Thursday, 23 June 2011

Andre Villas-Boas Appointed New Chelsea Manager

By Harrison Page @mrharrisonpage
  • Villas-Boas handed three-year contract.
  • Ex-Porto man dubbed the 'new Mourinho'.
Chelsea fans will be hoping that new manager Andre
Villas-Boas will be able to point their club to success.
Former Porto boss Andre Villas-Boas has been appointed as the new Chelsea manager, signing a three-year deal with the Premier League club.

Speculation about the 33 year-olds appointment has been rife over the last few weeks and it is no surprise that the man labelled as the ‘new Jose Mourinho’ has been chosen by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to lead the West London club next season.

Villas-Boas’ credentials are certainly there for all to see. The man from Portugal won the treble with his Porto side last season – the Portuguese League, Cup and UEFA Europa League – recording the highest number of points attained by a team in a 30-game Portuguese league season and becoming the youngest manager ever to win a European competition in the process. The previous season also saw Villas-Boas guide bottom-side Academia de Coimbra to a respectable 11th position after his appointment in late October 2009.

Villas-Boas has been described as the new
Jose Mourinho, who won the Premier League
in his first season at Stamford Bridge.
His achievements in Portugal almost mirror that of former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and it is no wonder that comparisons are already being made with his Portuguese compatriot. Similarly to Mourinho, Villas-Boas spent time with ex-Barcelona and Porto manager Sir Bobby Robson, and it was this tutelage which laid the foundations for his achievements so far. The Mourinho comparisons do not end there however, as Villas-Boas has worked under the current Real Madrid boss at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, earning great respect and adulation for the depth and detail of his opposition reports and preparation.

At the tender age of just 33 Villas-Boas’ achievements really are quite something and it is this, along with his uncanny coaching upbringing to Mourinho, which has led him to be appointed as the new manager of Chelsea. The greatest success in the Abramovich era was under the tenure of Jose Mourinho and undoubtedly he will be expected to produce results on par with the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’. Former Chelsea boss Avram Grant has already come out to warn Villas-Boas of the pressures of the Stamford Bridge hot-seat, stating the Chelsea owner wants success ‘as quick as you can’.

The similarities between Mourinho and Villas-Boas are too similar to ignore, and the former Porto boss – who received his UEFA C coaching licence at just 17 years of age – will have to become used to the constant comparisons, especially as he will now be working under the spotlight of the British media. In terms of playing style however, the two are quite different. Villas-Boas likes his team to be more fluid and collective in terms of attack, with his focus much more on the team than the individual, or, in the case of Mourinho, himself. In the press conference following Porto’s Europa League win last season, Villas-Boas praised Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola for his team’s style of play and almost apologised for winning the final in such a scrappy fashion. This is what separates the two men. Where Mourinho will do anything to win, Villas-Boas wants to win beautifully.

Porto striker Falcao is linked with a move to West London
in order to be reunited with former manager Villas-Boas
Talk to Arsene Wenger and he will be able to tell you just how difficult that is in the Premier League. Although Barcelona make it look easy in Spain and in the Champions League, they are a team up there with the very greatest in the history of the beautiful game. Arsenal, and Chelsea, are not. The likes of Porto stars Joao Moutinho and Falcao are highly adept to such a style of football, but when such a question is placed upon Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun and the aging Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda, their ability to play Villas-Boas’ vision of a Barcelona-esque manner is certainly up for debate. Undoubtedly the new Chelsea boss will be given access to Mr Abramovich’s bulging chequebook, and in my view he will certainly need to use it in order to bring in some much-needed creativity, flair and pace in order for his side to perform in his preferred way.

The credentials of Andre Villas-Boas are there for everyone to witness and admire, yet the comparisons with Mourinho are somewhat short in regards to the achievements of ‘The Special One’. Villas-Boas will be given every opportunity to make a success of himself at Chelsea, with his Porto pedigree demonstrating that he can guide his new club to some much craved silverware. The newest member of the Stamford Bridge managerial merry-go-round will have to do so quickly though if he is to live up to his ‘new Mourinho’ billing, with ‘The Special One’ winning the Premier League in only his first season as Chelsea manager.

What are your thoughts on the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as the new Chelsea manager? Do you think he will be a success at Stamford Bridge and what players do you think he will sign with Roman Abramovich’s cash? Share your views and opinions in the comments box below.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Season Review - Liverpool. Part Two.

