England thrash the Kiwis

Pic from: getty images
England completed their preparations for the upcoming Ashes series with the Australians, with an emphatic win against fellow Australasian opponents New Zealand in the Second test match at Headingley and in doing so completed a sweep in the 2 match series taking it 2-0.
There was no play on the opening day as the whole first day was washed out due to rain and constant showers in the Leeds area, So we started the Second day with Alistair Cook winning the coin toss for England and deciding to bat first as the pitch was bathed in sunshine on the Saturday and looked like we was going to get some play finally.
England`s opening batsman of Cook and Compton came to the crease hoping to get a good start for the hosts, however yet again an early wicket came for the Tourists as Nick Compton was out early off the bowling of Tim Southee and Dean Brownlie taking the catch behind to dismiss the Somerset man for just 1 run.
Jonathan Trott came to the wicket and put on a 56 run partnership with his Captain before Neil Wagner got rid of him with the Kiwi Captain Brendan McCullum taking the catch as he went for 28, Shortly after Cook departed for 34 as England stumbled to 67-3 and looked like a collapse was imminent in the top order.
Ian Bell and Local lad Joe Root put England on the road to recovery as they put 79 on between them till Bell was then out caught by McCullum off the bowling of Kane Williamson for just 30 as Bell has struggled to find a any form in this series.
 

Pic from: bbc sports

The Yorkshire pairing of Joe Root & Jonny Bairstow then put England back in control as the two White rose youngsters put on a batting class as they hit and driven the Kiwi bowlers all over the Headingley ground, Both passed their half centuries and looked to try and kick on at their home ground. New Zealand reviewed a not out given to Root when he was on 94, As they felt he had edged to slips. As it turned out, it had hit his pads and so the Black Caps had used up their reviews and the 22-year old Root managed to grab his maiden test match Hundred on his home ground and got a stand ovation from his fellow White rose supporters in the crowd.
Unfortunately though for Root, he couldn`t make any more on his big score as he was out after Trent Boult was brought back into the New Zealand attack and it paid dividends, as he got the wicket and it wasn`t too long before he removed his partner in crime in Jonny Bairstow in similar fashion to remove them both, as McCullum caught both of them out.
England were 279-6 and were gaining on 300 when Stuart Broad was out for second ball duck and so was left for Graeme Swann coming in to play out the rest of the second day with Matt Prior as England finished on  337-7 at stumps.
Third day saw New Zealand restrict the hosts to just 17 runs as they bowled them out early in the morning for 354. Prior was first out for 39 caught by Ross Taylor off the bowling of Southee, Steven Finn was then bowled for 6 by Trent Boult and James Anderson was caught & bowled for 0.
Pic from: bbc sports
This then let the England bowlers loose on the Kiwi`s and they dismantled them with gusto, The Tourists had got off to a ok start with Fulton and Rutherford putting up 55 runs on the board before Steven Finn broke through, taking the wickets of Peter Fulton first with a caught & bowled and then got Hamish Rutherford out thanks to Ian Bell taking the catch, as he dismissed the openers for 28 & 27 respectively. Finn was on a bit of a roll and so picked up his 3rd wicket of the innings when he bowled Ross Taylor for just 6 and the Black Caps were in a spot of bother.
Graeme Swann then came into the attack and took a few wickets himself, as he bowled Dean Brownlie for 2 and then with a same kind of delivery got the ball landing right in the foot holes and spinning back in with pace cleaning bowling Guptill for 1 with a cracking delivery.
Kane Williamson then fell to the Spinner as well for 13 as New Zealand were stunned and found themselves 82 – 6 with Swann and Finn doing the damage.
Tim Southee and Brendan McCullum then tried to stop the damage, as they stuck in and tried to salvage the innings as they both played little knocks till Stuart Broad then got in on the action, trapping Southee LBW for 19 before Swann came back  to remove Bracewell with Bell taking the catch as he mustered up 1, Broad got the big wicket of McCullum for 20 with him hitting the ball straight back to the Nottinghamshire bowler for a caught and bowled.
New Zealand were in disarray as they found themselves 122-9 with England ripping them apart, until they found an unlikely partnership in the last wicket stand with Neil Wagner and Trent Boult playing some good shots as they battled to avoid the follow on.
Both Kiwi tail-enders were just playing shots as it was damaged limitations for the tourists, but it didn`t stop these two having fun out in the middle as Boult smashed three 6`s and Wagner scored six 4`s as they moved their side nearer to avoiding the follow on. James Anderson managed to finish off the innings as he clean bowled Wagner for 27 to have New Zealand finish on 174 all out after 43.4 over’s.
Cook chose not to enforce the follow on, which seemed a strange move considering the weather reports were bad for the next couple of days, so it made sense to bowl at them straight away and finish it off as quick as they could, it left many of the pundits scratching their collective heads over the choice the England captain made.

Pic from: bbc sports

England came out for their 2nd Innings anyway and was a definite difference between the two openers in confidence, as where Cook was playing shots and looking aggressive, Compton looked to have no confidence and was very defensive hoping to play his way into the innings.
Things rolled onto 72 for no wicket when Compton was out cheap once again and questions were now being asked if he was worth a place for the Ashes series later in the summer as he failed to make a yet another good score, as he was dismissed for 7 off Kane Williamson bowling and Rutherford catching taking the catch.
England with the lead still from the first innings was hoping to set a tough target for their opponents and were well on the way of doing that, as their Captain led from the front racking up runs and with Trott there too they both started to pile on the runs which saw Cook convert a fifty into a Hundred for his 25th century for England as they pushed on the scoring.
Cook then misjudged a stroke off Williamson and Tim Southee caught the captain out as his score of 130 was given a standing ovation as he walked off the pitch.
Ian Bell tried to keep the scoring ticking on, but he gave away his wicket for 6 as his attempted hook went up in the air and was eventually caught by Guptill after he managed to fumble it on more than one occasion and was puffing his cheeks out in relief at catching it.
Trott then took his time when England needed to get on as the reports of the weather for the 5th day was very gloomy indeed, Trott managed to score 11 runs off 69 balls in the afternoon session, This wasn`t what England needed at all.
Pic from: bbc sports
Neil Wagner then disposed of Trott with McCullum taking the edge and the Warwickshire batsman went for 76, This then led to the two Yorkshire lads of Root & Bairstow pushing the score on as they played like it was a one day game. As England moved passed the World record target by 50 runs, Cook decided it was time to declare as they both put on a partnership of 54 before they declared after Root was caught by Guptill off Wagner for 28 and Prior added 4 to the total.
That meant England set the Tourists a target of 468 to chase down and win the test match. England made a great start as they got Peter Fulton out early for 5 from the bowling of Stuart Broad and Bell holding on. Kane Williamson came and went after he scored just 3 before he was given LBW by Swann, Hamish Rutherford then followed next at 65-3 as Swann got his 2nd victim of the innings as the batsman made a very good knock of 42 before he departed by to the pavilion.
Pic from: bbc sports
Ross Taylor and Dean Brownlie put on a partnership that gave New Zealand hope that they could bat the day out in a better position that they were at present, Brownlie then played a shot to the hands of Ian Bell which saw him out for 25 and Guptill was next to go as Swann bowling was fantastic and edged to Trott in the slips and made it 153-5.
One run was added to the score as Ross Taylor was next to go ,after Swann bowled Taylor for 70 as his resistance came to an end after 158 minutes at the crease, this now seemed to signal the nearing of the end for the Kiwi`s innings and embarrassing defeat.
The final days play of the test match saw Brendan McCullum play a stroke straight back to Broad who took a very low catch doing very well to get low enough to catch it as he went for 1. Southee was then dropped by Trott in the slips off the bowling from Swan
A bit later Swann got his “five for” as Trott took the catch this time around as Swann celebrated giving it the fist pumping as Southee departed for 38 after the bowler slogged four 4`s and two 6`s in his innings.
Umpires took the players off for bad light and then persistent rain came as the weather was gloomy and miserable now and was looking bleak whether they would come out again. Thoughts suddenly turned to whether it was a bad decision by Cook for not enforcing the follow on when they had the chance.
Pic from: bbc sports
Play restarted at 3pm after the skies brightened up and England thought they had Bracewell out edging behind, before the batsman immediately asked for a review straight away and got the decision overturned by the 3rd umpire.
However that was a brief stay of execution as moments later Bell took a great catch at silly point off the bowling of Swann to give him his 6th wicket and England needed just 1 wicket for victory now and it was James Anderson who got it as Trent Boult edged to Prior behind and it brought an end to the innings and gave England the 2-0 series sweep.
Pic from: getty images
Man of the match went to Spinner Graeme Swann as the Spinner took the honour and gave special mention to Joe Root for his fantastic knocks in the game. Root also was given the Man of the Series by the New Zealand coach too.
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The Cobra gains Revenge against the Viking Warrior

  




Pic from: Telegraph.com
Nottingham`s Carl Froch retained his IBF Super-Middleweight title in front of a packed out London O2 Arena in another Epic clash with Mikkel Kessler. As the “Cobra” beat him on points with a Unanimous Decision from the judges as he gained revenge on the Viking Warrior for handing him his first career loss back in 2010.
It was built up to be an equally exciting encounter  as the previous fight between the two fighters shown ,As the fight in Herning shown both men could put on a show as there was talk would this fight be able to live up to the hype and surpass the first meeting in Denmark.



Froch was the aggressor early on as his solid jabs had Kessler struggling to get close to the “Cobra” as he kept his distance from the Dane, the Nottingham fighter was controlling the fight as the jabs he was throwing at the Viking Warrior was working and pinning his opponent backwards as well as catching him with some good shots too in the couple opening rounds.
Round 3 saw more of the same as Kessler couldn`t find the target as Froch was jabbing and then quickly moving away when landing his shots and had him looking a bit short of ideas on how to combat the game plan Froch had put into action.




The Cobra was building a commanding lead on his opponent in the first 4 rounds as Kessler was starting to get into the fight eventually after he was being out punched and out thought in the early rounds. 5th Round action saw the Danish fighter start to move up a gear as he landed with a double combination which saw Kessler show signs of growing into the fight more so now.
Towards the end of the round Froch responded with a couple of good punches himself however the round belonged went to Kessler.




Pic from: Yahoo sports
Sixth Round Froch came out throwing the punches and catching Kessler with a few more jabs that was thrown with more purpose than in the last couple of rounds.
Kessler then caught Froch with a low shot below the belt which resulted in the referee giving the British fighter a bit of time to recover and when they restarted,  The Dane connected with a  couple of great shots which saw spray fly off his opponent from the power behind his punches.
Kessler then changed focus from the body to the head and it was starting to work for the man from Copenhagen as he was starting to win the rounds now with his use of counter punching.




Carl Froch then started to go back to how he started the fight by frustrating Kessler with the solid Jabs and was boxing clever as he just stifled him a bit. Froch then connected with a Right hook and then a left to his rival , which saw Kessler throw some back and the fans were standing as both fighters were connecting with their punches in the last 15 seconds of the Seventh round.
Round 8 both fighters punches found the target early on, With the “Cobra” then doubling his combination punches as the middle of the round saw both him land some more shots that got through the defences of Mikkel Kessler.
Froch had him near the ropes and looked to have him hurt as he rocked the Dane with the round coming to a close, as it seemed Kessler was tiring and the Nottingham fighter was taking control.




Pic from: Yahoo sports
In the Ninth Round Kessler caught Froch with a good hook as the round was slow to get going, Kessler was now using his Counter punching on Froch once again as it was working for him as he took the 9th round, as when the pace was slow and deliberate it pleased the Viking Warrior and his corner as too .
Kessler landed a couple of good hooks on Froch who took the blows well and walked through them.
Then we had a mini flurry of punches by both men as the crowd roared their approval as the two boxers were giving us a great contest as we ended the Tenth round.




Round 11 saw both men trying to use their jabs early on before both then started to trade blows with both taking the punches.
Kessler then caught Froch with a Body punch and couple of good combo`s as it had Froch in trouble with 30 seconds left in the Eleventh round.
Pic from: Yahoo sports
Kessler tried to capitalise on the chance as the British fighters legs went wobbly with the Cobra then mounting a comeback towards the end of the round, as it shown having a good Chin and Heart is what makes these fighters true warriors in the ring. As the bell sounded it meant we would see one more round in this thrilling and enthralling contest.




Twelfth and final round saw the whole of the O2 Arena rise to their feet for both fighters, as this was a fantastic contest by both men and was as predicted another  epic encounter for the IBF Super-Middleweight title.
The Crowd in the O2 Arena was thunderous with noise as the Danish contingent for the Dane was drowned out by the majority of the British fans cheering and willing their own Countryman on. Kessler tried to throw the heavy punches just before the final minute to try and hope he could still make some difference in the contest.
Both started throwing the leather for the final minute as the whole crowd stood up to applaud as the fight was a great fight, then with just 30 seconds left Froch had Kessler deep in trouble as Kessler back peddled to the ropes to avoid the punches but was caught by a onslaught by the Cobra as he struck blow after blow on his opponent,  it looked at one point the referee was going to get in to stop the fight but he didn`t and the fight carried on with Kessler finishing the fight in Survival mode.



