Pompey bashed them 4-1 at Fratton Park in the last match (though it was five years ago now).

Here’s what Lawro thinks:

Everybody knows there is absolutely no love lost between these two. For Portsmouth, with all their financial problems, to get another game out of this tie would be more use to them than to Southampton.

Verdict: 2-2


Thanks Lawro, I’d advise to bet on anything but that result. I love how there’s no analysis just a random prediction. Though judging how he’s kicking the Sportboys’ arse in our predictions battle maybe you should put a cheeky tenner at 15-1 on it! If you’re into online betting those are pretty good odds.

Smiley man.

Personally I think Southampton might be in luck. They have a new-born baby on their side (random story I know), there’s no better time to play Portsmouth and the fact that the Premier League side are only very slight favourites suggests this will be a close one. Alan Pardew has tended to play decent football as a manager and I’ll back them to win 2-1. If I can bothered I may even do a minute by minute on it tomorrow lunchtime. On second thoughts maybe not.

Grumpy man.



Road to Wembley – 3rd Round – Southampton vs Luton


It’s the FA Cup 3rd round today, a time when fans can start dreaming of a day out at Wembley in May. We’ve already had two rounds out of the way of course, but today the big boys from the Championship and Premier League join the party and the focus is purely on the cup. Back in November we chose a team to follow and that team has managed to make it this far without being knocked out.

fa cup

Up for the cup.

In the last round I was unsure whether Luton could repeat their 1st round success of knocking out a League Two team but they once again pulled off a bit of a shock and beat Rotherham in a replay. The first game had seen a 2-2 draw before Luton convincingly won the rematch at Kenilworth Road 3-0. Adam Newton set them on their way in the seventh minute and further goals from Alan White and Claude Gnakpa earned the Hatters a lucrative third round tie.

Their reward for progress is an altogether stiffer test. Having dealt with the best League Two has to offer, they now find themselves with an away game at League One side Southampton. Much like Luton, Southampton have had their fair share of financial problems in recent times and points deductions have seen them slip down to League One, where they currently occupy a mid-table position. The financial issues came despite selling plenty of good young players like Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale.

theo walcott southampton

Back when he couldn't grow sideburns

The two teams would have both been meeting in the top flight as recently as 1992 but the last match between them came in the Championship four seasons ago in 2007. Looking through Southampton’s current squad they have plenty of recognisable players. Club captain is goalkeeper Kelvin Davis who had a shocking season between the sticks for Sunderland in 2005/06 – he also played for Luton between 1995-99.

kelvin davis

Played for both teams.

Ex-Reading captain Graeme Murty is there, as is ex-Spurs defender Chris Perry. Well travelled striker David Connolly is now at St.Mary’s as is Radhi Jaïdi and Polish striker Marek Saganowski. All in all some experienced pros to complement key players like Rickie Lambert, who has banged in 17 league goals this season, and Adam Lallana who has nine.

Every round I keep saying Luton will do well to get through, and both times so far they’ve surprised me. Southampton’s recent form is a bit patchy with two defeats in the last three but they’ve been beaten just twice at home in the league. As mentioned, Southampton have some familiar names but they’ll expect the aforementioned Lambert and Lallana to get the goals to see them through.

tom craddock luton

Looks a bit like Matthew Wright. A bit.

Luton have lost just once in the last ten but new striker Matthew Barnes-Homer is cup-tied. They’ll once again hope that the likes of Kevin Gallen and Tom Craddock can inspire them to another cup shock.



Road To Wembley – 2nd Round – Rotherham vs Luton


This weekend sees the 2nd round of the FA Cup take place and it turns out that we will be following Luton after their victory in the last round versus Rochdale. The first game at Kenilworth Road saw Luton goe 3-0 up in just half an hour as they looked to impress new manager Richard Monley. Rochdale’s higher league status soon told though as they managed to claw it back with two Joe Thompson goals in the last three minutes. Final score Luton 3 – Rochdale 3. Heartbreak for Luton, but they lived to fight another day in the replay.

