football

Dear Jurgen, a letter from The Sports Buff

Dear Jurgen,

Hi, you don’t know me but we need to talk. My name is Ayyaz Malik, Aka The Sports Buff. I am a sports writer and talk about sport too (for those who are kind enough to listen). As a Man United fan, it’s hard to say this, but congratulations on becoming Premier League champions.

Four and a half years ago, many of us United fans were no doubt jealous you chose Anfield over Old Trafford.

Purely from a sporting point of view, the move seems to be justified.

A Club World Cup, Super Cup, Champions League and now Premier League trophy shows you’re a great manager.

You might look like you should have been in the Bee Gees, but football fans make no mistake about it you have achieved greatness.

One of the best teams in the Premier League era, Manchester City were conquered this year with ease.

This is the English Premier League, you will say but the records your Liverpool team have broken speaks volumes in itself.

This isn’t me just being a bitter Manchester United fan here, but I express caution. Look at my team Manchester United.

Their manager from 1986-2013 was Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably one of the greatest, if not greatest club managers in the British game.

Sir Alex was a master of building teams for four, maybe five seasons and then making subtle delicate changes to it.

Jurgen please look at the example of Fergie. If you think this is blatant appraisal of the former United manager, that’s not the case.

Ferguson was the master of being steps ahead of his rivals when his United teams would be crowned champions.

Sir Alex Ferguson, would always be on the prowl for talent that could help better his team for many seasons to come and not just for the short term.

That changed in what would be now known as the last season of his reign.

Where players for the now and future were bought, Robin Van Persie a 29-year old from Arsenal who was in the peak of his years was signed in Sir Alex’s last season, which proved to be a title-winning one.

It was a testament to Ferguson, that he was able to win the League with a squad that was really past its sell-by date in his final year before retiring.

To prove the point I am trying to make, the following season The Red Devils needed two managers to finish the season, and they finished in seventh!

That was seven years ago, and it’s only now that Manchester United are looking in a respectable position of rebuilding.

It took Liverpool 30 years and over £1 billion spent in players transfers, you have done the hard work, as a football fan be smart and invest in playing talent.

Your Liverpool team isn’t getting younger. Jurgen, please don’t make the mistakes that Manchester United did.

If you do, it will be a long wait for title number 20, I don’t think Liverpool fans will have the same patience as they did this time.

Yours sincerely

The sports buff

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Thank you

No More years of hurt for Liverpool, praise the Lord!

Being a football fan of England and certain English clubs can be painful. Three Lions on a shirt song, being an Arsenal fan (not talking about myself here) – I think you can see where I am going with this.

With England, we the fans and mainly the “experts”, would bring England up and then knock them down. In recent years, thankfully the powers that be at the top of the game, have been more humble and started from scratch.

A centre of excellence was built and talent was brought through this centre of excellence in Burton. As a result of this, England’s under 17’s and 19’s tasted success on the global stage.

It seemed that process was that stringent of finding young talent, that scouts would be watching kids in the parks almost, when kids go for a kick around.

Watching kids playing in the park is usually a sign for the alarm bells to ring, but if this did happen, thankfully there would be some players who would become young stars for their country.

As a result of that England, in turn, got to the semi-finals of a world cup for the first time since 1990.

They even won a penalty shoot-out in the last world cup, waa hay! O how I cried in France 98 when David Batty missed his spot-kick on that fateful night in St Etienne against Argentina  , thus giving more penalty shootout heartache.

Arsenal, sadly for their fans are still making their team suffer mentally and emotionally. You know Gunners fans, you can stop at this stop and support another team, just think about your mental health, please!

After 16 seasons regularly featuring in the top four and having a monopoly on the FA Cup for a five year period towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign, it’s got even worse for Arsenal.

A top-half finish looks an achievement at this rate, thought the George Graham days and Bruce Rioch era was a thing of the past? Obviously not.

Another club that likes to make their fans suffer has been Liverpool. Now, this might be harsh on the face of it, considering that Liverpool have won the Champions League twice in the last 15 seasons along with the Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup.

Everyone knows what the Merseyside club wanted though, and that’s the Premier League trophy. There’s been many near misses.

A “fact rant” by Rafa Benitez who no longer manages in England (fact).

