Moffatt Brace Makes It Seven On The Bounce

 

STORM 4 – 3 BLAZE

Manchester Storm made it seven wins on the bounce following a hard-fought 4-3 win over Patton Conference rivals Coventry Blaze on Wednesday night, as Luke Moffatt yet again came up big to lead his side to victory as the stand-in captain twice netted to help seal the win with further strikes by Mike Hammond and Scott Pitt. 

Following huge scalps against the ‘Arena’ sides in Sheffield and Belfast in recent games, it saw the Storm coming into their Valentine’s Day clash with Coventry on a huge high. The last time the two sides met it saw Manchester demolishing the Blaze with a thumping 9-1 win in Altrincham. This time around it saw a more determined Coventry team looking to make sure that lightning wouldn’t strike twice. The Blaze came out the more dangerous of the two sides, with the home side looking very disjointed in their play at both ends of the ice, to begin with.

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Shane Bakker goes close to scoring – PIC: Mark Ferris

Neither side really troubled their opponents netminders much in the early stages, yet Manchester struck first through a Mike Hammond goal at 5.32 after the Storm broke up the other end with the visitors caught short and had Hammond blasting home for the opening goal. Less than a minute later, it saw the game all square once again, after the Coventry forward punished the Storm’s weak defence and saw a pass back out towards goal from Ross Venus and was neatly finished off by Gaelan Patterson for a 1-1 game. Manchester really found it difficult to get into the game and put a string of passes together, while their opponents did well to stifle their play and saw the Storm being very sloppy too in possession.

Coventry took advantage of a poor period from the home side, with the visitors netting through a Jordan Pietrus strike to take the lead and then saw a nice team move that ended up with Marc-Olivier Vallerand scoring the Blaze’s third goal, with a Luke Moffatt goal sandwiched in between for the Storm. The game was very scrappy and had no-one really dominating play in the opening twenty minute of play, but towards the backend of the period, it saw the start of what would be a theme for the rest of the game, with some poor officiating as the night went on. 

Firstly, Manchester’s Dane Byers was boarded hard by Coventry’s Kevin Noble in front of referee Matt Rose, who took no action much to the astonishment of those in attendance. As the horn sounded on the first, it saw Byers looking for Noble as the teams were heading off and had Byers giving him an upwards shoulder barge and had the Blaze man milking it enough to see the Storm man handed a 2+10 by the same officiate that didn’t make the call against Noble in the first place. 

In the second period, it saw Danick Paquette being ejected from the game at 29.49 with the match officials deeming it bad enough to see the Coventry man kicked out for a slashing call and gave the home side a five-minute power play. Stand-In captain Luke Moffatt, then scored his second of the game to tie the game up at 3-3 at 35.09 after a mad scramble around the Blaze nets saw the puck ending up in the back of the net. 

Ciaran Long then took a hit against the boards that saw the British forward hitting the ice and staying down, and after some treatment, the former Phoenix and Basingstoke man eventually left the ice under his own power and looked shaky as he stepped off the ice and didn’t return to the game. From then on, the match officials seemed to lose control of the game and missed clear calls on both sides and penalised the lesser calls and let the bad ones go. 

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Things get heated   – PIC: Mark Ferriss

As the game entered the third period, it saw more poor calls coming and made the game more bad-tempered than it really should have been. Scott Pitt then put the Storm back in front with a powerplay goal at 46.06, with the Canadian Left-winger firing home his shot for a 4-3 lead. Shane Bakker then got a charging call when the Coventry man just avoided taking a hit and saw the chain of poor calls starting to begin.

It saw hooking calls that weren’t hooking calls and then saw the weirdest cross-checking call being made when Trenz lost an edge and clipped an opponent on the way down and saw the penalties feeling like they were being made up as it went on. Manchester then had a player brought down when in on goal, yet the second match official Tom Pering deemed it only worthy of a hooking call and not a penalty shot

Both benches vented their fury towards the match referees, on what was poor nights officiating. Brett Robinson then came charging into the back of Luke Moffatt on the blue line and saw a scrum with the Blaze man picking up a deserved 2+10 for a check from behind. Meanwhile, the string of strange calls saw Ryan Trenz picking up the same penalty too, after he pushed Robinson in the chest and had the two referees deeming it unbelievably as a check from behind also. 

As the game ticked down it saw the home side trying to take the sting out of the game and saw Marc Olivier Vallerand sitting for a slashing call. In the dying seconds, Coventry pulled their goalie and pushed for a tying goal but was to be denied in the final seconds by Mike Clemente, as he prevented the away side from scoring and secured Manchester the points and made it a magnificent seven wins in a row and move them to within a point of Belfast in second place.

This weekend sees Manchester travelling down south to take on two conference opponents, where they have a chance to strengthen their grip on the conference, with trips down to Milton Keynes on Saturday night and then Guildford on the Sunday night.

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Parris double moves City back top

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Manchester City Women   4 – 0  Liverpool Ladies

Two goals by Nikita Parris helped Manchester City move back to the top of the Women’s Super League standings after a 4-0 win over Liverpool Ladies at the Academy Stadium. This was the first home game that City had played following seven straight matches away from Manchester in the League and the Cup too. Since that time, it has seen City progressing to the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup and also remain unbeaten with a goalless game against fellow title rivals Chelsea.

The Blues were minus three of their big name players in goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, club captain and defender Steph Houghton and also midfielder Jill Scott all through injury. It saw the hosts starting strong from the word go and have their recent new signing in Danish International Nadia Nadim going close with a couple of headers that saw Liverpool’s goalie Becky Flaherty dealing with it. Seconds later it saw the home side taking a fortunate lead inside fifty seconds when the ball struck Nikita Parris in the face and somehow ended up in the back of the net.

Abbie McManus then tested the Liverpool keeper from long range after the City defender lifted the ball back over a red shirts player and launched a right-footed volley that bounced in front of the Flaherty and saw her pushing the shot away for a corner. On a chilly early afternoon in Manchester, it saw Ellie Roebuck finally doing something to stay warm as Bethany England had a cross come shot that had the young keeper making the catch.

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Nikita Parris celebrates her second goal during Man City Women 4-0 win over Liverpool Ladies Pic: MANCITY.COM

The first half was a pretty uneventful forty-five minute half in truth, with Claire Emslie having two efforts on goal for City but that was as good as it got. In the Second half, saw the blues continuing their dominating of possession and in the 54th minute, it saw Nikita Parris weaving her way pass Alex Greenwood and then got brought down inside the area by Caroline Weir which resulted in a penalty. Izzy Christiansen stepped up City and fired high into the Reds goal to double their lead for a 2-0 scoreline.

Liverpool’s Bethany England then almost found an instant response for the visitors, as she cut inside Abbie McManus and seen her shot saved by Ellie Roebuck. In the 59th minute, it saw a corner kick being whipped in by Claire Emslie and saw a bullet header from Nikita Parris to net her second of the game and have City 3-0 up as the home side were flexing their muscles.

Defender Abbie McManus scored the fourth goal for the home side, with a touch of good fortune about it too, as Nikita Parris flicked a through ball onwards for McManus to run onto and had her initial shot blocked by Kate Longhurst and saw the ball bounce back off the knee of the City player and into the net with Flaherty down stranded still. The victory moves the sky blues back to the top of the WSL table with attention now switching to their Women’s FA Cup game next weekend against Birmingham City Ladies and a repeat of last year’s final where City lifted the trophy at Wembley. 


Eagles overcome New England in a Classic

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  191px-Philadelphia_Eagles_logo.svg    PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 41   NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 33 193px-New_England_Patriots_logo.svg

In the early hours of Monday morning, it saw the Philadelphia Eagles becoming Super Bowl champions with victory over the favourites in the New England Patriots at Minnesota’s US Bank Stadium, as the NFC East side were crowned World Champions for the first-ever time at Super Bowl LII. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was named the MVP of the game, after the former University of Arizona player, threw for three touchdown passes and even caught a touchdown pass himself, as the Philadelphia man threw for 373-yards in his sides 41-33 win over the most dominant team of recent times.

It was a game that was action-packed from the opening kick off to the final play of the game, as many pundits had already decided the outcome beforehand, with the New England Patriots being crowned champions before a ball was even snapped. But the NFC champions were more than happy enough to play up to the role of underdogs, with Philadelphia having been using that terms for the whole of these post-season match-ups.

The traditional clash of AFC and NFC Champions clashing at the Super Bowl saw many records broken during this year’s contest, as the teams combined for the most offensive yards in a single game this season, as no regular season or postseason could boast that over that year. Another record that got broke was one that had lasted for thirty years, as the two sides totalled 1,151 for offensive play and were 222 more yards than what the previous record was set when the Washington Redskins beat the Denver Broncos back at Super Bowl XXII.

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Brandin Cooks tries to Hurdle a Philadelphia Eagles defensive player

Many former players and commentators felt that the AFC division is the weakest of the two in the National Football League, and when comparing the contenders for this year’s Super Bowl, it is pretty hard to disagree with that point at all, as the New England breezed through their conference games with relative ease over their respective rivals in the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. It felt that the Patriots only challenge in the postseason would come at the Super Bowl itself, as the NFC was one of the toughest conferences to win and that proved to be the case with many sides showing their title credentials.

For Philadelphia, getting to Minnesota and setting up a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX was a battle itself, following tough games against the Atlanta Falcons and host city Minnesota in the NFC Championship game a couple of weeks ago. Facing the Patriots again seemed to be a way of expelling their Super Bowl past, as back in 2005 the Eagles lost out to New England and this was a great chance to gain revenge against the side that beat them thirteen years ago. The Eagles started the game with possession and saw Nick Foles engineering a drive that saw Torrey Smith completing a 30-yard catch on a 3rd & 12 that eventually culminated in a 25-yard field goal being kicked over by Rookie Jake Elliott to give the NFC side a 3-0 lead early on. New England responded in kind with a field goal of their own to level the game at 3-3, and it saw the game starting to take shape with both sides looking to assert their dominance and have both defences struggling early on after the first couple of opening drives for both sides.

