Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Games of the Week #2 - 2014-15

This weeks' games of the week have are:

  1. AZ Alkmaar vs Ajax (Dutch Eredivise)
  2. Heart of Midlothian vs Hibernian (Scottish Championship)
  3. Toulouse vs Lyon (French Ligue 1)

AZ Alkmaar 1-3 Ajax
AFAS Stadion, Att: 16011

Both teams went into this one with 100% records but it was Ajax who struck first, as a quarter of a hour in, Schone's through ball to Klassen was enough to beat a weak AZ defence and to take the lead in the North Holland Derby. Five minutes later, AZ almost equalised as Tankovic's header was only a few inches wide. AZ finally equalised after half time, when a through ball from Tankovic found Berghuis on the 18 yard line and the Dutch Midfielder slotted home from 15 yards out. The men from Amsterdam took the lead again when Schone was allowed to run from the corner flag to the "D" outside the box unchallenged, this left him to slot home from 20 yards out. AZ threw the kitchen sink at Ajax, despite this late pressure, their fate was sealed in stoppage time when Icelandic striker Sigthorsson set up substitute Anwar El Ghazi who beat goalkeeper Alvarado from 20 yards out.

MoTM: Lasse Schone

Heart of Midlothian 2-1 Hibernian
Tyncastle, Att: 17280

The first Edinburgh Derby outside the top flight, was just like any other Edinburgh Derby. On the half hour mark, Danny Handling was taken out by Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton inside the box and a penalty was awarded, but when the foul was scrutinised further, we can see that Hamilton got a touch of the ball. Liam Craig took the penalty and the woeful effort was about a yard wide of the right goals post. Hearts were denied a penalty of their own when Kevin McHattie was tripped inside the box by Lewis Stevenson but Willie Collum ordered play on. Ex-Dundee and Dundee United player Scott Robertson gave two rough tackles in 10 seconds, at the end of the half, the referee added him to his book after the second one. Jordan McGee had a crack at goal from 25 yards out was only 6 inches wide and was unfortunate not to have scored.

The end of the second half was most exciting part of the game, as with fourteen minutes left Sam Nicholson's shot from 30 yards beat Mark Oxley and ricocheted of the post into the net to give the home side the lead. It got worse for Hibs 4 minutes later when Scott Robertson brought down his ex-teammate Prince Buaben inside the box. He gave away a penalty and got himself a second yellow card and had to exit the pitch. Prince Buaben stepped up to take and slotted it into top-right corner. With two minutes left, Osman Sow had a moment of madness as he elbowed Michael Nelson.in the face and had to go off the park for violent conduct. Hibs, however clawed one back when Farid El Alagui lobbed the ball over Danny Wilson and powered the ball past Jack Hamilton. Stevenson and Walker had some afters in injury time but neither player was sent-off. 


Toulouse 2-1 Lyon
Stadium Municipal, Att: 13,283

Three Minutes, Toulouse could have taken the lead through Martin Braithwaite, as his shot from ten yards out was saved onto the post by Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.Toulouse took the lead seven minutes later, when a one-two between Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro and Oscar Trejo, letting the former chip the keeper from 10 yards out, and really showing  the lacklusterness of the visiting defence. Toulouse made it two right on half time, as sneaky direct free-kick from Wissam Ben Yedder beat the wall and the keeper to sneak in at the front post. Fifteen minutes from time, some great Link-up play from Lyon allowed Lacazette in to score from 10 yards out and to bring Lyon back into the game. However, it was too little, too late as Toulouse held on for a win.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Games of the Week #1 - 2014-15

Welcome to my first games' of the week of 2014-15. Today's games include:

  1. Aberdeen vs Dundee United (Scottish Premiership)
  2. The Rangers vs Heart of Midlothian (Scottish Championship)
  3. Stade de Reims vs Paris Saint Germain (Ligue 1)

Aberdeen 0-3 Dundee United

Pittodrie, Att: 16471

The top game on the card on the opening weekend of the Premiership had to be the New Firm derby between Dundee United and Aberdeen. Both sides are seen as the only clubs who could possibly challenge Celtic for top spot in Scotland. Aberdeen probably had the edge of playing six competitive matches in Europe before this one.

In the 23rd minute after a clearance by United left-back Townsend, Ash Taylor lost his balance and a soft pass back to Jamie Langfield was met by Ryan Dow and the United midfielder rounded the keeper and scored to make it 1-0. Almost straight after the kick-off Barry Robson's cross found Cierzniak, who punched the ball away, only to find nearby Niall McGinn, his effort ricocheted of the base of the post and was an inch from being the equaliser. Bang on half time, Dundee United put their counter-attacking skills to the test as  Stuart Armstrong out muscled Willo Flood to give the Tangerines a 3 on 4 situation. Nadir Cíftci's through ball found Gary Mackay-Steven 15 yards out, for him to slot the ball past Langfield to give United their second. Five minutes into the second half, Aberdeen were claiming for a penalty as David Goodwillie's cross touched the arm of Conor Townsend, but it didn't seem much more than an innocent ball to hand.  On the counter, United looked dangerous again as Dow released Ciftci, but after going past two defenders the effort was well wide of the goal. The Turkish striker had another go at goal, two minutes later when his powerful shot was saved by a commanding Jamie Langfield. United sealed the 3 points in the 90th minute, when Mario Bilate surging run to the byline teed-up Chris Erskine to make it 3-0.

