Archive for April, 2011

FA Youth Cup semi in the balance after five-goal thriller

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Impressive Chelsea centre back Nathaniel Chalobah's brace helped the Blues take a slight adavantage into the second leg

 

A five-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United ended 3-2 to Chelsea in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup semi final.

Chelsea went in at the break 2-0 up, courtesy of two goals from England U17 captain and centre back Nathaniel Chalobah, who was dominant in both defence and attack.

However, like the first team, these young United players do not give up easily and goals from French midfielder Paul Pogba and striker Jesse Lingard gave them hope despite Bobby Devyne restoring Chelsea’s two goal cushion in the 72nd minute.

Chelsea Youth Team Coach Dermot Drummy was happy with the result after the game, insisting that Chelsea would stick to their philosophy of attacking football in the second leg at Old Trafford.

“You can’t go to Old Trafford and defend for 90 minutes, we will go there and play some football,” said Drummy, who revealed that he had received texts of support from first team players including skipper John Terry prior to the game.

“I was very pleased with the performance today and it is a statement of intent to go up there with a one goal lead,” he added.

Chelsea started the first half as the dominant force, with the central midfield trio of Rohan Ince, George Saville and the impressive Josh McEachran bossing possession, giving United little chance to impose themselves on the game.

Despite their dominance, it took Chelsea till the thirtieth minute to break the deadlock.  A dangerous in swinging corner from McEachran caused all sorts of problems in the United box helping centre back Chalobah to poke the ball home from close quarters.

Chalobah added a second, and his fifth for the season in the 42nd minute as another corner, this time from George Saville, resulted in the languid centre back twisting his head to flick the ball into the far corner of the goal.

Chelsea, who won the competition last year for the first time in 49 years, looked as if they had one foot in the final, but United appeared after the break rejuvenated and took the game to the reigning champions.

United’s second half dominance paid off in the 56th minute when a Larnel Cole corner was flicked on by Irishman Sean McGinty for Jesse Lindgard to volley the ball into the roof of the net.

In the 72nd minute Bobby Devyne ghosted in at the back post and flashed the ball past the despairing Johnstone to restore Chelsea’s lead and make it 3-1 but Paul Pogba, the driving force for United in the second half had different ideas, towering above the Chelsea defence at the back post to make it 3-2 and give United hope going into the second leg.

Chelsea take a slight advantage into the second leg at Old Trafford in 10 days time where the winner will meet Sheffield United in the final after the Blades beat Aston Villa 3-0 on aggregate in the other tie.

 

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“We’re not going to throw it away now” says Canaries right back

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Norwich full back Russell Martin

One is the most capped Brazilian player of all time, the other is a right back for high flying Norwich City. Russell Martin, or as Canaries fans affectionately know him, ‘The Norfolk Cafu’ says his side are not going to throw it away now with seven games to play.

Brighton-born Martin has played every League game for second placed Norwich this season and he believes that Saturday’s clash against fourth placed Swansea will be a great advert for the Championship.

“In my opinion it’s the two best passing teams in the league coming up against each other and it’s up to us to try and impose our game on them and not let them dictate to us,” said Martin, who pinpointed Swansea wingers Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer as the Swansea’s biggest threats.

“It will be an exciting game to watch for the neutrals and the fans.  There will be lots of football played because both teams play the game in the right way and pass the ball a lot,” he added.

Norwich currently lie in the second automatic promotion place, nine points behind runaway leaders Queens Park Rangers and four points clear of Welsh rivals Cardiff and Swansea. Saturday’s game gives the Canaries a chance to go seven points clear of Swansea, and with Cardiff travelling to relegation strugglers Doncaster, three points would cement their position in the automatic promotion spot.

Their promotion push has also been strengthened by the acquisition of Spain U21 star Daniel Pachecho on loan from Liverpool. The Spaniard, who began his career at Barcelona, can play as a striker or as an attacking midfielder, with the twenty-year-old filling the position that has been left by the injured Wes Hoolahan at the head of a diamond midfield.