Former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, saw him cutting through New England defense and moved his side from the Eagles 30-yard line to the Patriots 33-yard line with a solo run. Philadelphia then scored the opening touchdown of Super Bowl LII thanks to a catch in the end zone by Alshon Jeffery, as the former Chicago Bears man made a superb grab from a Nick Foles throw towards the wide receiver for a score and have the NFC East side retaking the lead. Elliott then went to add the extra point for Philadelphia, but his kick had some curl on it and it missed the uprights and left the score at 9-3.  Tom Brady then came back onto the field and saw him struggling to find one of his receivers with the Eagles defense on top and closing down all options that were normally on offer to Brady. Rob Gronkowski was given special treatment, as he proved to be ineffective in the entire first half for the defending champions, with ‘Gronk’ being shut down by the Philly defensive unit. That meant that New England needed guys to step up, and Chris Hogan and ‘Mr Postseason’ Danny Amendola stood up and accepted the challenge and both of them came up huge for the Patriots when they needed them.

Amendola soon found himself in acres of space near the sidelines for a pass by Brady, as he got the reigning champs upfield. Brandin Cooks then attempted to hurdle Eagles Safety Rodney McLeod on the ten-yard line but instead saw the Philadelphia man catching Cooks in mid-air and looked like he was going to go WWE on him, as he had him in a kind of powerbomb position, but Cooks failed to get by. Stephen Gostkowski then stepped out onto the field for the Patriots and saw his 26-yard field goal attempt botched in the lead up to it, with the snap to Ryan Allen having the ball bobble to the punt kicker, and that led to panic and saw Gostkowski quickly putting boot to ball and could only watch it swerving away and hitting the goalposts to see no points. There was a slight hint of frustration on the face of the Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, but his poker face didn’t give too much at all away.

Prior to the game taking place, there was some concerns from the kickers on where the ball was being snapped too, as the logos on the field were causing problems for both sides on special teams and had the logos leaving the kickers a bit ‘unsteady’ and even saw the Super Bowl logos being painted on the pitch only hours before the big event.

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Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles matching a catch for a touchdown  PIC: BBC.co.uk

Brandin Cooks was then forced to leave the game with a head injury following a scary moment with 13.03 to go in the second quarter when Cooks completed a catch and was looking for a gap to run into, but instead he was hammered hard by Malcolm Jenkins and saw the New England man knocked out cold by the Eagles Safety. That then left a huge hole in the New England offense, with the Patriots on a 3rd & 5 they then attempted a trick play involving Brady as a receiver and have Danny Amendola taking a pass and becoming the quarterback on the play and throwing a pass towards Tom Brady down the sidelines but he was unable to take in the pass and moved the Patriots to fourth down situation.

Philadelphia managed to stop the 4th down conversion attempt and saw them looking now to take advantage of shaky New England side that wasn’t looking too good, especially with Cooks being knocked out cold and being assessed for a concussion protocol and then had their star man in Gronkowski being frozen out by their opponents.  LeGarrette Blount continues his assault on the opposition with a score and picked up the Eagles second touchdown of the game, after he powered his way through the New England side and was a similar story back at Super Bowl XLIX, when Marshawn Lynch did the same to the Patriots with the Seattle Seahawks and saw New England having no answers to stop him in that game either.

Stephen Gostkowski then kicked over a 45-yard field goal to see New England trailing by nine points at the midway point of the second quarter came around. Nick Foles threw an attempted pass out wide to Alshon Jeffery as he battled with Stephon Gilmore – of which Gilmore replaced the ‘benched’ Malcolm Butler in the lineup, as the ball came towards the two battling players it saw Jeffery juggling the ball and fell into the hands of Duron Harmon for the Interception. The Philadelphia defensive was doing a great job of stifling the play of Brady and co but then hit penalty trouble when Jalen Mills was guilty of a hold against Chris Hogan and saw the ball moved upfield for the Patriots to get outside of field goal range. Brady then threw to Hogan for a 38-yard catch that saw New England inside the Eagles half. Minutes later saw James White grabbing a touchdown for New England with just over two minutes remaining, as the running back bounced off a tackle or two and broke free of the Eagles clutches for a score. 

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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Rob Gronkowski completing a catch for a Touchdown   Pic: NFL.com

Gostkowski then missed another kick, as his extra point attempt was no good and went nowhere remotely near the posts at all and saw the AFC side trailing 15-12. Philadelphia then found themselves deep in Patriots territory and when a pass for Jeffery saw the wide receiver failing to get the better of Gilmore who looked better the more the game went on, Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Schwartz then opted to run on a fourth & goal instead of going for a field goal and it was viewed by many to be a ‘gutsy’ call by the Eagles coach.

Prior to the snap, Foles shouted towards his offensive linemen a change to the play call and perhaps trying to draw a offsides penalty as well. Instead, though, it saw the ball being snapped towards Corey Clement in the backfield and he flipped it to Trey Burton on the run, before Burton fired a nice weighted pass to quarterback Nick Foles in the end zone for a touchdown and see a surprise play that caught everyone out. That score was also the first time in Super Bowl history that a quarterback had caught a pass for a touchdown and more importantly saw them extend their lead to 22-12 with Elliot kicking the extra.

Following the Half-time break of which Justin Timberlake performed his back catalogue of hits, it saw the second half starting off well for the New England as the Patriots came out a different team and had the Eagles probably wishing that they didn’t have a break, as there wasn’t much momentum. As it was, Tom Brady led a recovery for his side and led to Rob Gronkowski making a grab in the end zone for a touchdown to get his team back in it. It also saw the re-emergence of the Patriots wide-receiver in the second half as ‘Gronk’ threw away the shackles that the Eagles had him in during the first half.

Midway through the third quarter, it saw some controversy in the game, as all season the ‘catch’ rule has been the bain of many NFL fans, players, coaches, pundits and probably even officials too. This time saw a deep pass thrown towards Corey Clements who made the grab before heading out of bounds. This then led to the officials reviewing the play and deciding whether it was a score or if it should be overturned. Using the old style ruling it was a good catch, but using the catch rule today – and it divides opinion. On review, it didn’t look like he had completed two steps with the ball before hitting the whitewash, but then on another angle, he did. Eventually, the ruling of a touchdown stood and the Eagles moved out to a ten points lead at 29-19 with 7.18 left in the third.

New England has made it a habit of always coming right back at opponents and this was no different, as Chris Hogan made a catch in the end zone to score a touchdown and bring it to a three-point ball game. Jake Elliott then gave the Eagles some breathing space with a 42-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter to help extend their lead to a six-point gap at 32-26. In last year’s Super Bowl, it saw the New England Patriots infamously put up 19 points in the fourth quarter en route to see them go from dead and buried, to tying the game and winning in overtime for the craziest ever finish to a championship game.

This year, however, they only trailed by six in the fourth quarter, but they still showed their battling qualities and came storming right back at a tough brash Philadelphia side in the second half. As the game went on it saw Philadelphia being limited in their attack, thanks to New England now turning the tables on their opponents and saw their game suffering because of it. With 9.22 left to play, it saw Rob Gronkowski claiming his second touchdown pass of the game and drew New England level with the score. Gostkowski who had such a mixed game with the boot, saw him making no mistake this time around and kicked the extra point for AFC Champions and give them the lead for the first time in the contest.

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Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after fumbling the ball during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII at U.S. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

With the Patriots on top, in both scoreline and play, the Eagles now badly need a response and so with 2.30 left to go in the game, it saw them reaching the New England 12-yard line and needing looking for a score. That response came in the form of Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz, as he dived his way into the end zone for a score and have the ball popping up before regathering for a score. Once more it saw the call being looked at and was just more drama and tension added to this game. The officials decided to double check the play and it dragged up that unwanted argument of ‘catch or no catch’ again.

In a season, where this rule has reared it’s ugly game on pretty much every game and has done more damage than it is meant to do, so this call was gigantic in the grand scheme of things. If it was ruled a ‘no catch’ then it would be 4th & 7, but should it be good then the Eagles were leading again. The touchdown stood and saw the Eagles trying for a two-point conversion to make it a one-score game that would need New England needing to get a PAT to tie the game.

The game clock said 2.21 left to play and saw the defending champions with one time-out remaining, but the telling factor without question was the man with the ball and perhaps the ‘greatest’ quarterback to ever play the game in Tom Brady, as he looked to engineer another possible Super Bowl winning drive. During an incredible game between two top teams, it saw neither side giving up a single sack in the contest. 

With most people thinking, “could the Eagles stop Brady from delivering yet another Super Bowl championship for New England?”, It was probably doubtful that any person in the US Bank Stadium thought “‘WHAT IF, Philadelphia could force a turnover?”, but that is exactly what happened. As the ball got snapped to Brady on 2nd & 2, it saw the quarterback scanning the field and looking to throw the ball, however, Brandon Graham knocked the ball from the gloved hand of Brady and forcing a fumble to which teammate Derek Barnett recovered the ball for the Eagles. Following that huge play by Philadelphia, it saw the Eagles unable to make the most of the great field position they had got from forcing the turnover and were forced to settle for a Jake Elliott field goal from 46-yards out with just over a minute of play to go.

Despite Philadelphia holding an 8-points lead, it saw the Patriots still not giving up hope of producing a late twist to this game, as Tom Brady was nearly tackled in the build-up; but Brady managing to get free and fire off a ‘Hail Mary’ pass upfield and have the ball tipped and see some desperate defending by the Eagles defense to close the game out as time expired and have the NFC East side crowned Super Bowl champions for the first time in their history.

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Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. The Eagles won 41-33. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It saw a bitter-sweet ending for the Philadelphia Eagles at quarterback, as Carson Wentz who was on course to be the MVP of the league until he tore his ACL in his knee on a scramble against the LA Rams in Week 14, was forced to watch from the sidelines as back up Nick Foles took on the mantle of trying to carry on with his good work. In six weeks, it saw him from the bench to now being made MVP at Super Bowl LII. For Carson Wentz, it would have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Eagles starter as he had been the man for Philadelphia before his injury. 

The victory is the first championship-winning side to come from the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ since the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series back in 2008 in Major League Baseball. There was some joy for the Brits too, as Running back Jay Ajayi became only the fifth player to win a Super Bowl from the United Kingdom and proudly showed off his national pride with the Union Flag draped around his shoulders.