There was a time where Liverpool games replaced bedtime stories. I am convinced this must be true they were that boring.

The Reds in that era under Gerrard Houllier, would without fail, make my brother sleepy whenever he saw them on the TV.

They were dark times, but then Liverpool changed tact and hired an Irish coach who’s team’s played football so joyful to watch on the eye.

Brendan Rodgers was his name, his teams to play attractive football was his game.

With Steven Gerrard as commander and chief on the pitch, along with forwards Louis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, the then 18-time champions of England Liverpool came within a whisker of winning the title.

You could say, they missed out by the skin of their teeth, sorry Louis that might not have been funny … please don’t bite me! The title seemed in Liverpool’s grasp, but then they would slip up .. watch your self Steve (caution wet floor!)

Mockery was a plenty of that slip, Uruguayan Suarez’s eating habits and Daniel Sturridge’s injury record. A true story, I did see Daniel whilst I was walking – I saw him walking his got.

I must say I have never been so nervous seeing someone walk a dog, as I was convinced he would get injured, such was his injury record at one stage.

Putting the mockery to one side, Liverpool replaced Rodgers with German coach Jurgen Klopp. Former Dortmund manager Klopp had won the Bundesliga twice with Ballspielverein.

Liverpool were hoping the former Mainz manager could help bring what was becoming the increasingly elusive first Premier League trophy.

Careful planning ensued and a loss to Sevilla in the Europa League final and Real Madrid in the Champions League final, were painful but only demonstrated the progress the German manager Klopp was making with The Reds.

Further heartbreak would further occur, this time domestically in the Premier League. Jurgen’s Liverpool last year would painfully lose the Premier League by one point. This was made all the more painful, considering The Anfield side had only lost one game and accumulated 91 points!

This season, Liverpool seemed in no mood to mess around. The 3-1 win against Manchester City, was a signal of their intent. The Citizens who fought back last year to win the title from Liverpool’s grasp, by their high standards were poor this year.

Defeats to Manchester United (twice), Norwich and Wolves twice only emphasizes my point. Liverpool it is then who are Premier League champions after 30 years. Congrats to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool for their title win

Woolworths, Blockbuster, BHS and petrol for under £1 were the things of those days. A lot has changed since then, (as none of those now remain).

Football can breathe a sigh of relief, we don’t have to hear “this is our year”. Thankfully one of those years has been their year. Now here’s to hoping England win the world cup, so we don’t have to keep hearing “we won it 66”.

If you want to help support project bearded captain/ the sports buff and help me grow, visit the following link;

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Timo Werner; an Asian Love Story

Chelsea have signed Germany forward Timo Werner from RB Leipzig in a deal that could total £102.5 million over five years. The Blues, managed to beat Premier League leaders Liverpool to the former Stuttgart strikers signature.

The whole process of the German players signing has an element of an Asian wedding to it, I will explain.

So for the Asian readers amongst you, you’re all too aware of the process of an Asian marriage and the whole process of getting married.

In non-Asian tradition stereo typically, it’s boy sees girl, they date for a certain amount of time he ponders when and where to propose and when she says yes, they all live happily after, the end.

Now with an Asian marriage, it’s parents meet parents they talk and try and thrash out a deal like they’re in a G20 summit and after intense detailed and at times top secret talks, “a deal” ( of marriage) is agreed.

In those talks and negotiations, gifts between the two families and the price of the wedding and the cost of the hall is discussed.

There have been instances after initially looking set for marriage, the discussions end due to disagreements about the costs of the wedding and the gifts that certain family members get during the wedding.

I liken the Timo Werner transfer to Chelsea , to that of an Asian marriage.

Before Chelsea came in for the German, Liverpool were said to strongly be looking to sign Werner. In terms of the Asian scenario of this story, Liverpool are the groom (ready to agree the money side to get their bride for marriage).

Timo Werner and RB Leipzig are the bride and the bride’s family. The 24-year old Werner after looking to get married into the Liverpool household, saw the marriage break off due to money.

Liverpool’s family (the management/hierarchy) didn’t want to pay too much of a dowry and in all honesty wanted to treat Werner as only the fourth best daughter in-law behind Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

The “groom’s family” (Liverpool hierarchy) didn’t fancy paying the excessive wedding costs (£102.5 million in total after five years).

