Day: November 23, 2011

City & United’s Misadventures In Europe Do Not Constitute A Crisis

Both of the Manchester clubs came unstuck in Europe last night. The Champions League campaigns of both Manchester City and Manchester United was certainly been amongst the biggest curios of the start of this season. Imperious and already pulling clear of the pack in the league, they have been broadly misfiring in their midweek matches, and last night they stumbled again against opposition that they might have expected to beat comfortably in previous seasons. At Old Trafford, the gift to Benfica of Phil Jones’ early own goal in front of the Stretford End wasn’t enough secure the Portuguese side all three points, but it was enough to send Alex Ferguson – whose feathers were ruffled to a sufficient extent for him to call early time on a post-match press conference last night – home with something to think about. The good news for Manchester United is that their destiny remains in their own hands, and the task for their final match – to travel to Switzerland and avoid defeat in their final group match against Basel – should be comfortably achievable. There can, however, be no accounting for nerves and the tension of an occasion such as this, and Basel may be able to raise themselves to a performance of the calibre that will be required to beat opponents of the pedigree of Manchester United. Their sky blue rivals...

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A Brief History Of England False Dawns: Part 2

Last week, in the wake of England’s heroic (cough) win against Spain at Wembley in what can only be described as the friendly international to end all friendly internationals, we took a look at a few matches from their past in which the national team had managed to pluck a result from somewhere against a decent team, but failed to capitalise upon it. In the first episode of this series, we took you up to a win against the world champions – at the time, Argentina – and briefly explained how, just a few weeks later, the same team managed to stink the European Championships out in Italy with the only flourish coming from a travelling support intent on smashing up anything that it managed to come across. This evening it’s time for part two of this series, which focusses on the last three decades of English mediocrity. 16 June 1982 – Bilbao – England 3 France Background: Following their early exit at the 1980 European Championships, England, now managed by the avuncular Ron Greenwood, were charged with the job of qualifying for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain. With the tournament now having been expanded to twenty-four teams, qualification should have been a little easier, but Greenwood’s team still only managed to scramble their way through, losing three of their eight qualifying matches – to Switzerland, Norway...

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Match Of The Week 4: Stourbridge 2-0 Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth Argyle’s season goes from bad to worse, as they were knocked out of the FA Cup First Round by Southern League Premier Division side Stourbridge. Goals from Paul McCone and Sean Evans gave the Glassboys a well deserved victory, and the chance to face League One Stevenage in eleven days time. Unlike the game at Home Park ten days ago, the replay was a much quieter affair, with the first twenty minutes being an exercise in both teams finding their feet. The Pilgrims controlled most of the possession, with player-manager Carl Fletcher and Onismor Bhasera being Plymouth’s standout players, however, they created little. However, when Stourbridge had possession, playmaker Sean Geddes used the time and space he was given by Argyle to find his range with left-winger Sean Evans and centre-forward Ryan Rowe his favoured targets – and it would be these three players that have the Argyle defence the most problems. However, in the 21st minute saw the game’s first chance, with a centre from Evans finding Rowe who forced an excellent save from Plymouth keeper Jake Cole. Twelve minutes later came the biggest talking point, and possibly the most pivotal moment of the game. Plymouth right-back Paul Bignot had his right leg kicked from under him by Evans, and with Bignot on the ground, Evans stood over the Pilgrim, and Bignot lashed out weakly with his...

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