For the Patriots, it seemed like an ‘end of a era’ of sorts to their team, as talk after the game was of Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leaving New England to become the new Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts and also the likely move of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, becoming the Detroit Lions new Head Coach later this week. Rob Gronkowski admitted that he was to review his options and that this game could very well have seen the last ever ‘Gronk Spike’ from the big man. Meanwhile, Tom Brady said in his press conference that he plans to continue on past forty, but what does the future hold for the Legendary head coach Bill Belichick? Rumours have been rife in the media that Belichick may choose to leave New England in the summer with a possible rift inside the camp being blamed.

One thing for sure though, this game will go down in the history books as one of the most entertaining Super Bowl’s played out, with non-stop action and drama in one game. 

When American Football Tried To Crack Europe

  With the 2018 NFL International Series fixtures being announced within the last month or so, it sees London hosting three-games with Wembley Stadium hosting two and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club playing host to the first at their brand new stadium. The explosion of the game on this side of the ‘pond’ has seen people within the sport has not gone unnoticed, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Mayor of London, talking about the English capital being the focal point of American Football in Europe. There have also been mutterings about London netting an NFL Franchise of their own in the future. Technically speaking, London did have a team in the NFL back in the day, but that was in the form of the former ‘World League of American Football’ days.

So with the game on an uplift on these shores, here is a look back at when American Football tried originally in expanding their game across the globe. Before the National Football league burst onto a world scene in the 80’s, it saw the NFL looking to promote the game outside the US in the early 1970’s with an exhibition game that took place in Paris in 1972 and saw a group of players featured in a one-off game that saw NFL Bleu against NFL Rouge.

In 1974, it saw announced in New York City that a new league was to be created and would be including Europe as part of the new set up. The idea was the brainchild of both Bob Kap and Adalbert Wetzel, with the ‘Intercontinental Football League’ being set up.  

Both men were looking to tap into a foreign market and the idea of bringing ‘Gridiron’ overseas for the first time in a league structure was unheard of. Bob Kap was a former football coach in the defunct North America Soccer League and saw him in charge of the Dallas Tornados. Kap came to the United States as an immigrant, having fled his homeland of the Republic of Yugoslavia as it was then during the 1956 uprising. While at Dallas, he also worked under the former owner of the NASL and founder of the Kansas City Chiefs in Lamar Hunt, so there were some strains of American Football links behind him. 

His business partner was a West German entrepreneur in Adalbert Wetzel, as Wetzel owned German football side Munchen 1860 and had him onboard giving the creation of this new league some creditability. The league itself featured six-teams and were to be split into two divisions, with one division being German-speaking and the other being more of a continental division. Teams pencilled for the IFL league in 1975 season were the following:

German Division:
  • Munich Lions           –  Germany 
  • West Berlin Bears   –  Germany
  • Vienna Lipizzaners –  Austria
Continental teams
  • Rome Gladiators              –  Italy
  • Barcelona Almogovares –  Spain
  • Istanbul Conquerors       –  Turkey

There were four more European cities that were to be included for the following year with; Paris Lafayettes of  France, Copenhagen Vikings of Denmark, Rotterdam Flying Dutchmen of the Netherlands and the Milan Centurions of Italy, all seemingly ready to join the year after. However, things didn’t go to plan and never saw a ball snapped in anger, as a few factors put paid to the league never getting off the ground.

Many reasons have been given as to why the league never happened, and those reasons bandied have ranged from an economic recession in American at the time, there was also the NFL players going on strike that summer too and also some political problems that saw friction between the US and Europe. Another reason given was that Europe wasn’t ready for the game to come overseas and in truth, that seems a more likely explanation. In 1982, it saw Channel 4 starting to broadcast weekly highlights of the NFL to viewers in the UK, and in 1986, it saw an estimated 4 million people staying up through the night to watch the infamous ‘1985 Chicago Bears’ thrashing the New England Patriots at Superbowl XX.

The NFL then tried to expand into Europe, following games being played in Canada, Japan and Mexico in years gone by. In 1983, it saw Wembley Stadium playing host to an exhibition game with the Minnesota Vikings beating the then St Louis Cardinals (now Arizona Cardinals) 28-10 to win the ‘Global Cup’. Three years later, it saw the World Champion Chicago Bears facing the Dallas Cowboys and kickstarted annual games played in England up until 1993. Sweden, Germany and Spain

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World League of American Football logo between 1989-1997  Pic: SportingLogos.net 

With the league becoming more popular in the 80’s, it led to the NFL owners unanimously voting for a spring development league and saw the commissioner at that time in Paul Tagliabue backing the plans for it in 1989. The new development league was called the ‘World League of American Football’ or ‘WLAF’ for short. It saw 26 of the 28 owners in the NFL at that time, helping to fund the league with $50,000 each from the teams to cover the costs. Of the 10 teams in the league, it saw the WLAF office owning five of the sides when the 1992 season came around with three of the five European side being owned by the league.

 

The teams for the Inaugural season of the World League were split into three division and saw 2 three-team divisions and one four-team division.

European Division
  • London_Monarchs_Helmet London Monarchs                   (1991-1997 / 98 as England Monarch)
  • Barcelona_Dragons_helmet   Barcelona Dragons                (1991 -2003)
  • Frankfurt_Galaxy_helmet  Frankfurt Galaxy                    (1991- 2007)
North American EAST division
  • New_York-New_Jersey_Knights_helmet_1991-1992  NY/NJ Knights                           (1991-1992)
  • Orlando_Thunder_helmet_1991-1992  Orlando Thunder                       (1991-1992)
  • Montreal_Machine_helmet_1991-1992  Montreal Machine                     (1991-1992)
  • Raleigh-Durham_Skyhawks_helmet_1991  Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks      (1991)

North American WEST

  • Birmingham_Fire_helmet_1991-1992       Birmingham Fire         (1991-1992)     
  • San_Antonio_Riders_helmet_1991-1992       San Antonio Riders     (1991-1992)   
  • Sacramento_Surge_helmet_1991-1992    Sacramento Surge         (1991-1992)     

 

On Saturday, March 23rd, 1991, it saw the opening game taking place at London’s Wembley Stadium, as the hometown London Monarchs beat the Frankfurt Galaxy 24-11 to become the first franchise to win a WLAF season game. The teams in the WLAF played off for the World Bowl, much like the NFL play for the Super Bowl. In the first final it saw two European sides facing off at World Bowl I, as a crowd of 61,108 watched on as the London Monarchs shut out the Barcelona Dragons 21-0 at Wembley to become the first-ever World Bowl champions.

  • Ohio_Glory_helmet_1992 Ohio Glory (1992)

Prior to 1992 season kicking off, it saw the Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks being replaced by the Ohio Glory who played just one year in the WLAF and following the Skyhawks 0-10 season, it saw the Glory faring not much better despite a 1-9 record that saw them beating the Frankfurt Galaxy in Week 7.

Following the 1992 season, it saw three franchises leaving the league in Sacramento and San Antonio, and brought a halt to the league with reports of next to no interest at all in the WLAF from within the United States. A reporter from the LA Times had been quoted as saying “American fans were less likely to shell out their hard-earned dollars to watch games which featured ‘roster-cut leftovers’ “. After two seasons of World League Football, it saw the league losing money with $7 million dollars being bandied about just in the first year alone.

With a hiatus of the league for two-years, it saw the NFL playing a couple of exhibition games in Sweden, Spain and Germany, both when split and then Unified too. In July of 1994, it then saw the announcement of the league coming back undergoing a huge overhaul with the WLAF now being shortened to the ‘World League’ and having the American sides leaving and having the ‘World League’ entirely made up now of just European teams. The reboot in 1995 saw a 10 team league now shrinking to a six-team league, with three new sides being included. 

  • Amsterdam_Admirals_helmet         Amsterdam Admirals  (1995-2007)
  • Rhein_Fire_helmet       Rhein Fire                      (1995-2007)
  • Scottish_Claymores_helmet     Scottish Claymore          (1995-2004)

Fox Broadcasting Company became the co-owners of the league and was a huge benefactor in getting the World League back on its feet and also had Reebok sponsoring the teams and manufacturing the uniforms off all the sides in it. Not everything was sorted, as the London Monarchs were forced to find a new home following high costs too much to hold games at Wembley and so saw Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane being home for the Monarchs. The WLAF also granted London an exemption in the league, as their pitch was 93 yards long as opposed to a full sized 120-yard scale.

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World League Logo – PIC: Worldleagueofamericanfootball

The first season of the revamped league saw one of the three expansion sides finishing top of the standings, as the Amsterdam Admirals finished with a 9-1 record and hosted the World Bowl in ’95. It saw the Dutch side facing German side Frankfurt Galaxy at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium and saw in front of a crowd of 23,847, the Galaxy pulling off a shock upset to beat the Admirals and win their first of many World Bowl titles.

While Amsterdam had a successful season in their first year, the same couldn’t be said for the Rhein Fire or the Scottish Claymores though, as the Edinburgh based side finished bottom with a 2-8 record. Roll forward a year later, and the Scottish Claymores went from the ‘outhouse to the penthouse’ with the Scottish side claiming a 7-3 record to finish top of the standings and saw them holding the World Bowl at Murrayfield Stadium and beat the defending champions the Frankfurt Galaxy 32-27 at home in front of the biggest crowd to ever watch an American Football game in Scotland, with 38,982 to witness the Claymores victory at World Bowl IV.

 

In 1997, it saw the remaining founding side of the World League in the Barcelona Dragons finally lifting the title at World Bowl V, as the Dragons beat the Rhein Fire 38-24 at the Estadi Olimpic de Montjuic in Barcelona, and was also the venue for the 1992 Summer games. The Monarchs moved away from White Hart Lane to play their home games at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea F.C and saw the London Monarchs blowing the biggest lead in World League history, as they held a 23-point advantage against the Barcelona Dragons but went on to lose 37-32.

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NFL EUROPE Logo 1997- 2006

The ‘World League of American Football’ was then given a name change for the start of the 1997 season, as it was known now as NFL Europe. It also saw the Monarchs dropping the London from their name and changing it to England, to which they split their home venues between Crystal Palace, Ashton Gate home to Bristol City FC and finally Alexander Stadium in Birmingham. Sadly, the move and name change didn’t help much and saw them folding after the season. World Bowl ’98 saw the Battle of Germany, as Frankfurt Galaxy took on the Rhein Fire and saw the side from Düsseldorf claiming their first taste of success to become champions.