Pic from: Yahoo sports
As the bell came to end to signal the end of the fight, both fighters embraced in the middle of the ring as the whole O2 audience clapped and paid tribute the boxers with a Standing ovation for both men. We then on to the scorecards and with them being 118-110, which was a stupid score in the contest.  116-112 and 115-113 all in favour of “the Cobra” and so Carl Froch gained revenge on Mikkel Kessler and won the fight, with him now hoping to get Andre Ward to fight in the UK and get his revenge on the American fighter who inflicted his second defeat on him and his last one too during the Super 6 tournament.

BRAND NEW SPORTS PODCAST




I`m happy announce a podcast to run alongside this blog called “The below Average Podcast!”  This Podcast will add another string to my bow.


The name of the show will be self explanatory when you hear it, as it`s  below average the podcast ,not great but i try to make it work.  

Any feedback on the show would be greatly received as it`s an ongoing work in progress and will take time to get fully comfortable with it.

This episode looks at the FA CUP FINAL, Mancini sacking and my view. Brief NHL round up, ENGLAND v NEW ZEALAND cricket, speedway news and Manchester Phoenix ice Hockey update. 

HAMMER horror on Kirky Lane

 BELLE VUE ACES 43   –  50  LAKESIDE HAMMERS


Belle Vue saw their recent winning streak come to an end Monday night as the Lakeside Hammers punished them as the Aces went down 43 – 50 to the Essex based side. 



This was the first match the Aces had raced since April 26th at Peterborough and was the first time Belle Vue had raced on home shale, since the ill-fated abandoned meeting 2 weeks ago, when Belle Vue had called the meeting off against the Poole Pirates due to a burst water pipe flooding the track. But as events transpired and was investigated it was deemed by a SCB (speedway council bureau) official to have been able to still run the meeting , as it wasn`t deemed in still enough to ride on the track and shouldn`t have been called off.
As Belle Vue were missing 2 riders that had flights delayed that day and So Belle Vue promotion found themselves hit with a £5,000 fine and a 3 points deduction in the league standings as the reasons were in breach of the rules.


Belle Vue were missing GP Star Matej Zagar and Captain Ales Dryml for the visit of Lakeside to Kirkmanshulme Lane, as they were riding in a Grand Prix Challenge qualifier in Germany and It turned out, it was a very good meeting for the Aces pair with Dryml finishing in 3rd place and the winner of the meeting was the Slovenian Champion in Matej Zagar as their placing see them both qualify for the final later in the season.
Replacements Belle Vue drafted in for the meeting were in the form of former Aces riders Chris Harris who ply’s his trade this season for the Birmingham Brummies and Mark Lemon who rides for Premier League side Plymouth Devils.
Things didn`t get off to a good start for Lakeside as Lewis Bridger`s bike had give up on him just as he reached the tapes for the start of heat 1, So as the time ran out he was excluded and chose to use their guest at reserve Josh Grajczonek to replace him in re run. The Ex-Ace couldn`t make any move on the other three riders in the race as his team mate Peter Karlsson beat the home pairing of Chris Harris and Kevin Wolbert to give a share of the spoils and like the first 4 heats in this contest it saw them the sides share a  3 – 3.  
Heat 5 saw the first heat advantage come to the way of the home side as Craig Cook shot out from the starting gate to ride off and leave Peter Karlsson in his wake as his team mate Magnus Zetterstrom finished in 3rd place, which saw the Aces take a 2 point lead with the score at 16 – 14.  Heat 7 saw the Hammers take over as the visiting riders of Kim Nilsson  and Davey Watt scored a big 5-1 over the home side pairing of Mroczka and Lemon to make the score 25 – 23 in favour of the visitors now.
In Heat 9 Lakeside added to their lead with yet another 5 – 1 as this time Piotr Swiderski and Richard Lawson team rode to a big maximum heat win and in doing so made the lead increase to six points now as they gathered momentum. Further heat wins for the away side saw them “Hammer”-home the advantage picking up a 4 – 2 in heat 10 which saw Nilsson overtake Wolbert in the run to the finishing line and just nicking 3rd place for a 4 – 2 heat win, Then in Heat 11 Bridger and Karlsson combined for an easy 5 – 1 maximum and Lakeside were nearly home and dry as the host side lacked the aggression and ruthlessness saw in previous meetings.
Magnus Zetterstrom was then nominated as a tactical ride in heat 12 as he went for double points, Sadly for the Aces his partner finished at the back, so they got just a 6 – 3 advantage but only pulled back 3 points on their opponents, bringing the score line to 45 – 36 to Lakeside Hammers.
Kauko Nieminen was brought in as a reserve substitute in heat 13, as he replaced the very poor Arthur Mroczka who was out of sorts and looked very slow all meeting. 
Harris made a pass on Swiderski after being left at the back but he wasn`t quick enough to catch the Lakeside number 1 in Karlsson and so both sides shared the points with a 3 – 3, that meant now Lakeside took the win and now it was a matter of could they win by 7 points to take to take the extra bonus point and make it 4 points back down south with them.
Aussie rider Davey Watt won in heat 14 to give us another shared race as the score was 48 – 39 to the away side, Heat 15 in the nominated race saw the pairing of P.K and Davey Watt come out for the Lakeside Hammers while team manager of the Aces Jason Attwood , Put out for Belle Vue Magnus Zetterstrom and Chris Harris in the final race of the night.
Belle Vue gated together on a 5 – 1from the start, but Davey Watt was on Harris`s tail all race and tried everything to pass the Cornishman, Eventually on lap 3 he succeeded as he got past him and held onto 2nd place to deny the home side a maximum heat win in the last race of the night. While Karlsson just rode knowing he couldn`t catch the other 3 riders ahead and finished last.
So Belle Vue disappointing evening came to a close as they lost the meeting by 43 – 50 and they will need Mroczka and the side to be making better improvements, especially in the gating side of things as they lacked that element in this lost. Plus they was muscled out to easily and didn`t have much bite either, as they were bullied round the bends.










Belle Vue Aces: 



1. Chris Harris (G) 2 3 2 2 1 = 10
2. Kevin Wölbert 1* R 3 0 = 4+1
2. Magnus Zetterström 2 1 1 6^ 3 = 13
4. Craig Cook 1*3 0 2 = 6+1
5. Artur Mroczka 0 1 0 = 1

6 Mark Lemon (G) 0 0 1 1*= 2+1
7. Kauko Nieminen 3 3 0 0 1 = 7












Lakeside Hammers: 





1. Peter Karlsson 3 2 2* 3 0 = 10+1

2. Lewis Bridger exc 0 2 3 = 5
3. Kim Nilsson 0 3 1 2 = 6 
4. Davey Watt 3 2* 3 3 2 = 13+1
5. Piotr Swiderski 1* 2 3 0 = 6+1
————————–
6. Richard Lawson 2 1* 2* 1* = 6+3
7. Josh Grajczonek (G) 0 1* 2 1* 0 = 4+2










Norwich tweet City to a final home loss




MANCHESTER CITY   2 – 3 NORWICH CITY


Norwich City condemned manager less Manchester City to defeat in the final game of the season on Sunday, as the East Anglian side beat the former the former League Champions 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City was going through the worst period of their recent history as they had lost the FA Cup final to Wigan Athletic 1-0 the previous last Saturday. 48 hours later the club decided to sack Roberto Mancini as manager after reports of severe unrest within the City camp and for them not hitting the targets set. This game saw the first time City had played at home since the sacking came and there were flags dotted around the stadium of the Red, White and Green of Italy in support of Mancini. 


Brian Kidd took charge of the game for the Blues and chose a team mixed of regulars and fringe players too, as the first choice centre back pairing of Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic were missing from the squad , Sergio Aguero, Gareth Barry and David Silva all sat on the bench for the City team. Kidd also gave a start to Jack Rodwell as the young England midfielder has had a torrid time this season with injury upon injury in his debut season at the Etihad Stadium.

Pic from : ESPN

As the teams came out onto the pitch for the pre match traditions ,the fans had took to singing out Mancini name as the players handshakes were going on. Lot of signs were held up thanking the Italian manager for all the contribution he had made to the club over his reign and the home fans weren`t forgetful of that fact either.
As the game got under way it was a far cry from the tension built atmosphere of last season, as this game lacked it in droves, it was Norwich that looked the brighter side of the two, as they playing some very nice entertaining football and looked far from a side that struggling down at the bottom end of the table, as they looked and played more like top 6 side.
Norwich had a good deal of possession of play which gave them their chance, but Grant Holt was flagged offside when he was away on goal. Edin Dzeko had a header goes over for the home side as they tried to get a way into the game; Carlos Tevez was pulling the strings for City as he was easily their best play on the pitch.
Norwich found themselves in trouble, when Kolarov produced a great whipped in cross into the area which eluded the heads of Dzeko and Lescott from a corner kick. Holt had a great a chance to give the visitors the lead as he managed to turn from a tight space but his shot went wide of target and sent clear danger signs that they weren`t here just to defend and make things easy for the home side.
Dzeko had another chance go begging as Samir Nasri spotted the run of the Bosnian striker but his headed effort went into the arms of Ruddy in nets. Norwich fans were certainly enjoying themselves as Norwich were passing the home side off the pitch in the first half hour of the game as their fans cheered each pass that their side made, as City just looked content to let them have the ball as they seemed mostly uninterested. There was a claims of a penalty by the away side as a shot that came in looked to have been blocked with the raised arm of Yaya Toure in the area as the ball went for a corner. From the resulting corner Ryan Bennett had a header going goal wards till Lescott cleared off the line for the home side and the home fans roared the home side to wake up and get into the game.
Pic from : theguardian .com

With all the good play Norwich City had they were unlucky to make it count, Eventually they broke the deadlock and on 26 minutes, appalling defending by City gave Norwich the chance to break as Pilkington slotted the ball past Joe Hart after Wes Hoolahan knocked the ball into the path of the striker and he finished the move off. Pilkington sent the away fans into delirium as they celebrated the goal and gave the Canaries a deserved 1-0 lead. 

The lead lasted all of 3 minutes as a good passing move by City found Nasri who played the ball towards Dzeko in the area, he then laid it off for Jack Rodwell who took it on his right foot before moving it back onto his left foot and pulled the trigger to make it 1-1 and score his first goal for City since his move in the summer.
Pic from : yahoosports

The Home side then enjoyed a purple patch in the game as they had the ball and started to attack a bit more in the Canaries half. Norwich had a free kick outside the area and Joe Hart tipped over from the Snodgrass attempt, when it seemed easier to catch it with the lack of pace on the ball.

Tevez and Nasri combined in the penalty area and when the Frenchman tried a one-two with Yaya Toure till he put too much on it and went out of play. James Milner then started an attack for City as he put a low ball into the area which saw a Norwich defender put Dzeko off as his shot went wide of the target. Wes Hoolahan for Norwich put a good cross in for Grant Holt but the Striker just couldn`t get on the end of his cross, Snodgrass had a shot go just inches wide of the goal, as if any type of a touch had occurred it would have gone in.
City were struggling at the back as the Norwich forwards were having a field day with the defenders as they were performing badly, Tevez was then fouled by Johnny Howson, Tevez didn`t appreciate the challenge on him as they had a little bit of handbags over it just on the stroke of half time.
Pic from : ESPN

Second half started and Norwich were still looking the brighter side of the two teams as Joe Hart made the first save of the half stopping a Johnson header, as the midfielder headed it downward and the England keeper pushed the ball away. Snodgrass was a pain to City as he was getting under their skin and at one point went down theatricality in the area from a Toure challenge.

Kidd then made the first change of the game as he brought Carlos Tevez off for what looked like his final game in a sky blue shirt as he waved to the crowd as he got a standing ovation from the Home faithful as it seems by the applause, if it was his last game he had got back in the good books of the Home side fans after last season incident.

He made way for his fellow countryman Sergio Aguero and the Argentinian nearly scored, As after good play by James Milner his attempted lay off for Aguero was cut out by Martin and cleared away for Norwich .Moments later Grant Holt got the goal he deserved as he was causing lots of problems at the back for City and his play was fantastic for the Canaries. It was a very well crafted goal by the Yellow & Green shirted men , as Kolarov was caught out of position when Hoolahan spotted the man in space on the City left and sprayed the ball to him, Snodgrass managed to controlled it very well before putting a low cross in the area which was missed by players running in but Holt was ghosting in on the back post to side foot the ball home and put Norwich back in front at 2-1.
Pic from :EMPICS Sport

City once again drew level and once again it was that man Rodwell, Yaya Toure first real play all game put a long through ball upfield for the England midfield to chase down and when Rodwell out run Whittaker down the Norwich right, he continued to run into the area and from a tight angle put it far post and scored a fantastic goal to give him his second of the game and was like buses, you wait all season for one and two come along at once.