The replay was actually shown on TV and I managed to catch some of it. Rochdale were controlling the game but not really creating any clear-cut chances. Luton were happy to go into the break at 0-0. I got a bit bored truth be told and didn’t bother watching the second half but I later saw that Kevin Gallen, who was the main subject of the 1st round preview, went and scored twice to give Luton an excellent 2-0 victory.

kevin gallen luton rochdale fa cup

I'm happy as I knocked out Rochdale.

In the 2nd round Luton will face Rotherham away, another team flying high in League Two. Rotherham did the double over Luton last season and got to this stage by beating non-league Wealdston 3-2 away from home. Since their replay Luton have had beaten Grays Athletic 2-0, drawn with Cambridge 2-2 (throwing away a 2-0 lead) before having a game with Mansfield the other day postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. If nothing they should be well rested having not played since last weekend.

Adam Le Fondre.

Rotherham lie third in League Two and are unbeaten at home this season. They’ve let in just three goals at the Don Valley athletics stadium (their temporary home), while in striker Adam Le Fondre, they have a player Luton should fear, given he has already scored 13 times this season.

Fortress Rotherham.

This looks like an altogther tougher task for Luton even though Rotherham are roughly on the same ability level as Rochdale. It remains to be seen whether Richard Money can keep his unbeaten start to life as Luton manager, and I’m sure he will be playing for a draw to take Rotherham back to Kenilworth Road. Once again a lot will depend on Kevin Gallen up front, who has the ability to cause problems for League Two defence. Luton will also have some more options in the squad as they have recently signed ex Man Utd keeper Kevin Pilkington on loan (who has gone straight into the 1st team) and a striker named Mark Nwokeji.

I can’t see Luton winning again but good luck to them this weekend.


Road To Wembley – 1st Round – Luton vs Rochdale


After six qualifying rounds, this weekend sees the start of the FA Cup with the 1st round proper. Through the wonders of random number generators, we’ve picked Luton Town as the team to focus on in this round and in the likely event that they don’t win the FA Cup, we’ll follow each subsequent victor until the final.

Luton Town were in the top flight as recently as 1991/92 but got relegated just as Division 1 turned into the Premier League. Since then they have gradually dropped down the divisions, with financial problems in the past couple of years meaning points deductions which proved too much to overcome. They now find themselves playing in the Conference, having had their 89 year league stay ended last season following a 30 point deficit on everyone else. They did win the Football League Trophy however.

They comfortably beat Grays Athletic 3-0 in the last round and now face League Two Rochdale in the 1st round.  Rochdale have been doing well this season and lie second at the moment while Luton themselves are adjusting well to Conference life and are just outside the playoffs in fifth place, though just three points off second.



Kevin Gallen.

Looking through their squad I was surprised to see someone I recognised –  Kevin Gallen is on their books. Yes, the ex QPR man who was my cousin’s favourite player growing up (he supports QPR you see) and he has always struck me as one of those classic number 10’s who are really talented but also a bit lazy. In Gallen’s case he’s now a bit of a fatty, though thinking back to QPR games I went to with said cousin, I’m sure he was a bit chubby then too.

Anyway, he is their joint top scorer with four goals and will probably have some part to play if Luton are to beat Rochdale. Looking at the other high scorers, ex Middlesbrough youth player Tom Craddock offers pace up front while defender George Pilkington presumably offers a good aerial threat from set pieces given he also has four goals.

While Rochdale are favourites Luton did draw with them at Kenilworth Road last season and the players will also be looking to impress new manager Richard Money who has a great name and was only appointed a week ago having left the youth set-up at Newcastle to do so (probably a good idea to be fair).



Richard Mo Money Mo Problems.

I don’t have much else to say as I have to finish packing as I’m moving house but good luck to Luton today, and we’ll catchup with what happened before the next round.



Live Report – Arsenal v West Brom, Carling Cup 22/09/09


I don’t always bother doing reports of matches I’ve been to. Indeed looking through the archives, I’ve only done one up until now but Arsenal and I had a bit of a lover’s tiff in the second half of last season and I think I only went to the Youth Cup Final post Christmas. Anyway a new season means new beginnings and after opening my account for the season with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Wigan on Saturday, I again ventured down to the Emirates last night to see the second string and youth players take on West Brom in the Carling Cup.