Before the 1999 season, it saw a third German side joining the league as the Berlin Thunder took over the Monarchs and saw half the league coming from Germany. Frankfurt then won their second World Bowl beating the Barcelona Dragons in Dusseldorf at World Bowl VIII to claim a 38-24 victory. As the new Millennium came around, it saw the league beginning to suffer problems and with the demise of the England Monarchs in 1998, it saw the Barcelona Dragons now altering their name to FC Barcelona Dragons to gain fans and saw their fanbase dwindle and struggle with finances and was finished after 2003.

  • Hamburg_Sea_Devils_helmet       Hamburg Sea Devil   (2005-2007)
  • 135px-Cologne_Centurions_helmet     Cologne Centurions (2004-2007)

By the time the 2005 season started the league was now effectively an All-German league with many Pundits dubbing the final two seasons as ‘NFL GERMANY’ as with Frankfurt, Rhein Fire and Berlin already in it, it saw the Cologne Centurions joining in 2004 and the Hamburg Sea Devils joining in 2005 for the remaining couple of seasons. It did see one side breaking up the German sides in the Amsterdam Admirals who were the only non-German side in the competition. The league was renamed a fourth and final time as ‘NFL EUROPE’ became ‘NFL Europa’. Following the 2007 season, the league then came to an end after fifteen seasons of American football and saw the Hamburg Sea Devils being the last ever champions of the competition as they defeated the most successful side in the league in the Frankfurt Galaxy.

The league’s purpose was to originally develop players and set up them up careers in the National Football League but instead it turned into a league that was low on money and loss a heck of a lot over the years too. Only die hard fans cared about the league and so the end of the 2007 season the NFL decided to put it out of its misery and shut the doors on NFL Europa for good. 

Pretty much most of the teams had a star in the making or in some cases, a couple of handy players at their disposal, as former quarterback Brad Johnson played a part in the success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that won Super Bowl XXXVII, as Johnson played a season with the London Monarchs. In that one season, Johnson picked up 2,227 yards and threw for 13 Touchdowns in his solitary year overseas.

In 1996, it saw the biggest name to date in the league at that point in time, with the London Monarchs signing former Super Bowl winner William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry. Former Pro-Bowler David Akers played a year with the Berlin Thunder before Akers became a mainstay in the league and saw him playing 17 years in the NFL, with stints at Atlanta, Carolina and Washington. Akers will be more known for his time with the Philadelphia Eagles and saw him playing during the Eagles Super Bowl run in 2004.

Staying in Germany and moving to the Rhein Fire, it saw a couple of famous names in their own right amongst their ranks too. Firstly, Defensive-End Terry Crews, now you’re probably thinking you’ve heard that name before but can’t remember it being too much on a Football field. Well, you’d be right. Terry Crews who was an 11th round draft pick for the LA Rams back in 1991, saw his career never really taking off and had him playing just four seasons of NFL football with stops off at San Diego, Washington and Philadelphia, before stopping off in Dusseldorf. However, Crews is more well known for his appearance in Old Spice advertisements.

The second Fire player is a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Line-Backer James Harrison. Harrison, who now plays for the New England Patriots, saw him lining up for the Rhein Fire in 2003 and helped the Dusseldorf side to reach World Bowl XI where they would go on to lose to the Frankfurt Galaxy. The former Kent State player saw his stand out moment coming at Superbowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals when he Intercepted a throw for a 100-yard touchdown off a pass by former NFL Europe Alumni in Kurt Warner. 

The Amsterdam Admirals had a few handy players over the years too. As Kurt Warner cut his teeth with the Dutch side in 1998 and saw Warner using his experiences as a stepping stone to go on and have a successful career and included being named MVP at Superbowl XXXIV as part of the ‘Greatest Team on Turf’ in the St Louis Rams. Warner in the World League led the way with Touchdown passes and yardage with the Admirals in 1998. 

Amsterdam had two up and coming quarterbacks that year, as with Kurt Warner being the main guy for the Admirals they also had Jake Delhomme, who would go onto to lead the Carolina Panthers to their first Super Bowl appearance in 2004. However before that, Dehomme moved teams in 1999 and saw him switching Holland for Germany and the Frankfurt Galaxy to be exact, and he picked up a World Bowl title with the Galaxy in only season.

Back in 1995 it saw the start of the greatest kicker in NFL history, as for the Amsterdam Admirals they had kicker Adam Vinatieri and saw the him kicking 13 out of 14 attempts during his time there in World League. That high standard set him in good stead and helped him kick two field goals that won two Super Bowl titles for the Patriots over the years. The 4-time Super Bowl winner enjoyed his stay with the Dutch franchise and saw him being part of the team that made it to World Bowl III, but lost out to the Frankfurt Galaxy. 

Coming full circle, it saw in 2007 the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell bringing for the first time ever a regular season game outside the US and saw the Miami Dolphins facing the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium in front of 81,176 and has since had almost every team play in London with only five sides having not, with the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks being the sides yet to play in the UK. Over the past few years, it has seen more games played out of Wembley and saw last year Twickenham Stadium hosting two games. 

British fans love their sport and especially American sports too, as sports from across the pond have always been well supported on these shores too. Whether you attend American Football, Basketball and Ice Hockey, you’ll see fans wearing jerseys of their favourite teams in the US or Canada. 


NFL WILD CARD Review – Titans in a Thriller, Jags win/ Brees shines for Saints & Ryan stars for Falcons

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What a breathtaking weekend of Wild Card games that took place this past Saturday and Sunday, as it saw an Incredible performance by Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota single-handedly carrying the Titans to a thrilling comeback victory in Kansas City, after the Chiefs had looked like that had the game under full control at the halftime break.

The Atlanta Falcons looked good in their Wild Card game against the Los Angeles Rams on the West Coast, as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan used his experience to guide his side to a win in their NFC clash on the return to playoff football at the Coliseum. Sunday’s games started off with a dull game between Jacksonville and Buffalo to which it was anything from ‘must watch TV’ in Florida, but the Jaguars did enough to progress.

The remaining game saw the New Orleans Saints marching on to the Divisional games next weekend after they picked up a tough win against Carolina at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Drew Brees shone for the Saints against the Panthers, as he faced his rival in Cam Newton in the battle of the star quarterbacks.

 

1280px-Kansas_City_Chiefs_logo.svg  KANSAS CITY CHIEFS   21   –  22   TENNESSEE TITANS     Tennessee_Titans_logo.svg

Saturday night saw a thriller at Arrowhead Stadium in the first of the AFC Divisional Wild Card games, after Tennessee Titans overturned an 18-point deficit, thanks largely to a second-half winning performance from quarterback Marcus Mariota, as the Titans playmaker helped to engineer a stunning come from behind victory to set up a meeting with New England next weekend at Foxboro.

The first half was dominated by the home side, as Kansas City got on the board first after Tyreek Hill had got the Chiefs up to the Titans 30-yard line and saw two plays later Kareem Hunt crashing his way into the end zone for a 1-yard score. Towards the back end of the first quarter, it saw Alex Smith finding Travis Kelce in space to throw into and he completed a 13-yard pass to the Tight-End for a Touchdown and moved the Chiefs 14-0 up.

Tennessee was simply being shut down by a solid Kansas City defensive unit, that didn’t allow the Titans any joy at all on offense and saw the Titans making a total of 127 yards in the first half. It saw the Titans yards numbers dwarfed by the home side who made 264 yards in the half, while the telltale statistic of the first half was Kansas City picking up sixteen First Down’s, compared to Tennessee’s five. Things weren’t helped either when Mariota threw a pass intended for Delanie Walker and saw the Titans man in double coverage and instead saw Marcus Peters picking it off for Interception.

Kansas City wasn’t just hitting Tennessee hard on the scoreboard, but they were doing just as much on the field too as Marcus Mariota could attest to, as the quarterback was sacked in a crunching tackle by Derrick Johnson on the Chiefs 30-yard line and set up the only points for Tennessee in the half, after Ryan Succop kicked over a 49-yard field goal. With 1.34 remaining in the second quarter, it saw a massive blow to the Chiefs when Travis Kelce suffered a big hit that kept the Tight-End out for the rest of the game.

Tennessee fell further behind with just five seconds left to go in the half when DeMarcus Robinson went in for a score after some ‘average’ tackling allowed the Chiefs to extend their lead and go into the break 21-3 points up at the interval. At the half, it seemed like the home side would be heading to a bit of lop-sided win and saw the Titans needing some inspiration from somewhere on their side. The way it looked they could do with another miracle that mirrored their infamous ‘Music City Miracle’ if they were to overcome Kansas City.

Marcus Mariota would prove to be that inspiration that the Titans was looking for, as firstly, he scrambled on a 3rd down to pick up a much needed first down for his side and then had handed off a pass to Derrick Henry who bulldozed his way through the Chiefs defense to get deep inside the Kansas half.

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Tennessee Titans Quarterback dives for a Touchdown Pic: Getty Images

Later, while on a 3rd and goal, it saw Mariota having no options of which to pass to and saw him scrambling to make a play and threw into the end zone and saw the pass deflected back towards him and he went in for a touchdown. No matter how fortunate the end result, it gave the Titans a foot back in the game and see perhaps a new miracle for the Titans.

It felt like that score had sent the momentum shifting in favour of the Titans, but when Adoree’ Jackson spilt a punt return and saw Kansas City recovering it looked like that momentum would dissolve. As it turned out, the Chiefs were unable to make the most of the field positioning and saw Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker striking the post on a 48 yard FG attempt to see a chance go begging and sensed that perhaps the game was slipping away from the Chiefs. That miss boosted the Titans and despite trailing by 11 points with still a quarter to go it had Tennessee looking the better side.

Derrick Henry then ran for a 35-yard touchdown to bring the gap down to five points and saw the Titans trying a two-point conversion which failed miserably. With just over six minutes left to play, it saw the Titans taking advantage of a tired Chiefs defense that had been out on the field for the majority of the second half and saw Mariota throwing a pass to Eric Decker for a 22-yard touchdown. With Tennessee ahead in the game, they tried to put more daylight between themselves and their opponents, but their attempts to score on a two-point conversion were foiled again by a tired looking Chiefs defensive unit.