Continuing our series of articles reviewing the past season's fortunes of teams from across the footballing world, here's the second and final part of Guest Writer Bradley Elvin's Season Review on his team Liverpool.
By Bradley Elvin
Dalglish brought in strikers Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez to
replace the Chelsea-bound Fernando Torres.
It seemed like the takeover by NESV and the appointment of Kenny Dalglish came just in time for Liverpool, as by this time the January transfer window was among us. 

With only slight improvements on the pitch with tough away games against Everton and in the F.A. Cup Manchester United ending in a 2-2 draw and 1-0 defeat respectively, Liverpool were out of another competition. However massive changes to the squad soon followed, with Paul Konchesky moving on loan to Nottingham Forest until the end of the season. But the transfer that got everybody talking, after months of speculation, was the sale of superstar striker Fernando Torres. After a illustrious Liverpool career which saw him reach 50 goals faster than any player before him in a Liverpool shirt including Rush, Fowler and Anthony Le Tallec he moved to rivals Chelsea and after some hard negotiation Chelsea had to fork out 50 million pounds, a record fee for an English club to pay.

Chelsea paid a record £50 million fee for Spanish
World Cup winning striker Fernando Torres.
However this left little time for Liverpool to find a much needed replacement for Torres, however like London buses you wait for 1 great striker and 2 come at once. Liverpool splashed out a club record £35 million on in form target man Andy Carroll from Newcastle United, somewhat of a risk giving his lack of experience for such a fee and the fact he was being asked to wear the famous number 9 shirt. Liverpool also splashed out a further 22 million pounds on Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez from Ajax, a player known for his controversial hand-ball that broke the hearts of the Ghanaian nation in the 2010 World Cup.

However big changes to the squad didn’t bring big changes to results, with Liverpool again losing to Blackpool and getting knocked out of the Europa League at the hands of Portuguese outfit Braga. But this certainly wasn’t going to dishearten the current mood at Anfield, there was a return of a legend and 2 new class strikers to replace 1 fading forward, and the expenditure worked out about even for Liverpool for the 3 deals. Not only was Dalglish bringing in expensive talent, but constant injuries and a lack of depth saw Liverpool bring through youngsters such as Jay Spearing, Jack Robinson and John Flanagan, players who certainly have great futures ahead of them.

Dirt Kuyt celebrates his hat-trick against rivals
Manchester United at Anfield.
By the latter stages of the season there was little to play for, with Liverpool out of every competition and very much looking to the future. This meant time for the new strikers to settle and to give Dalglish time to see what the squad he inherited could do. With little pressure on them, Liverpool were able to play some fantastic free flowing attacking football at times, beating Manchester United at Anfield 3-1 in the process, with new sensation Luis Suarez dismantling United’s defence to set up Dirk Kuyt’s close range hat trick. Again a Manchester club felt the wraith of Dalglish’s revitalised Reds with a fantastic 3-0 win this time against City. It was Carroll’s turn to take the glory with a quality double, with the ever present Dirk Kuyt finishing the scoring, with all the goals coming in the 1st half.

It wasn’t all coming up roses however; a shocking display at Upton Park against bottom of the league West Ham with the Hammers winning 3-1 was certainly a wakeup call that Dalglish still has work to do with the squad over the summer. The last highlight of the season was with a superb 5-2 victory over an in form and usually resilient Fulham at Craven Cottage, Suarez again running the show, but it was Maxi Rodriguez who seemed to finally find his feet under Dalglish who scored a hat-trick in this game. It was certainly a performance which left Liverpool supporters lying awake at night wondering what next season can bring with these new breed of superstars. Undoubtedly Liverpool can no longer be accused of being a “2 man team”.

Raul Meireles scoring Liverpool's goal of the season
against Wolves, in the opinion of Guest Writer
Bradley Elvin.
So what was an extremely eventful season for The Reds with new owners, managers and strikers along the way, ended with the Liverpool supporters chomping at the bit for summer transfers and the new season to begin.

Player of the season: Raul Meireles.

Goal of the season: Raul Meireles against Wolves.

Surprise of the season: Lucas Leiva’s consistent performances which cemented his place as a first team regular.

If you share our passion for football and would like to share your views with a worldwide audience, Can We Play You Every Week? offers you the chance to write either a single or series of articles on a subject of your choice as a guest writer.

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Saturday, 11 June 2011

Season Review - Liverpool. Part One.