Heart broken both Timo and RB Leipzig wanted their special wedding and felt the right suitor will pay whatever the cost to give them that special day.

But most importantly Timo wanted be made to feel like the number one “daughter in-law”.

With Timo Werner looking an attractive proposition, a new suitor came into the picture and they were Chelsea.

Chelsea too had their heart broken after Dries Mertens refused to leave long term partner Napoli. Both Werner and West Londoners Chelsea were looking for the dream match.

When Chelsea’s father Roman Abramovich came in with a “dowry” that both bride and bride’s family couldn’t say no to, thus became the start of a marriage between Timo Werner and Chelsea .

After The Blues’ recent record of signing strikers, they will hope that German Werner succeeds where Sturridge, Torres and Morata failed.

In Asian weddings especially if the marriage doesn’t work, the divorce always gets a bit messy and no one wants a messy divorce do they?

After 100 days, the Premier League is back!

Football, after 100 days off our TV screens has returned!

After courageously serving our nation’s health workers, bosses at McDonalds decided to close their stores across the globe as England and the rest of the world embarked in unchartered territory (the corona virus Covid 19)

After going into lockdown, England has slowly but surely ground to a halt. The nations favourite high street shops closed for an indefinite period, and so did famous restaurant chains such as McDonalds and Nando’s (that’s cheeky Nando’s).

One should work from home, unless they can’t was the order of the day from the powers the be at 10 Downing street. Everything that is well loved, cherished was getting taken away from us (all be it temporarily, but for how long?)

Gyms are closed till 4th July , hairdressers are still closed but McDonalds and other fast food chains slowly make the steps to open fully and return back to normal. But what about the beautiful game from our TV screens?

BBC, did try to compensate the loss by showing some old classic games, but how many times can I see Euro 96 re-runs and more depressingly Colin Hendry’s barnet?

TV fans, some of them were deprived of shows like love Island, so were hoping for some form of boost to the TV listings.

After 100 days, several meetings and several Coronavirus tests to ensure all are healthy – the Premier League is back on our screens! Waa hay! In even more good news, there will be many games on BBC, Pick TV and Sky Sports who will be showing free games too.

This evening there were two games, with surprise package Sheffield United taking on Aston Villa, who seem doomed for relegation. In a game that was understandably not the best (due the player’s time off), there was still some drama.

Before the season being brought to a halt, VAR was the hot topic of conversation in most games, this game has also suffered the same fate. The Aston Villa goalkeeper appeared to fumble the ball into his own net.

Thankfully for The Villains, with the officials being of similar quality to the one’s used at the 1966 World Cup final, Dean Smith’s men have potentially picked up a very valuable point in their quest to beat the drop.

In the other game, on paper it promised to be a good one. Former Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta went back to former employers Man City as manager of Arsenal.

This fixture in recent games gone by between the sides has usually been a foregone conclusion with City trouncing Arsenal .

Sorry Gunners fans, there would be no surprise here as Raheem Sterling, a Kevin DeBruyne penalty and a Phil Foden strike at the stroke of full-time, would ensure City got their restarted season off to a winning start.

3-0 it would finish to The Citizens Manchester City.

The win for City meant that Liverpool can’t win the Premier League title at bitter rivals Everton, when the two face off on Sunday.

In what was an already tough task for the North Londoners, the sending off of David “side show Bob” Luiz, made a tough task to near impossible. With defending that arguably did replicate the Simpsons character, maybe the Brazilian’s days at The Emirates are numbered.

Talking of the Simpson’s if you believe in the Simpsons theories, maybe they saw this coming from many years ago, like they did with everything else. That brings an end to our round up of today’s matches.

Entertaining matches, these might not have been but come on, you have watched all the box sets on Netflix … It’s time to allow the real entertaining TV back into your lives.

What ever football serves up, you know it will always be better than watching love Island!

Weekly sports round up; Fist of Fury: The Sports Buff

By Ayyaz Malik 

Boxing

Manchester-born Tyson Fury spectacularly became a two-time world heavyweight champion after beating American Deontay Wilder with a knockout win in the seventh round.

American fighter Wilder (34) was looking to win this fight between the two men and defend his title for a record 11th time, but as far as Wilder was concerned, that was sadly not to be. 