Sergio Aguero then had a shot go over the bar with an effort , before the home fans let out another rendition of “Mancini”, the chants quickly went silence when Norwich scored a third goal. The ball looked to have gone out of play by the managers technical area twice in the build up to the goal, but the linesman never flagged and so the ensuing attack saw Johnny Howson score a magnificent solo goal which started from the centre circle. 
Howson beat off Six City defenders with him finally fending off Micah Richards advances as last man before tucking it away past Hart for 3-2.
City`s 2nd change came in the shape of Rodwell going off in place of David Silva, the chance made no sense as the best two players on the pitch in blue shirts had both been taken off by Brian Kidd and after that City looked slow, disinterested and lacked any effort at all.
Edin Dzeko had a chance to make it 3-3 but fired over from close range after a good move by the City forwards. There was a little flashpoint as well involving Kolarov and a section of City fans in the South stand, as when the fans were displeased with Kolarov defending and the fans let him know about it he allegedly made hand gestures to the fans in that part of the ground and was greeted with whistles and boos.
For the next few minutes or so whenever the Serbian defender had the ball the section of fans in that block booed his every touch and serenaded him with “There`s only one Gael Clichy” as a way of getting back at him. 
Pic from :yahoosports
Manchester City looked increasing unlikely to score as Norwich were high on confidence and controlling the game, It also saw the final yellow card ever dished out by Mark Halsey, as this was the Bolton official’s last game in charge as he was retiring due to the age limit set for referees.
Lescott was shown the yellow card for barging into Hoolahan when he made no attempt to win the ball.
City had a good spell of pressure in the remaining minutes, but nothing that caused Norwich any problems at all and so the whistle went to bring the curtain down on the 2012-13 season and one City will look back on a poor one in many ways.

Manchester football : A story of 2 managers

The last few couple of weeks has been an incredible time for fans of Manchester football as both sides of the divide have witnessed their manager`s departed and move to pastures new, One that walked and the other was pushed out. It`s Unbelievable what a difference a year makes in football as it was wasn`t so long ago that United was trying to catch their bitter rival in the title race as it came down to the last seconds of the final game of the season. So let’s look back at the last couple of years between the clubs and how the managers have fared.



The start of 2010-11 season had both Manchester teams looking for success for the forthcoming season as Manchester United had lost their Premier League crown to Chelsea, the Red Devils had lost the title by a solitary point and were hoping to regain the title back.
For Manchester City it was a bit of different story as they missed out on a Champions League place when they faced Tottenham Hotspur at the formerly named City of Manchester stadium (now Etihad Stadium) at the back end of the season, when it came down to a shoot out between two for the 4th and final spot. City lost to Spurs 1-0 thanks to a Peter Crouch strike for the North London side which broke the hearts of City fans alike. So the summer they had to rebuild and the priority was to get 4th place at least to qualify for the Champions league.

So as the start of the season came around, it started with United exacting some revenge on Chelsea as they beat them 3-1 at Wembley Stadium in the Community Shield in August and were looking good ahead of the new season. United was the team to beat as they are normally are, as they are benchmark for sides as if you finish above them in the table then you’re more than likely you will finish as champions come May.
Bulgarian Striker Dimitar Berbatov was scoring for fun in the red shirt alongside Javier Hernandez who was a newcomer to the league also after they signed him from Club Deportivo Guaalajara in Mexico. They were looking a very lethal combination upfront for the Old Trafford outfit that season that had Wayne Rooney scoring too for the reds.


City had signed a few big name players themselves notably in the shape of a Champions League winner and Ivory Coast international in Yaya Toure. The big Ivorian midfielder had moved from Barcelona and had beaten Manchester United in the European cup final a couple seasons back and so that signing went down well with City fans. Other players signed up were a European & World Cup winner from Spain in David Silva, as he came from Valencia and so both looked exciting signings for the club. One of the most controversial signing of Mancini reign came he brought in a young Italian striker named Mario Balotelli, his signing slightly triggered the downfall of Mancini in the coming seasons.


As the season went on United dominated the league as Chelsea couldn`t cope with the firepower United had and while United chalked up draws and were gaining points , their rivals was dropping points and not being able to convert draws into wins or loses into draws as United grounded out points. The Derby game between City and United was seen as a yardstick for where City had come over the season as they were fluttering in & out the top 4 places. So when it came to the Manchester Derby it was decided by a brilliant goal by Wayne Rooney to give the home side a 2-1 win over their City rivals and what made it interesting was that they would meet again in the FA Cup Semi Finals at Wembley soon after.


As both Manchester sides arrived at Wembley for the Semi-Final, United wanted win as it kept their hopes of a double going as Ferguson`s men were closing in on their 19th league title to equal Liverpool as the most successful English club side, plus they had a date back at Wembley for the Champions League final to.
City wanted to end their neighbour’s hopes of a double happening and so a single goal by Yaya Toure gave the Blues victory over the Reds and a place in the FA Cup final beckoned too, along with revenge for the 2-1 loss they suffered previously in the league.


City also were gunning for a double of their own, as they had repeat of last season with Tottenham Hotspur coming back to the Etihad for a place in the Champions League plus they were now in the FA Cup final, So things were starting to get brighter for Mancini`s men.  
Sir Alex Ferguson led his men to their 19th league championship and saw his side go down to the Spanish giants Barcelona once again, at Wembley in the Champions League final losing 3-1.
City faced off with Spurs again and this time around they beat them at the Etihad Stadium with Peter Crouch on target once again, however this time it was in his own net and spookily from exactly the place he scored from 12 months before when he fired Spurs into Europe.


Manchester City then tried completing a good season as they travelled down London way again for the FA Cup final against Stoke City. The Blues were hoping to end 35 years of hurt as they had been trophy less for that whole time and had seen their neighbours win a lot of trophies within that time. Finally they had ended the streak as the hero in the Semi final against Manchester United was the hero again as Yaya Toure smashed home the winner to give City their first taste of Silverware for 35 years and Made Roberto Mancini a legend with Blues fans for leading them to glory.

After the season had finished both sides enjoyed successes over the summer more so the Blue side of Manchester as it was a bit of Bittersweet season for United.  As they had the chance to win the European Cup on home soil and falling at the last hurdle and seeing City lift a trophy was a step too far for United fans and seemed like a nightmare to many.
So as we entered the 2011-12 Season, this was the season when Manchester football really was the most talked about in footballing circles.
City signed Argentina & Athletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero to partner his fellow countryman Carlos Tevez alongside Edin Dzeko who had been signed the previous season from German side Wolfsburg. Further signings in the way of Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri came to the Etihad Stadium via Arsenal. 


The Community Shield saw the first ever All-Manchester Charity Shield match with the FA Cup winners Manchester City playing the Premier League winners Manchester United in the curtain raiser to the season. Roberto Mancini was seen the man that could break the strangle hold in Manchester after he had led Man City to the FA Cup trophy, Mancini had been entering his 2nd full season at City having took over from Mark Hughes, after a deal was apparently done under Hughes nose to bring the Italian to the club by the previous C.E.O Garry Cook and this would be a recurring theme later down the line.





It was Manchester United that took the first honour of the season, as City surrendered a 2-0 lead to United going down 3-2 after Nani grabbed the winner in Injury time for United. Sir Alex realised after the game he had a new rival to have challenge him and he was well up for the challenge of his long time city rivals awaking from their slumber to challenge the big boys, or as he called them the “Noisy Neighbours”.
 Both managers had their sides playing free attacking flowing football and it seemed like they wanted to outdo the each other when they played, as when City won 2-0 United would win 3-0 and when United won 3-0 City would return the favour and win 4-0.  It was flip flopping the lead for the early part of the season as it seemed early on it would be the two Manchester Clubs against the rest of the Premier League.

Sir Alex Ferguson started the war with Mancini when he was telling the media that  City wouldn`t be able to cope with the pressures of European football at the highest level in the Champions League along with domestic football as it took time for them( united) to come to terms with it when they first entered. Mancini seemed to laugh off the early parting shots at his club and tended to agree with what the United manager said.
It seemed like as much as Fergie tried to get under the skin of his opposite number the Italian coolly played down the quotes he had directed at him by Ferguson through the media and he shrugged it off.
It started to get interesting the early part of the season as both played teams from North London on the same day. City had the afternoon kick off at White Hart Lane against Tottenham and United faced their long time rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford.


Both London sides were expected to test the mettle of both Manchester clubs and see how good they really were this season as both Arsenal and Tottenham had started brightly in the season.
So when City thrashed Spurs in front of their own fans it proved that City were the real deal, United then took on Arsenal with City holding a bit of a goal difference on United after their win, However that was blown out of the water as United put 8 past Arsenal inflicting a response from the Champions almost like they were saying “Anything you can do, we will do much better”. 


Game after game both sides won and so as we came to the most mouth-watering Manchester derby clash seen in years at Old Trafford, This was the game that propelled Mancini to another level and shown that the city wasn`t just about United. This derby shown that City and Mancini were not pacesetters but long distance runners as they proceeded to inflict a horror show on the Old Trafford faithful, as they beat their successful neighbours 6-1 with relative ease it has to be said. Although United did have a man sent off when 2-1 down, City punished United and every goal seemed to be like a body blow to Ferguson and his young upstarts, as the goals bloodied the Champions noses with this beating as Dzeko who came on as sub could easily have had a hat trick.


Ferguson admitted in the post match interview that “we should have shut up shop and kept it tight instead of trying to attack so much, As those goals could prove the difference come end of season!”  How right those words would be by Sir Alex too. Both clubs were having mixed fortunes in the Europe too, as United had the easier group to get out of from the 2 as they played SC Otelul Galati, Basel FC and Benfica.
City on the other hand was dealt the “Group of Death” of the tournament with German side Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal who to be honest had a lot of problems early on so it was really a 3 horse race in that group.


City had been beaten 2-0 by Bayern Munich in their Champions League opener at the Allianz Arena, then they needed a late, late goal from Sergio Aguero in stoppage time to beat Villarreal in a 2-1 win a few days prior to the Manchester Derby.
United found it a struggle too, as they were knocked out of the  Champions League as both clubs found themselves entering the Europa League which was an Embarrassing scenario for a club like United stature. As they  always prided it`s self on playing in the biggest club tournament in Europe and play against the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Barcelona for examples.
Sir Alex Ferguson seemed at this point to be looking at himself and think “have i outstayed my welcome” as he seemed to not be the same kind of manager he had been in his tenure at Man United over the years, He looked a very different character and found it hard with his youngish rebuilt squad. They did play the Dutch giants Ajax in the last 32 of the cup where they won 3-2 on aggregate, then in the last 16 played Spanish side Athletico Madrid and lost 5-3 over the two legs.


Mancini in the blue corner was equally finding it hard as he saw his team notch up 10pts in their debut Champions League season. It was unlucky for City as in nearly every other season 10 pts would guarantee you a passage to the second stage of the tournament, City lost out on second spot to Napoli and so went into the Europa league where they beat FC Porto 6-1 on aggregate. They were knocked out of the last 16 stage eventually losing to fellow Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon 3-3 on away goals. Plus some called into question his ability at managing in European competitions as he hasn`t got to a quarter final stage in Europe before.



Plus he was still sorting out the massive problems that dragged on all season nearly with Carlos Tevez after the incident in Munich, when the striker refused to play after an argument on the bench with Mancini after he made him warm up time and time again instead of coming on as a substitute. Not only had he got Tevez on his case but Edin Dzeko too, as the Bosnian came off with equal bemusement towards Mancini when the Italian subbed him.
This started to sow the seeds of doubt amongst the City players and Mancini that would keep going till the end of his reign. 
Mancini then famously said “Carlos will NEVER EVER play for City again, EVER!”, Tevez wasn`t the first player to have disagreement with the manager as Craig Bellamy the season before was took off and both had a heated exchange resulting in Bellamy going to Cardiff City his hometown club.

Ferguson also had his run in`s with players over the years, but he had a style of man management that worked where things that he didn`t like or had a dispute with players over were kept behind closed doors and hardly leaked out to the media. Mancini style of man management was seen as hardnosed like Ferguson is but instead of keeping thing quiet he would then criticise his players publicly to the press and gave them ammunition to use against him and create stories involving him. Plus most of the time he was dealing with stories of training ground bust ups that normally involved Mario Balotelli, as he had run in`s with Jerome Boateng , Micah Richards, Kolo Toure , Yaya Toure amongst others. The constant talk of training ground fights was getting to Mancini as much as the constant reports of Balotelli, as he was getting in trouble all the time on or off the pitch. On the pitch City were having success as they still led the championship at Christmas time.  New Year brought a mixed January for the blues as lost to a last gasp winner up in Wearside to Sunderland 1-0 on New Year’s Day. Wins over Liverpool, Wigan and a late penalty beat Spurs.


Sir Alex men went on a run of 12 games unbeaten after they lost back to back games against Blackburn Rovers at home 3-2 and away at Newcastle United 3-0, the Scot wasn`t happy with his side and demanded better from his players. He got the response he wanted as United went on a 12 game unbeaten run in the league, alongside a 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City, coming in the FA Cup and was revenge for their semi final the previous season. In the game City Captain Vincent Kompany was sent off for a tackle near Nani and Chris Foy sent the Belgian defender off , Although they were down to 10 men City dragged the game back from 3-0 to 3-2 but couldn`t find a goal to force a replay.


City shown though that they had heart and team work in them as they would need it as the season progressed towards the end. Also Sir Alex welcomed back the shock return of Paul Scholes to the United line up in the FA Cup tie against City, Some people saw it in different ways as half called his recall to the Champions a brilliant master stroke by Fergie, while the other half called it a desperate move bringing him back to the fold. However the move was paying dividends as Scholes on his return to Old Trafford scored and in doing so drew them level on points with their neighbours at the top of the tree but lay in Second place on goal difference.


