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jcube

Rookie
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Tottenham Hotspur resisted a late fight back from Middlesbrough to win their FA Cup Third Round replay 2-1 at home on Tuesday evening.
A horrendous mistake from Tomás Mejías saw Giovani Lo Celso open the scoring in just the second minute of the match. Erik Lamela made it two with just a quarter of an hour gone with a brilliant solo strike. Boro substitute George Saville then got his side back into the tie with just seven minutes remaining as he picked out the bottom corner from the edge of the area but it was all too little too late as Spurs booked their place in the next round.
Mistake sees Tottenham take early lead
With Spurs coming into the match on a run of only one win in their last six matches, there really was pressure on the hosts to put in a positive performance. They were given an absolute gift early on as Mejías’ sloppy pass was picked off by Lo Celso. The Argentine had plenty of room to then run at the Middlesbrough defence and slot the ball into the bottom corner.
Their own moment of slackness then almost afforded the Championship side an equaliser as Davinson Sanchez’s pass was intercepted by Djed Spence. He then played in Lukas Nmecha, with the Manchester City forward dummying well only to see his shot parried by Paulo Gazzaniga.
Lamela dazzles to double advantage
That save would prove to be crucial for Jose Mourinho’s men as Lamela doubled the lead. He spun well in midfield, evaded a couple of poor Middlesbrough challenges before slotting the ball confidently into the far corner of the net with the outside of his left boot.
Tottenham were a class above their second tier opponents and had chances to extend their lead through Lamela, Eric Dier, Ryan Sessegnon and Japhet Tanganga but only the young winger could threaten the Middlesbrough goalkeeper.
Paddy McNair almost pulled one back for Jonathan Woodgate’s men before half-time as he latched onto Jonny Howson’s terrific through-ball but lifted his shot high over the crossbar. Fortunately, the offside flag spared his blushes.
Saville gives Boro hope
Spurs cruised throughout the remainder of the game, playing the majority of the second-half in just second gear. They almost got a third towards the end of the match as Christian Eriksen’s shot went through a crowd but Mejias reacted very well to paw the ball away.
Middlesbrough did at least make the clash interesting with just a few minutes remaining as substitute Saville picked up the ball on the edge of the Tottenham area and nonchalantly rolled his shot into the bottom corner.
They pushed extremely hard to find their equaliser but weren’t quite able to complete what would be a famous turnaround as Jose Mourinho’s men edged through.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Following another less than stellar cup tie, Manchester United finally managed to put Wolverhampton Wanderers away with a narrow 1-0 win at Old Trafford to edge their way into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
An odd evening
It was another tense night of FA Cup action with both teams putting out relatively strong sides in an attempt to reach the final 32 of the competition. Following a bright opening from United it looked like the visitors had taken the lead against the run of play when Pedro Neto took advantage of a mistake from Fred to open the scoring. Alas, following a check from VAR, the goal was overturned due to an accidental handball from Raul Jimenez in the build-up.
Despite having a few flurries after that in the first half it never really felt like Wolves took the game by the scruff of the neck as they probably should’ve done. Instead, United slowly but surely built their way into the game, and in the 67th minute a nice through ball from Anthony Martial set Juan Mata off to the races – and the Spaniard didn’t disappoint by chipping the ball over John Ruddy and into the back of the net.
One step closer to Wembley
Wolves attempted to push forward late in the game but they didn’t seem to have the sort of attacking incentive that they usually do. That could be an indication that they were already looking ahead to a busy period in the next few months as they attempt to progress in the Europa League and also keep their push for the top six going strong in the Premier League.
While United will have one eye on the Watford vs Tranmere Rovers replay, they’ll also be well aware of the fact that they have a huge trip to Anfield coming up this weekend as they try and bring their rivals’ unbeaten run in the Premier League to an end. Wolves, on the other hand, will have their hands full against Southampton in the sort of game that could continue to push the idea that they desperately need to strengthen before the January transfer window comes to an end.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Newcastle United halted their recent run of losses at St James’ Park with a dramatic late win against Chelsea on Saturday evening.
The match itself was not a thriller, with chances being at a premium but both teams putting in assured defensive showings. It took until the 94th minute of the game for the Magpies to open the scoring as Issac Hayden nodded in Allan Saint-Maximin’s cross, sending the home support into pandemonium.
Lack of early quality
Having suffered with horrendous injury luck throughout the season, Newcastle’s fortune then got even worse as Jetro Willems had to be withdrawn with less than 15 minutes on the clock. One of those players still fighting fit though was Joelinton and he got so close to his first Premier League goal August as he thumped a powerful header off of the crossbar.
Both sides struggled to create chances in a stop-start game in the North-East but Martin Dubravka had to be alert to stop N’Golo Kante’s drive after he was played in behind.
Both teams continue to battle
The quality of the second-half was not much better as Willian raced into the penalty area but poorly pulled his shot wide of the upright. Substitute Matt Ritchie then had to put in a vital intervention as the uncharacteristically quiet Tammy Abraham tried to stab the ball home but the Scotsman did excellently to clear the ball of the line.
Newcastle continued to employ are tenacious rear-guard action throughout the second-half, with Emerson potentially going closest as he fired a long-range shot high and wide as the ball dropped to him on the edge of the area.
A rare opportunity did come Newcastle’s way late on as the ball fell to Joelinton at the back post but he lashed his shot wide of the Chelsea goal.
Hayden snatches three points
As the seconds ticked down, it looked as though the teams were set to claim a hard-fought point each. However, Hayden rubbished those headlines as he found plenty of space at the back post to connect with Saint-Maximin’s inch perfect cross and headed the ball beyond the despairing grasp of Kepa, securing a huge win against Chelsea.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Liverpool moved 16 points clear at the Premier League summit after Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah secured a deserved 2-0 victory over rivals Manchester United at Anfield.