After a string of impressive performances against Premier League and Championship opposition in recent years, no one is surprised any more at how good some of the players coming through at Arsenal are. Indeed the tendency has been to hype them up like crazy when we should bear in mind they haven’t done anything, yet. However, much of the hype is justified and I think many of the players will actually make the grade at Arsenal unlike in the past where they’d end up being shipped off to a Championship team. All eyes were on Jack Wilshere last night but there were plenty of others to watch as well.

Arsenal started brightly with a couple of Senderos headers off target before West Brom gradually got into the game. Szczesny (I’m half Polish and I still have trouble writing that!) made a couple of smart low stops but on occasion looked suspect when trying to jump for a ball. Just like our other keepers then! Given that he’s only 19 I’ll let him off. Coquelin was quietly efficient in his passing whilst busy in his workrate but it was all pretty even really.

Then came the turning point late in the first half. Ex-Gunner Jerome Thomas tackled Wilshere but left a foot and elbow in as doing so. He offered an apology but Wilshere said something and then Thomas shoved his hand in Wilshere’s face. It was light but sensing the opportunity, the youngster made a bit of a meal of it and Thomas got sent off. It wasn’t violent but he can have no complaints. As I tweeted at the time, if you raise your arms you’re asking for trouble.

The real reason behind Thomas' reaction!

The real reason behind Thomas' reaction!

Anyway the numerical advantage only told in the second half once Carlos Vela came on for Giles Sunu. Receiving a rapturous reception on his return from injury, he immediately made an impact with his ability to draw the West Brom centre backs wide. The pace of the game increased with his sharp movement and passing and the space that playing against 10 men should have resulted in finally came about.

The first goal was a simple tap in by the brilliantly named Sanchez Watt (prefers it to Herschel which is his real first name!) and came after good work by Vela. He created space for himself on the edge of the box before shooting with enough power that Dean Kiely spilled it allowing Watt to slot home from three yards.

The second came soon after; Mark Randall attempting a chip from 25 yards that Vela himself would have been proud of. It hit the bar and then Leon Barnett attempted a mental chest back to the keeper (the ball was at knee height…). Obviously he screwed it up and Vela walked it into the net.

Wilshere and Vela take a corner. Sportboy T takes a crappy camera phone picture.

Wilshere and Vela take a corner. Sportboy T takes a crappy camera phone picture.

The rest of the game was played out without too much fuss and Arsenal find themselves in the fourth round. Overall I was impressed with Aaron Ramsey who has improved immensely and now looks too good for this level. Vela made the difference and again is pushing for first team action. Sanchez Watt was lively while the neat and tidy Coquelin could be one to watch giving the constant turnover of defensive midfielders at Arsenal.

The left flank of Gibbs and Traore were quiet in the first half but got into it in the second once the game was stretched. I’m still not quite sure what Traore’s long term role at the club is. I would suggest he focuses on becoming a true left winger. It was nice to see Senderos back and there was only one dodgy moment from him.

Szczesny made some good stops and look assured for 19. I read it was quite close between him and Mannone for the first team spot and have watched them both over the past few days I would be inclined to pick the Pole. Wilshere had some nice touches but was quiet overall. Sunu, Gilbert and Barazite did nothing of note.

I’d say on the whole it was a much more useful learning experience for the players then the 6-0 against Sheffield Utd at this stage last year even if it was less entertaining for myself. Credit to the West Brom fans who filled most of their allocation and had about five times as much support as Wigan did on Saturday (even sung a bit too).



The Sixth Rounder – Beach Football, Long Journeys & more…


An FA Cup edition of The Six Pointer.


1. The weekend saw some great goals scored, particularly by Man Utd and Fulham. I think the best of the lot has to be Eduardo’s goal against Burnley. The reasoning for this is that it’s something I haven’t seen before. Anyone can do a hit and hope from 30 yards (see Bentley, David) while Carlos Vela had already scored two similar (but equally good) chips earlier in the season in the Carling Cup (here and here). Eduardo’s was a placed volley with the outside of his boot – Wenger called it a ‘beach goal‘. Have a look here if you haven’t see it – brilliant. 

