Highlights from last week and a look ahead to sport on Aus TV nextweek.
By William Thompson
There’s been plenty of action over the past seven days with the Premier League once again churning out some cracking games and unpredictable results. The UEFA Champions League first knock out stage was drawn on Friday, which results in Beckham returning to Old Trafford with AC Milan and Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea with Inter Milan. Fulham and Everton both progressed to the knock out stages of the Europa League, with Liverpool joining them as one of the “best losers” from the Champions League. Mark Hughes got the chop at Manchester City with Mancini being named instantly as his replacement. And finally, England salvaged a draw in their first test match against South Africa in Centurion.
Pick of the week: Fulham 3 Manchester United 0
Fulham destroyed Manchester United 3-0 at Craven Cottage on Saturday, with the current champions fielding a severely weakened team due to mass injury problems. Nevertheless, Manchester United still had plenty of experience on the field with the likes of Carrick, Scholes, Rooney and Owen all in action. Fulham played extremely well and limited United to only a handful of chances. Berbatov came on midway through the second half and gave United a glimmer of hope, to no avail. Bobby Zamora was Fulham’s stand out man, scoring Fulham’s second just after the break and setting up Duff brilliantly for a well taken third goal. Zamora, who made it 10 goals for the season, was given a standing ovation by the Fulham fans as he departed the field after being substituted in injury time. He’s taken some stick on PomSport over the past couple of weeks but if he keeps this form up he may well be in with a shout for England. The confidence is there and he’s definitely answering his critics (for which I’m one) the best way possible!
Premier League Highlights
With Manchester United losing, Chelsea failed to take advantage drawing 1-1 with West Ham at Upton Park. The Hammers took the lead just before half time after Ashley Cole gave away a reckless penalty by fouling Collison. Chelsea levelled the score just after the hour, also via the penalty spot, after Upson brought down Sturridge, although replays showed he won the ball. Frank Lampard showed great composure to net his penalty three times, after it was disallowed twice for players infringing the penalty area prior to him striking the ball. View highlights here.
Arsenal, Villa and Spurs all took advantage of the top two’s inability to secure three points, with Arsenal beating Hull 3-0 at the Emirates in a fiery affair, Villa beating Stoke 1-0 at Villa Park, making it four league wins on the trot, and Spurs building on their 3-0 home win against Manchester City mid-week winning 2-0 away at Blackburn. Elsewhere, Liverpool continued their downward spiral losing 2-0 away at Portsmouth, ending the game with 10 men after Mascherano was sent off. Mark Hughes ended his reign at Manchester City on a high in a thrilling 4-3 win over Sunderland. Having lead 2-0 after 12 minutes it seemed City were in for an afternoon cruise, however Sunderland fought back and levelled the game on 24 minutes. City took the lead again before Sunderland equalised for a second time, with City finally wrapping up all three points when Santa Cruz scored the winner on 69 minutes. Although speculation surrounding Mark Hughes future at Eastlands was rife, he waved to the City fans for the last time as he exited the field, not knowing it would be his last game in charge. He was sacked just hours later. Wolves continued their good form with a 2-0 win at home to Burnley, taking 9 points out of their last 12 on offer. Mick McCarthy took a lot of stick mid-week for fielding a weakened side in their 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford, however Mick will feel vindicated with his team’s recent victory after some tough fixtures, which sees Wolves move up to 12th place in the Premier League. Finally, Everton played out a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham. At the top of the table Chelsea still lead by 4 points with United in second place, Arsenal sit in third with Villa sitting in fourth on equal points. Both Arsenal and Villa trail Chelsea by six points, with Arsenal carrying a game in hand. Portsmouth remain bottom despite their victory over Liverpool, with West Ham in 19th and Bolton in 18th. Only 5 points separates Portsmouth and Wolves, who sit 12th spot.
Other Sporting Highlights over the past seven days
England salvaged a draw in their first test match against South Africa in Centurion, but they made hard work of it. England looked odds on for the draw going into tea on the final day, only to collapse in spectacular fashion, losing 5 wickets for 13 runs. Collingwood steered England home with some great batting, whilst shielding Graham Onions, who also played well under extreme pressure coming in at the end.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has been named FIFA World Footballer of the Year, adding to the Ballon d’Or prize he won recently, becoming the first Argentine player to win the award.
The Champions League draw for the first knock out stage was made on Friday and has thrown up some mouth watering fixtures for the three English Clubs still involved. Manchester United take on AC Milan, with Beckham returning for the first time since he departed United, Chelsea face Mourinho’s Inter Milan, and Arsenal take on FC Porto. The first legs are scheduled to take place on February 16th, 17th and 24th.
The Europa League knock out stage draw sees Everton take on Sporting, Fulham face Shakhtar Donetsk whilst Liverpool take on European giants Unirea Urziceni, who sound more like an STD than a football team.
England are set to play a friendly against reigning African Cup of Nations champions, Egypt, in March. This will be a handy warm up game for Capello’s England team in preparation for next summer’s World Cup, given they face Algeria in the group stages who play a similar style of football.
There’s plenty of footie action taking place over the festive season with the pick of the action seeing 3rd place Arsenal taking on 4th place Aston Villa at The Emirates, on Sunday. Tottenham travel to in-form Fulham, whilst Hull host champions Manchester United. There’s two Lancashire derbys, with Burnley taking on Bolton and Wigan facing Blackburn. Two days on and the second round of festive fixtures has Tottenham hosting West Ham, Fulham taking on Chelsea at The Cottage, whilst Villa face Liverpool. I’m fairly sure by the end of it all we’ll be none the wiser as to which direction the second half of the season is heading, given the ups and downs of the first half! England begin their second test against South Africa in Durban on Boxing Day and will be looking to improve on their average first test performance.
POMSPORT on Australian TV this week
International Test Cricket, Day 1 – South Africa v England (7pm – 2.30am) Fox Sports 3
Sunday December 27
International Test Cricket, Day 2 – South Africa v England (7pm – 2.30am) Fox Sports 3
Monday December 28
International Test Cricket, Day 3 – South Africa v England (7pm – 2.30am) Fox Sports 3
Tuesday December 29
International Test Cricket, Day 4 – South Africa v England (7pm – 2.30am) Fox Sports 3
Wednesday December 30
International Test Cricket, Day 5 – South Africa v England (7pm – 2.30am) Fox Sports 3
Saturday December 26
Birmingham v Chelsea (11.40pm – 1.55am) Fox Sports 2
Fulham v Tottenham (11.55pm – 2am) Fox Sports 1
Sunday December 27
Manchester City v Stoke (1.55am – 4.25am) Fox Sports 2
Liverpool v Wolves (4.25am – 6.30am) Fox Sports 2
Leicester v Sheffield United (4.30am – 7.30am) Fox Sports 1
Monday December 28
Arsenal v Aston Villa (12.25am – 2.30am) Fox Sports 2
Hull City v Manchester United (2.55am – 5am) Fox Sports 2
Football EPL Highlights (6pm – 7pm) Fox Sports 1
Tottenham v West Ham (11.30pm – 1.55am) Fox Sports 1
Tuesday December 29
Chelsea v Fulham (1.55am – 4am) Fox Sports 1
Newcastle v Derby County (4am- 6.40am) Fox Sports 1
Wolves v Manchester City (6.40am – 9am) Fox Sports 1
POMSPORT Classic Goal of the Week
Joe Cole scored England’s best goal by far at the last World Cup in Germany. If we’re to stand any chance at next year’s tournament we’ll definitely need Cole’s services! Let’s hope he gets back to full fitness and stays that way.