United a few games later played at Stamford Bridge and were 3-0 down after 50 minutes in the game, But the Reds produced a stunning comeback to make it 3-3 and saw them drop 2 points but gained confidence too, As this was more like a win than a draw for them as they saw the positive sides of the result. United kept the pressure on Mancini`s City side as they beat Spurs 3-1 at the start of March to still be 2 points behind but was always ready to take advantage of any slip up by City on the way.


City had a tough game at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea as they were beaten by the Swans 1-0 and with that gave up their top spot to United who beat West Brom 2-0 to jump above and lead the title race by 1 point. City knew they couldn`t afford to drop many more points now to the end of the season as the 2 sides was like Ali v Foreman. City were like Foreman better attack and everything going for them and United were like Ali, Taking the punches but knowing if they carried they would soon tire and they could advantage.



City beat Chelsea 2-1 at home on a Monday night game to reduce the lead to 1 point in the title race and a sub plot to the game saw the return of the prodigal son Carlos Tevez to the City side. After all the talk since the Munich incident with Tevez refusing to play back in September, he helped create the goal that let Samir Nasri net the winner and give them hope of regaining top place again with the come from behind win.
Manchester City weren`t looking the force that had been since the turn of the year, and when Sunderland came to town it was regarded as an easy 3 points for the blues. However it wasn`t to be that straight forward for them as Sunderland led 3-1 till the 85th minute when 2 late goals rescued a point for the home side and also saw Balotelli involved in yet another talking point on the pitch.  The Controversial Italian striker had recently been given a ban for stamping on Scott Parker head in the 3-2 win v Spurs, so in this game he had a childish argument with Aleksandar Kolarov over taking a free kick with brought Kompany over to defuse the situation.


The win brought out a defiant Roberto Mancini who predicted “United will slip up down the road”, Seemed it was more out of hope than an actual belief at the time. As we went into the start of April, United were on a crest of a wave now as they were on their winning streak and looked to be on course for title 20, while Mancini and City looked dead and buried after the 1-0 loss to Arsenal which also saw Balotelli once again in the news as he was sent off late on and seen Mancini furious at his Italian striker.  People in the football world were saying “If Balotelli had played for Fergie, Then he`d have sold him a long time ago!” 


Mancini had defended his striker so much that it seemed the other players around the squad was starting to get fed up with the constant antics by Mario and the way the Manager would always deflect negative stuff away from him but lambast the rest of the players in the press, Notably Adam Johnson. Roberto Mancini had quiet often criticised in public Adam Johnson to the press for not being in shape or saying he needed to cut out the drinking if he wanted to be a regular in the first team. 

That was all fine and well but he was one of City`s best player`s on show and had scored vital goals for the blues under the Italian reign in charge, but Mancini seemed to bemoan the player than give the player credit and praise him. It became a common theme during while he was manager that players were open to be bad mouthed to the press, Yet the only player that seemed to be shielded from Mancini and was more deserving of the criticism was Mario Balotelli, No matter what the striker did he was blame free in Mancini`s eyes as he was more trouble than good. So when the team are giving 100% he was hardly giving 20%. He just strolled around the pitch having tantrums and you could see the team starting to lose confidence in Mancini in a way with how he constantly defended Balotelli.
Roberto Mancini saw his side trail by 8 points in the title race with 6 games to go and looked like the pressure had got to him and his team, However things on the red half of Manchester was smelling of roses. As Sir Alex Ferguson men seemed to be unstoppable now as they were winning games and keeping clean sheets and though they may not have thrashing sides it didn`t matter as the 3 points was more important than that. Arsenal beating their rivals was an added boost to United as they looked like they were on course to win the title, Things though then took a twist in the championship. Three days later the Champions travelled down the road to Wigan at the DW Stadium what should have been a routine win with respect to Wigan, They faltered as a Shaun Maloney goal gave a struggling Wigan the win and with news of City winning 4-0 at home the lead dwindled to a 5 point difference. 
United loss at Wigan blown the title race open again as it looked like United were starting to show a couple of cracks in their lead at the top, the following weekend saw both sides win their respective games as United won 4-0 at home to Aston Villa while City thrashed Norwich at Carrow Road 6-1 with Carlos Tevez grabbing a hat trick. This started a change in the title race as City was injected with belief now that they could kick on and catch their bitter rival at the top.
The weekend after was the biggest turning point, United played Everton at Old Trafford and saw one of the most incredible games. United built a 4-2 lead mid way through the second half and it looked all over and that United were still on course, Everton had other ideas as they came back into the game and with 5 minutes to go Steven Pienaar scored to make it 4-4 and was this the game that saw the title swing change.  The game finished and it was a draw which left Sir Alex furious with his side giving up the lead and then saw both managers in the following weeks claim the other side had the upper hand in the race for the title.
   
Ferguson was trying to play the old mind games by saying the Everton 4-4 result had cost them the title now and it was City`s to lose now, While in the Blue camp it was Mancini stating “IT WAS United`s to lose not City” and this kind of claiming the team were favourite a theme till the final game. A week later saw what Sir Alex Ferguson christen the “BIGGEST DERBY” game he`d ever been involved in City as United went to the Etihad Stadium knowing anything but a defeat would help them in the table. United played a poor game and City with their injection of Confidence of late took the game to United and moments before half time Vincent Kompany headed home to give City a 1-0 lead and set up the second half now. United never got in the game and saw the two managers have a spat on the touchline as Sir Alex and Roberto Mancini argued with officials and assistant managers calming them down. City took the spoils and with 2 games to go and move above United in the table but on goal difference.
The Penultimate match saw United beat Swansea at home 2-0 and seen City beat Newcastle at St James Park 2-0 with 2 strikes by Yaya Toure giving them the lead at the top still on goal difference. Ferguson once again claimed it was City`s to lose now as the Blues were red-hot favourites to win, Mancini disagreed as he said it could go either way yet and so we went to the final game of the season. United played Sunderland knowing a win and QPR getting anything for the game would give them the title.

United struck the first blow as Wayne Rooney scored to put the reds in the driving seat and towards half time in Manchester Pablo Zabeleta scored to put City back on top. There were a few twists to come as QPR scored twice for a 2-1 lead and Ferguson and United fans were delighted at the news filtering through, Time was ticking down as United had won their game it was all about what was happening at the Etihad. Edin Dzeko pulled one back for City to make it 2-2 and then literally moments after United match had finished Sergio Aguero smashed home the winning goal to give City their first title in 44 years.

Sir Alex defiantly and boldly predicted things would be different next season and so the build up to the 2012-13 season, saw Manchester United sign Robin Van Persie from Arsenal along with Alexander Buttner from Vitesse in Holland. Sir Alex Ferguson was ready to unleash his United side for an assault on the Premier league as they desperately wanted their 20th title and to become the Most Successful English side in history.  
For Mancini he made the strange decision to say he turned down jobs by other teams to stay at Man City over the summer and also complained the chiefs at City weren`t doing enough to speed up transfers and were too slow to bring in the players he wanted and gave Brian Marwood a grilling through the media for the cause of no signings.  Mancini seemed to be very angry with people at the club over things and would carry on over the season.  He did make a few signings to the team with Javi Garcia from Benfica; Jack Rodwell from Everton and the signing that was more looked upon as extremely bad buy in Scott Sinclair from Swansea City.
Things started well for him though as they beat Chelsea 3-2 at Villa park in the community shield, City also went on a unbeaten run till December when it was United who inflicted their first defeat on City of the season when a last gasp Van Persie free kick gave the Reds the winner and from then on City never recovered.
United however started off badly to their season as they went down to Everton in the first game of the season 1-0 from a Marouane Fellaini header, Ferguson saw his men start off slowly and not look that convincing in the few opening months of the season as they had lost 3 games by Mid November. It finally clicked for Manchester United when they met City in the Derby in early December time, They found themselves 2-0 up with Rooney scoring both and in the second half City responded like Champions dragging it back to 2-2 before a deflected Van Persie free kick in stoppage time gave United the win and put them 6 points clear at the top, it was a lead United would never surrender as they took over from this game.
Ferguson saw his masterful team have a mini wobble as they knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid and saw them give up a 2 goal lead to Chelsea who drew 2-2 to force a replay at Stamford Bridge. United hadn`t lost a league game since Norwich City beat them 1-0 on November 17th, and wouldn’t lose another one till April 8th when it was City who would return the favour by beating them at home 2-1 thanks to a Aguero strike.  Ferguson watched his men seal the title at home with a 3-0 win at home to Aston Villa as his big summer signing Robin Van Persie got a hat trick and helped Sir Alex Ferguson achieve his aim of leading United to the top of the premier league for the 13th time and make them the greatest English club team ever leap frogging Liverpool in the most titles won by 1.
Days later it the Scottish manager announced he would be retiring at the end of the season and brought an end of an era at the Old Trafford club as he would move on and enjoy retirement.  His final home game he took charge off was against Swansea last weekend when a tearful Sir Alex gave a heartfelt speech thanking the club, players and the fans for the support over the years and the players made him lift the Premiership trophy out of respect.

On the blue side of Manchester the season it was a stuttering season as players didn`t fire on all cylinders and tactics by Mancini was partly to blame for his downfall, City lost away to Spurs 3-1 and after they had the lead they seemed to lack any play and Spurs won the game. Games later they didn`t get out of 1stgear and looked lacklustre in their play, amid rumours Mancini was going to get the chop from the owners. Mancini had took his side to Wembley in the FA Cup final against Wigan Athletic, where yet another poor performance fuelled talks before the game that if he didn`t win the cup he was gone. Wigan beat City with a late winner and that seemed to put the nail in the Italians coffin as his manager job at City was concerned. 2 days later on the 1stAnniversary of the greatest day in the clubs recent history when they won the Premier League Roberto Mancini at 22:28pm was report to have been sacked by the clubs owners for not hitting the targets set by them.
The way things had been conducted left a very bad taste in the mouths of many as it was nearly a repeat of Mark Hughes sacking prior to when he arrived. News of players revolting against the manager and speaking to the owner about wanting him gone was increasing and his management style of being distance from them didn`t make for a happy team environment and so it proved as his sacking was reported to be the players ears and the next night City played Reading and put in a very convincing display and could have won more than 2-0 they got.


One reason in my eyes why he never got the best out of the team, was his changing of the Winning system of 4-3-2-1 and made it 3-5-2 which had players in the Champions League especially bamboozled as they had no idea what their roles was. Signings he made looked to be rushed or desperate with none of them having made any impact at all apart from Jack Rodwell who glimpses of good form till he was always breaking down injured and spent most of it on the treatment table.



Plus the biggest problem was when his side lost over the last couple of seasons he would admit to the press, “i didn`t prepare the team well enough”. In my opinion if you use that statement more than 2 times then you’re begging to be sacked. He used this phrase at least 4 occasions during his reign at Manchester City and one was reason to let the Manager despite the fact he had won 1 FA Cup, 1 Premier League title and 2 Cup final appearances.   

Watson heads Underdogs to Victory in FA Cup final

pic via: the guardian

Ben Watson will forever have his name etched into FA Cup Final folklore as his last minute Cup winning header gave Wigan Athletic their first major trophy in their 81 year club history. Dave Whelan the Wigan Athletic chairman finally got some closure at Wembley too, as the Latics Chairman saw his footballing career end abruptly during the 1960 FA Cup final between Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers . As the Bradford born Whelan had his leg broken in the first half of that year’s final and his Blackburn side went on to lose 3-0. So 53 years after he saw his dreams go up in smoke of lifting the famous cup as a player, he finally lifted it as a Chairman and was the best day of his life.





Pre game talk was Manchester City Manager Roberto Mancini, changing his mind on his team selection that played on the day. As all week he had admitted to the media that he was going to play Costel Pantilimon in goals for the final as he had played in every round of this year`s FA Cup that saw City on route to the final. Mancini though, had decided he would play his First choice goalkeeper in Joe Hart and completely shocked people by his sudden change of hart (no pun intended). When asked if Pantilimon was upset with the decision to pull him at the last minute and be replaced by the England goalie Mancini replied, “He Understand`s the situation, i think he is ok with it but you would have to ask him”




Both teams were lined up in the tunnel and ready to be led out by their managers, but Wigan on this occasion let Dave Whelan led his side out on to the hallow turf of Wembley instead. Manchester City were the overwhelming favourites to win the cup final as Wigan hadn`t beaten City since the 2008 season ,so it seemed like it was just a matter of Manchester City turning up and steamrollering their way past Wigan, However that was far far from what took place. Once everything was ok for the referee Andre Marriner, he blew for the start of the game and the Cup Final was under way.



First action of the game saw Manchester City`s Spanish playmaker David Silva take a weak shot on the Wigan goal, as James McArthur had put a block on the effort and looked like City were going to be in charge of the game early on, as they dominated possession in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Pic: bbc sports
Attacks were rare early on but City had a free kick about 10 yards outside the penalty area took by Carlos Tevez, his effort was blocked by the Wigan wall with the ball falling to Yaya Toure who took a quick shot on goal and Joel Robles made a save off it in the Latics goal. Wigan then had a great chance to take the lead as Callum McManaman had the ball crossed to him by Kone, and when a first time shot seemed the best option he decided to move it on to his left foot and his attempted curler went just past the far post as it went wide of the City goal much to the relief of the all the Blues fans behind that goal.