Kansas City’s offense then came back onto the field after what felt like an eternity since they were actually out their, but when they jogged on the field they looked like a stunned football team and one that seemed beaten. With the Chiefs on a 4th and 9 and forced into gambling, it saw Alex Smith throwing a pass upfield for Albert Wilson and saw the Tennessee safety’s  snuffing out their last chance and saw the Titans pulling off one of the most stunning comeback victories in Wild Card history. The loss for the Chiefs marked a run of six home losses in a row in the playoff football since 1993.

 

192px-Los_Angeles_Rams_logo.svg    LOS ANGELES RAMS   13  –   26   ATLANTA FALCONS    Atlanta_Falcons_logo.svg

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Falcons QB Matt Ryan firing a pass off- Pic: GETTY IMAGES

For the first time in 41 years, it saw an NFL postseason game being played out of the famous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as the Rams looked to carry on their incredible story this year. Sadly though, much like the last time that Los Angeles played at the Coliseum back in 1977 in a playoff game, it saw the home side coming up short once more as a Falcons side led by Matt Ryan, looking like a team on a mission, as they look to erase the memory of last year’s Superbowl nightmare less than a year ago.

Atlanta got a huge slice of luck midway through the first quarter when a Falcons punt upfield saw the ball bouncing off Blake Countess foot and saw a scramble for the loose football and see the Falcons recovering. That then led to a 29-yard field goal by Matt Bryant that put the Falcons ahead and saw him adding a further kick later on in the quarter to put the AFC South team 6-0 up.

Devonte Freeman put the Falcons in an even stronger position as they led 13-0 after a 3-yard run brought a touchdown for Atlanta and saw the home side falling further behind. LA then replied through quarterback Jared Goff, who threw for his first postseason touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp, as the pass connected for a 14-yard score in the end zone.

The final fifteen-seconds of play in the first half took an incredible nine minutes to complete, as with no timeouts the Rams spiked the ball with nine seconds to go and saw the officials wanting to review a couple of plays previous that saw an incomplete pass being called, and saw the rare occasion of the home fans cheering the decision to not give the catch and helped the Rams out, with time added back on the clock. With the last action of the half, it saw a 35-yard Field goal kicked by Sam Ficken to narrow the deficit and make it 13-10 at the half.

Matt Bryant then kicked a 25-yard field goal to open up a six-point lead for the Falcons before striking a 56-yard effort to make it 19-10 for Atlanta, with still a quarter to play. Jared Goff in his first playoff game looked assured of himself, much like he has for the best part of the season and saw him doing all he could to help his Rams side to stay in the game. Todd Gurley then started to pick up a bit of steam and had LA looking to him to score an get them back in it. As it was, it saw Los Angeles forced to kick a field goal instead and see the lead cut down to six with more than ten minutes left to play.

Mohamed Sanu then ran 52-yards to get the Falcons up to the Rams 10-yard line, before a couple of plays later while on a 2nd and goal, it saw Matt Ryan throwing a high floating pass out towards the corner for Julio Jones to make the grab and score a touchdown and make it a 26-13 game. Los Angeles then thought they had a touchdown when Goff found Tyler Higbee in the end zone, but the replays showed that the Tight-End had dropped the ball and so it was ruled an incomplete pass and saw the hopes of a comeback ended there and then.

It brought an end to an entertaining season for the Rams this year, as a stunning debut season for Head Coach Sean McVay, saw his team posting an 11-6 record on the year. Meanwhile, for the Falcons it saw them moving to an 11-6 record and have them now facing Philadelphia Eagles in Philly next weekend.

 

193px-Jacksonville_Jaguars_logo.svg  JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS  10  –  3   BUFFALO BILLS Buffalo_Bills_logo.svg

Ben Koyack
Ben Koyack celebrates Touchdown in Jaguars win – Pic: Boston Herald

Jacksonville and Buffalo played out the remaining AFC Wild Card game in Florida and while no one ran away with the game, it will certainly not be challenging the AFC game the night before between Tennessee and Kansas City for the game of the weekend, but it certainly proved to a case of how to defend at least.

A scoreless first quarter saw only 94-yards in total being recorded between the sides in the opening fifteen minutes of the game until a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka put the Bills ahead. Jacksonville’s Quarterback Blake Bortles then conjured up a first down conversion late in the second quarter to get the Jaguars within field goal range and have Bortles going to the well too often, and he was stopped by the Buffalo defence and led to a Josh Lambo 44-yard field goal to take the sides into the halftime break all square.

Late in the third, it saw Leonard Fournette trying to leap over the Bills defense for a touchdown, but he was dragged back by the ankles by Buffalo’s Lorenzo Alexander as he made sure that the Jaguars Running-Back wasn’t making the line. However, the Jaguars then gambled on a 4th and goal and it saw them richly rewarded as Blake Bortles picked out Ben Koyack in the end zone to see the Tight-End making the catch and getting the touchdown to put Jacksonville ahead.

In the fourth quarter, it saw Buffalo struggling to make much on offense and had LeSean McCoy being stifled by the Jaguars defense throughout the game and have the Bills top weapon being grounded. With just over a minute to play, it saw the Bills hopes all but go up in smoke, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked and had to be helped off the field of play following a hit he suffered and saw his head hitting the turf and saw backup Nathan Peterman coming into replace him for the remainder of the game.

This was the same Nathan Peterman, that in a previous start for Buffalo in Week 11, saw the rookie QB throwing for five interceptions in the infamous game against the LA Chargers in which Tyrod Taylor was benched and was soon thrown back on. With Taylor now done for the game, this was a chance for Peterman to redeem himself in the eyes of Bills fans and those fans around the league that mocked his performance earlier in the season. His first snap saw him scrambling for a first down and lost control of the football at the end of the play but thankfully was out of bounce. His second play saw a throw that was caught and helped the Bills pick up another first down and move upfield.

Tyrod Taylor, Yannick Ngakoue
Tyrod Taylor gets driven into the turf by Jags Defense – Pic: Boston Herald

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo who was commentating for American television said of Peterman as they moved upfield, “Peterman has a chance to etch his name into the history books with the Bills on this drive right here”. It proved to be the commentator’s curse and saw the backup quarterback sacked for a loss of ten yards. The next play was a 2nd and 20 and saw Peterman throwing a pass that was tipped and eventually Intercepted by Jalen Ramsey and he helped the Jaguars claim victory and see a rematch from Week 5, as the Jags now travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.

 

192px-New_Orleans_Saints_logo.svg  NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 31  –  26  CAROLINA PANTHERS191px-Carolina_Panthers_logo.svg

Panthers Saints Football
New Orleans Quarterback Drew Brees celebrates a Touchdown – Pic: New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints made it a clean sweep of victories over their NFC South rivals in in the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the final Wild Card game of the weekend, as Drew Brees shown his quality once more as a top performer in the postseason, as he threw for 376 yards and picked up two touchdowns that helped the Saints go marching on into the playoffs against a very stubborn opponent.

After a tight opening quarter of play between these rivals, it then saw a piece of brilliance by Brees to open the scoring, as the Saints Quarterback found former Carolina Wide-Receiver Ted Ginn Jr up the middle and have the now New Orleans man finishing off the play for an 80-yard touchdown pass to move the home side in front.

Earlier in the second quarter, it saw the ‘pride of Arbroath’ in Graham Gano slotting over a 27-yard field goal after the Scottish kicker had missed an earlier attempt in the quarter.

Drew Brees then pick up his second touchdown pass of the game when he found Josh Hill wide open in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Saints, as New Orleans looked good in the contest. Graham Gano then kicked over another field goal for the Panthers to keep them still in touch with the home side, as they trailed by just 8-points.

Zach Line then went in for a 1-yard score to have New Orleans on moving further ahead and lead 21-6 as the halftime break was approaching, but Gano had the last say on the half as he drilled over a 58-yard kick to see Carolina down by 12 points at the half.

Cam Newton was trying his best to get the Panthers back in the game and had Gano being the one to chip away at the Saints lead, as he kicked over his third field goal of the game to make 21-12. Wil Lutz then replied with a 57-yard field goal for New Orleans as they looked to hold back a Carolina side at arm’s length.

Carolina then scored a touchdown when Newton found Greg Olsen in the end zone for a score, but the Saints came back later in the quarter, as Brees found Michael Thomas who got the Saints up to the 5-yard line and near the Panthers goal-line

Alvin Kamara then went in on a 2-yard run to get the fourth touchdown for New Orleans in the game and looked to have closed the game out. However, the celebration on the Saints score had hardly calmed before Christian McCaffrey raced into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown and have a noisy and boisterous Superdome crowd fall silent as the Panthers refused to give up with 4.09 remaining.

With the game coming to the crunch, it saw the Saints going for it on 4th and 2 to see the game out and have Brees being intercepted by Mike Adams and gave Carolina one last chance to steal victory at the death.

As the game reached its dying moments, Carolina just couldn’t find a way to break them down and with 11 seconds left to play it saw the Panthers on a 4th and 23 and needing Newton to come up with something special to get the win for the Panther. Instead was jumped upon by three New Orleans players and saw him go from the Saints 34-yard line to being dumped on his own 45- yard line.

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Cam Newton (left) Drew Brees (right) Rivals shake hands after a tough battle -Pic: Forbes


NFC DIVISIONAL GAMES:

191px-Philadelphia_Eagles_logo.svgPhiladelphia Eagles (13-3) v Atlanta Falcons (11-6)  Atlanta_Falcons_logo.svg

@ Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia 

127px-Minnesota_Vikings_logo.svgMinnesota Vikings (13-3) v New Orleans Saints (12-5192px-New_Orleans_Saints_logo.svg

@ U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota

 

 

AFC DIVISIONAL GAMES:

193px-New_England_Patriots_logo.svgNew England Patriots (13-3) v Tennessee Titans (10-7Tennessee_Titans_logo.svg

@ Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass

196px-Pittsburgh_Steelers_logo.svgPittsburgh Steelers (13-3) v Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6193px-Jacksonville_Jaguars_logo.svg

@ Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

 

NFL WILD CARD Preview

This weekend is ‘Wild Card Weekend’ and sees eight-teams hoping to take another step towards making Superbowl Ll in Minnesota on February 4th, as the AFC and NFC Wild Card games are played out to see who advances to the divisional games next weekend. The four-game themselves are some of the most intriguing and unpredictable matchups in recent times and the postseason themselves is an absolute lottery as well.

