Friday, 22 April 2011

Norwich Hammer Ipswich in East Anglian Derby

Norwich City sent a strong message to their promotion rivals last night as they hit five past local rivals Ipswich Town.

In a game in which the Blues hoped to earn revenge for their 4-1 humiliation in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road earlier in the season it was Norwich who came out on top, gaining a valuable three points and subsequently moving back up to second in the Championship table.

Andrew Surman sets Norwich on their way with the
first goal in a 5-1 rout at Portman Road.
With a fantastic atmosphere inside Portman Road, complete with the equally fantastic glittered costumed Suffolk samba band, the home side looked to snatch an early lead when Jason Scotland fired a shot towards goal after just eight minutes, but the low drive was saved comfortably by Norwich ‘keeper John Ruddy at his near post. Five minutes later however, it was the visitors who were in front. A low cross from the left hand side by the impressive Wes Hoolahan was tipped straight into the path of Andrew Surman by Town stopper Aaron Lee-Barrett, with the Canaries midfielder driving the ball home into an empty net.

With Ipswich trying to press but all too often lacking any vision or creativity in the final third, it was Norwich who doubled their lead in the 24th minute. A corner from David Fox into the six yard box evaded three Town players, as well as goalkeeper Lee-Barrett, before striking Ipswich defender Gareth McAuley and rebounding into the Ipswich net. For all of the Blues possession, it was Norwich celebrating a two goal lead courtesy of two horror shows from the Ipswich back line.

Ipswich defender Gareth McAuley stands helpless
as he diverts the ball into his own net to make
the score 2-0.
With both sides continuing to create few clear opportunities in front of goal, the half-time whistle blew with the visitors in front and the Canaries supporters celebrating the prospect of their team’s first league double against the Tractor Boys since the 2003/04 season.

The start of the second half saw a change for Paul Jewell’s side, with the hugely ineffective Jason Scotland replaced by Andy Drury. The substitution certainly seemed to spring a new life into the home side, with Town’s creator-in-chief Jimmy Bullard firing a volley just wide on 47 minutes. Ipswich continued to dominate possession in their opponents half and had a number of opportunities to reduce the deficit, but the Blues’ efforts were repeatedly too far out to cause the Norwich ‘keeper any real problems.

For all of the Tractor Boys domination in the second period, it was the Canaries that scored the game’s third goal in the 73rd minute. City striker Grant Holt held off Town defender Damien Delaney before crossing in low at the by-line to Simeon Jackson who finished well at the Ipswich near post. It was a bitter pill to take for the Blues who had looked a different side in the second half and certainly could have got something from the game if their pressure had indeed created a goal.

Ipswich's Jimmy Bullard to
manage to pull one back for
Paul Jewell's side. 
Town managed to pull a goal back in the 78th minute thanks to a thunderous 25 yard strike from Jimmy Bullard – ironically the goal of the game despite the Londoner being on the losing side – picking up the ball up from David Norris before unleashing a shot into the top corner of the net. Town’s goal was all too late to spark a comeback however and Norwich reinstated their three goal lead just two minutes later. With Ipswich caught short at the back, Russell Martin found himself on his own at the far post and fired the ball through a ghostly Lee-Barrett to make the score 4-1.

Clearly unhappy with simply matching the score line from earlier in the season at Carrow Road, City substitute Daniel Pacheco lashed home a rebound from close-range after Simeon Jackson hit the bar as the Canaries sprinted three-on-one towards the Ipswich goal. Pacheco’s first goal for his loan club signalled a record 5-1 win, the Norfolk’s side biggest ever victory over their East Anglian rivals.

The 27,000 Town supporters left Portman Road dejected, losing at home to Norwich for the first time in three seasons and ending their already slim chances of reaching the Play-Offs. Paul Lambert’s men on the other hand are now safe in the knowledge that they will at the very least finish in the top six this year and could even go one better and win automatic promotion to the Premier League.  

What are your views and opinions on Norwich City's resounding win over Ipswich Town and how do you rate their promotion chances this season? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

There’s Nothing Quite Like Derby Day

Every year when the forthcoming season’s fixtures are released, the two matches that you first go looking for are those against your local rivals. In terms of the league, they may not be the most important fixtures when it comes to hunting at the top for promotion and the play-offs, or indeed scrapping at the bottom to avoid the dreaded phrase of relegation, but for pure excitement, nerves, passion and exhilaration, there’s nothing quite like derby day.

Norwich City striker Grant Holt
scored a hat-trick last time out
against Ipswich Town.
Many of you will have seen last night’s thrilling North London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane. It was a game that had just about everything, as you can read about in the match report below, and epitomised the very essence of a contest between two bitter rivals. The work rate and commitment of both sides was there for all to see and the atmosphere inside the stadium was incredible, it was certainly a real feast for the neutral football fan. However, when it is your own team that it is participating in a derby, as it will be for me tonight, you will be hoping for a match far less strenuous on your blood pressure.