Second-place Manchester City drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace on Saturday and Liverpool, who still possess a game in hand, took full advantage to tighten their grip at the top and boost their chances of a first league title since 1990.

United are the only team to take points off Jurgen Klopp’s men this season and deployed a three-man defence – including Luke Shaw at centre-back – as they did when the teams drew 1-1 at Old Trafford in October.

But Liverpool took just 14 minutes to take the lead through Van Dijk and, despite an improvement from the visitors in the second half, Salah raced away on the break to clinch the three points in second-half stoppage time.

After Fred and Brandon Williams let Van Dijk get loose in the area Harry Maguire was United’s last hope, but the Netherlands international leapt above the man who took his tag as the world’s most expensive defender to nod in the opener.

@VirgilvDijk has scored the most #PL goals by a defender since the start of last season#LIVMUN pic.twitter.com/bxbQHr7Dme
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 19, 2020
Liverpool had what they thought was a second ruled out by VAR in the 25th minute.

David de Gea spilled a high ball under pressure from Van Dijk but referee Craig Pawson did not blow his whistle after putting it to his mouth. Play continued and Roberto Firmino curled home a fine finish, only for the challenge on the United goalkeeper – who received a yellow card for his protests – to be deemed a foul upon review.

Andreas Pereira failed to convert a rare United chance against the run of play from inside the six-yard box, before De Gea managed to keep out Sadio Mane on the stroke of half-time.

Liverpool came flying out of the blocks in the second half, with Salah scuffing a glorious opportunity wide and De Gea brilliantly tipping a venomous drive from Jordan Henderson onto the post.

Anthony Martial showed a lack of composure when he hacked high and wide after a brilliant one-two with Pereira before the hour mark, while Mane passed up an opening after a swift break from the hosts.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer switched to a back four for the final 15 minutes but, as United pushed for an equaliser, Salah punished the visitors by surging clear from a corner and holding off Daniel James to seal the win with a cool finish.


What does it mean? United need attacking reinforcements

Solskjaer said pre-game Marcus Rashford was facing “weeks” out with a back injury, though reports subsequently emerged claiming he could be facing up to three months out.

With James and Martial doing little up top, United would be wise to look to the transfer market to bolster their options. Failing to secure the signature of Erling Haaland, who scored a hat-trick after coming off the bench on his Borussia Dortmund debut on Saturday, now looks like even more of a blow.

Van Dijk a colossus

Not only did he score the first goal, Van Dijk was immovable at the heart of Liverpool’s defence and comfortably dealt with United’s limp attack. His exemplary distribution from the back helped keep Solskjaer’s men on the back foot for much of the game.

