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FA Cup Roundup

fergweng Before the fifth round draw of the FA cup, my sixth sense was telling me that Manchester United might get Arsenal, and when i saw the fifth round draw, I almost couldn’t believe it. Manchester United vs Arsenal, what a game that promises to be. Although i would have liked to see the two teams battling in the final, but I feel the game will be like a final. The teams are currently first and second in the league, and who can forget the classic 1999 semifinal which was settled by Ryan Giggs goal. The home advantage of United does give them a upper hand in the match but with these 2 sides, you just cant tell. Also as the ties take place during 16-17th Feb and both teams have big Champions League matches after some days, so it will be interesting to see what the teams might look like, which manager will give more importance to the FA cup. That can turn out to be a deciding factor here.

The magic of the cup lies in the fact that i opens a lot of opportunities for the non Premier League clubs also. This time we have only 6 Premier League teams left in the competition. And even after the fifth round, there will be at least 3 non Premier League teams in the quarter final. Although i don’t expect any of them to win the title, they do provide great matches and entertainment. Just look at the fourth round match between conference side Havant and Liverpool. Even though the score line of 5-2 suggests that Liverpool won it comfortably, that was not the case. Liverpool had to come from behind twice to beat them. Sheff Utd fought hard and knocked Manchester City out. These cup games can take so much pressure of the manager. Who might answer it better than Sheff Utd manager Bryan Robson who was booed by there own fans after loss to Sheff Wed but a Cup win against a Premier League club has changed all that and not to mention a home game against a Premier league club.

Liverpool and Chelsea have got relatively easy home games against Barnsley and Huddersfield. Portsmouth are traveling to face Preston. Portsmouth are another team that have a great chance in the cup. They have been fantastic this season in the league as well. Whatever happens , the next round is definitely going to be interesting.

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Carling Cup Final and other news

Arsenal Edebayor and Bendtner clashSpurs were quite confident before the game that they would be able to beat Arsenal this time and they did that emphatic style. Even I was expecting Spurs to reach the final but I didn’t expect them to beat by Arsenal by 5- 1. Even though Arsenal had a few youngsters in there side, they also had a few experienced players with them and they should have done more. There was also some on field spat between Arsenal Adebayor and Nicolas Bendtner which are being talked about in every newspaper recently. Football is a game of passion and things could boil over if you are losing 5-1 from a team that hasn’t beaten you in 9 years. Credit must be given to spurs who played really well and have reached there first final in six years. They will now face Chelsea in the final at Wembley.

The other semifinal between Chelsea and Everton was a tight game with Joe Cole scoring a great goal to seal a 1 – 0 win for Chelsea ( 3 – 1 aggregate). Everton have played well in the first leg and were extremely unlucky to have lost the game 2 – 1 at Stamford Bridge. They started off in a similar fashion, dominating possession and making chances but the Chelsea defense along with Peter Cech proved too much for them to break down. At the other end, Chelsea’s Joe Cole scored a beautiful game to wrap things up for Chelsea. The final between Chelsea and Tottenham will sure be an exciting game with Chelsea being the clear favorites to win. But Spurs shouldn’t be underestimated and having reached there first final after a long time, they should be motivated enough. And with Berbatov and Keane as strikers, you can’t rule them out. As for me , i will be rooting for a spurs win.

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Roo and Ron inspire United win

Reading 0 – 2 Manchester United ( Rooney, Ronaldo )

Just when it looked that Manchester United were heading for a draw, similar to one which we had on the opening day of the season against Reading, Rooney’s touch from a clever Tevez pass gave United the lead and helped them to remain on top of the premier league. Then in injury time, Ronaldo raced through to score his 17th premier league goal of the season.

The credit must be given to Reading team who battled till the end and could have snatched a draw late on if Harper shot would have been on target. United had Hargreaves back in the starting line up in place of Anderson and Park Ji Sung was in there in place of Giggs. We started the game well and Ronaldo would have got his 17th goal early on in the game but his left foot low shot went just wide and few minutes later Hahnemann saved well to deny Tevez. Hargreaves could have got the goal from a free kick from 25 yards but again Hahnemann produced a fine save to deny him. Reading were also good going forward and could have got the opening goal through Kitson but Vidic slid in to prevent him from shooting in an open goal. Reading were playing with three strikers and they clearly created trouble during the counter attack.

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The introduction of Giggs in the second half immediately brought us the opening goal. Giggs’s delivered a dangerous corner, Hahnemann punched the ball but it hit Kitson’s back and was going in but Cisse acrobatically cleared the ball of the line with Vidic lurking near him. We started dominating the game from that time but we were not at our attacking best and the finishing was poor. Reading has a great chance to equalize when Kitson was clean through but his lofted shot was saved well by Van Der Sar. I was having a feeling that the game might end in a draw but then Tevez’s intelligent lofted pass found Rooney who just flicked the ball into the bottom corner. Reading replied bravely and Harper shot just wide. We could have killed the game late on but Carrick and Ronaldo missed easy chances. When the game was in injury time and Reading were throwing everyone forward, Ronaldo broke the attack and ran 70 yards to score his 23rd goal of the season.