MOTM:  Callum Morris

The Rangers 1-2 Heart of Midlothian

Ibrox Stadium, Att: 43683

The Scottish Championship will be the first real test Ally McCoist has, as manager of The Rangers, the last two years have been plain sailing playing against part-time sides like Brechin and Stenhousemuir, respectively. Hearts look stronger after exiting administration and with Craig Levain as director of Football he could steer them back up to the Premiership.

The Rangers had the better of the chances of the first half that included Alim Ozturk's back pass which caught Neil Alexander out, and nearly let a keen Kris Boyd in but the ex-Rangers Goalkeeper recovered to keep the scores level. The worst miss of them all was after 19 minutes when a Kenny Miller shot was deflected and David Templeton headed the ball sailing over an empty net from 5 yards out.  The home side payed for their missed chances in the second half, as after 53 minutes Billy King's corner was headed in by Danny Wilson to give the Edinburgh men the advantage. The away side suffered a significant blow when Neil Alexander was injured, as Nick Law's free kick was caught by the ex-Scotland player but he was he bundled into his own player in the process. After pressure it looked like they would hold out for a win against the Glasgow club, but in stoppage time Kenny Miller's header found Nicky Law who bundled it into the back of  the net, to surely take a draw for the Ibrox club. However, the Rangers were given a taste of their own medicine straight from kick-off as Sam Nicholson's pass found Osman Sow, who slotted the ball past Cammy Bell to give Hearts the win with the last kick of the ball.

MoTM: Neil Alexander

Stade de Reims 2-2 Paris Saint Germain

The French champions kicked-off the French season in Reims, and it took 7 minutes before PSG were winning thanks to a goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic as his shot from 12 yards out beat the Reims goalkeeper, Johny Placide. Ten minutes later, Marcus Verratti let the Swed score into an empty net, but somehow Zlatan hit the post. A couple of minutes later, PSG were awarded a penalty, when Zlatan went down in the box. The veteran Swed stepped up but the penalty was saved by the Reims goalie. However Reims, quickly retaliated with a goal of their own, 22 minutes in, as Diego's free kick was deflected off Lucas Moura and was knocked in by Prince Oniangue, from close range. Twelve minutes later, the home side scored again as Anton Devaux and Gaetan Charbonnier's play led to the former scoring and leading Reims into a half-time lead. The home side, had a chance to double their lead, after the break when Diego forced a great save from Sirigu as his 30 yard effort was looking to go into the top corner. Just after the hour mark, PSG equalised as Zlatan Ibrahimovic's cross was knocked in by the Reims goalkeeper. It was a story of what might have been for the hosts if it wasn't for Placide's blunder but that will be a vital point for them in the season ahead.
MOTM: Diego

Saturday, 9 August 2014

2014-15 SPFL Preview

As a new season dawns, each team has hopes and dreams for the year ahead. Here I will discuss what I will think will happen between now and May in Scotland two full time leagues.

Premiership

Aberdeen

After playing six competitive games in Europe. the Dons are the club we know the most about. Of the teams who were in Europe, the reds looked the most impressive, with their 2-1 victory, away to Groningen being the highlight. Aberdeen have added five players to their ranks including former Dundee United star David Goodwillie have lost four players including Calvin Zola. My view is that Aberdeen have became much stronger in pre-season and could challenge Celtic for the title. Aberdeen should be a shoe-in for Europe. I have Aberdeen to be 3rd place.

Aberdeen in Europe 
1QLatvia FK Daugava Rīga5–03–08–0
2QNetherlands FC Groningen0–02–12–1
3QSpain Real Sociedad0–22–32–5

Celtic

Neil Lennon shocked Scottish Football by resigning in May, it took Peter Lawwell and the Celtic board, 15 days to appoint Ronny Delia from Stromsgodset. Celtic have spent no real money and only signing Craig Gordon, foe when Fraser Forestar goes to Southampton for £10m.

After seeing the Bhoys play in Europe, I think Delia will fare badly. Celtic were today reinstated in the Champions League after a technically, I believe that this will help the other clubs as Celtic will have to play another 8 games in Europe. My verdict is that Celtic, will win the League but it would require a new manager of new investment in the Glasgow Club.