Meant it.

Meant it.


2. Man Utd produced another masterclass in finishing teams off with the 4-0 victory over Fulham, and Alex Ferguson now has the luxury of a squad of players where pretty much any combo can play and produce a good, determined performance. The likes of Park (who has been excellent recently and should start against Inter) and Tevez may not play every game but when they do, ensure they make the most of it. During their record run of not conceding, the number of different central defensive partnerships must have reached double figure, yet there was no apparent loss of quality. 


3. Chelsea have rediscovered their form under Guus Hiddink, and you get the impression he is not the kind of manager who rotates too much. Despite a huge game in Turin tomorrow, he chose to play his best available eleven against Coventry. It was the ultimate case of get an early goal, keep possession but don’t waste too much energy and get the second on the break. Bread and butter stuff. Perhaps most importantly, Michael Essien finally returned from his long term injury. If Chelsea are to win either of the two cups they’re still in, he will be even more important than a rejuvenated Drogba. 

Typical Chelsea performance.

Typical Chelsea performance.


4. It’s probably good for David Moyes that Everton are going quite far in the cup. Whilst he has done a great job in the league for the past couple of years, winning trophies is what makes a reputation. He has the chance to bask in the limelight a little, even more so if he leads the Toffees to Wembley. They are pretty comfortable in sixth spot in the Premier League so can have a good go at Man Utd in April, at a time when Fergie may have bigger fish to fry. I’m sure Louis Saha would love to put one over his old club, as indeed would the Neviller (Phil edition).


5. The semi final draw raises an interesting point about the grounds used. I’ve always wondered why the semi’s are at Wembley – in my opinion it cheapens the appeal of playing the final there. The whole idea of having a day out at Wembley is tied in to reaching the final, not the rounds before. Besides, whilst it may make sense to have Arsenal v Chelsea (potentially) there, it seems a little unfair to make fans of Everton and Man Utd travel 200 miles south when a neutral ground further north like Villa Park is perfectly capable of hosting it.


6. Having said that, the draw for the semi’s is pretty good I would say. Man Utd will be pleased to get the weakest team left in the competition (assuming Hull lose to Arsenal), while there is the potential for a great London derby at Wembley between Chelsea and Arsenal. If United and the Gunners both go all the way, I’m sure there will be lots of talk about it being the 30th anniversary of the classic final in 1979, in which Arsenal prevailed 3-2 in the last minute having conceded twice in the previous five. Of course there’s a long way to go yet, but it could make a great final.



Coventry vs Chelsea Live Minute by Minute!


It’s FA Cup quarter final weekend, except for at the Emirates tomorrow where it will be FA Cup fifth round weekend. Today we see Championship mid-tablers Coventry take on Premier League big boys Chelsea at the Ricoh Arena. Chelsea are strong favourites but were humbled by Barnsley at this stage last season. Coventry are now managed by Chris Coleman and his pondering face.

The art of looking thoughtful

The art of looking thoughtful


Pre amble

Today’s studio guests are Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce and Graeme ‘Robbie Fowler thinks I’m gay‘ Le Saux. Not really sure why they’ve wheeled in Pearce, he only played for  Coventry for a couple of years. You associate him with Forest more than anyone else. Coventry of course are famous for their 1987 win over Spurs in the FA Cup Final. Chelsea are most famous for, erm, no scrap that they don’t have any history.



Coventry: Westwood, Wright, Dann, Turner, Hall, Henderson, Gunnarsson, Doyle, Eastwood, Best, Morrison. 

Subs: Marshall, Ward, Beuzelin, Osbourne, McPake, Simpson, Thornton.

Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Terry, Alex, Bosingwa, Lampard, Mikel, Ballack, Malouda, Drogba, Kalou.

Subs: Hilario, Essien, Carvalho, Di Santo, Quaresma, Belletti, Mancienne.