City had the ball for long stages but weren`t doing much with it at all, but they managed to get half chance, as a shot on goal by Silva was saved by Joel but he palmed it out in front of goal to an oncoming Pablo Zabeleta steaming in the box and was blocked by Joel, though it wouldn`t have counted as the flag went up for offside on him. City really struggled to unlock the Wigan defence and the passing was all too predictable by them as they played down the middle and the Latics frustrated the blues with their tactics as they knew what to expect from them as they caught on quick. Those in Blue shirts were running out of ideas of what to do with the ball and so when the ball was the feet of Nastasic from nearer the halfway line, the Serbian defender unleashed a shot that seemed more like a drop goal attempt with the height he put on it, as it went harmlessly wide and shown they were clearly frustrated and shown how tactically sound Roberto Martinez had been drumming it into his players prior to the game on defending as a tight unit.



Wigan then began to get a foothold in the game as their confidence was growing by every passing minute in the game. Latics main men were Kone, McManaman and Espinoza, as they were pulling City apart going forward. And the normally solid back line for City seemed to wobble as Espinoza was giving Zabaleta a torrid time down the right flank and McManaman was cutting to ribbons Clichy down the left side and you wondered if he would be taken off or would Mancini have him get some help down that flank, as the defense was left exposed a few times and the Blues had no answer to them.
pic: yahoo sports
However the score remained 0-0 and for the attacking threat they posed on their opponents, Wigan themselves weren`t exactly testing Joe Hart in goals either. Tevez came very close to breaking the deadlock, as play in the Wigan area by Samir Nasri spotted the Argentina striker free and his pass was just too wide to get decent contact on, and the striker did well to get any type of shot away as his attempt was saved by the toe of the keeper boot and went out of play and Joel kept his side in it still.


Hearts were in the collective mouths of the Manchester City fans and players, when Roger Espinoza went down in the area from a coming together between him and Zabeleta near the 5 yard area. However the Wigan striker made no appeal for the penalty and on replays it was touch and go as it could have been given as there was a slight contact with the defenders back leg, but also the player went down too prior to the touch. So City got away with one you could say, Callum McManaman then ran rings around the defense as he dashed into the box and was pulling defenders out of position and had Joe Hart diving around as the Scottish Midfielder feigned to shoot, so when he did finally shoot, it was blocked by the defense and gave a clear signal that this game wasn`t like a few people and pundits predicted it be like before the game.



Kone had a try for Wigan but his effort was very poor as the ball went into the arms of Joe Hart who had nothing to do all game hardly. Gareth Barry then tested out Joel again, as his shot from 14 yards out was collected easily by the goalkeeper. He also produced a stop from a fierce Nasri drive which he calmly stopped too, so both teams went into the break at 0-0 with City thankfully Wigan didn`t take their chances .While Wigan went in thinking they had weathered a few good attacks and were able to get show that they weren`t pushovers and could cause trouble for the Blues too.



Second half got under way and saw Wigan almost take the lead after McManaman had picked out James McCarthy but his effort went harmlessly went wide of Hart goal. City had a good spell of play in a couple of minutes , as first Tevez had found room down the Latics left and his fizzing ball across the penalty area was cut out by Boyce at the near post to stop Sergio Aguero getting a touch. That play gave the fans behind that particular goal dressed in sky blue ,hope that they were coming into the game more now. Vincent Kompany went close from the resulting corner from a David Silva corner, as his header was deflected just over the bar by a black shirt but the referee didn`t notice that and so gave a goal kick. City started to get the ball more again and retained the ball better, but yet again they failed in their efforts to break down Martinez`s men at the back.
Roberto Mancini made his first subsitution as Nasri was replaced by James Milner as Nasri was ineffective in the game. So with Milner coming on that meant the Yorkshire man could use his pace to try and pull the Latics defense out of position as he has hurt many teams doing that at the Etihad Stadium this season.
City thought they should have had a penalty as well, when Carlos Tevez flicked the ball in the area towards Sergio Aguero and the Argentinian looked to be tripped up by Paul Schaner in the area as the Wigan defender seemed to lose his footing and as he fell down accidently clipped the back of Aguero`s heels. Protests coming from the diminutive striker and fans behind that goal fell on deaf ears as Marriner wasn`t interested. 




pic: daily mail
Kone had an effort cut out by Kompany as Wigan were threatening without looking likely to score. McManaman once again was ripping Clichy apart and his cross to the striker was miscontrolled by Kone , as he failed to latch on it and so the ball was cleared away by the Man City captain who was the man of the match for City. City made their 2nd change of the game , as off came Carlos Tevez who was arguably their most attacking player  on the pitch and swapped him for Jack Rodwell. A move which puzzled a few and had Tevez bemused by it too, Rodwell nearly scored soon after as he had a header from a Milner free kick go just over the bar and this game had a feeling of the next goal would win this match. The City defenders were sick of the sight of McManaman now, as he was running the show for Wigan and so when he was on a break up field, Nastasic took him down and in doing so took one for the team as he fouled him near the edge of the penalty area. 



Shaun Maloney took the free kick and his freak effort almost caught Joe Hart out in the nets , As it clipped the top of the bar and went out for a throw in on the far side it was nearly like Ronaldinho`s goal for Brazil v England in the World Cup back in 2002, As it had Hart beat all ends up if it had dropped in. Kompany was switched on at the back for the Blue shirts as he was clearing up his team mate’s mistakes and was was not very happy with Clichy as he was being made to look stupid.




Wigan Athletic then brought on Ben Watson for Jordi Gomez  just to give the Latics a bit more steel in the midfield and push Wigan on a bit in the final stages. City were just casually passing the ball around when Gareth Barry underhit pass across the middle of the pitch, was ran onto by that man McManaman and the Scot looked to be on his way towards goals as he ran at the defense. That was till  Pablo Zabaleta came in with a late tackle just as McManaman had knocked the ball on ahead and in the process brought him down to the deck. So as soon as he made the challenge he knew he was in deep trouble, And so once the Argentinian defender stood up to receive his fate, Referee Andre Marriner held the yellow card up followed by a red card. Zabaleta became only the 2nd player in FA Cup Finals history to be Red Carded, and was the first time in 28 years since Kevin Moran for Manchester United was shown the red against Everton back in 1985. 


Pic :whoateallthepies

Zabaleta was going absolutely ballistic at Barry as he was walking off as his pass led to the play that resulted in his downfall. Wigan had a fantastic chance now with the extra man advantage, so with McManaman dancing round Clichy for the umpteenth time in the game he appealed for a penalty, as he felt he had been impeded by the City man. Time was approaching 90 minutes on the clock and we were heading to extra time, Wigan had a corner and chance to get a winner. The Corner was crossed in and was met by substitute Ben Watson as his header went crashing past Joe Hart and gave Wigan a deserved but equally shock lead right at  the death. The Underdogs had took the lead and the players revelled in the goal as the Wigan coaching staff along with Dave Whelan , who was sat in the executive boxes at Wembley. Wembley went bananas in the Wigan end mainly as it exploded with noise and celebrations as the team was close to producing a shock bigger arguably than Wimbledon beating Liverpool back in 1988. 




Pic: via Metro
Play restarted to the sounds of 3 additional minutes being added on and City made their last change with Gareth Barry coming off for a striker who was well known for his late goals in Edin Dzeko. It was far too late to make any type of impact or recovery on this game and so the referee blew time and Wigan Athletic were FA Challenge cup winners of 2013, and the underdogs had beaten their massive favourites. All that was left to do now was for Wigan to walk the stairs and grab that famous Cup a hold it loft in view of their fans who had travelled down to watch them, and will now play European football for the first time in their history too next season, as they take part in the Europa League.

STANLEY CUP 2013: CONF Quarter finals update

  

We move on to the Conference Semi-Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as we had some interesting and great Quarter final match ups in both the Eastern & Western conferences.

 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS    4 -2    NEW YORK ISLANDERS 

  
Well i did mention that if the Long Island men could frustrate and keep to a game plan they could take the Penguins to long series and not the 4 – 0 sweep a lot predicted. Things were looking that way though in GAME 1 as the Penguins thrashed the Islanders 5 – 0 at the Consol Energy Center with Beau Bennett, Pascal Dupuis grabbing 2 goals. While Kris Letang goal and Tanner Glass scored the others for the “Pens” as it looked like it would be an easy series for the men from Pittsburgh 




However in GAME 2 things weren`t so simple at all, Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring after 45 seconds and then Sidney Crosby scored on the power play for a 2 – 1 lead. Matt Moulson scored for the Islanders on their power play before Crosby again netted for a 3-1 lead. Then came the turning point in the game when a clean hit by Matt Niskanen on a Islander was taken exception to by Kyle Okposo and the 2 dropped the gloves and went at it, That seemed to fire up the Islanders as goals by Colin McDonald, Matt Martin tied the game at 3 – 3 .  Marc-Andre Fleury then had a nightmare as a shot was hit to the right of Fleury nets off Okposo shot and the puck took funny bounce off the boards behind the nets and hit Fleury`s skate and went in to give the Isles a 4-3 win.




GAME 3 seen the series move to Long Island where the Isles took a 2 – 0 lead which was cancelled out by two Power play goals by the Penguins along 3rd goal by them from Pascal Dupuis. Murray made it a 4 – 2 Pittsburgh lead in the 2nd period, before goals from Kyle Okposo and John Tavares tied the score at 4 – 4. We then had the series first overtime and the winning goal was dispatched by Chris Kunitz on the power play for the Penguins and gave them a 5 – 4 score line. The aftermath of the goal was a debate on whether it was a Penalty that involved Sidney Crosby who seemed to go down very easily under little pressure and subsequently the PENS scored off it, making it a 2 – 1 series lead.
GAME 4 The Islanders won this high scoring game as the match went back and forth with the Isles take the lead twice in the game before the Penguins then went in front for the first time at the halfway point in the game. Brandon Sutter scored to give Pittsburgh a 3 – 2 lead until Kyle Okposo then tied it up with Dupuis then putting the visitors back ahead once again. Mark Streit, John Tavares and Casey Cizikas then netted for the Isles in the 3rd to give them a 6-4 win and tie the series up at 2 – 2.




GAME 5 moved back to Pittsburgh where the home side shutout the Isles winning it 4 to zip as goals by Tyler Kennedy, Douglas Murray, Sidney Crosby and a power play strike by Kris Letang gave them back the series lead.




GAME 6 saw an aggressive Islanders team at home try to avoid elimination and they made a good start too , as John Tavares scored to give the Islanders the advantage but the lead didn`t last very long, as Sidney Crosby skated up ice on goal but was denied by Evgeni Nabokov save. However the rebound was poked home by Jerome Iginla for the Pens to tie the game. Chris McDonald then restored the lead for New York Islanders and was good for the lead in to the break.
Pascal Dupuis then tied it up midway through the 2nd before Martin Grabner scored to give the Isles back the lead & then with over 5 minutes left Paul Martin struck from the blue line to make it 3 – 3 game and send the game into overtime.
This was played like a game 7 as both sides went for it and a Brent Orpik slap shot broke the hearts of those in the Nassau Coliseum, as the sound of puck hitting pipe reverberated around the arena and sent the Penguins through to round 2 as they won it 4 – 3 in overtime to set up a meeting with the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conf Semi Finals.
OTTAWA SENATORS     4 – 1 MONTREAL CANADIENS   