The former world title who of course came to Yorkshire last year just had no match for the man who calls himself The Gypsy King. Usually, The Bronze Bomber would rely on his power to get him out of trouble in the past, which it has done, fights against fighters like Bermane Stiverne. 

On Sunday morning, however, that golden punch didn’t arrive as Wilder was floored in the third and fifth rounds. In a match that promised so much for both men, it turned out to be Fury who would rise to the occasion. 

Deontay Wilder just wasn’t able to exert any influence on the fight. The only way this one ended was when Wilder’s corner threw the towel on behalf of their fighter to end the fight. The 34-year old seemed initially irked by the decision, but even he later admitted: “the better man won”. 

After the fight, the victorious Fury called out fellow Brit Anthony Joshua, who is the world champion of the three other belts. If the two men do face-off, the winner stands the chance of unifying the belts. 

The last man to do that was fellow Brit Lennox Lewis. As glamorous as a fight between Fury and Joshua could be, both men have a few obstacles to overcome to make the fight happen. 

For two-time champion Joshua, he might need to face mandatory challenger Kubarat Pulev and for Fury, he too might need to face mandatory challenger, Derek Chisora. Tyson Fury might also get lured into a third fight with Deontay Wilder. 

Should we get any news on a potential fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, we will be sure to let you know. 

Football

Champions Manchester City strengthened their grip on second place with a hard-fought 1-0 win over third-placed Leicester City. City did miss a penalty through record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, but strike partner Gabriel Jesus was able to score the vital goal to give The Citizens the win. 

Neighbours Manchester United were able to capitalise on Tottenham’s slip up (a 2-1 defeat by Chelsea) as they beat struggling Watford 3-0. The win for The Red Devils sees Ole’s men back up to fifth, just three points behind Chelsea. 

As for Watford, The Hornets now appeared to be set for relegation, which some would have thought wouldn’t have happened when boss Nigel Pearson became the third manager to take the Vicarage Road hot seat this season. 

Looking forward

There are other things to look out for in the world of sport such as the start of the Pakistan Super League. The tournament, which is in its fifth year, is just five games in, and already seems to be set for a tournament to remember. 

Players such as Alex Hales, Luke Ronchi and Colin Monroe will be competing in Pakistan’s domestic cricket showpiece, providing evidence that Pakistan can host a cricket tournament to a decent standard. 

In the early stages, all matches will be played in Lahore and Karachi. 

In the rugby, beaten world cup-finalists England, ended Ireland’s grand slam hopes with a 24-12 win at Twickenham. Eddie Jones, who got embroiled in a race row this week, would have been delighted to have been able allow his actions on the rugby field take centre stage.

The kicking of the ever reliable Owen Farrell, helped  England open up a commanding 17-0 half time lead. The Irish did rally in the second half, but Eddie Jones’ England held on to move into second in the table and leaving France as the only side who could could achieve the Grand Slam.

See you same time next week. Before we go, please be sure to check the weekly sports round up video here;  https://www.smartlightpeople.com/others/fury-dismantles-wilder-weekly-sports-round-up-the-sports-buff/.

The Sports Buff sports round up: Manchester City face two year ban

By Ayyaz Malik (The Sports Buff)

Football 

Premier League champions Manchester City, have sensationally been banned from European football for two seasons, after being found guilty of breaching financial fair play. The Citizens, who have also been handed a £30 million fine on top, join top clubs such as Paris Saint Germain (fined £30 million) and AC Milan (banned for one season) in being punished for similar breaches.

In the case of Italian giants Milan, they are serving their ban this season, but with the former six-time Champions League winners, enduring a difficult season domestically, it appears like that AC Milan, will be absent from European football for two years at least.

Manchester City, have been given 10 days by the footballing governing bodies to appeal, if not the ban will stand. This landmark decision will send shock waves across the game, and serve as a warning to other teams like recent big spending Barcelona, to name just some clubs.

On the pitch, City’s rivals Liverpool continued their relentless pursuit of this year’s Premier League with yet another win, this time against relegation-threatened Norwich.

The Canaries, who boast a very youthful squad, gave the champions-elect a scare, but Sadio Mane, with another late goal, helped The Reds on their to opening a 25 point lead at the top.

