Saturday, 14 May 2011

A City United In Victory

I try to avoid writing about football all the time in this blog but i thought i'd wrap up several separate football related stories at once.

1. The Play Offs

As i mentioned in an earlier post, Thursday night was a disappointment. I may have taken a 0-0 draw in the first leg before hand but once the Swansea left back got sent off in the first minute we really needed to take advantage of the opportunity that was given to us, but we failed to. We played effectively 90 minutes, at home, against 10 men and not only did we fail to get ourselves a lead going into the second leg but for long periods we failed to look particularly dangerous.

It was frustrating to watch, especially in the first half, when it would have been perfectly understandable if a late comer had believed Forest were the team with 10 men. We failed to utilise the space the extra man should have afforded us and looked worryingly short on ideas. Swansea's passing was so much sharper and more accurate than Forest's and if the Nottingham side is to get through to the final they're going to have to dramatically improve on their all round performance.

For a 0-0 the game wasn't short on incidents and now i've watched some highlights of the game i feel more able to comment on them. I had a great view from where i was sat in Trent End Upper but it's tough to see the fine points of some of the big incidents from that high up.

First up, the red card was definitely a red card; it was a high challenge, studs up and dangerous. McGugan played it for all it was worth, i won't defend him on that, but the tackle itself merited a red card, especially when you consider some of the red cards we've received this season (Cohen against Leeds springs to mind). Secondly i reckon we should have had a penalty in the second half; Tate deliberately raised his hands to make himself as big a target as possible and so when he blocked Cohen's drive, the ref should have given a penalty.

However i'm not using that as an excuse for the result, regardless of any penalty decision we should have won 2 or 3 nil against 10 men at home. The Play Offs are rightly considered a lottery, results have a habit of confounding pundits and bookies, but i can't see us going to the Liberty Stadium and winning against the team with the best home record in the league.

2. Manchester United

So, a little before 3 o'clock this afternoon, Manchester United were confirmed as Champions. It's been looking like a certainty for quite a while but, after Wayne Rooney equalised from the penalty spot against Blackburn, it's now official, they've over taken Liverpool as the team with the most English first division titles. Despite not having played anywhere near their best this year they definitely deserved the title; as much because neither Chelsea or Arsenal could come close to anything resembling consistent.

United have made probably the signing of the season in Hernandez; he's settled into Premiership football in a way very few foreign signings manage and i agree with the majority of pundits who reckon he is only going to get better. He seems to already be forming a good partnership with Rooney, definitely a stronger one than the Berbatov-Rooney one and that will be crucial to any future success United want to achieve.

I'll be a little surprised if United manage to win against Barcelona in the Champions League final, Barcelona have to be considered favourites, especially when you consider that performance wise this has been an almost sub-par season for United, but United are nothing if not admirably stubborn and they will put up a good fight, perhaps they will be good enough.

3. Manchester City

Two and a bit hours after United were crowned champions City won in the F.A cup final against Stoke City. As with their cross city neighbours there victory was deserved; City dominated for the entire 90 minutes against a Stoke side that never seemed to get close to the kind of performance they've been showing in the league, certainly a long way from the way they played against Arsenal a week ago.

City should probably have been in the lead long before Yaya Toure hammered home following a bit of a scramble inside the box (below) but they struggled to break down a resolute defence and the two times that they did manage to do so, first Sorensen saved excellently from Balotelli's curling drive and then Silva somehow sent it over when it looked easier to score.

It's a shame that their performance wasn't up to their usual standards but it shouldn't be allowed to detract from what has been an excellent season for Stoke and their manager Tony Pulis> Their place in the final was well earned and their fans are a credit to them, staying long after the final whistle to applaud their team and give Man City a fitting atmosphere to lift the trophy in.

4. Bournemouth v Huddersfield

The two Championship play off semi-finals may have ended 0-0 but at least the first of the League One offerings involved a couple of goals. The first leg ended 1-1 and out of the two Bournemouth are probably the ones likely to be feeling the most frustrated as they had a penalty saved and dominated possession throughout but failed to create enough serious goal scoring chances. That tie is, like the two Championship ones, finely poised ahead of it's conclusion on Wednesday.

Today's song is, fittingly for the final part of my 7 day selection of classic songs, my favourite of the bunch.

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