It is difficult to recall a more open NFL season than this year’s one, as no side has looked particularly unbeatable compared to previous years gone by, and that goes for the four Wild Card games this weekend too. Half of the teams making up this weekend’s games (Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills) none have played in the postseason for at least 11 years and in the case of the Bills it is 18 years and helps brings to an end to the unwanted record of being the only NFL franchise to not have appeared in a playoffs in the 21st century.  But for the case Los Angeles it is 29 years since they last held a home playoff game – before the team moved to St Louis in 1995.

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Tennessee_Titans_logo.svg158px-Kansas_City_Chiefs_logo.svg

TENNESSEE TITANS v KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – @ Arrowhead Stadium

First up is the Saturday night game, as the Tennessee Titans travel to the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to take on the in-form Chiefs. Kansas City will look to pick up their first Playoff victory in at home, since 1993 when the Chiefs had to overcome the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime to prevail. 25-years ago also saw the AFC West team beating the then Houston Oilers 28-20, in their divisional playoff game, and to which later saw the Oilers moving to Tennessee, before adopting the Titans names in 1999.

Kansas City does hold a 2-0 record over the Titans, but that is if you included their record as the Oilers too, with the victories for the Missouri side coming back in 1962 & 1994. In match-ups since the move to Nashville back in 1996 and onwards, the Titans hold a slender 5-3 series record overall in the head to head. The Chiefs have had three parts to their season, as they firstly defeated the Superbowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro to shock the Patriots and the experts in the process. Kansas City then followed up that win with four straight victories that moved them to a 5-0 record before the wheels then blew off. The Chiefs then lost six of their next seven games, to move to 6-6 on the season and saw them finally getting back to winning ways in week 14, as Kansas beat their bitter rivals the Oakland Raiders and finished the regular season with four wins to claim a 10-6 record and make the playoffs.


For Tennessee, they haven’t played in a Playoff game since losing to the San Diego Chargers (now LA Chargers) back in 2008 and saw their last win in the postseason coming as far back as Baltimore in 2003, before they fell to the eventual champions in New England. The Titans have a decent record in the playoffs at 5-6, though that is if you exclude their Oilers history. Their first playoff ever victory as the Titans came against Buffalo back in 2000 in what was dubbed ‘The Music City Miracle’, in which Tennessee scored on the final play of the game after a kickoff return saw Frank Wycheck throwing a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson, and he ran it back for a 75 yard touchdown to win the game.

That Tennessee side would make it all the way to the Superbowl XXXIV, having been a Wild Card side, and saw the Titans coming up a 1-yard short of winning their first ever Superbowl against ‘the Greatest side on turf’ in the St. Louis Rams. Since then, however, the Nashville outfit has struggled to make the playoffs and this year has seen them finding it hard to string more than two wins together and ended up with a 9-7 record on the season, but they’ll hope to improve on that. For a City that is famous for the ‘King’ Elvis Presley, they’ll know that come game time that ‘It’s now or never’ and will want to avoid feeling like a ‘Hound dog’ should they lose out.

PREDICTION: Kansas City

 


193px-Jacksonville_Jaguars_logo.svgBuffalo_Bills_logo.svg

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS v BUFFALO BILLS – @ EverBank Field

The second AFC clash of the weekend pits the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field in Florida. Such has been the demand for playoff tickets at the EverBank Field this Sunday, that steps have been taken to open up another section of their stadium, as the Jaguars are playing hosts to their first postseason game since the turn of the century and also first playoff game since losing to New England back in 2008.

The Jaguars saw them picking up huge scalps in the first half of the season with impressive victories that included a 44-7 blowout win at Wembley Stadium over the Baltimore Ravens and then beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 to claim another scalp. Towards the back end of the season, it saw players and coaches alike on the sidelines being involved in heated arguments during losses to San Francisco and Tennessee in the final two weeks of the season and has seen their momentum take a battering from those incidents. Jags quarterback Blake Bortles has picked up twenty-one touchdowns on the year while throwing for 3,687 yards while Running Back Leonard Fournette has been key in the rushing game with ten touchdowns and over 1,342 yards.

Meanwhile, Wide Receivers in Marquise Lee and Keelan Cole have picked up six touchdowns between them and account for 1,467 yards and Tight-End Marcedes Lewis has five touchdowns on the year himself with 318 yards to boot.


With the Jags booking their playoff spot weeks ago, in the case of Buffalo, it was literally a last-minute thing and needed help from unlikely allies. It saw the final week of the regular season seeing the Bills beating their fellow conference rival in the Dolphins in Miami and then had Buffalo needed to await the outcome of the Baltimore/Cinncinati game to see if they would make the playoffs or not.

For most of the game, it seemed certain that Buffalo was heading through until the Ravens led right up until the final stages of the game and needed an Andy Dalton throw on fourth-down to find Tyler Boyd and have the Bengals causing a shock and stunning the Baltimore Ravens and spark off wild celebrations among Bills players and fans that were watching from within the confines of the stadium in Miami.  Buffalo hasn’t made the end of season playoffs since 1999 and held an unwanted record of being the only side in the NFL to not have played a single postseason game in the 21st century, with their last game being the ‘Music City Miracle’ game against Tennessee.

The Bills this year has been led by Running-Back LeSean McCoy, of which the Harrisburg native has scored run in for six touchdowns and ran for 1,138 rushing yards on the season. Quarterback for the Buffalo side is Tyrod Taylor, and he has thrown for 2,799 passing yards and fourteen touchdowns on the year. However, the most bizarre incident involving Taylor came back in Week 11, when the head coach Sean McDermott made the strange decision to give Nathan Peterman the nod ahead of him against the LA Rams and saw Nathan Peterman having a nightmare game that saw him throwing five Interceptions and could have easily cost Buffalo in the long run.

Their biggest worry ahead of their game with the Jags this Sunday is an injury to  LeSean McCoy after he suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Dolphins but has said in the last couple of days that he plans to suit up and will hopefully take his place out on the field. If he is missing for the Bills, then you feel that they are in a world of trouble.

PREDICTION: Buffalo Bills



 

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Switching conferences now to the NFC and it sees the past two NFC champions taking their place in the Wild Card games in the form of the Carolina Panthers and also last year’s beaten finalists in the Superbowl in the Atlanta Falcons.

 

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NEW ORLEAN SAINTS v CAROLINA PANTHERS – @ Mercedes Superdome

The first game sees a clash of the NFC South rivals, as Cam Newton leads his Carolina Panthers side to the Mercedes Superdome as they face the New Orleans Saints and a side that the Panthers have lost twice to already this year in the regular season. It saw the Louisiana outfit beating Carolina in their previous meetings that came in Week’s 3 and 13.

For the Superbowl winners back in 2010 in New Orleans, they started this season with two losses against the Minnesota Vikings on the road and then the current Superbowl champions in New England at home. That was before they then secured their first win of the year at Carolina in Week 3. Evergreen Quarterback Drew Brees has thrown for a total of 4,334 yards on the year and picked up twenty-three touchdowns and has a passer rating of 103.9%. The Saints have the second-best offense in the league, with only the Patriots having a better record.

For the two-time Superbowl runners-up in Carolina, they haven’t had that much of a bad season in truth, with their only losses coming against teams that have made the playoffs barring of course the hapless Chicago Bears. Wins on the road at New England and Detroit gave the Panthers a 4-1 record, before losses to the Eagles and then a disaster in Chicago against the Bears saw two 75-plus yard turnovers helping their opponents to victory. The Panthers were also only one of three teams to defeat the top-ranked Minnesota Vikings over the whole of the regular season. Carolina had many weapons at their disposal in their offense, as Wide-Receiver Devin Funchess scored eight touchdowns while Running Back’s Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey both picked up seven touchdowns each and the duo combined for 1,818 yards overall.

Cam Newton saw him completing 3,302 yards on the season and collected twenty-two touchdowns as well, as the Panthers talisman came up big when they needed him and will need to do the same come Sunday, as he faces arguably one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees. It could see the game of the whole playoffs too between these two NFC South rivals.

PREDICTION: New Orleans Saints

 


 

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LOS ANGELES RAMS  v   ATLANTA FALCONS  – @  Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The last game of the weekend sees the Playoffs heading to the West Coast and have the beaten runners-up from last year’s Superbowl in Atlanta, as they travel to the City to Angels to take on the surprise package of the season, in the Los Angeles Rams at the L.A Memorial Coliseum.

Atlanta will be hoping to make their way back to the Superbowl and put right what went wrong last year, following their complete and utter disintegration against the New England Patriots. The Falcons were 28-3 up midway through the third quarter and on course for victory. What followed, was the worst collapse ever by a team in a Superbowl or perhaps any final in sporting history, as the Falcons lost out 34-28 in overtime to the Patriots and see them cave in spectacularly.

The Falcons overcome the Bears, Packers and Lions to post a 3-0 start to the season, as they looked to exercise their demons from last year, but they then suffered three straight losses, including a rematch with New England, that saw them then slumping to 3-3. Atlanta finished with a 10-6 record and had the Falcons bouncing back with a Playoff berth and saw the core of players from last year in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu all stepping up for the Georgia-based side. Freeman claimed eight touchdowns and made 1,182 yards in the regular season, only Julio Jones had more yards (1,459) for the Falcon on the year. Tevin Coleman scored eight touchdowns with five on the rush and making 927 yards, while Sanu caught five touchdown passes and 713 yards this season.

Los Angeles as previously mentioned may have been the surprise package of the season of the year, as having posted a 4-12 record last year with Jeff Fisher in charge in, after he was fired it saw the Rams making a brave move for Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator in Sean McVay to be the new Head Coach of the Rams. The appointment raised a lot of eyebrows amongst the NFL, with McVay being the youngest coach in the league at 31 years old to coach any team.