In just a few hours time my team, Ipswich Town, will take on local rivals Norwich City in the so-called ‘Old Farm’ derby. It will be the 97th time the two sides will have faced each other and the game at Portman Road is set to be a cracker. But tonight I am not really interested in the quality of the game. I am not really interested in the goals. I am not really interested in anything to tell you the truth. The one thing that I am only interested in is the result, and that is a positive result in Ipswich Town’s favour.

Ipswich Town youngster Josh
Carson will be looking to keep up his
good run of form against local
rivals Norwich tonight.
For years fans all over the world boast that their team’s derby is the greatest in the world. El Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Milan derby between Inter and AC, the Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers. Yes, undoubtedly all of these are fantastic rivalries and produce some fantastic matches for neutral supporters to observe, but the only derby that really matters is the one that consists of your local team.

A local derby is unrivalled in the football calendar and victory in such a match rewards you with the delight of bragging rights for the next six months. Yes tonight’s ‘Old Farm’ derby may not be the most glamorous in the world of football, but it does not matter. For the supporters of Ipswich Town and Norwich City, tonight is their cup final, just as last night was the cup final for the fans of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. There truly is nothing quite like derby day. 

What are your views and opinions on tonight's game between Ipswich Town and Norwich City? Share your thoughts on that and great football rivalries in the comments box below.

North London Thriller as Spurs Come From Behind to Draw with Rivals Arsenal

A true spectacle of English football was served up at White Hart Lane last night, where Tottenham Hotspur came from behind twice to earn a 3-3 draw against North London rivals Arsenal.
A derby game held at night and under the lights always adds to the atmosphere and occasion, and players form both sides certainly lived up to the expectation of the excitement that a match played between two great rivals should display.
The visitors got off to the best possible start after just five minutes, with Theo Walcott timing his run to perfection to latch on to a ball from Cesc Fabregas, before calmly slotting the ball past Spurs ‘keeper Heurelho Gomes and into the corner of the net. With the Arsenal fans celebrating their side’s perfect start and subsequently closing the gap on title rivals Manchester United to just four points, Tottenham immediately drew the scores level. Spurs’ Croatian international full back Vedran Corluka passed a low ball into the area to Rafael van der Vaart who rifled home a shot past Wojciech Szczesny at his near post.  With two goals after just seven minutes, the White Hart lane crowd knew they were in for a cracker.
The pace of Arsenal winger Theo Walcott was often
too much for the Spurs defence to handle.
Five minutes later, it was this time the Spurs supporters whose celebrations would be short-lived. Samir Nasri picked the ball up from Abou Diaby 20 yards out from goal and fired past Gomes, albeit with a slight deflection off Tottenham defender Michael Dawson. Arsenal winger Theo Walcott looked dangerous throughout and after being inches away from making it 3-1 on the half-hour mark, he was influential as the Gunners finally got a two-goal lead five minutes before half time. Walcott looped in a delightful cross to the unmarked Robin van Persie, whose initial headed effort was saved excellently by Gomes, but the Spurs ‘keeper could do little as the Dutch striker smashed in the rebound from close range.
The goal scoring action was not yet over however, with Spurs’ midfielder Tom Huddlestone pulling one back just before the half-time break. After a Tottenham corner was only partially cleared by Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, Huddlestone displayed fantastic technique to score what was to be the goal of the game, drilling a 20-yard rocket hard and low into the Arsenal net before Szczesny could even move. It was a lifeline for Spurs, who at 3-2 had every chance of earning some valuable points from the match in the second half.
Rafael van der Vaart scoring from the
penalty spot to level the scores at 3-3.
With Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp forced into a double substitution at the start of the second period due to injuries picked up by Gareth Bale and Vedran Corluka, it was Bale’s replacement Aaron Lennon who was handed the task of injecting some much needed pace into the Spurs attack. Just as Walcott had done to the Tottenham back line in the first half, Lennon’s pace was causing problems for Arsenal’s defensive counterparts and it was the 24-year-old who won the penalty that led to his side’s second equaliser of the night in the 70th minute.
With Lennon rushing onto a through ball, he was brought down by Arsenal ‘keeper Szczesny just inside the box, the Gunner’s stopper having no complaints about the decision. Dutch international Rafael van der Vaart stepped up and slotted home the resulting penalty to Szczesny’s left, with the goalkeeper diving the wrong way.
It was a deserved equaliser for Harry Redknapp’s side, who could have gone one better if it had not been for Szczesny’s fantastic point-blank save from Luka Modric late on. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will no doubt be disappointed that his team threw away a two-goal lead and a valuable three points in the Premier League title race, where as Redknapp will be undoubtedly delighted by the character shown by his Tottenham side to come twice from behind and take a point to close the gap on their rivals for fourth place – Manchester City – to just two points with six games remaining. 
What are your views and opinions on Tottenham's comeback against Arsenal last night and how do you think it will affect both teams' chances in the title race and in the race for the top four? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.