In the third instalment of our series of articles reviewing the past season's fortunes of teams from across the footballing world, Guest Writer Bradley Elvin gives thoughts on his team's performance in 2010/11.
By Bradley Elvin 
Roy Hodgson's time as Liverpool manager was certainly not uneventful.
What was certainly an eventful season for The Reds if not a successful one, started off with boardroom turmoil. 

With former co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks finally looking to sell after much demand from fans, after false promises of a new stadium, they certainly weren’t making it easy for new investors by holding out for every penny. Matters had to be settled in court with Liverpool appointing emergency chairman Martin Broughton (British Airways) and chief executive Christian Purslow to help settle matters with the current owners. Liverpool were in need of strikers so they brought in Martin Broughton as he used to have thousands of them. Yes, the club I love was certainly the brunt of all the football related jokes at the start of the season. Liverpool brought in vastly experienced Coach Roy Hodgson to help steady the ship rather than appoint a more exuberant manager the fans would have wanted.

Hodgson's free transfer acquisition of Joe Cole was seen
as the answer  to Liverpool's lack of creativity, but the
former England international failed to make an impact. 
However turmoil off the pitch was reflected by poor performances on it. Liverpool under Hodgson made their worst start to a league season for nearly half a century. Poor signings like Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky certainly did not look good for Hodgson. He did however get out of favour Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole on a free transfer; however he never really got going in a Liverpool shirt and constant injuries made it hard for Cole to settle into the side. Also deadline day signing of Porto’s Raul Meireles proved to be a great acquisition, perhaps the only saving grace of a poor stint at Liverpool for Hodgson. 

There was more bad news when new signing Cole was sent off on his debut against Arsenal in a heated 1-1 draw which saw the in-form David N'Gog find the net from an acute angle, however a rare mistake from ‘keeper Pepe Reina handed Arsenal a point. Hodgson, apart from in the Europa League against lesser opposition, couldn’t buy a win. More poor performances and results followed soon after, losing at home to the likes of Wolves, Blackpool and even League One side Northampton Town in the Carling Cup were starting to turn the usually faithful Liverpool support against Hodgson.

New Liverpool owner John Henry aimed to bring some
much needed financial stability to the club. 
A good 2-0 home win against champions Chelsea did help calm the nerves of relegation worries, with a usually uninterested Fernando Torres turning up and bagging a brilliant brace. However Liverpool were unable to really build on that and talks of Torres’ exit were soon brought up again. When boardroom court matters were finally resolved and Martin Broughton managed to get rid of cowboys Hicks and Gillett, Liverpool football club were delighted to see the back of Americans. With much interest and speculation on whom the new investors would be, Liverpool believed they finally brought the right people to the club with the NESV sports group run by John Henry (yes, more Americans) and again Liverpool were the brunt of jokes by this time.

Of course fans were somewhat and understandably edgy at more Americans taking over, but Henry’s work with Baseball outfit the Boston Red Sox speaks for itself, so at least Liverpool were getting an American with experience of transforming a struggling sports team and bringing them back to winning ways.

Kenny Dalglish was appointed to turn the tide on
Liverpool's poor first half of the season under Hodgson.
Of course with new owners, speculation of Hodgson’s early Anfield exit grew bigger and with the new owners’ first game at Anfield being a Merseyside derby against bitter rivals Everton it really was do or die time for Hodgson’s reds from the fans and owners points of view. Having witnessed a lacklustre 2-0 away defeat to their bitter rivals amongst a string of poor results, Liverpool decided enough was enough and parted company with Roy Hodgson after just 6 months in charge. Liverpool fans had for months been singing from the terraces for the legendary Kenny Dalglish to return as manager and throughout Hodgson’s time at Liverpool Kenny never ruled himself out of taking over. So when all the manager and boardroom fiascos had settled there really was only one candidate to takeover a desperate Liverpool. Yes King Kenny was back!

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of Bradley Elvin's Liverpool Season Review.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Season Review - Newcastle United. Part Two.

Continuing our new series of articles reviewing the past season's fortunes of teams from across the footballing world, here's the second and final part of Guest Writer Tom Galley's Season Review on his team Newcastle United.
By Tom Galley @tgalley91
Andy Carroll's January transfer to Liverpool did not result in the predicted
negative repercussions on Newcastle's aim of Premier League survival.
January marked a difficult month for the club. A brilliant start saw the Magpies win compellingly against West Ham 5-0, a game in which Leon Best managed to become another Newcastle player to score a hat-trick in the league this season. However, a cup upset at the hands of Stevenage in the FA Cup 3rd round and conceding stoppage time equalisers when in leading positions against Sunderland and Tottenham, left a sour taste in the mouths of players and fans alike. 