  
This series between the two Canadian teams will be known as the “TOOTH FAIRY” series, as players were losing teeth at an alarming rate in this series.
GAME 1 saw Craig Anderson lose a tooth when a shot hit his mask and knocked his front tooth out of his mouth and it was Ottawa who drew first “Blood” in the series. As they took game 1 with a 4 – 2 win at the Bell Center in Montreal with Erik Karlsson scoring for Ottawa before 2 goals by Montreal`s Rene Bourque and Brendan Gallagher gave them a 2 – 1 lead. Jakob Silfverberg, Marc Methot and Guillaume Latendresse all netted for the SENS to give them a huge victory away from home.
We also saw Ottawa defenseman Eric Gryba kicked out of the game as a hit by him on Lars Eller at mid ice was deemed to have been a head shot and Eller who was down on the ice for a bit of time, was stretchered off the ice in the 2nd period.
GAME 2 saw the Canadiens bounce back winning 3 – 1 as Ryan White, Brandon Gallagher and Michael Ryder all scored for the home side with only Michalek replying for the Sens. Carey Price then had 2 teeth chipped when his defenseman Jarred Tinordi accidently struck him in the face with a stray skate after Tinordi and a Ottawa player was crashing the net. 
GAME 3 saw an explosion to the series as we went across Canada to Ottawa and the temperatures boiled over, First off though Daniel Alfredsson had given the Ottawa Senators the lead on the power play before Rene Bourque tied it all up for the Canadiens. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored to give the Sens the 2 – 1 lead and in the process of scoring had a tooth knocked out by Subban stick.
Pageau made it 3 – 1 with his second of the evening as the home side were on top before Kyle Turris made it 4 – 1, then came the line brawl as Montreal put their tough line out and so 47 : 04 in the game tempers frayed as penalties were dish out accordingly.
Montreal had the following handed out-
Francis Bouillion was given 5 for Fighting and a Game Misconduct.
Ryan White was called for Slashing, Fighting and a 10 minute Misconduct. 
Travis Moen was given a Fighting and Game Misconduct, 
Jarred Tinordi was called for Fighting and given a Game Misconduct along with a further 10 minute misconduct penalty.
Colby Armstrong given 5 for Fighting and Game Misconduct
For Ottawa Senators they picked up the following:
Chris Phillips was called for fighting and a Game Misconduct, 
Matt Kassian the same Fighting and Game Misconduct
Zack Smith was given a Fighting major and Game Misconduct and further 10 minute penalty.
Chris Neil receive a Fighting major and a Game Misconduct 
But that wasn`t the end of the rough stuff as over a minute later it started again, As Montreal`s Josh Gorges was called for Charging against Kyle Turris who then picked up a Fighting major with Canadiens P.K Subban behind the play as Subban was given a misconduct and Instigator penalty too. 
While the other end Rene Bourque elbowed Cory Conacher in the head and Conacher was called for Roughing all timed at the 48: 31 minute mark. Then at 56: 58 Brendan Gallagher then tried to call out Cory Conacher and was punched by Gallagher who then just grabbed him and both received Fighting majors.
GAME 4  Saw PK Subban and Alex Galchenyuk give the away side a 2 – 0 lead which they held till the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period when Mika Zibanejad scored a deflected goal & Cory Conacher made it 2 – 2 late on with only 23 seconds left in the regulation.
So the teams battled it out in overtime and at 2: 32 into the overtime period Kyle Turris wristed one past Peter Budaj as the Montreal netminder was screened for the OT winner and so Ottawa had a 3 – 1 series lead. Budaj had only just come on for the overtime period which was a strange decision really and one that didn`t work out.
GAME 5 saw the Senators put the nail in the Montreal Canadiens coffin as they blew them away 6 – 1 in front of a stunned and irate Bell Center crowd. Zack Smith and Cory Conacher gave the Sens a 2 – 0 lead before PK Subban gave the home side hope on the power play before a 2nd period strike by Kyle Turris made it 3 – 1 and then 3 successive power play goals by Alfredsson, Conacher and Condra gave the Sens a Crushing 6 -1 win and moved them to the next round of the play offs!


 BOSTON BRUINS   4  –  3  TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The only “Original Six” clash in these playoffs came in the form of the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs.  
GAME 1 in TD Gardens saw the Leafs take the lead with a Power play goal by James Van Riemsdyk, With the Bruins then coming strongly back with goals by Wade Redden and Nathan Horton giving them Bruins the lead along with David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk adding the extras for a 4 – 1 win.
GAME 2 saw a flip of game 1 as the Bruins took the lead with a Nathan Horton goal opening the game, before 3 straight goals for the Maple Leafs gave them a 3 – 1 advantage thanks to Joffery Lupul grabbing 2 and ex Bruins forward Phil Kessel netting as his goal was met with a chorus of boos by the Boston natives. Johnny Boychuk made it a one goal game when he made it 3 – 2 and when James Van Riemsdyk scored to make it 4 – 2 the game was made safe and the series was tied up at 1-1.
GAME 3 and 4 saw Toronto play the next 2 games in front of their fans at the Air Canada Center and neither was a happy return for them as Boston took both games. Boston took a 2 – 0 lead with goals by Adam McQuaid and Rich Peverley giving the away side the advantage. Toronto then pulled a goal back on the power play thanks to Jake Gardiner and not long after Nathan Horton scored and after a shorthanded effort by Daniel Paille that made it 4 – 1 to the Bruins. Phil Kessel scored for 4 – 2 then Krejci scored an empty net goal to give Boston Bruins a 2 -1 series lead.
In GAME 4 The Maple Leafs threw away a golden chance to tie the series as they went in at the end of the 1st break 2 – 0 up after goals from Lupul and Franson gave them the “Worst lead in hockey” and so it proved to be, As Boston scored 3 unanswered goals as Patrice Bergeron got the first and then 2 goals by David Krejci gave them a 3 – 2 lead. Then Clarke MacArthur tied the scores at 3 – 3 so after 60 minutes we went to overtime and at 13 : 06 in the 1st overtime period David Krejci completed his hat trick and scored the game winner giving Boston the 4 – 3 win and importantly a 3-1 series lead.
GAME 5: Toronto made sure Boston had to come back to Canada one more time as the Leafs beat the Bruins 2 – 1 with Taylor Bozak and Clarke MacArthur scoring to give them a 2 – 0 score line till Zdeno Chara made it  2 – 1 with a wrist shot and made it a nervy 8 minutes for the Leafs.
GAME 6 Boston had a chance to clinch the series in Toronto after they had lost the chance to do it at home in the previous game. It was a hard fought opening two periods with the score still deadlocked as neither side could find the opening.
That was until the early stages of the third period when Dion Phaneuf managed to get a bit on the puck from a Nazem Kadri shot and his goal sent the Air Canada Center into raptures and the place was about to be jumping even more.
As 6 minutes later the man the Bruins fans love to taunt Phil Kessel backhanded the puck high past Tuukka Rask, as James Van Riemsdyk drove to the net and the puck came loose and the Leafs number 81 picked it up and put it home to give the home side a 2 – 0 lead. 
With 24.5 seconds of regulation left Boston scored with the extra Attacker as Milan Lucic tapped home at the back post to give the Bruins hope, but they were too late as the Toronto Maple Leafs won the game and take the series to a game 7 decider in Boston.
GAME 7 Witnessed an incredible finish to the series as it went right down to sudden death overtime. Game 5 & 6 had seen the Maple Leafs win 2 games on the bounce and had momentum heading into this deciding game 7, However it was the hosts that took the lead as Matt Bartkowski wrist shot from the blue line flew in past James Reimer in the Toronto nets for 1 – 0. 
Cody Franson responded minutes later with a snap shot on the power play to tie the game up and then 5:48 into the second Franson made it a 2 – 1 game as his slapshot beat Tuukka Rask for the go ahead goal.
Things got worse for Boston and their fans when Phil Kessel haunted his former side as he put home for 3 – 1 and  silenced the jeers against him as the Bruins fans were in shock.
And then approaching the final 10 minutes of the 3rd period a breakaway with Kessel and Nazem Kadri gave the chance for the Leafs to extend their lead and extend i they did as Kessel attempt was saved by Rask but Kadri was on hand to fire at huge target and made the game 4 – 1 in Toronto`s favour.
The Bruins then led a comeback as first off Nathan Horton scored with a wrist shot to make it 4 – 2, Then with under 2 minutes to go Milan Lucic scored from a rebound to cut the lead to 1 as the Bruins had pulled the goalie. Boston had the lift they needed and the crowd on their side and with that Patrice Bergeron then shot on net and beat Reimer for a 4 – 4 score line. TD Gardens was jumping for delight now though Boston had the advantage as we went into OT.
Bruins were aggressive in the Leafs zone and when a defenseman cleared it away it came to Bergeron who fired the Bruins into the next round of the playoffs past a deflated James Reimer to give the home side a 5 – 4 OT win.  

NEW YORK RANGERS    4   –   3  WASHINGTONS CAPITALS



CAPS v RANGERS series are normally the most exciting and intense games to watch over the last few seasons, but this year the series hasn`t been the most exciting for me. It took the Rangers took till game 3 to get into the series, as in the first 2 games Washington dominated the play and out muscled, out fought and out played their opponents.
New York got the opening goal of the series through Carl Hagelin but a power play goal by Capital’s main man Alexander Ovechkin made it 1-1. Goals by Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera all in the second period gave the Caps an opening series lead.
GAME 2 Was a controversial ending as the whole of regulation saw the defences come out on top as they played out a 0 – 0. New York thought and should have had a power play in the last minute as a Caps defenseman played it out over the glass and the referees went upstairs to check the replays and the replays did seem to suggest it went over the plexi without touching the glass and so a penalty should have been called,
However the officials decided it was just a faceoff which infuriated the Rangers Head coach John Tortorella and of course in overtime the same thing happened but against the Rangers and this time it was called by the officials so a Mike Green slapshot beat Lundquvist in Rangers nets for a overtime winner and make a Caps 2 – 0 series lead.
The series then travelled to New York, New York and Madison Square Garden for GAME 3, where the Rangers had a great record against the Capitals. Nicklas Backstrom gave the Caps a 1 – 0 lead before Brian Boyle tied it up at 1 – 1.
Derick Brassard a player brought in before trade deadline from Columbus Blue Jackets scored on the power play to make it 2 – 1 Rangers and another goal by Mike Green made it a tied game at 2 – 2.
Arron Asham then scored to make it 3 – 2 for the blue shirts till Jay Beagle evened the scores again , till Derek Stepan scored with a tip in to give the home side a 4 – 3 lead and one that the Rangers held this time to cut the series lead in half.
GAME 4 Seen the Rangers tie the series up at 2 -2 after the Blue shirts won the second straight game 4-3 after goals from Brad Richards, Carl Hagelin, Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan gave the Rangers the “W” The Caps did manage to claw their way back at one point as Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer made it 2-2 before the Rangers scored 2 unanswered goals and then Karl Alzner made it a goal game.
GAME 5 was back in Washington and saw the Rangers take the lead after 53 seconds when Derick Brassard down by the icing line found Brian Boyle near the net and he tucked it past Brad Holtby in Caps net for a 1-0 lead. Washington then drew level in the second period when a power play goal by Joel Ward tied it up when Johansson found Ward in the slot and Ward buried it.
In the 3rd period it was scoreless and so for the 2nd straight game in Washington we headed to overtime where the game was open and went back and forth till 9: 24 into the overtime period when a Troy Brouwer shot was stopped by Lundqvist, but Mike Ribeiro put home from near the goal line from a loose rebound and made it 3 – 2 in the series to the men in red.
GAME 6 Was the most physical and intense the game of the series as the Rangers looked to extend the series to a game 7. Had it not been for Brad Holtby in the Capital`s nets they would have booked their place sooner in game 7 as the Saskatchewan native kept the Rangers at bay with a goaltending clinic as the Blue shirts couldn`t find a past him. 
That was till nearly midway through the second period when a Derick Brassard goal was deflected in by a Caps defenseman’s glove which eluded Holtby to give the Rangers the lead that they thoroughly deserved. Washington tried to reply but found Henrik Lundqvist in equally miserly mood to give up a goal and so when the horn went for the end of the game and Lundqvist and the Rangers had brought it to a game 7 in Washington.
Both Rangers & Capitals players made themselves better known to them as the officials had to break up a massive line scrum down by the boards with the anticipation of game 7 the next night.
GAME 7 at the Verizon Center in Washington saw an incredible score line as the New York Rangers booked their place in the Eastern conf Semi finals as they thrashed the Caps 5 – 0, though the score line flatters the Rangers. 
Henrik Lundqvist was the man of the moment  as he earned a shut out the night before in Game 6 and in Game 7 he carried on his form as his team mates helped him out instead of carrying the load, As Arron Asham scored for the Rangers after they had to cleared danger from their nets. 

Taylor Pyatt made it 2 – 0 for the New Yorkers as a Steve Eminger shot hit his team mate in front of the net in the shape of Dorsett the puck rebounded fell nicely to Pyatt and he tucked home.
Rangers made it 3 – 0 as great passing by the Forwards was laid onto to Del Zotto whose slap shot took a deflection off Troy Brouwer skate and deceived Holtby and the puck went through his legs to give the visitors a 3 goal cushion.

Ryan Callahan the Captain of the New York side picked up a sloppy defensive error and the Captain skated unopposed and backhanded past the Caps Netminder for an unbelievable 4 – 0 lead, the Rangers had struggled all series to find the twine and now in a game 7 they were finding it with ease.
Mats Zuccarello put the exclamation point on this victory as Eminger left it off to Derick Brassard who had space to pick out Zuccarello and he deked Matt Holtby and put it in for a 5 – 0 score line and saw the Caps fans head to the exits, while the Rangers progressed to the next round to face the Bruins. 
   