The Pereira conundrum

Having made a marginal impact as a winger at Valencia, Pereira fared little better when deployed in a deep-lying midfield role last season. He played as a number 10 at Anfield and missed United’s best chance while creating just one chance for Martial.
 

jcube

Rookie
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It is that time of the year again, transfer deadline day. Twice a year a frenzy of activity takes place on deadline day, as clubs attempt to strengthen their squads. A number of players have moved clubs in recent days, including Bruno Fernandes joining Manchester United. Sander Berge heading for Sheffield United and Danny Rose completing a loan switch to Newcastle.
With many more negotiations taking place around Europe, here are some of the players who could be on the move on January transfer deadline day 2020:
William Jose (Real Sociedad to Manchester United/Tottenham)
After securing the signing of Fernandes, it seems that United have turned their attention a search for a striker. One possible signing is Real Sociedad’s Brazilian striker William Jose. The 28-year-old is being linked with a loan switch to Old Trafford from La Real. However, Spurs are also reported to be holding talks with the Basque club. Jose has fallen out of favour in San Sebastien.
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea to Inter/Lazio)
It now seems inevitable that Chelsea’s French striker will leave south west London before the transfer window closes. Italian giants Inter have been in negotiations with the Blues in recent days, according to Sky Sports Inter boss Antonio Conte is hoping to be reunited with the forward in Milan.
However, the same Sky reports also claim that Lazio are attempting to make a late bid for the former Arsenal striker. Either way, it seems that Giroud’s future may lie in Italy. In fact, Simone Inzaghi’s club are now favourites to sign the veteran striker at odds of 6/5.
Dries Mertens (Napoli to Chelsea)
While Giroud looks set to depart Stamford Bridge, it seems another forward is heading for the capital club in the shape of Napoli’s Dries Mertens. The Blues are in negotiation’s with the club from Naples, with a mooted fee of around £5million. The 32-year-old could prove a bargain. His fee is only low due to the fact that his Napoli contract expires in the summer.
Antonee Robinson (Wigan to AC Milan)
In what seems like a bizarre one, Wigan full-back Antonee Robinson is set to move to Italian giant’s AC Milan for a fee of around £10million. The USA international only moved to the Latics from Premier League Everton last season for £2million. The 22-year-old has impressed with the Lancashire club in his 30 appearances this season.
Jarrod Bowen (Hull City to Crystal Palace)
Crystal Palace have been a team short of goals in recent seasons and could be set to turn to Hull City’s prolific forward Jarrod Bowen. The Eagles are reported to be in talks with the Tigers over signing the forward for a fee in the region of £16million plus add-ons. Bowen has enjoyed a productive season in the Championship scoring 16 goals. The 23-year-old is out of contract with the Tigers this summer, hence the relatively small fee, although Hull does have an option to extend the forward’s contract by a further.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Fans were always expecting fireworks when Leicester City and Chelsea met at the King Power Stadium, and in the end, that’s exactly what we got as the two top four contenders played out a fascinating 2-2 draw last night.
Back and forth
These two sides came into this game in third and fourth place respectively, knowing that their closest rivals Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers were playing one another this weekend – with Tottenham Hotspur having to take on reigning champions Manchester City. As such, this was a golden opportunity for one of the two to really stamp their authority on the top four race.
The first half of the game wasn’t exactly dull with both teams going for it on the counter, but nobody was able to massively bloody the nose of their opponent. In the second half, however, Antonio Rudiger was quick to inject some life into the game with a lovely header from Mason Mount’s corner that gave Chelsea the lead. It didn’t last too long for the hosts though as Harvey Barnes’ strike deflected in off of Reece James and flew into the top corner of the net.
Honours even
Leicester quite clearly had their tails up from that point on and Ben Chilwell made the momentum count with a nice finish from a Youri Tielemans corner. Again, though, the resilience of this Chelsea team was able to shine through as they avoided another defeat courtesy of Rudiger heading in his second goal of the day. Once more, the assist came from none other than Mason Mount.
The expectation was that United, Wolves and Tottenham would be the teams they’d have to look around at for the next few months and certainly this weekend, but at the end of the day it was Sheffield United who were able to close the gap on the top four courtesy of their win over Crystal Palace. With the winter break coming up the next game for Leicester will be a visit to play Wolves on Valentine’s Day, whereas Chelsea have a big task ahead of them as they prepare to avenge their 4-0 loss that they suffered against Manchester United at the start of the campaign.
 