However, it was the end of the month and closing of the transfer window that rocked the club most. With Chelsea pursuing their chase for Liverpool frontman Fernando Torres, Liverpool were looking for a replacement and they had shortlisted Andy Carroll to be their man and were adamant in their chase for the England prospect. So much so, that after receiving £50 million from Chelsea for Torres, they were willing to pay £35 million for Carroll, an offer that just seemed too good for the board at Newcastle to turn down. So with all this movement going on so late in the transfer window, this didn’t leave any time for Newcastle to find a replacement for their number 9 striker, leaving them to finish the season with their current playing squad.

Cheik Tiote celebrates his stunning equaliser
in Newcastle's 4-4 draw with Arsenal.
A Newcastle United squad without Andy Carroll seemed like they were going to lack goals and confidence up front to try and successfully survive in their first season back in the Premier League. Yet, when Arsenal visited St James Park in February 2011, it was a match that would go down in the history books. Arsenal had taken an early lead in which they were 3-0 up within 10 minutes, a lead which became 4-0 by half time. However, the turning point of the match happened about 15 minutes into the second half, when Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby received a straight red for raising his hand to Joey Barton. Newcastle players and fans inside the stadium saw this as a chance to stage one of the most remarkable comebacks football has ever seen. Two Joey Barton penalties either side of a Leon Best strike had brought Newcastle back to 4-3 with less than 4 minutes to go. Then up stood Cheik Tioté, who had been Newcastle’s star player for most of the season, to volley the ball into the corner of the net and complete the comeback. 4-4!

The Toon Army will be hoping that the money from the
Andy Carroll transfer will be used to bring in new players.
St James Park had witnessed two great games during the season that would remain classics in Geordie folklore, and although without a great home record by Newcastle’s standards, their Premier League safety was guaranteed with a home victory over Birmingham, three games before the season ending.

So, with the end of the season and survival guaranteed, optimism is even higher for next season. With Alan Pardew reportedly having the vast majority of the Andy Carroll transfer money available to him, he has a lot at his disposal to build his legacy at St James Park and try to establish Newcastle as a consistent top half club and potential contenders for Europe, something that arguably the Toon Army deserves.

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Thursday, 9 June 2011

Season Review - Newcastle United. Part One.

In the second instalment of a new series of articles reviewing the past season's fortunes of teams from across the footballing world, Guest Writer Tom Galley gives his thoughts on his team's performance in 2010/11.
By Tom Galley @tgalley91 
Chris Hughton made a promising start with Newcastle United on
their return to the Premier League.
The start of a new Barclays Premier League season was filled with optimism amongst Newcastle fans. A return to the Premier League on the first attempt was beyond what many pundits were expecting of a team that has drama written all over it. And yet, they went on to win the Championship convincingly and earn their place back amongst the elite in English football.

With a relatively small playing squad going into this season, manager Chris Hughton was only able to complete the signings of Cheik Tioté, James Perch and Dan Gosling on permanent deals whilst sorting out a season-long loan for the exciting talent of French international Hatem Ben Arfa. 

Andy Carroll was living up to his 'new Shearer' billing,
scoring a hat-trick in only the second league
game of the season.
An opening day loss to champions Manchester United was followed by a 6-0 thrashing at home to Aston Villa where local lad Andy Carroll managed to bag hat-trick and a 2-0 home loss to Blackpool which signalled the inconsistent season that was to be for Newcastle United. An away win at Everton and a home loss to Stoke City supported this, before an impressive away win at Arsenal where Andy Carroll, once again, managed to be the star performer and get the only goal of the game. 

However, one highlight that will surely stay in the memories of those in the Toon Army will be their unforgettable victory over arch rivals Sunderland at St James Park, where they came out on top in a 5-1 win. Captain Kevin Nolan grabbed the headlines and the match ball when he managed to become the second Newcastle player to score a hat-trick this season. Chris Hughton was easily winning over any critics that he may have had as to whether he could manage at the top level and a new contract was surely on the horizon for the Irishman. 