   

   
SAN JOSE SHARKS 4 – 0 VANCOUVER CANUCKS
  
San Jose dominated this series from the first puck drop to the horn sounding in game 4, In Game 1 Vancouver took the lead with a Kevin Bieksa backhanded goal to give the home side a good start, but the Sharks drew level on the power play with Logan Couture scoring with a wrist shot and then in the third period Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau scored to give the Sharks a 3 – 1 win and lead in the series.
GAME 2 the Canucks came back from a goal down after Joe Thornton had opened the scoring in the first period, but thanks to an early Power play goal by Ryan Kessler after 59 seconds in the 3rd and then another effort from him gave the hosts a 2 – 1 lead.
Patrick Marleau however then drew the scores level when his wrist shot beat Roberto Luongo in Canucks nets and with the Score remaining tied up we went to overtime and it was Raffi Torres who scored the game winner in the O T to give the Sharks a 2 – 0 series lead to take back to the “SHARK TANK” for games 3 & 4.
GAME 3 the Shark sensed blood as they chewed up the Canucks and led 2 – 0 early on in the 2nd period with Joe Pavelski scoring twice the first by way of a power play goal and his second goal with a tip in.
Alexandre Burrows pulled a goal back for Vancouver and then the opening 5 minutes of the 3rd period, San Jose just took the game away from their opponents as 2 power play goals by Logan Couture was sandwiched in between a Patrick Marleau goal as a well for a 5 – 1 lead and Dan Humhuis scored a consolation goal for a 5 – 2 loss.
GAME 4 saw the Canucks produce a bit of fight in the series as they responded twice to going behind after Brent Burns gave the Sharks the opener only for Mason Raymond to reply back for Vancouver and then a power play goal by Joe Pavelski for the Sharks made it 2 – 1 and looked to have the knocked the stuffing out of the Canucks. A power play effort by Alexandre Burrows made it a 2 – 2 game and minutes later they took a 3 – 2 lead as another Alexandre scored in the shape of Edler who gave them hopes of avoiding a humiliating sweep.

San Jose had other ideas as yet another Power play goal for Pavelski tied the scores once more and we headed to overtime. Vancouver seemed to have the wind taken out of their sails by the tying goal and the Sharks grew stronger and was no surprise when Patrick Marleau score to send the Canucks packing and the Sharks swum on to the next round of the playoffs with a 4 – 3 win and a franchise 1st ever sweep in Stanley cup history.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS   4 – 1 MINNESOTA WILD
The top seed in the West managed to get through to the next round but it wasn`t all plain sailing for the men from the Windy City, Though saying that it was a horrible series for the Wild in many ways too.
GAME 1 Minnesota Wild got off to a terrible start as their first choice netminder Nicklas Backstrom had stretched awkwardly in warm-up and so back up netminder Josh Harding then stepped up and put on a great show for the Wild with 35 saves in opening game. What made this even more incredible was that Harding had only played 5 regular season games as the netminder has been battling M.S (Multiple Sclerosis) and he had been told 5-10 minutes before opening faceoff that he was in.
The game started and it was the Wild that scored first as Cal Clutterbuck wrist shot beat Corey Crawford to give the lead to Minnesota. Chicago drew level in the 2nd period when Marian Hossa wrist shot beat Harding to tie the game at 1, both sides had chances to win the game but neither could find the final touch so we went into overtime to see who could break the stalemate. Shots on goal were fairly close with 9 – 7 in favour of the Blackhawks in the OT period and it was Bryan Bicknell who slid his effort under Harding in net to give Chicago a 1 – 0 series lead.
GAME 2  Saw Chicago show why they were the number one team in the NHL over the season as they out shot the Wild 48 – 28 with the Hawks taking a 2 goal lead thanks to Michael Frolik grabbing both with his second coming shorthanded.
Minnesota`s Daniel Setoguchi made it 2 – 1 before Patrick Sharp scored a brace of goals himself for a 4 – 1 lead, Marco Scandella scored for the Wild to give them a bit of hope but they ran out of time and Bryan Bickell scored on the backhand to make it 5 – 2 and increase the series lead to 2 – 0 in the Blackhawks favour.
GAME 3 The Wild entertained the Blackhawks as the fans of “Hockey State” welcomed the Stanley Cup Playoffs to Minnesota. Chicago took the lead as a Jay Oduya goal silenced the home fans ,till Pierre-Marc Bouchard tied it up with a back hand for the Wild at 1 – 1.
Zach Parise scored on the backhand to give the Wild a 2 – 1 lead until towards the end of the period when a rocket by Duncan Keith beat Harding and sent us to yet another overtime period. This time though it would be the Wild that came out on top as Matt Cullen looked to have been tripped and play seemed to stop apart from Jason Zucker who scored from a tight angle to give them the win in OT.
GAME 4 Was to see the Blackhawks shutdown and shut out the Wild on home ice as the visitors scored in each of the three period`s to give Chicago a 3 – 0 win and 3-1 series lead. As 2 Patrick Sharp goals and a Bryan Bickell goal gave them the win and stunned the home crowd who seemed to think that they weren`t going to see their guys again for this season at home.
GAME 5  Saw the Blackhawks seal the series in front of their home fans as they beat the Wild 5 – 1, With Chicago taking a 3 – 0 lead almost halfway through the second period, as two goals by Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger goal gave them the lead with Torrey Mitchell getting a goal back for the Wild, before Andrew Shaw slap shot made it 4 – 1 and to round off the scoring Patrick Sharp made it 5 – 1 on the power play and send them through to meet the Detroit Red Wings.


LOS ANGELES KINGS     4 – 2    ST LOUIS BLUES
This was a very physical match up and felt like a good old throw back to the old time hockey days, both sides gave as good as they got and the roughness was upped a lot.
GAME 1 St Louis took the opening game of the series as it was a tough hard fought contest between the two as St.Louis was on a revenge mission after they were swept by the LA Kings last season in the playoffs. Alexandre Steen got the Blues off to a great start when his Power play goal gave them a 1 – 0 lead and held it till 32 second from the end of the game when Justin Williams scored to tie the game up and send us into overtime.
The winner was a colossal error by Jonathon Quick in the Kings nets gave Blues Victory as the puck was played round the boards, Quick stopped it behind his net and waited for help but was dispossessed by the oncoming Steen who This was a very physical match up and felt like a good old throw back to the old time hockey days, both sides gave as good as they got and the roughness was upped a lot.
GAME 1 St Louis took the opening game of the series as it was a tough hard fought contest between the two as St.Louis was on a revenge mission after they were swept by the LA Kings last season in the playoffs. Alexandre Steen got the Blues off to a great start when his Power play goal gave them a 1 – 0 lead and held it till 32 second from the end of the game when Justin Williams scored to tie the game up and send us into overtime.
The winner was a colossal error by Jonathon Quick in the Kings nets gave Blues Victory as the puck was played round the boards, Quick stopped it behind his net and waited for help but was dispossessed by the oncoming Steen who scored shorthanded and gave them the 2 – 1 OT win.
GAME 2 LA Kings hoped to make it a square series and were going the right way about it as Dustin Brown`s Power play goal made it 1 – 0 Kings as it deflected in.
LA had out shot the home side in the first 2 periods of play but in the 3rd the Blues responded as Patrik Berglund tipped in from a Alex Pietrangelo shot and went past Quick in goals and in the last minute Barrett Jackman wrist shot went high over Quick to win it and give St Louis a 2 – 0 series lead.
GAME 3 Carried on the hard hitting physical style between these two Western Conference rivals as they both played a defensive game, with neither the Kings nor Blues able to beat either goalie until early in the 2nd period. As when a mad scramble in front of the Blues nets had nearly every player around it fighting for the puck the puck found its way to Slava Voynov took control of it and fired it through traffic to give the Kings the lead. 
St Louis pushed for the goal to tie but couldn`t find the elusive goal as they outshot the Kings 10 – 2 in the third but LA held on to cut the series lead to 1.
GAME 4 Witnessed a comeback from the LA Kings to level the series as David Backes opened the scoring for the Blues after 72 seconds and they increased that lead when T.J Oshie tipped in on the power play to give the Blues a good early lead in this game.
The Kings struck back with 2 goals by Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner to go into the first intermission at 2 – 2.  ST Louis regained the lead with a TJ Oshie wrist shot early in the 2nd period and then in the 3rd period Los Angeles scored twice in a minute and fifteen seconds, as first Anze Kopitar tipped in from Dustin Brown shot and then Justin Williams scored as well with a tip in to give the Kings the win and tie the series at 2 – 2.
GAME 5 Moved back to St Louis at the Scottrade Center, and after a first period that was goalless it took just 14 seconds in the 2nd period for Jeff Carter to score, as his wrist shot beat Brian Elliott in goals to give the Kings a 1 – 0 lead. Minutes later however Alexandre Steen equalized for the home side as his effort beat Quick to draw level and in the 3rd period Jeff Carter scored his 2nd of the game as his quick shot on the Power play gave them a 2 – 1 score line.
Just as it seemed to be heading for a Kings win, Alex Pietrangelo had other ideas as his wrist shot with 45 seconds to go tied the game at 2 – 2. So after 60 minutes the sides would go to overtime to decide who would take the lead in this series and dead on 8 minutes into the overtime period Slava Voynov scored to give LA the Series lead for the first time.
GAME 6  Moved to Staples Center in LA and saw the series come to an end as Drew Doughty opened the scoring with a quick shot for the lead only for then in the second period Chris Porter to score for the Blues with a deflection making it 1 – 1.
But with the last play of the second period Dustin Penner with time ticking down took aim and fired past Elliott with 0.3 left on the timer as he hit a real buzzer beater to give the Kings a 2-1 lead into the break. That goal proved to be a decisive winner as the Blues couldn`t find another goal and so went out of the playoffs two years running to the LA Kings. LA now has a tough match up against Californian rivals San Jose Sharks in the Semis.
 DETROIT RED WINGS   4 – 3 ANAHEIM DUCKS        
GAME 1 Of the series saw Anaheim host the Red Wings and it was Nick Bonino for the Ducks who got the series opening goal as his shot was deflected in beating Jimmy Howard in the Red Wings net for 1 – 0 on the power play. Dan Cleary then replied for Detroit with a power play goal of his own to draw level.
Anaheim were the stronger side of the two and it took 1: 29 in the 3rd period for the Ducks to make their play count, as a Teemu Selanne slap shot on the power play made it 2 – 1 game before Francois Beauchemin made it 3 – 1 with the empty net goal and gave the Ducks the lead in this series.
GAME 2 The Red Wings lost a 3 goal lead twice as Justin Abdelkader scored after 48 seconds with Damien Brunner doubling the lead for the Red Wings ,then 64 seconds into the second period Johan Franzen made it a 3 – 0 score line and had home crowd  completely stunned at what they were watching. Saku Koivu scored on the power play for 3 – 1 and when Franzen struck he made it 4 – 1 for Red Wings coming on the power play.
Anaheim then struck 3 times to bring the scores level as a Ryan Getzlaf back hander went in for 4 – 2, Kyle Palmieri scored for 4 – 3 and then Bobby Ryan tipped in to make it 4 – 4 that meant we went to overtime and it was at 1: 21 into the extra period of play that Gustav Nyquist put home from close range high past Jonas Hiller for the OT winner.
GAME 3 Anaheim blitzed the Red Wings, but only after a incident in the 2nd Period when Justin Abdelkader launched himself at Toni Lydman who made contact with the Duck players head and was given a Charging penalty along with a Game penalty too which was later upgraded to 2 games.
Anaheim got revenge as they struck on the Power play via Nick Bonino 18 seconds later. The Ducks took over in the 3rd as Ryan Getzlaf scored Shorthanded and a couple minutes later Emerson Etem made it 3 – 0 and over 6 minutes left in the game Matt Beleskey tipped in on the power play to hand the Red Wings their first shutout on home ice since 2007 when it was against the Ducks.
GAME 4 Detroit bounced back to tie the series as they shook off the shut out defeat by the Duck in game 3 as won 3 – 2 in overtime.
It was the Ducks that led through a Matt Beleskey wrist shot that beat Howard in nets; 1: 18 into the third period the Wings finally broke through as Brendan Smith made it a tied game when David Steckel then gave Anaheim the lead back again. 
Pavel Datsyuk got the Red Wings back level at 2 – 2 and then in Overtime it was Damien Brunner who got the game winner for Detroit to tie the series.
GAME 5 Anaheim came from behind twice to win this game as there was a lot of shots raining in after the 1st period, but those that counted was a Power play goal by Johan Franzen with a tip in the early stages and towards the end of the period Kyle Palmieri scored for the Ducks for a 1 – 1 game. 
Halfway into the 2nd period Mikael Samuelsson made it a 2 – 1 game as his shot beat Hiller to re take the lead for Detroit and once again towards the end of the period Ryan Getzlaf effort made it all square at 2 – 2, and as no one could find a winner in the 3rd period. In overtime Nick Bonino scored the OT winner when the puck was played across the crease and Bonino put home to give the Ducks a 3 – 2 series lead.
GAME 6 Had the Detroit Red Wings needing to win to avoid being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. Detroit took the lead when Pavel Datsyuk jumped on a pass to him by the boards and after he made space he let loose a beautiful bank handed finish to give the home side the lead. 
Kyle Palmieri was credited with the goal to tie the game as his effort struck the crossbar and bounced right off the incoming Smith who was helpless to stop the puck going in.
Detroit then scored 2 unanswered goals as a Power play goal by Henrik Zetterberg and a Dan Cleary effort made it a 3 – 1 game till Emerson Etem and Bobby Ryan scored to bring the game level. Though the Ryan goal had a look of a Trip by Corey Perry in the build up to the goal. 
Overtime came and was ended when that man Zetterberg notched his 2nd goal of the game as his slap shot beat Hiller to take us to an exciting game 7 in California.
GAME 7 of this enthralling series was played at the Honda Center in California, and this big game had a big game player open the scoring in the form of Henrik Zetterberg who put home the puck to give the Red Wings the early lead after 1: 49 in the game after Valtteri Filppula had knocked it on to him to finish.
Emerson Etem tied the game when he skated from his own zone over the Red Wings blue line and fired past Howard to put the Ducks on the board. Justin Abdelkader then put the Wings back in front as he blocked a cross ice pass on Wings blue line while killing a Power play and Abdelkader was off up ice and finished it off slipping it under Jonas Hiller for the lead.
Filppula then made it 3 – 1 in the second stanza as play by Zetterberg and Cleary fed the Red Wings Center and he quickly back handed past Hiller for 2 goal cushion. The Ducks were in trouble but they managed to get a goal back with 3 : 17 left in the game, as Francois Beauchemin threw puck across the Detroit crease and it went in off Jimmy Howard skate for a 3 – 2 game to set up a tense finale. 
Anaheim tried to find the goal to take the game into OT but they couldn`t do it and so the Red Wings clinched the series in 7 and move on to play their near Rival Chicago in a best of 7 and will be a very interesting series at that.