When the Rams hit their Bye Week in Week 8, they were 5-2 on the season and that included a huge win at AT&T Stadium, in which they beat the Dallas Cowboys on their home turf 35-30 and also completed a shutout of the Arizona Cardinals at home and began to see people taking the Rams serious as a playoff contender. One huge difference for the Rams has been the impressive display of youngster Jared Goff at quarterback, as the former first-round draft pick by the Rams in 2016 had looked like he may not cut the mustard in the NFL last season, but roll on a year later and Goff has become one of the most exciting prospects in the league and with over 3,800 passing yards and twenty-eight touchdowns. Goff has been given new life under coach Sean McVay this year, as McVay by many has been the coach of the year and turned the fortunes of this Rams side around in such a short space of time that he has done an incredible job.

The meeting with the Falcons could come down to the quarterbacks, and Goff will be able to show how far he has come this season as he faces one of the best play-callers in Matt Ryan, as the Atlanta quarterback has struggled for form this season but not wavered at all and has helped carry his Falcons side to the postseason under some difficult times.

PREDICTION: Atlanta Falcons


 

To Boo or Not to Boo, THAT IS THE QUESTION?!

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Disgruntled fan Credit: debrafine.com

TO BOO OR NOT BOO, THAT IS THE QUESTION?!

This past weekend saw a topic brought up on social media involving two of the powerhouses of British Ice Hockey in particular, as some home fans turned against their own side and booed them off the ice, following a string of bad results and performances to boot. This, in turn, has led to one of the supporters of the sides in question asking, is booing acceptable? 

Sunday evening saw this subject come to a head, as both clubs were left in no uncertain terms of what their own fans thought about them following their respective home losses. Sections of both supporters of the Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers had their game ending with a chorus of boos ringing around both Arenas, following their home defeats to Fife in Sheffield and Belfast at Nottingham.

It has become apparent from a lot of Steelers supporters on social media nowadays, that they are clearly far from happy on how their side have been performing so far this season – after seeing them on a current losing streak of late in the league. Sheffield currently sits fifth in the league standings to date and are also six points adrift of Belfast in their conference.

The South Yorkshire club have really struggled against fellow conference rivals Nottingham, Cardiff and Belfast this year, with the Steelers sitting rock bottom in the Erhardt Conference, with only four points in conference match-ups – and lie eight-points behind third places Nottingham, with their bitter rivals having registered twelve points in their conference games too.

Fans have also vented their fury on social media in the direction of three personnel at the Steel City club, with their Head Coach and former player Paul Thompson, along with the senior management duo of Tony Smith and Dave Simms also being called out for the sides poor recruitment this year, and also their apparent lack of effort from the men in Orange on the Ice too.

Sunday night saw the Steelers fans venting their anger after an in-form Fife Flyers side flew into the FlyDSA Arena and saw the Scottish side came out 3-1 winners and had the sound of the horn at the end of the game was met by a loud chorus of boos by the home faithful and had plenty of empty seats from clips posted from the game.

Meanwhile, just 42.4 miles up the M1 (according to Google Maps) the Motorpoint Arena playing hosts to the Nottingham Panthers and the Belfast Giants. The Northern Ireland-outfit beat the hometown side 6-2 and had the hosts also met with loud boos from the Panthers Nation as well.

This time last year the Panthers qualified for the Continental Cup final round in Italy and went on to win the tournament to become the first EVER British side to win it. Much like their foes down the road, Nottingham has also been going through a bit of a bad patch of late and saw the side in ‘Primrose and Black’ only picking up a point from their last four league games with two of those losses coming against conferences opponents, Cardiff and Belfast.

Both sides have been huge forces in British Ice Hockey for some time now and has seen them fighting it out (sometimes quite literally) for league titles and domestic trophies along the way. Both fan bases have high expectations of their team and consequently, both clubs have played with rather large huge chips on their respective shoulders.

So, when that chip gets dislodged by their rivals or other teams within the league, their fans are quick to jump on them and that was pretty evident from this past weekend. The booing from two sets of fanbases was a clear indicator of them not happy and wanting things corrected almost immediately.

Having fans booing their team is nothing new in sports in truth, however, in British Ice Hockey, in particular, it is a rare occurrence. That said, the first time I recall hearing boos and not aimed at an opposing player or team, was way back in the early 2000’s when the club I supported growing up a child, the Manchester Storm, had the first instance of this occurring.

During the 2000-01 season, there was a new coach at the helm following the outgoing and most successful head coach that the Storm ever had in Kurt Kleinendorst, as former Storm boss departed for a scouting job with the New Jersey Devils of the NHL in North America. He was replaced by a coach by coach Terry Christensen who had made his name in College hockey over the pond.

From the off you could tell things weren’t good, with the side playing awful, the coach refusing to connect with the fans which had attendances dwindling by the week, with poor performances on the ice being made worse with players and the coach at loggerheads too, with former player Pierre Allard launching a scathing attack on Christiansen in the local press.

For the handful of games that I attended that season, I recall vividly the side being booed as they skated around the ghost town like MEN Arena as it was then and poor brand of hockey. it was the only time that I can ever recall a home side being booed off their own Ice in over twenty-two years of watching the game in the UK.

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‘The Boo Section’ Pic: Morningmail.com

In Europe though, booing is seen as acceptable as it is generally in football. If a home side loses or plays badly in front of their own fans, then the players and club will risk the wrath of their supporters and have them booed till out of sight.

For over quarter of a century now watching a range of all different sporting teams in Manchester; whether it is Manchester City, Manchester Storm/Phoenix/Giants, Belle Vue Aces, Sale Sharks or even Lancashire C.C.C and heck, let’s throw in the rare occasion I watched Manchester United at Old Trafford too, we have all been made to get mad or angry with our sporting sides and venting our spleens  at games too.

Based on my own experiences of hearing sides being booed off, then you have been a Man City supporter for as long as I have and went prior to the takeover of the club with the Abu Dhabi Group, then Yes, I am probably one of the better ones to ask about frustrating sides.

From being taken to my first ever game on Boxing Day 1991, right up to the present day, I saw players in sky blue shirts being world-beaters and disaster zones over the years, while also having to take the smooth with a truckload of roughness that would equate to taking some sandpaper to a house brick.

Sports fans are without doubt the most fickle of fans you will find in any walks of life, as the word fanaticism in Latin shortened is ‘Fan’, and the description of the word being states “to be ‘mad, fanatical, furious, raging, enthusiastic and ecstatic” and as a sports fan we all experience those feeling when watching.

The long and short of it I guess is that if you are willing to pay to watch something, say; a sports event, concert, film and even Gladiators back in Roman times I suppose, then you have the right to express your grievances as after all you have paid good money to watch your chosen entertainment.

Another way to look at things is, if fans are debating whether booing is deemed acceptable, then imagine if a team lost 10-0. The losing sides fans should be well within their rights to boo, whistle, jeer or show their frustration at what they watched, especially if their team didn’t show any interest what so ever.

On the flip side of things, if people aren’t allowed to boo and jeer for things when they go bad, then surely when the opposite happens and their side is winning, then the fans shouldn’t be allowed to clap, cheer or celebrate either, as surely that must be wrong too??

Much like in all sports though when a side rediscovers their winning touch again, it will see the negative comments start to fade away and be replaced with optimism – well until those losses start to occur again of course.

I’ll finish this blog off with a link to a clip from Scottish Comedian Fred MacAulay, as he loosely talks about booing in a sense.

CHUFFING BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

PEP’S MEN MAKE IT SWEET SIXTEEN IN WIN OVER SPURS

Manchester_City_FC_badge.svg   Manchester City        4     Gundogan 14′, De Bruyne 70′, Sterling 80′, 90′
580b57fcd9996e24bc43c4ee   Tottenham Hotspur   1     Eriksen 93′

Another stunning performance by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side saw his side move 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League standings with a 4-1 victory over Spurs at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening, but that lead could be back down to 11 points should their cross-city rivals United beat West Brom in their Sunday lunchtime game.

City, was without their star man from midweek in David Silva, as the Spanish wizard was absent for personal reasons and saw Ilkay Gundogan coming into the side. For the visitors, they welcomed back England International Dele Alli to their line-up, as the North London side aimed to become the first side in the league this season to beat the runaway leaders at current.

The home side went ahead thanks to a stooping header by Ilkay Gundogan on 14 minutes, as the midfielder was left all alone to head home from a Leroy Sane corner and have an inquest between the Tottenham players on just how he was left open and who was marking the City man.

Kevin De Bruyne then picked out Sergio Aguero out on the left side and had the Argentine running into the visitor’s penalty area and firing a shot on goal, but his effort was palmed away by Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal and saw Raheem Sterling picking up the rebound and then blazing over the bar.

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City celebrate fourth goal – PIC: BBC Sports

Tottenham struggled to create much that resembled a meaningful attack for much of the first half, but when they did it came from an effort by Harry Kane as the England man tried to curl his shot in at the far corner and saw Ederson beaten all ends up, but thankfully for him and the home side it went past the post.

Minutes later it saw the visitors threatening again, as this time the home side needed to be alert at the back after Danny Rose put a little ball in behind the City back line and saw Ederson reading the danger immediately and had the keeper running off his the line to gather it up. In the dying moment of the half, it saw Ilkay Gundogan then trying his luck from long-range and had Lloris able to make a comfortable save.

The second half saw the visitors lucky to have eleven men still on the pitch after Harry Kane made a poor challenge on Raheem Sterling that was late and forceful and potential to be a leg breaker on his England teammate. The Tottenham man was shown a yellow card for the ‘challenge’ and then soon after saw his fiercely struck shot being saved Ederson, as the Portuguese keeper got a strong hand to push it out of play for a corner.

City’s Belgian wizard in Kevin De Bruyne saw weaving more magic, as his attempted ball for Gabriel Jesus was just slightly taken off course by Eric Dier in the Tottenham defence, as the touch just did enough to put off the Brazilian striker at the last minute.

The home side, could and should have made it 2-0 on 66 minutes, when Leroy Sane picked the ball up on the wing and then made a trademark cut-in from the left and saw the German shooting on goal inside the Spurs penalty box and was denied by the outstretched left hand of Lloris and saw Sterling yet again failing to put in the rebound.

Dele Alli then escaped a clear red card after an awful over the ball tackle on Kevin De Bruyne, and on another day the Spurs and England man would have been heading for an early shower. As it was, he stayed on the pitch but it would be De Bruyne who would have the last laugh, as the Belgian ran took a pass and then a fired into the net through the keeper and past the attempts of Lloris who got a hand to it, but couldn’t keep it out.