Newcastle United, however, is a club that in the past, have played to their own downfalls and appeared in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and in December 2010, they didn’t disappoint. Two days after a disappointing 3-1 defeat at West Brom, with the club sitting a comfortable 11th in the table, owner Mike Ashley saw fit that Chris Hughton was no longer the man to lead his club and decided to hire Alan Pardew to replace him. This left the footballing world shocked at the news as many had felt Chris Hughton had done a great job with what was available to him. Fans were shocked and the playing staff were left in a blur of confusion as to why their manager, with whom a great bond and team spirit had been created, was now out of the club and jobless. The task of repairing the spirit inside the dressing room was left to former West Ham and Southampton manager Alan Pardew, who signed a 5-year deal. Many journalists were citing his appointment as Mike Ashley bringing in his ‘cockney mates’ as it was reported that Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew were often seen together in a London casino.

Hughton's replacement, Alan Pardew, proved to be initially
unpopular amongst the Newcastle faithful.
Roy Hodgson’s Liverpool were the first team to challenge Newcastle under Pardew and it was the perfect start. Newcastle’s main trio of Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Andy Carroll grabbing a goal each which saw them win 3-1 at St James Park using a formation and tactics that were present in Hughton’s regime. Nonetheless, Pardew’s enthusiasm and vision for success was soon to be proven as he managed to tie down the impressive Cheik Tioté on a new 5 and a half year deal and complete a permanent deal for Hatem Ben Arfa from Marseille, who unfortunately suffered a double leg break in only his 5th appearance for the club which was to rule him out for the whole season.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of Tom Galley's Newcastle United Season Review.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Season Review - Tottenham Hotspur. Part Two.

Continuing our new series of articles reviewing the past season's fortunes of teams from across the footballing world, here's the second and final part of Guest Writer Lewis Buckler's Season Review on his team Tottenham Hotspur.
By Lewis Buckler @YidoBuckler
Luka Modric continues to be a key part of the Tottenham side.
The league campaign didn’t really have the same glitz and glamour as the wonderful run in the Champions League Tottenham endured. 

The highlight has to be coming from 2-0 down away against Arsenal to win 3-2, the 1st win at the Emirates Stadium and the 1st win away at Arsenal since 1993. It looked bleak when Nasri and Chamakh had put Arsenal 2-0 up within 20 minutes and they threatened to run riot. A half time switch from Redknapp changed things. Spurs were full of energy and running when an early Bale goal got them back in it. Fabregas conceded a needless penalty, confidently buried by the dutch master Van Der Vaart. Game on. The key moment came when Bale was cynically scythed down just inside the Arsenal half. The free-kick was swung in, Younes Kaboul, of all people, got up highest to glance a header into the far corner. Pure elation from the 3,000 Spurs fans inside the Emirates. This victory was probably sweeter for William Gallas more so than anybody else in the Tottenham line-up, especially as he was controversially made captain for this match.

Younes Kaboul celebrates his winner against Arsenal.
Eventually, Tottenham finished with 8 defeats in the league, the same as Arsenal and actually less than Chelsea and Manchester City, both of whom eventually finished above Spurs. The downfall of this side was the lack of a potent goal scorer and too many draws, especially at home. There were other bright spots in this season, including a 2-0 win at Anfield in May against an in-form Liverpool side. This result, coupled with the away win at Arsenal, could suggest the tide is turning after such a long run without an away win against any of the ‘SKY4’ teams. This was the stand out result in what was ultimately a poor 2nd half of the season. 

Up until Christmas, Harry Redknapp’s claim that his team could win the title didn’t seem that far-fetched after all. The Champions League though, despite the brilliant run, ended up being more of a hindrance to Spurs than a help. The squad seemed to lose form in the league matches during the latter stages of the Champions League which cost them the chance to return to the competition next season. I saw a different side to Tottenham at times this season, signs of a mature Tottenham. I’m used to the naïve Tottenham who would go out all guns blazing and get ripped to shreds at the back. On many away days we played a controlled, intelligent game and came away with victories. This was our most successful season away from home in the Premier League, picking up 26 points. Only Manchester City (28) and Arsenal (31) picked up more.