Below par City just hold off brave West Brom

MANCHESTER  CITY    1 – 0    WEST BROMWICH ALBION  
Manchester City last night (Tuesday) secured Champions League football for next season after a below par performance by the blues edging past West Brom 1-0 and to be honest they was very lucky to pick up the win.
City Manager Roberto Mancini had made 8 changes to the starting up from the side that played a bore draw with Swansea City on the Saturday, The City Manager had one eye on the FA Cup final this coming Saturday evening against Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium and played a team that wasn`t as attacking as normal but one that had experience too.
Mancini welcomed back into the side, injury returnee’s midfielder Jack Rodwell Defenders Micah Richards and Brazilian Maicon as the three were fully fit again after Hamstring and knee injuries respectively. Edin Dzeko was given the main strikers role as he staked a claim to be among the forward line for the Cup final on Saturday as he led the line with Carlos Tevez too.
City had rested a good core of players such as Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabeleta, David Silva and with Gareth Barry & Sergio Aguero on the bench should they need to be introduced in to the game as well.
Yaya Toure was missing as well as he is currently nursing a knock but he should be fit and ready for Saturday.

West Brom had an attacking look to it as they must have been happy to see a few of the regular first team players not on the team sheet for the home side, as that looked to have boosted them early on in the game as West Brom could have took the lead after a minute in. as sloppy defending gave Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku a chance as Joe Hart had to be alert to save it as City defenders were caught asleep.
Lukaku was causing problems for the home side defense as he took possession and shot one from just outside the penalty area which went wide of goals and West Brom were the best side in the opening 5 minutes of the game as City looked uninterested and like a side that was going through the motions.

The Baggies could have easily been 3 up within the opening 10 minutes of play, as Lukaku was the star man for the visitors as his first three shots had they been more clinically taken they could have had the home side in trouble very early on indeed. City was very slow with their movement and their passing was woeful especially by Javi Garcia whose radar with his passes to blue shirts was massively off.
Carlos Tevez then decided to try and run at the West Brom defense as his effort went wide, but at least it had the home side showing signs of an attacking threat as it was the first chance the home side had created as they looked lethargic early on, Markus Rosenberg had another chance for the away side but his shot failed to hit the target and so Joe Hart saw the ball go out of play.

City then found some rhythm as it came predominately down the West Brom Left through James Milner as he had the away side in tangles trying to deal with the england international and the more of the ball he saw the more City grew in confidence it seemed as the home side came to life.
Jack Rodwell had an effort that went over the bar from close range and you sensed City were gaining the upper hand now after a very slow start by the home side, Aleksandar Kolarov then picked up a yellow card as the Serbian defender went for a ball at the same time as Gabriel Tamas. But it was Tamas who lowered his head to get the ball and got caught accidently by the defender which drew blood. 



Kolarov immediately apologised as it was complete accident and the referee Phil Dowd had a conversation with his assistant on the far side over the challenge as it could easily have been a red card for dangerous play, But after the chat the referee deemed it wasn`t as bad a sending off and so the City man got a caution and Tamas had to get treatment with his head all bandaged up.
Carlos Tevez again had a shot from inside the area but his effort went high and wide over the crossbar, moments later the Argentinian had another strike from outside the area and the crossbar came to the rescue as the move and strike would have been a fantastic goal.

pic: Reuters
City then found some rhythm as it came predominately down the West Brom Left through James Milner as he had the away side in tangles trying to deal with the England international , As the more he saw of the ball the more City grew in confidence as it seemed to ignite the home side.
Jack Rodwell had an effort that went over the bar from close range and you sensed City were starting to gain the upper hand now after a very slow start by the home side. Aleksander Kolarov then picked up a yellow card as the Serbian defender went for a ball at the same time as Gabriel Tamas, But it was Tamas who lowered his head to get the ball and got caught accidently by the defender boot which drew blood. 

Kolarov immediately apologised as it was completely accident and the referee Phil Dowd had a conversation with his assistant on the far side over the challenge as it could easily have been deemed as a red card for dangerous play.
But after consultation with the linesman, the referee deemed it wasn`t as bad a sending off and so the City man got a caution and Tamas had to get treatment with his head all bandaged up.
Carlos Tevez again had a shot from inside the area but his effort went high and wide over the crossbar.



City were on the attack more now and had the visitors in trouble as they had West Brom on the ropes for the first time in the match, City then took the lead in the 34th minute as a ball was played forwards to Tevez  inside the West Brom half and was border line to being given as offside. Tevez ran down the wing looked up saw Edin Dzeko unmarked in the box and crossed to the Bosnian striker who controlled his volley on goal and despite Myhill getting a hand on it ,he couldn`t stop the ball going in and his shot gave City the lead.
The away side came close soon after, as Romelu Lukaku had another chance go begging as his shot was wide of the target and City breathed a sigh of relief. James Milner came so close to doubling the lead as Milner picked the ball up from outside the area and launched a thunderbolt which struck the post and the visitors cleared the ball away from danger.
Jack Rodwell had another chance to score, but the midfielder just didn`t have his scoring boots on as he could have had a hat trick in the first half from all the chances he didn`t take.  First half came to an end with the home side going into the break with the lead and West Brom were counting the chances they didn`t take as the match could have been so much different had they taken the chances on offer.

Second half was dominated by West Brom as they restricted the home side to any good play they tried to put together ,as Rosenberg tried a shot from outside the box which went to the left hand post of Hart as City were still not fully switched on as the away side had chances. Joelon Lescott then had an attempted headed clearance  latched on to by Lukaka, but the striker had his attack cut out and cleared away by Kolo Toure for a corner.
Samir Nasri then had possession in a rare attack near the Baggies area before the Frenchman was upended by Claudio Yacob for a free kick, before both players got up and went nose to nose as players tried to break things up before things could escalate further.


Dowd gave them both a yellow card and play continued on with Kolarov taking the resulting free kick to which was poor, even by his standards as the free kick hit the wall and was cleared away.
City were struggling as they were under the cosh as their opponents was doing nearly if not all the attacking in the half as they went in search of an equalizing goal ,which to be honest would have been no more than West Brom deserved as their play was much more deserving of more ,as City couldn`t get any type of hold in the game and they seemed to be trying to defend the 1-0 lead more than trying to kill the game off. City then decided to try and shut up shop and get players behind the ball against an aggressive side , as they looked increasingly likely to score as the City defenders had to earn their money as Richards and Toure played a rearguard role stopping any attacks the visitors constructed.



Mancini brought Gareth Barry on for Samir Nasri for the final 18 minutes of the game to try and get the midfield shored up as the visitors camped in home side half as Steve Clarke`s men push onwards for this goal, Markus Rosenberg had a free kick that struck the bar from 25 yards out and moments later he made way for Peter Odemwingie, who came onto the pitch to a very silent reaction from the West Brom travelling support to the Etihad Stadium.
Liam Ridgewell then had a shot from outside the area which went over the bar and you felt it was only a matter of a time before they did strike, due to the amount to possession and play that West Brom was enjoying. Even all people associated with West Bromwich Albion couldn`t believe how they were carving City up without finding the end product.

Shane Long went closer for the Baggies as his shot went a whisker away from the target and it was looking like it was going to be a nervous 10 minutes or so for the home side. City did have a couple of chances but the defense at the back for West Brom was brilliant at cutting out any attacks the home side made.
Peter Odemwingie then had a effort that went wide of Joe Hart goals and City were hanging on for this win, City managed to close the game out and hold on for 3 points which guarantees Champions League football for the 3rd year in a row, but they need 1 more point to consolidate 2nd spot in the table. 
West Brom will count themselves unlucky not to get a point as no one would have begrudged them a point based on the performance they put in and City now fully concentrate onto the FA Cup final v Wigan Athletic on Saturday evening and hope they bring some silverware back up to the Etihad Stadium, though it will be as hard against Wigan as it was against West Brom as Wigan have the players to beat City on their day so the blues will need to be professional and play to their strengths.

  

Ronnie Rockets to the top of the mountain capturing his fifth world title

PIC: Daily Mail






















Ronnie O Sullivan won his 5th World Snooker championship at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield Monday evening, as the player dubbed “The Rocket” finished off Barry Hawkins winning the title by 18 frames to 12 and successfully defended his crown.

O Sullivan was the major odds on favourite to win the world title as he had dispatched his previous opponents easily defeating them in the tournament.


PIC: Yahoo Sports

The Rocket seemed to start off as he meant to go on as he took the opening two frames of the first session with breaks of 74 and 92 in them both. Barry Hawkins then came back from 2 down to lead 3 – 2 with three consecutive frames in a row as his first two frames he won he didn`t even let his opponent score taking them both by scores of 98-0 and 81-0.
O Sullivan wasn`t going to be outdone and bounced back taking the next three frames in a row, with two century breaks in the process with breaks of 113  & 100 as the session came to a close.
The Evening session saw both players then trading frames back and forth in frames 9 to 12 before Hawkins took the next two frames with a break of 83 in the 13th and 133 in the 14th frame to make it 7 – 7 .
Ronnie O Sullivan then won frames 15 and 16 with two consecutive century breaks of 103 & 106 and In the Seventeenth and final frame of the evening session of play, the last frame was a tight affair as the Rocket took it 69 – 62, After Hawkins tried to play the black ball safe but left it too close to the corner and so the Rocket coolly potted the black ball from long range to give him a 10 – 7 overnight lead and put O Sullivan in the driving seat to defend his world title.


Pic: Getty Images

We moved to Bank Holiday Monday and the continuation of the World final saw Barry Hawkins needing to get in early and win some early frames to pressure the defending champion and make him worried early on.

And That was just what the man from Kent started out doing, as he took the opening frames of the day winning 71 – 36 in the 18th Frame, as O Sullivan had missed a blue which gave Hawkins the advantage and with a break of 30 and 41 in the frame to pull it back a bit.
Hawkins then missed pot on a red ball which handed the chance to his opponent to capitalize and capitalize he did, as it took Ronnie O Sullivan two visits to the table to finish off and in doing so, he restored his 3 frame lead again to go 11 – 8 up in the nineteenth frame.


Barry Hawkins had a frame ball chance on the red but missed, and was made to regret missing as O Sullivan yet again made the most as he cleared up with a break of 55 to win by a solitary point 57 – 56.
However it was him that then made an error himself as he missed a long red allowing Hawkins to make a break of 90 and so brought it back to a 3 frame lead once more at 12-9.
Ronnie then shrugged off his mistake in the previous frame to record a 133 clearance along with a break of 67 in the following one to extend his lead to 14 – 9 and was closing in now on the title as he was edging closer to the defending it .
PIC: Zimbo



PIC:Zimbo

Frame 23 saw a terrible kick on the Pink ball by Hawkins which looked to have handed O Sullivan the frame , but he couldn`t pot the red ball to the middle pocket which gave Hawkins a reprieve and duly made the most of it this time around. The newly installed World number 9 notched up a 47 clearance to make it 14 – 10 with a frame left in the afternoon session.

O Sullivan then finished the session off with a fantastic knock of 124 to lead 16 – 10 needing just three more frames to take the crown once more.

Play in the evening session started with Barry Hawkins still not giving up hope or rolling over, as he came out for the final session and played like a free man as he there wasn`t any pressure on  him and so produced a very classy knock of 127 to make it 16 – 11.
In frame 27 Hawkins then made a break of 66 as he won the frame 76 – 18 to make it 16 – 12 and thoughts of a unlikely comeback looked on as O Sullivan was spending the early stages of the session sat in his chair as he was helpless due to the brave display Hawkins was producing to keep the World Champion seated as he played a masterful opening frames.
pic: world snooker.com

Just as it seemed like Barry Hawkins was going to make a incredible comeback, Ronnie O Sullivan then extinguished his opponent hopes as he won three consecutive frames on the bounce with the final frame notching up a break of 86 and in the process winning the title and defending it. Making history in the process by becoming only the 3rd man in Crucible history since 1977 when the championship first staged the event to have a player defend his World Championship back to back for the first time since Stephen Hendry back in 1995 – 1996.

Talk before the tournament was of the Rocket quitting snooker as him and the head of World Snooker Barry Hearn haven`t seen eye to eye since Hearn took over and revamped the game.  So this may be the last time we see the Rocket in a World Championships unless an agreement is made or talks between them are sorted out as it would be a real shame to lose one of the most popular showmen and characters of the snooker circuit in O Sullivan.