In an interview before the Swansea game, Martin said Pachecho had “set the game alight” on his debut last week as a rampant Norwich side thrashed Scunthorpe 6-0.

“No one expected him to be as good as he was on his debut, he’s got great movement, he’s great with both feet and he can pick a pass.

“He threaded some great balls through on Saturday and if players like Fabregas and Xavi had done the same, we’d have been watching it all week on television,” said Martin.

In Grant Holt, the young Pachecho should find the perfect foil for his range of passing and Martin spoke about how important the target man has been this season for Norwich’s Premier League aspirations.

“The manager has described him as an old fashioned number nine, which is exactly what he is because defenders hate playing against him.

“People outside the club questioned whether he could do it at this level, everyone at the club knew he could do it and he’s proved a few people wrong this year that’s for sure and long may that continue,” said Martin, a week after Holt scored his fiftieth goal for the club against Scunthorpe.

As for being likened to one of the best right backs to have graced the game, Martin admitted he knew nothing about the fans’ nickname for him until a few weeks ago when a supporter spotted him in the cinema and asked him to sign his ‘Norfolk Cafu’ t-shirt.

Martin's performances have prompted fans to sport this t-shirt

“I was surprised at first but it’s great and hopefully it just shows that the fans value the job that I’m doing for the team, I give 100% every game and it just shows they appreciate your efforts.

“I heard a song about it a few weeks ago and when you’ve got a few fans singing your name it’s a great feeling,” said Martin.

The full back’s consistency has been a feature of Norwich’s success this season and he thinks the manager’s decision to give him a decent run in the side has helped him perform week in week out and stay injury free.

“I’m enjoying my football, it’s been a great season for me and I love playing for the manager and playing for this club. It’s an honour to play for a club like this and you can’t help but enjoy it,” he said.

Norwich have a difficult run in with games against Watford (away) and Nottingham Forest (home) still to come, but the big test will come on April 21 where they travel to Portman Road to face fierce local rivals Ipswich Town.

With only seven games between the Canaries and the Premier League, you could forgive the squad for being a little nervous before Saturday’s game but Martin insists the squad are ready for the step up to the big time.

“I’ve not seen any nerves to be honest, the lads are enjoying it that much, they’ve just taken it in their stride, I think its more excitement than anything really, excitement about what we can achieve.

“The lads are really focussed because no one gave us a chance outside of this city and I think it’s a great achievement for us to have been in and amongst the top four for as long as we have. We’ve worked our socks off all year and we’re not going to throw it away now.”

 

 

Carlo Ancelotti says “I need to have pressure” as title race hots up

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Ancelotti spoke at Chelsea's training ground before their game against Stoke

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted today that he’s revelling in the pressure of Chelsea’s late push for the Premier League title, referring to tomorrow’s game away to Stoke as “the first of nine finals”.

The Italian has seen his side force their way back into contention with the Blues now lying only nine points behind league leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

With United travelling to Upton Park for what could be a tricky game against a West Ham side that beat them 4-0 in the Carling Cup back in November, the onus is on Chelsea to produce the goods against Tony Pulis’s physical Stoke side.

“In my opinion, I need to have pressure to focus, to stay concentrated on my job. I need to have pressure on my shoulders. It doesn’t mean that I’m not able to manage this pressure,” said Ancelotti.

“I want to have pressure. When I’m too relaxed it’s not good.”

Ancelotti could be excused for having one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League tie where Chelsea will welcome Alex Ferguson’s United but he insists that his team are focused on tomorrow’s game.

“We have to put out the best team against Stoke, after that we can think about Manchester United. The most important thing is to win Saturday’s game,” he said.

The former Milan and Juventus manager also expressed his enthusiasm for the end of the season, or what his opposite number in the title race would refer to as ‘squeaky bum time’.

“It’s a very exciting end to the season because a lot of teams are involved: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and at the bottom it’s going to be an exciting fight too,” he added.

Elsewhere in the title race, Arsenal, who also have a game in hand over United, host Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates while Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur have the chance to close the gap on Manchester City to one point  if they beat bottom of the league Wigan.