Harry Redknapp believes Spurs are capable of pushing
 for the Premier League title.
It is hard to sum up whether the season for Tottenham could be deemed as a success or a failure. High points and low points aplenty, the aim for most fans would have been to finish in the top 4 and establish the side amongst Europe’s elite. But 5th position and a run which defied the odds in the Champions League will be difficult for Tottenham to top in coming seasons. It is important that the club can keep the nucleus of the squad together for any chance of future success. Selling the likes of Modric, Bale & Van Der Vaart would obviously weaken this team and hence weaken any chance of at least competing for the Premier League title in coming seasons. Keeping these players at the club whilst fine tuning the squad with the quality that is needed to take us up that one more level alongside the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea could see Tottenham challenge for the title in the next season or two. It is a pivotal transfer window for the future of the club. I will keep believing though. Some of the stats provided show we really are not that far away from the likes of Manchester Utd and Chelsea. The gap is closing.

The future is bright, the future is lilywhite.

Up the Spurs!

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Monday, 6 June 2011

Season Review - Tottenham Hotspur. Part One.

In the first instalment of a new series of articles reviewing the past season's fortunes of teams from across the footballing world, Guest Writer Lewis Buckler gives his thoughts on his team's performance in 2010/11.
By Lewis Buckler @YidoBuckler
Rafael Van der Vaart proved to be a revelation  for Spurs
this season.
Highs and Lows. Ups and Downs. What seems like a permanent rollercoaster ride. Welcome to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

I’m not sure too many teams could outplay the European champions, beat the Serie A winners AC Milan away from home and yet manage to lose vital points home and away against the ‘poorer’ teams in the Premier League. But this was the problem for Tottenham this season. Was it a success? In many ways yes, but ultimately Spurs flattered to deceive in the Premier League and failed to at least maintain a place in the top 4, thus missing out on joining Europe’s elite for a second successive season.

1 Point against West Ham. 1 Point against Wigan. 1 point against Blackpool. Two of those sides ended up getting relegated. In the 6 games against said opposition, Tottenham managed just 2 goals, both against Blackpool, in the last minute of each game. This is obviously not good enough for a team wanting to challenge for titles and major trophies. In comparison, Manchester City won all 6 matches against those 3 opponents and scored a hatful of goals to go with it. It could be seen that ultimately, these poor results have cost the lilywhites their place in the top 4 come the end of the season.

Gareth Bale scored a memorable hat-trick at the
San Siro in the Champions League against Inter Milan.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The 4th place finish the season before brought back European football to White Hart Lane and boy did we witness some of those famous ‘glory glory nights’! Lets not forget though the opening game; 3-0 down against Young Boys on their artificial pitch in the playoff after 30 minutes. Things did not look rosy at all. A great Bassong header and a wonderful finish from Pavlyuchenko brought it back to 3-2 however, then the business was finished off in style in North London a week later. A 4-0 drubbing, including a Peter Crouch hat-trick, the catalyst for Spurs to go from strength to strength.

The group stage started with an encouraging 2-2 draw away at Werder Bremen, before FC Twente were blown away by a brilliant 2nd half performance on English soil. Up next was the ‘big one’ in Milan, European Champions Internazionale. Thirty minutes in. Four goals & a man down. This could have turned into one of Tottenham’s most humiliating European nights ever. Until Gareth Bale intervened. Three brilliantly executed 2nd half goals made the scoreline more than respectable in a game that looked all over after just 10 minutes. The return game at White Hart Lane was just as spectacular. An early Van der Vaart goal, racing onto a brilliantly executed through ball from Modric set the tone. Spurs, with Bale shining again, tore into the Milanese. They could not handle the pace and tempo. Eto’o briefly managed to put some nerves into the Tottenham faithful, but in the last minute Bale again showed his quality in setting up the clinching goal. Tottenham 3-1 Inter Milan. A true ‘glory-glory’ night.

The remainder of the group stage was pretty unspectacular. An under-strength Bremen team were dispatched 3-0 to clinch qualification to the knock-out stages and a thrilling 3-3 draw away at FC Twente confirmed Tottenham’s place as group winners. The reward? 7-time European champions, AC Milan.
Brazilian 'keeper Heurelho Gomes made a high-profile
mistake in Spurs' Champions League Quarter-Final
 tie against Real Madrid.
The return to the San Siro proved to be much more successful. Tottenham played a composed and clever tactical game against the Italians. Sandro in particular impressed in shackling the attacking quartet of Milan. Gomes made two fantastic saves. Flamini assaulted Corluka. Gattuso went mental (standard) and then, Aaron Lennon skipped past Mario Yepes, raced towards goal and slotted the ball to Peter Crouch. AC Milan 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur. The result was labelled one of the best in Tottenham’s rich history. Milan were not dispatched with the same style that their neighbours were in the group stage, but this victory was just as impressive.