Ashley Cole sobers enough up to play for Chelsea, and they field pretty much a full strength side despite having a big game away against Juve on Tuesday night. Michael Essien is on the bench for the first time since being injured in August, goodness knows Chelsea have missed him this season. I won’t pretend to know all of Coventry’s players but Clinton Morrison can be a decent striker on his day and apparently the midfielder Gunnarsson is well thought of and has good delivery from the wings. Freddie Eastwood isn’t bad either. This is the first time Coventry have sold out their new stadium since moving in three years ago.


1 min: Coventry kick off.

2 mins: Drogba holds up the ball on the edge of the box, turns Turner (hehe) and fires a left shot just past the far post. Coventry will be hoping that doesn’t happen too often. This is the kind of game in which Drogba could terrorise defenders. That was a good chance.

4 mins: Ashley Cole boozed up booed, brilliant. 

6 mins: Eastwood fires just wide but the whistle went as Doyle hustles Lampard unfairly.

7 mins: Ballack shoots over. All his goals this season have come in the cup.

8 mins: Bosingwa runs towards the box and then aimlessly shoots from a ridiculous angle. Unsurprisingly it goes well wide.

9 mins: Cole booed some more. I wonder if he still has a hangover.

10 mins: Malouda has styled his hair like Jon Obi Mikel. It looks interesting…

A hungover dog which is in now way representative of Cole.

A hungover dog which is in no way representative of Cole.

13 mins: You can always tell when there isn’t much going on in the game when the camera starts cutting to the crowd. We focus on Abramovich who has his usual smug but glum look. He’s wearing a nice looking jacket for once. When you consider how much money he has and that his girlfriend Dasha Zukhova is a model/designer/editor/curator and whatever else she feels like doing, his dress sense when not in a suit is appalling.

15 mins: GOAL! Coventry 0-1 Chelsea! Drogba scores out of nothing. The ball is played back to Dann in defence but he dilly dallies on the ball and Drogba dispossesses him and runs towards goal. He’s slightly wide as he takes it past the keepr but finds the net with no trouble. Poor by Coventry but a great finish.

17 mins: Coventry have responded pretty well to going a goal down. They cross a couple of balls in but they are easily dealt with.

20 mins: Coventry playing a dangerous game as Drogba is caught just offside from a through ball by Ballack. Dann and Turner not having the best of games at the back.

24 mins: Leon Best who is wearing a comedy face mask runs at the Chelsea defence. He cuts into the box but then skies his shot. I have the Coventry website open and they are also doing minute by minute updates. They reckon it was just over. It wasn’t.

27 mins: Chelsea in control, just passing it around. I’m sure they don’t want to expend too much energy before Tuesday.

29 mins: Alex bundles into Leon Best and Coventry win a free kick near the Chelsea box. Henderson plays it in but it part cross, part curling shot. It drifts just wide having failed to curl enough.

32 mins: Stuff is kind of happening but kind of not. I’m finding this game a little boring.

33 mins: Kalou runs down the right and lays it to Mikel who scuffs his shot having got the ball stuck between his legs. It then gets knocked about a bit more before Malouda wastes it.

35 mins: Cole fouled about 35 yards out. Chelsea free kick taken by Lampard and it’s a good effort. He takes it Ronaldo style by striking through it so it goes up and under rather than curling. Westwood tips it over. I wonder if him and Eastwood have turf wars on the Coventry training ground. 

Gang wars, sort of.

Gang wars, sort of.

4o mins: I can already sense that the most interesting aspect of this game will end up being Michael Essien’s second half substitute appearance.

41 mins: Kalou looks for a free kick as he tackled outside the box but nothing is given. Replays suggest he was unlucky, the defender scything him down somewhat.

44 mins: Coventry survive a sustained bit of Chelsea pressure, with several players running at them from various positions. No one can really produce the bit of skill for the breakthrough and eventually the Sky Blues clear their lines.

Half time: The half comes to a close with Chelsea in control. They have their goal and are dominating possession by just passing it around at ease. Every so often someone decides to run at Coventry and it’s only a final ball away from being 2 or 3-0.