Dundee

The SPFL Championship winners have completely overturned their squad with no fewer than 11 players in and 14 players out. The key players in are, Paul McGowan (from St Mirren) and Kevin Thomson (Hibs) both of which are rated fairly highly in Scotland. Dundee had a good pre-season with a wins over Manchester City and Hearts in friendlies. Under Paul Hartley Premiership, the dees look a good outfit and look a whole lot stronger than their last time in the top flight. My verdict is for Dundee to challenge for top six.

Dundee United

The Tangerines look stronger this season, despite losing Ryan Gauld and Andy Robertson to Sporting CP and Hull for £5m. United have signed Mario Bilate from Sparta Rotterdam and is already looking a good Centre Forward. The signings of Callum Morris and Jaroslav Fojut have gave United what they were missing, a solid Central Defensive partnership. In Pre-season, The Terrors had good wins including 4-0 over Bohemians and 2-1 over NAC Breda. Dundee United look like they can challenge Celtic, providing they have a good start, and hence my verdict is 2nd place for the Tangerines.

Hamilton Academical 

After a stunning Play-off final win over Hibs, the Accies will be wanting to stay in the top flight for longer than one season. In their only competitive game they've played so far they beat Arbroath, 2-1, at home in the League Cup. Accies have signed four players including the re-signing of Dougie Imrie from Morton and the addition  of ex-Dundee United Goalkeeper Michael McGovern from Falkirk. The Accies look like one of the weaker teams in the Premiership but under the management of Alex Neil, believe they will avoid the drop.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Inverness look a lot weaker than last season and John Hughes had a woeful run at the end of the season, with only 2 wins in 12 games. The Highlanders lost 4 players and have not signed any as yet, Billy McKay looks like he will leave to League One Fleetwood Town. Despite winning all their friendlies I can't see them being top six. My prediction is for them to be fighting relegation, it depends if they lose Billy McKay.

Kilmarnock

After a tenth place last time out, Killie have lost their top scorer - Kris Boyd as well as Jeroen Tesselaar to St Mirren. They have signed Jamie Hamill from Hearts, who was arguably their best player last time out. Killie lack in money, fans and confidence. And for Allan Johnstone, the likelihood is that he will be the first manager to be sacked in the Premiership. My prediction is for Killie to finish in twelve place in the Premiership.

Motherwell

Manager Stuart McCall has had to rebuild his squad again for the third year in a row. The Well had sold Henri Anier to 2nd Tier German side Erzgebirge Aue for £300k as well as releasing James McFadden. They signed Josh Law from Alfreton Town as well as Lionel Ainsworth from Rotherham United.  In Europe they were woeful with a 5-4 aggregate defeat by Icelandic side UMF Stjarnan - a team much worse than Motherwell. My verdict is that the Well will finish 4th place in the league this season.

Partick Thistle

The Glasgow Jags will be looking to improve on their home form this season. They have bought Ryan Stevenson from Hearts and Abdul Osman from Crewe to try and replace Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Lee Mair. They look similar to last year and I believe that they will slightly improve on last years' result. In the League I can see Partick Thistle being 7th. 

Ross County

Ross County have signed 10 players from seven countries and have lost 5 players. The key signings of Joe Cardle on a one year contract from Raith and the loan signing of Filip Kiss, who was a fan favourite in the latter part of last season. Gary Glen and Alex Cooper were the notable exits from the Northern club. I think the staggies will be 9th this season and could possibly battle relegation.

St Johnstone

Saints were unlucky to get knocked out of Europe by Spartak Trnava. Their European run was very good but only when Stevie May was playing. Stevie May is going to be moving Sheffield Utd for £800k. The Perth Side have made no signings and don't look the will do so. In my opinion, Saints will be in the lower part of the top six this season, but I don't think they'll win silverware.

In Europe
2QSwitzerland FC Luzern1–1 (aet)1–12–2 (5–4 p.)
3QSlovakia Spartak Trnava1–21–12–3

St Mirren

Their kit maybe awful but they have already won silverware this season. They beat Morton 2-0, away in  the Renfrewshire Cup Final. Saints have signed 6 players and have sacked their manager in the close season. They have also lost Paul McGowan and Gary Harkins to Dundee as well as releasing Eric Djemba-Djemba. Under Tommy Craig and Gary Locke I think they will just about survive and they will be in the bottom six.


Table

  1. Celtic
  2. Dundee United
  3. Aberdeen
  4. Motherwell
  5. St Johnstone
  6. Dundee
  7. Partick Thistle
  8. Saint Mirren
  9. Ross County
  10. Hamilton Accies
  11. Inverness CT
  12. Kilmarnock

Championship

  1. Heart of Midlothian
  2. Hibernian
  3. Falkirk
  4. The Rangers
  5. Queen of the South
  6. Raith Rovers
  7. Dumbarton
  8. Livingston
  9. Alloa Athletic
  10. Cowdenbeath