jcube

Rookie
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On the latest transfer deadline day, one of the deals that caught the eye was Manchester United signing former Watford striker Odion Ighalo on loan from Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua. It was a strange one, to say the least.
However, the Red Devils signing the Nigerian international smacked of desperation to bring in a forward player, as they were short in attack. This is not a new problem, as, in my opinion, they were short in attack at the start of the season.
They did not replace Lukaku
Last summer much-maligned Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku swapped Manchester for Milan, as the 26-year-old joined Inter from United. While many criticised the former Everton forward, he actually had a decent strike ratio, close to a goal every other game for the Red Devils. However, it felt the right move for the player to leave for everybody involved.
That deal was completed and then there was an expectation that United would replace the forward. However, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided not to bring in a replacement, despite links with many forwards. It looked like a gamble, as that meant relying on England forward Marcus Rashford and youngster Mason Greenwood as the central attacking options.
Rashford injury led to a desperate search for a striker
United maybe could have got away with Rashford, Greenwood and French forward Anthony Martial as central attacking options. However, a recent back injury sustained by Rashford has left United’s attacking options looking sparse.
Some would argue that Martial is not an out-and-out striker, having also played out wide, just like Rashford has in the past. So far United boss Solskjaer only seems to trust young Greenwood with cameo appearances from the substitutes bench, despite the youngster showing flashes of his ability.
The January transfer window was the perfect opportunity to bring in a quality replacement. According to media reports, United missed out on signing both RB Salzburg’s Erling Haaland and his compatriot Josh King, who of course spent time at Old Trafford as a youngster.
Ighalo was certainly not their first choice. The fact that the Red Devils had to loan in a player who has been playing in the Chinese Super League for the last two-and-a-bit years illustrate where they are at the minute as a club. The whole saga makes the people in charge of recruitment look highly incompetent.
Ighalo may come good at United
Ighalo must be pinching himself at the moment. First, he earned a lucrative move to China that probably secured him for the rest of his life. Now at 30 years of age, he gets a move to one of the biggest clubs in the European game, which they are even if the team are no longer one of the best in Europe.
Ighalo has previous experience of playing in the Premier League, as he scored 16 goals in 55 league appearances for Watford prior to his move to the Chinese game back in 2017. He knows the league and may come good for the Red Devils. He offers a physical presence, which is not the biggest strength of the likes of Martial and Rashford, when fit. Who knows he may come good for the Red Devils.
If called upon, United will need him to fire, as the Red Devils are currently outsiders at odds of 8/1 to finish in the Premier League’s Champions League berths this season. It seems unlikely that the signing of Ighalo will improve their chances of achieving their objective.
Manchester United seem to be sinking to new depths of mediocrity from top to bottom. It must be a nightmare for fans of the club. Unfortunately, that nightmare shows very little signs of ending anytime soon.
 

jcube

Rookie
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The last few months have been difficult for most people due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest concern was the health and human life. However, it is hard not to be selfish occasionally and wonder when our beloved game will return?
Yes, sure Belarus, Nicaraguan and now K-League are still playing. However, the major European leagues are not. That is about to change, as the German Bundesliga is set for a return to action on May 14th after government approval.
Fans will be happy with Bundesliga return
I have to say a lot of fans will be happy that the Bundesliga is back, including myself. The German top-flight is my favourite football league. The downside is that there are no fans in the stadiums. However, for us football starved types it is at least a start, as some football is better than known.
The return will certainly make life slightly more bearable for the German public. I suspect there will be many foreign observers who it will help entertain too, as the Bundesliga is a brand throughout the world. This is the effect that the UK government hoped that the potential restart of the Premier League would have.
Germany in a healthier position
All the talk of football returning and lockdown eases seems to be incredibly dangerous in the UK. The country has the highest death rates due to Covid-19 in the whole of Europe. It is quite frankly disgusting the way that the government have handled the situation.
However, as it seems is always the case, though, Germany have managed the situation in a cool and measured way. While there have been around 150,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the country, the death toll is a relatively small number at 6,300. Compared that the 30,000 people who have died in Britain, and you can see why the Bundesliga is close to restarting and the Premier League is not.
The Germans are better prepared and organised. Clubs will test players regularly and take every precaution they can to prevent the spread of the virus. German chancellor Angela Merkel has also stated that players or staff that contract the visit will not have to quarantine because the clubs have the resources to test the players.
The country, in general, seems to have the resources to cope with what has been a unique situation that the world has found itself in of late.
Looking forward to football
While most people realise the seriousness of COVID-19, it is not a sin for looking forward to football if it played in a safe manner. That means it does not put anybody in danger and the clubs have the right resources to conclude the league.
The Bundesliga will be an example for the Premier League and the likes of La Liga and Serie A if they are even contemplating a return to action in the near future. Hopefully, it all goes to plan and we will see some football soon.
As a big fan of the German top-flight, I am not going to lie I am looking forward to its return. It may be Bundesliga-lite, but it is still top-class players playing the game. It may be the best we are going to get for a good while if COVID-19 has anything to say about it.
 
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