I had been hoping Graeme Le Saux would just be providing analysis with Pearce but I’ve had to listen to his co-commentary all game. Maybe that’s why I’m finding it so boring. I haven’t heard him since he announced he was quitting the BBC before the last World Cup. I wish he had stayed retired per se.

Meanwhile, despite Chelsea’s dominance they are only one up so Coventry still have a chance.


46 mins: Chelsea kick off the second half. They have taken off one infuriating winger who can’t cross in Kalou and brought on another infuriating winger who can cross but has the consistency of really horrible hot chocolate that has been made with water instead of milk, in Ricardo Quaresma.

It's fair to say he's inconsistent...

It's fair to say he's inconsistent...

50 mins: Time ticks by some more, Chelsea still in control.

54 mins: Coventry win another free kick in a good position but yet again the delivery is woeful. It sails harmlessly over. It’s clear that set pieces are Coventry’s best hope of getting back into this but at the moment they have been unable to produce a single telling ball. I think Henderson should stop taking their free kicks. Maybe on Football Manager Chris Coleman saw he had a low set piece rating but persisted because Henderson somehow had lots of assists anyway. I would suggest he finds a player with 15+.

59 mins: Wright bundles into Malouda who is still on the pitch for some reason. When I say bundle I mean leaps three feet in the air and charges into his back. Escapes a yellow impressively. Beuzelin comes on for Doyle.

61 mins: Coventry Henderson wastes another free kick. 

64 mins: Essien about to come on for Chelsea. I think had he been fit, Scolari would probably still be in a job. 

65 mins: Mikel off, Essien on.

66 mins: Terry goes on a run into the Coventry half but then remembers he lacks skill and pace and doesn’t know what to do. He tries to knock it past someone, loses it and then attempts to take out the offending opponent.

67 mins: Coventry’s long throws are causing more problems then their set pieces right know. Gunnarsson chucks it in, Cech flaps and misses but Coventry can’t get a decent shot away. They then win a second throw on the opposite side of the pitch and again the ball almost breaks to Morrison and Best but neither could quite turn and shoot. Chelsea need a second goal to kill this off.

71 mins: A clash of heads between Alex and Drogba. The earth moved, both come off temporarily. Chelsea have to defend a throw with nine men.

72 mins: GOAL! Coventry 0-2 Chelsea! And defend it they do. A super lightning break. Quaresma runs down the right, crosses into the box and Alex all people has run 50 yards to finish with aplomb with his left foot. Both him and Drogba had just come back on, and both were part of the four on one break. Great cross, great finish, great goal. That would be that I would think.

77 mins: Slightly bizarre moment. Chelsea player fouled and the free kick gets taken quickly. Lampard has it and while Coventry wait for the whistle he runs to goal and sets aim from 25 yards. He scuffs it badly and a low shot goes wide. It would have stood though.

79 mins: Fat Frank is through on goal again but can’t lift over the oncoming keeper.

80 mins: Drogba comes off and is replaced by youngster Franco Di Santo.

82 mins: Coventry’s best chance. Morrison is through on goal and Alex lunges in on him. Morrison stays on his feet instead of going down and thus can’t get his shot away. Cech smothers, Morrison complains. It’s hard to say as didn’t go down but that would have been a penalty had Morrison made more of it.

85 mins: Here’s a shock for you. St Mirren have knocked Celtic out of the Scottish Cup. That’s St Mirren who hadn’t beaten Celtic in 19 years and lost 7-0 to them just last week. Ex Coventry manager Gordon Strachan will not be a happy bunny.

This man got Coventry relegated.

This man got Coventry relegated.

88 mins: There has been some bits of excitement in the last few minutes but none that I feel were particularly worthy of writing about.

90 mins: Drogba given man of the match. About right I’d say, he gave the Coventry defence all sorts of problems in his 80 minutes on the field.

Full time: Coventry 0-2 Chelsea. A comfortable win for Chelsea in the end. Coventry had their spells of pressure but couldn’t turn it into real chances for Morrison and Best. Class prevailed with Drogba scoring a great early goal and the decider coming on the break after Chelsea had introduced Quaresma to stretch the Coventry defence.



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