Defending champions Manchester City face West Ham on Wednesday. The last two weekends of fixtures have been halved of course, and that’s been due to this season being the first season that the winter break is getting trialled.

With the Premier League arguably won by Liverpool, the race for second and the race for fourth spot, couldn’t be tighter. Leicester City, this year’s surprise package are just a point behind City (but they have played a game more).

Chelsea, who faced Manchester United at home on Monday, are just one point above Tottenham overcame Aston Villa 3-2, in what was an entertaining game at Villa Park. The Blues going into their game against The Red Devils, knew that only a win would suffice as Jose’s Spurs, look to make an assault on the top four.

North London rivals, Arsenal racked up an impressive 4-0 win against Newcastle, to give manager Mikel Arteta his biggest win since he took charge at The Emirates Stadium. That win took The Gunners into the top half of the table, and it will be hoped by Arteta, that this win, will signify a European push.

Cricket

England’s cricketers after beating South Africa 3-1 in the test series, also came out on top in the T20 series winning 2-1, after winning a thrilling match decider. After winning the toss, new South Africa captain Quinton De Kock elected to bat.

The decision by the new Proteas skipper, seemed to be the correct one as the home side racked up 222-6. England were facing a difficult task, but not impossible and so it proved.

After the early loss of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow were able to hit half-centuries (57&64 respectively) to help the England run-chase to get back on track. When Jos Buttler was out for a well constructed 57, this sparked a mini-collapse.

Bairstow (64), who would end up top-scoring for the tourists, fell as well as Dawid Malan which meant England had a mini-collapse and were in danger of a mini-collapse, but captain Eoin Morgan (57 not out) and Ben Stokes (22), helped England win a thrilling run chase by five wickets.

There is more cricket to come, especially in the way of T20. The Pakistan Super League returns for another year. Unlike last year, this year’s tournament will be in Pakistan, unlike last year where the latter stages of the tournament was held in Pakistan and the earlier stages in Qatar.

Here, I Ayyaz Malik (The Sports Buff) will give you a weekly insight into the world of sport, every week. Do look out for my videos The Sports Buff sports round up: Manchester City face two year ban see you next week for more!

 

Dan The Man For England

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A last-gasp Daniel Sturridge goal helped England get their Euro 2016 campaign back on track as The Three Lions edged out Wales 2-1 in a game that was dubbed ‘the battle of Britain’. England came into this game knowing that one result was only really going to suffice, victory.

For football fans from the UK, much build-up wouldn’t have been needed for this game, but with Slovakia defeating Russia yesterday the pressure on England to win grew even more.

Coming into the game Wales who impressively beat Slovakia in the last game after being pegged back, made two changes to their side. Jonny Williams and Dave Edwards made way for Hal Robson-Kane and Joe Ledley respectfully.

As for England,their team showed no changes in a match that anything other than a win would see the Three Lions all but knocked out of the tournament. The match itself in the early stages after quite a big build up, disappointed as England struggled to assert themselves in the game and Wales were looking a little nervous.

The 1996 semi-finalists were lacking a cutting edge and an end product for all their possession they were having. Raheem Sterling though however, who was later taken off had a glorious chance to put his side in front after skying over when well place to convert Adam Lallana’s centre.

That miss, though, however, wasn’t going to be costly for the English. There was a scare for England before hand as Wales’ star player Gareth Bale opened the scoring with a stunner of a free-kick.

Just like in the Slovakia game, England goalkeeper Joe Hart’s positioning was questionable as a free-kick from some 40 yards shouldn’t be really finding the back of the net.

England were no doubt a bit rattled, manager Roy Hodgson who has a wealth of experience, really needed to draw upon that now as his side were staring down the barrel.

Roy’s men were in need of a good team talk, some might even say a ‘Carlsberg team-talk’. One thing was for certain if the score stayed the same England would have been all but out of the tournament.

If you are of the England persuasion, however, you would be happy in the knowledge that didn’t happen. Knowing England needed to change the momentum of the game. Hodgson made what would turn out to be two very inspirational substitutions.

In the first-half Wales’ back three weren’t tested enough, but with the introduction of subs Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy, England had more pace in the side and were eventually starting to ask questions of the Welsh backline.

Sturridge, in particular, seemed to make his intent clear, he wanted to be more direct. Although the Liverpool man saw a few speculative efforts go well over the bar initially, the former Manchester City and Chelsea would make go on to make a key contribution in the end.