It all went a bit sour though in the quarter-finals pretty early on. A trip to Madrid was always going to be a tough ask. Conceded a sloppy goal within minutes and then having Peter Crouch sent off didn’t help. After holding out for an hour with 10 men, Adebayor silenced the Spurs fans that travelled to the Spanish capital and made it 2-0. Di Maria made it 3 not long after with a great finish and then Ronaldo topped off the win late on. It was all but over before the return leg in London. Madrid eventually won that game to inflict only the 3rd home defeat in Tottenham’s European history on a night to forget for Heurelho Gomes.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of Lewis Buckler's Tottenham Hotspur Season Review.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

These Swiss Don't Roll Over

By Harrison Page
Euro 2012 Qualifiers
England 2                    Lampard 37, Young 51
Switzerland 2              Barnetta 32, 35

Second half substitute Ashley Young made all the difference for England.
England missed the chance to go three points clear at the top of Group G in the Euro 2012 Qualifiers after coming from behind to earn only a draw with Switzerland at Wembley.

In front of a sell-out crowd in North London, Fabio Capello’s side looked lacklustre in attack without the suspended Wayne Rooney and failed to ever get going against a Swiss team who have so far only beaten Wales in the European Championship Qualifiers.

In what was the final competitive match of the season, the England players seemed to have their minds firmly set on their summer holidays rather than the game in hand. The first half an hour was dominated by the Swiss, who despite failing to really threaten Joe Hart’s goal, were nullifying England’s intentions to press into the Switzerland half.

Tranquillo Barnetta scored a brace
for Switzerland.
On 32 minutes, the realisation that this was in fact a competitive international and not the end of season runabout it was being treated as by many a England player, was underlined by Tranquillo Barnetta. His sumptuously curled delivery from a free-kick outside the area bypassed everyone including England ‘keeper Joe Hart to see the Swiss move into a deserved 1-0 lead. Rio Ferdinand, presumably still lightheaded after his club side's footballing lesson from Barcelona on the very same Wembley pitch a week ago, mistimed his jump in an attempt to head the set-piece away leaving Hart helpless to react and England a goal behind.

Three minutes later, Switzerland were 2-0 up. It was double trouble from Barnetta as once again the winger scored from a set-piece, leaving Joe Hart with the job of simply picking the ball out from the back of the England net. With everyone except Barnetta seemingly expecting another cross into the box, the Swiss international fired a shot through a conveniently created hole in the wall, courtesy of the side-stepping James Milner, to double his side’s lead at the near post. It was another mistake from a dead-ball situation and the Three Lions looked to be losing their grip on the top spot in Group G.

Two minutes later however, England were offered a reprieve after Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was brought down in the box after the first real piece of attacking intent from Fabio Capello’s men. Frank Lampard stepped up and scored the resulting penalty, albeit fortuitously under the body of Swiss ‘keeper Diego Benaglio.

Frank Lampard scores a penalty to give England
a lifeline at the break.
England went in at half-time to a resounding rendition of jeers from the Wembley crowd. The formation was clearly not working with James Milner and Theo Walcott failing to create a single clear opportunity for Darren Bent. The start of the second half saw Lampard replaced by Ashley Young and England immediately looked a completely different outfit thanks to the instinctive attacking nature of Aston Villa pair Bent and Young.

Just six minutes after the break, England were level thanks to their half-time substitute. A clipped ball in from Milner on the left was chested down by Leighton Baines into the path of Ashley Young who curled the ball beyond the Swiss ‘keeper and into the far corner of the net. Minutes later Bent’s primary asset was finally utilised by the Three Lions’ midfield, as Jack Wilshere played a lovely ball behind the Swiss back four, but Benaglio was quick off his line to deny the onrushing England striker.

Darren Bent almost sealed what would have been an extraordinary comeback with 20 minutes to go, but uncharacteristically side-footed his finish over the bar after the impressive Ashley Young had his shot saved by Benaglio.

All in all, it was a disappointing result for Fabio Capello’s team, albeit for their two-goal comeback and missing regulars Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard through suspension and injury respectively. Undoubtedly calls for a winter break will come back into question as John Terry complained of England being tired in their last match of the season, but the fact of the matter is the Three Lions will have to perform to a much higher standard if they wish to qualify for next year’s European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.