Overall, it was good to get the three points in the end and stay on the top of the table. Even though, we didn’t play well during the first half, we responded well in the second half and always looked dangerous. Credit must go to Giggs who turned out to be an inspired substitution. Even though he is getting older, his technique is still the best. Ronaldo and Rooney worked hard as always. Carrick and Hargreaves anchored the midfield well. The boss was pleased as well and this is what he had to say

By the end we were quite happy to get through it, Considering the number of opportunities we had, maybe our decision-making in the final third of the field wasn’t at its best. We kept making chances, but you do start to worry when the game goes on and you haven’t scored. You worry whether you’re going to get the goal, and it took a lovely flick from Wayne to get us in front. Credit to Reading they kept going at us. They really do make you work. It was a really open match, It really needed an early goal, which could have led to a lot of goals in that game. We got the goal at the right time and managed to hold on to get through.

Rooney who described the game as the “most difficult game he has played this season”. But the three points is what matters most and I am happy that we have got it. With Chelsea and Arsenal both winning, it was necessary to put pressure on them at this crucial stage. The most important thing is that we are winning matches even in the end and that’s the sign of Champions. Lets hope we carry it forward.

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EPL Transfers and other news

The biggest news of the Premier League has no doubt been the appointment of Kevin Keegan as the manager of Newcastle United. The fans would be hoping that Newcastle can return to there attacking style which they showed previously under Keegan. The news that Keegan will also be approaching Alan Shearer for a coaching rolewill sure please a lot of fans as many eye him as a natural successor to Keegan. Now it will be interesting see whether he will be able to turn the fortunes around of an underachieved club and whether the Newcastle board will show some patience with him.

The transfer window is open and there have been a few signings. Chelsea fans will sure be happy by the capture of Nicolas Anelka. They have also signed Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic for around $9m. Liverpool have also signed defender Martin Skrkel. James Mcfadden has joined Alex Mcleish at Birmingham who are also closing in on the signing of Manchester City’s striker Samaras. Portsmouth have signed Lassana Diarra from Arsenal and the player has immediately claimed that he will leave the club if a big club comes for him. Now what type of attitude is that. The market is still open and i am expecting Keegan to bring some fresh faces in his side.

What do you think about the appointment of Keegan. Can he bring the lost glory back to Newcastle ?

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Weekend EPL Roundup

 Cristiano Ronaldo

Being a Manchester United, the weekend couldn’t have been much better. Although i was expecting Manchester United to win comfortably against managerless Newcastle, i didn’t expect them to score 6. They did take around 49 minutes to score the first goal but after that there was no looking back. Cristiano Ronaldo is in superb form right now and he deserved his hat trick. His goal tally for this season is now at 22 and i expect him to cross the 30 mark by the end of the season. The result along with Arsenal dropping points against Birmingham takes them to the top of the league on Goal difference.

The situation at Newcastle is becoming worse with Harry Redknapp ruling himself out of the Newcastle job. The focus will now shift towards Alan Shearer who has the support of fans and also Redknapp. I don’t expect Shearer to take the Managerial post so early in his carrear but in football who knows. Another possible candidate could be Mark Hughes who hasnt ruled himself out of the running.

In the other results, the pressure just keeps mounting on Rafa Benitez after Liverpool drew against Middlesbrough after a lack luster display. It was also on papers that the Liverpool owner also approached Klinsmann for the Liverpool job before he took over Bayern Munich. With there titles hopes almost gone now, i don’t think Rafa Benitez will be here next season.

Chelsea defeated Spurs 2-0 to keep the pressure on the leaders with Nicolas Anelka making his debut. The signing of Anelka will put a lot of pressure on Shevchenko. He has been unable to produce the same form which he did for AC Milan and unless he can do that in the next few months, the time may be up for him in the summer. Everton defeated Manchester city 1-0 and Aston Villa defeated Reading 3-1 to move to fifth and sixth in the table. Wigan and Sunderland also recorded wins to take some pressure off them. Blackburn managed to defeat Bolton thanks to a late strike by Jason Roberts who may the club in January due to the lack of opportunities.

The race for title is sure getting hotter with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are all in contention. Its been a long time since the league has been this much competitive. With Liverpool almost 10 points behind, i think it will be a miracle if they win.

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Welcome to thesoccerpitch.com

Let me officially welcome you to thesoccerpitch.com. It is a new football blog which will contain my rants about football news, games , epl etc. My favourite team is Manchester United and so i will definitely focus on them too. In total, this blog will focus completely on football or soccer. Do visit the site and participate in the discussion. To keep yourself updated, subscribe to the feed.

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