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Kevin De Bruyne makes it 2-0 – PIC: DailyMail

In the 75th minute, it saw City awarded a penalty after De Bruyne was brought down inside the area by Jan Vertongen and saw Gabriel Jesus being given the responsibility for the spot kick, but the Brazilian saw his penalty coming back off the woodwork into the five yard area and see Sterling putting over with the rebound.

The hosts had Spurs on the back foot with a quick break up field, as Ilkay Gundogan played another nice ball, this time for Leroy Sane, and the German set up Raheem Sterling at the far post after Hugo Lloris had come off his line and made it a simple tap in for 3-0 and gave the home side an extra cushion.

Substitute Bernardo Silva then nearly put City four-nil up on 85 minutes, when another inch-perfect pass by Kevin De Bruyne picked out the Portuguese midfielder on the far side and saw Silva having his effort tipped onto the post by the Spurs keeper. Sterling then had a chance to score his second of the game with a rising shot that needed Hugo Lloris to just tip over the bar, but also saw the other side of the Tottenham keeper minutes later.

Following his fingertip save moments before, the French keeper for Tottenham then made a poor error that was capitalised on by Raheem Sterling as he made it 4-0 when a ball forward by Bernardo Silva got the smallest of touches by Eric Dier as last man and saw Sterling allow it go through the leg of the oncoming Lloris, and have the City man rolling the ball into an open net to just salt into the wounds.

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Raheem Sterling lets the ball run on before making it 4-0 – PIC: Reuters

There wasn’t too much that the Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino could do and just saw the Argentine boss stood arms folded and watch on as his side was picked apart in the second half of play.

The visitors had the final say in the match, as a Fernandinho clearance seemed to strike the hand of Christian Eriksen but the Danish midfielder ran at the City defenders and then shot across the are with a low drive that was out of reach for Ederson and gave the visitors a late consolation goal.

When the full-time whistle came, it had Pep Guardiola’s men making it 16 league games unbeaten this season and also 21 home games without defeat since Chelsea last beat them at the Etihad Stadium coming back in early December of 2016.

MASTERFUL CITY OUTCLASS THE SWANS

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Manchester City became record breakers for the second time inside a week, as after Pep Guardiola side beat neighbours Manchester United on Sunday to record the best start to any Premier League season, it then saw City smashing record for the most consecutive wins – as they beat Swansea City 4-0 at the Liberty Stadium to record their 15th straight Premier League victory and surpass the previous record set by the ‘Invincibles’ side of Arsenal back 2002.

Following the Derby Day win, it saw all the post-match talk about what happened in the tunnel afterwards; as reports of players brawling, Managers getting soaked with milk and music being too loud for Jose Mourinho’s taste. Wednesday night though saw Manchester City playing all the right notes and were led by their conductor on the pitch, in David Silva.

The Spanish maestro played the home side like a fiddle in the contest, with Silva scoring a brace and had further strikes by Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero in the dominating win. It saw the home side left to chase shadows for the majority of the time as Pep Guardiola’s men put in a classy performance down on a chilly South Wales evening.

City started the contest and they meant to go on and had Sergio Aguero showings signs of his old self again, with the Argentine striker running at the Swansea defence early on and hitting his effort into the side-netting, but that sent the warning signs to the home side almost immediately.

Fernandinho then struck a perfect volley from the edge of the box that brought out a great save from Lukasz Fabianski in the Swansea goal, as the Polish keeper got down really well to make the save. Jordan Ayew then had the home sides’ first shot on target after ten minutes of play gone in the game, as Ayew fended off a challenge from Nicolas Otemendi to then fire a low driven shot that saw Ederson more than equal to it.

The leaders had found themselves behind the Swansea defence on numerous occasions in the half and just couldn’t turn their shots into goals and despite the efforts of Argentine duo Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otemendi, both failed to get on the board. Eventually, Pep Guardiola’s men opened the scoring through David Silva with the Spaniard flicking the ball on at the front of the net, as his namesake Bernando Silva put in the cross to help put the visitors one up on 27 minutes.

In the 34th minute, it was 2-0, as Kevin De Bruyne saw his fizzed in free-kick bouncing past the keeper and into the far post to put City in firm control and have the home side looking a beaten side already. Danilo then had a rare effort on goal for the visitors, as the Brazilan defender saw his long-range pop held onto by Lukasz Fabianski and saw only one side in the game.

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David Silva and his City teammates celebrate a goal  PIC- Skysports.

A minute into the second half, it saw another chance go begging for City as some good build-up play saw the Silva’s linking up once again and should have been 3-0, as Bernando played in David, and the midfielder somehow managed to miss the target with his curled shot.

 

Swansea was struggling to repel the Manchester City attacks on their goal and saw another chance heading their way, as Bernando Silva played a little ball to Sergio Aguero whose low shot across goal was saved by Fabianski and almost had the ball coming straight out to the sliding David Silva for a rebound, but the home side was let off the hook.

The visitor’s sublime football has saw them getting praise heaped upon them and saw City netting their third goal on 51 minutes, when Raheem Sterling played a ball into the path of David Silva and the City midfielder just delicately lifted his shot over the keeper and into the back of the net for 3-0 and leave the home side in disarray.

Sterling, then saw his volley on goal being stopped by the Swansea keeper but the flag was already up for offside and wouldn’t have counted anyhow. Aguero then showed his attacking threat again for the away side, as this time he shot just inches past the far post and have the striker looking like his old self again.

Ederson then made a brilliant save to keep the home side out in the 63rd minute of play when a Roque Masa shot had taken a deflection off Fabian Delph and that saw the keeper having to quickly adjust his feet to make a diving save and push the ball away. Sergio Aguero then made it 4-0 for the rampant leaders, and have the club’s record goalscorer taking his tally for the season to ten after a powerful run into the penalty area and fire his shot into the far bottom corner for a tidy finish.

Victory for the Blues meant that they retained their 11-point lead at the top of the table and sees them now facing Spurs on Saturday night in what will be another tough game for City, as the Blues face 3 games inside a week before Christmas arrives.

CITY EXTENDS GAP & BREAK LEAGUE RECORD IN DERBY WIN

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The Blue side of Manchester took the honours in the 175th Manchester Derby as Pep Guardiolas’ Manchester City side opened up an 11-point gap from nearest rivals United at the top of the Premier League table – as City beat their neighbours 2-1 and set a new English top-flight record in the process with 14 straight league wins to break the record.

It saw the league leaders looking strong from the outset and had Raheem Sterling having the first shot on goal in the match after a neat one-two between himself and Gabriel Jesus, saw the England man firing a scuffed shot at David De Gea in the United goal.

A couple of minutes later it saw the visitors going close once more, when the Brazilian connection of Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus saw the central midfielder playing a quick ball upfield to Jesus and the striker twisted and turned his way into the United penalty area and had the defenders turned inside out, but his finishing lack quality.

City, then had another chance go begging on 41 minutes gone on the clock, when a Fabian Delph ball was put back into the area and saw Ashley Young missing with a header and had Leroy Sane controlling the ball and then firing his shot toward goal, and needed an important save by the United keeper to stop the away side from going in front.

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David Silva opening the scoring – GettyImage

From the resulting corner, it saw the visitors breaking the deadlock through a David Silva goal as Kevin De Bruyne’s out-swinging corner was knocked goalwards by Nicolas Otamendi and saw the ball coming towards the Spanish International and the player nicknamed ‘Merlin’ by City fans put the away side a goal up.

United, who had failed to get into the contest during the opening forty-five minutes of the play, then saw them getting their foot in the door from a mistake by Fabian Delph in which the defender had a lapse of concentration – which in course gave the home side a chance and have Marcus Rashford punishing the visitors to make it 1-1 deep inside first-half stoppage time.

At halftime, it saw Pep Guardiola being forced into a defensive shuffle after losing his captain Vincent Kompany to an injury and saw Ilkay Gundogan coming on to replace the City skipper for the second half. It saw the game a bit more even with the home side looking to come forward a bit more than they had been doing, but City was still on top in the game.

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Marcus Rashford netting equaliser – Pic: Sky Sports

The visitors restored their lead from a fortuitous goal by defender Nicolas Otamendi, as once again it came from a set-piece by Kevin De Bruyne and in truth the delivery from the Belgian maestro wasn’t the best, but a woeful clearance by Romelu Lukaku at the back post saw the ball hitting his teammate and coming straight to Otadmendi and the Argentine put City 2-1 in front and had the away fans in the corner going delirious.

Marcus Rashford saw his free kick for the home side just going over the bar from the England youngster, as United looked to find a way back on level terms but the leaders gave nothing away. City then created another good chance that came their way, after Fernandinho and Leroy Sane both combined to see Kevin De Bruyne running at the United back line and saw them standing off before forcing David De Gea into a save, as the Spanish keeper just managed to get a hand on it.

Fabian Delph was almost caught out for a second time in the game, after a Nemanja Matic ball went towards the City man and saw the England International failing to deal with it and that in turn let in Rashford again, but his strike on goal brought a good save down low from Ederson to deny the striker his second of the match.

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City celebrating victory at Old Trafford – Pic: BBC Sports

In a week where the pre-match build up was full of soundbites from Manchester United Manager Jose Mourinho, in which he labelled his rivals ‘divers’ – so it was somehow ironic that the home side should have a player booked for diving themselves. City’s Nicolas Otamendi had lost control of the ball in his own area saw and then saw Ander Herrera going over theatrically in the penalty box and claiming a penalty, but instead, he was shown a yellow card and the replays showed it was the right decision.

On 82 minutes, it saw without a doubt the best chance falling the way or United late on as a double-save from Ederson foiled the home side from levelling, after a low driven ball across the face of goal saw Lukaku hitting his shot into the face of the City keeper and then had the Portuguese goalie quickly up to make a brilliant save from Juan Mata and deny them a second.

Deep into injury time, it saw Bernando Silva with a great chance of making it 3-1, but the midfielder managed to overrun the ball too much and see his shot being easily stopped by De Gea. The derby victory for the Blues now sees City moving into a very strong position in the league standings already – but no one that follows the Blue Moon will be counting their chickens just yet.

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