Fellow sub-Jamie Vardy would help get England back into the game by scrambling in an equaliser. That goal was the least England deserved at that point, from that point onwards there only looked to be one winner, England.

Wales who hadn’t offered much going forward were in need of a firm rearguard to keep out the wave after wave of England attacks. The Welsh were getting deeper and deeper in their own half after the England attacks intensified.

An England winner looked inevitable and the winner duly came from the boot of Daniel Sturridge, in the 92nd minute. From sadness, the English fans were ecstatic as their team pulled off a dramatic injury time win.

Quite a different story from the Russia game, what a difference a week makes.

The Juan And Only

Manchester United's players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Manchester United’s players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Juan Mata scored twice as Manchester United ruined Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby with a just about deserved 2-1 win in the big Sunday lunchtime game.

The hosts who’s last defeat came against the Red Devils in December, were unchanged – which meant club captain Gerrard would have to come off the bench to appear in this one. As for the visitors United who looked to have returned to form after an impressive win over Tottenham last week, they make just the single change as Ashley Young comes in – but the returning Angel Di Maria who was sent off in the FA Cup against Arsenal starts this one from the bench.

As for the match itself, United got out of the blocks the quicker. The visitors midfield of Fellaini, Carrick, Mata and Young were slick in their passing – and were operating at the tempo which blew away Tottenham last week.

Liverpool had no answer – and despite having the majority of the possession, it was indeed Louis Van Gaal’s side who looked more fluent in attack – and it was a little of surprise that United would take the lead in the 14th minute.

Juan Mata who was brilliant in last weeks win at Old Trafford, was equally as brilliant here. The Spaniard who had been subject of transfer speculation at the start of the season , latched on to a fantastic Ander Herrera through ball- and beat the on rushing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet with a brilliantly placed finish into the bottom corner.

The visitors at the point were in complete control – but rather naively took their foot off the pedal, which allowed the hosts to come back into the game. After going a goal down Liverpool’s response was good as Adam Lalana missed a great chance to level the scores before halftime.

The former Southampton captain who earned a reputation for scoring goals by arriving late in the box did that here – but disappointingly fired wide when maybe he should have scored. That missed chance was one of the last bits of action of the first half as United went in at the break a goal up.

Liverpool who have been in brilliant for since that defeat to United were in dire need of shaking things up in midfield. So who better to bring on at the start of the second half than club legend Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool skipper who has only just returned from a hamstring injury, would have been determined to end his associations in Merseyside derbies on a high – but there was no fairy tale ending for the Liverpool captain here.

Gerrard who was brought on to provide a calmness into the Liverpool midfield that was lacking the first half, inexcusably lost his head – and was sent off. The 34 year old Gerrard who had barely been on the pitch for more than two minutes was involved in a 50/50 challenge with United’s Herrera – and then rather foolishly stamped on the United midfielder’s leg, which didn’t go unnoticed, all be it with some assistance by the referee’s assistant.

That Red card was to prove costly as Juan Mata scored with a wonderful goal to apparently put the game beyond doubt. The Spaniard started a well worked move – and the 28 year old passed to Di Maria which lead to the Argentine to provide a well judged chip over the Liverpool defence – and set Juan Mata up to acrobatically place a left strike in the bottom corner of Mignolet’s goal.

With the game seeming out of Liverpool’s reach, United became complacent – and despite having 10 men it was Liverpool who looked the better side, despite having 10 men. The visitors sloppiness allowed Daniel Sturridge to pull a goal back with a near post strike, which David De Gea maybe could have done better with.

Fortunately for United there were no more goals in this one. The visitors did have time to win a penalty in the dying minutes as Emre Can clumsily brought down Daley Blind in the box. The resulting penalty kick was missed however as Wayne Rooney’s kick was at a nice height for Liverpool keeper Mignolet to save.

Advantage United then in the ‘rat race’ for fourth, as Man United manager Van Gaal put it -but with both sides needing to play the big sides such as Arsenal and Chelsea, the race for fourth isn’t over just yet.The

Fleetwood Fight Back Hits Bradford’s Hopes

Bradford striker Jonathan Stead was on target for the Bantams - but couldn't prevent his side drawing against Fleetwood.

Bradford striker Jonathan Stead was on target for the Bantams – but couldn’t prevent his side drawing against Fleetwood.

Two late goals from Fleetwood meant that the Lancashire side came back from Valley Parade with a point, after being two goals down. The result against the ‘Cod Army’ leaves the Bantams in 12th, all be it with two games in hand on their play off rivals.

Bradford who missed the chance of a Wembley date earlier in the week with an agonising FA Cup replay defeat against Reading had Filipe Morais unavailable for this one. The former Chelsea man’s sending off in that defeat on Monday night means the 29 year old will have to sit out of this one.

As for the visitors Fleetwood they could call on Stephen Dobbie, after the midfielder was previously unavailable.

After enduring the heart ache of missing out on a chance of a Wembley date with Arsenal, the Bantams came into this one in determined fashion – and it was of no surprise when the home side took the lead.

Jonathan Stead who was a key part in the memorable FA Cup opened the scoring. Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell wasn’t able to hold on to a Billy Clarke cross, which allowed Stead to score.

The opening goal was a reward for Bradford’s dominance – and it was of little surprise when the home side double their lead. Christopher Routis who replaced the suspended Morais doubled the hosts lead. Routis managed to squeeze in James Hanson’s far post cross – and at that point the Bantams looked in complete control – but that goal seemed to spark Fleetwood to life.

The visitors who were dominated, managed to pull a goal back when Jamie Proctor pulled a goal back when he headed in Tyler Hornby- Forbes’ cross. Despite the disappointment of conceding that goal, you still would have back Bradford to see the game out – but unfortunately for the home fans Fleetwood’s Nathan Pond had the last say as the Fleetwood man scored in stoppage time after an all mighty scramble.

Two apiece it finished then – but this result will be a better result for the visitors no doubt. Having said that Bradford aren’t out of the promotion race just as they do have two games in hand on their play off rivals – but more dropped points in a fiercely competitive play off race is never ideal.

Determined Blackburn Earn FA Cup Replay Against Liverpool

Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers - FA Cup Quarter Final

Championship side Blackburn produced a dogged display to hold Premiership side Liverpool to a goalless draw in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Blackburn came into this one in confident mood after dumping out Premier League side Stoke 4-1 in the last round.

The visitors Blackburn who are 11th in the Championship again had Jordan Rhodes on the bench, which has lead to speculation that the Scottish International could be loaned out to promotion chasing Derby County.

Blackburn captain Matt Kilgallon who was full of praise for stand in Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson before the game also starts.

As for the home side Liverpool who have been in brilliant form of late, they didn’t have club captain Steven Gerrard in their match day squad as the 34 year old recovers fully from a hamstring injury.

Other than that bit of news the Reds had very much the same team that has been instrumental in their impressive revival after a very poor start to the season. Liverpool are now fifth in the Premier League respectively – and are now with in touching distance of fourth place Manchester United.

Despite there being some 25 league places separating the two sides, it was Blackburn who started brightly. Craig Conway fired over for the visitors early on as the visitors didn’t appear to be intimidated by their premeir League opponnents. Kolo Toure who replaced fellow central defender Martin Skrtel who had to go off with a serious looking head injury, had a goal ruled out for offside.

The Reds who haven’t won English footballs top cup competition since 2006,had goal keeper Simon Mignolet to thank for keeping them in the game. The Belgian who received a lot of criticism for his performances earlier in the season, dived superbly to his left and clawed a way a powerful Alex Baptiste drive which was destined for the top corner.

With hosts struggling to take a strangle hold of thr game, Liverpool decided to bring on Mario Balotelli who looks like he is now starting to settle in to life at Anfield, the Italian came on to offer some support to Daniel Sturridge as the Premier League side were looking to avoid the replay.

However just like in the last round, Liverpool couldn’t break down their Championship hosts as this game finished 0-0. Blackburn would be the happier of the two sides you would think, especially with the knowledge that they have defeated Premier League opposition in Swansea and Stoke at Ewood Park.

With Liverpool though Rovers know they have a much more difficult game, the Reds did beat Blackburn’s Lancashire rivals Bolton, so this will be far from easy. It’s hard to say who will win this match – but what is certain is that this cup tie is finely balanced.