Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend Action from the EPL and the FA Cup

Action from the weekend includes FA Cup and English Premier League match reviews. Fernando Torres' goal drought is lifted as he nets two against Leicester in the FA Cup. Manchester United sit at the top of the table but City are hot on their heels and have a game in hand. Liverpool look to be back in winning form as they defeat Stoke 2-1 in FA Cup action and the latest news on Fabrice Muamba following his unfortunate incident at White Heart Lane. 

Saturday March 17, 2012
FA Cup:
Despite pushing for goal, Everton will face off against
Sunderland again for ta spot at Wembley.
Everton 1-1 Sunderland: “It will be difficult. They play at home so they’ll have the home crowd. But I’m sure the away end will be packed with Everton fans and they can make a lot of noise.” Everton defender John Heitinga told Everton’s official website following his side’s 1-1 home draw with Sunderland in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. The two sides were evenly matched as they faced off in Goodison Park to vie for a spot in the semi finals of the FA Cup.
Referee Andre Mariner sparked controversy right off the mark in the first half when he ignored Everton player Drenthe’s appeal for a penalty kick. Film review showed that the loaned midfielder was in fact fouled by Gardner just inside the box, but play was continued and the home side were forced to search for their own goal. Sunderland would be the ones to find the breakthrough as Bardsley slammed a free kick low and hard past Tim Howard in the twelfth minute of play. Everton, who are coming off of a painful defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby in the midweek fixtures, were not about to see another defeat, especially when victory would mean a possible rematch against their rivals if Liverpool were able to pull off a home win against Stoke the next day. Everton put themselves level just eleven minutes later when veteran Tim Cahill put a header right into the back of the net after the ball came off of the head of teammate Jelavic.
The score line would remain at 1-1 for the entire second half as both sides struggled to find the winner, bombarding both Howard of Everton and Mignolet of Sunderland with shots. A Drenthe free kick would kiss the crossbar near the end of the first half and Everton continued to push for a winning goal but the fixture would end in a tie and a rescheduled match on March 27th to see who goes on to play Liverpool in the semi finals at Wembley.
Fulham 0-3 Swansea: Swansea City earned themselves a great away win against Fulham, who were surely hoping to get themselves back into their winning form after a stoppage time defeat to Aston Villa last weekend.
Swansea dominated the match with 60% of possession, using their stylish passing to work their way around the Fulham players and penetrate their defense. Although both sides had an equal number of shots, seven on target, Swansea were able to make them count. Sigurdsson netted Swansea’s first of the match and his first of two in the 36th minute with a header past Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer. Swansea had the 1-0 lead at halftime.
From the start of the second half, Swansea were back to dominating the match. Fulham were able to hold off the visiting side until the 66th minute when Sigurdsson hit his second of the match past Schwarzer and gave Swansea the 2-0 lead. Allen netted one for the visitors as well in the 78th minute to secure them the three points and maintain their league position in 8th place, just three points behind Liverpool. Fulham remain in the four-way pile up at the middle of the table in 11th place with 36 points.
Wigan 1-1 West Brom: Wigan add yet another tie and another point to their 22 points that keep them fixed in the relegation zone. They were lifted from the bottom of the table thanks to Manchester United’s 5-0 defeat of Wolverhampton on Sunday but they still face the threat of relegation. West Brom are sitting in 12th place amidst the four-way 36 point tie.
The home side dominated the match, holding 56% of possession and shooting six times on target to the two on-target attempts from the visitors. They were also given the opportunity to score from thirteen corner kicks to attempt to further their lead from McArthur’s goal in the 54th minute. At this point, Wigan had already hit the crossbar twice and were clearly the dominant force in the fixture, but West Brom would be able to take advantage of their two attempts on target when Scharner scored for the visitors in the 65th minute.
The match was very much Wigan’s to lose, and in a sense they did. West Brom had many attempts early on, but it was mostly the home side that created the most opportunities. Wigan are just unable to convert those chances into goals. Four of their next five fixtures are against the “Big Four” clubs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea so Wigan’s chances to earn points are dwindling.
Sunday March 18, 2012
FA Cup:
Tottenham 1-1 Bolton: Tottenham and Bolton’s fixture at White Heart Lane was called off by referee Howard Webb following the collapse of Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba.
In the 41st minute, the two sides tied 1-1, Muamba collapsed for no apparent reason and didn’t move. Players rushed to his side and medics were immediately called onto the pitch, their swift action later proving to be pivotal in Muamba’s chances of survival. Muamba was not breathing and doctors took six minutes to attempt to resuscitate him on the pitch but resorted to taking him off of the field, still pumping his chest as they carried him to an ambulance. Howard Webb, after consulting with Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp and captain Scott Parker and Bolton manager Owen Coyle and captain Kevin Davies, the match was abandoned and will be played out at a later time.
Muamba was taken to the Heart Attack Center at a local North London hospital and doctors were able to get him breathing after an exhausting two hour battle. Hours after the incident, Bolton Wanderers released an official statement declaring Muamba to be in a “critically ill condition”. This morning, the website was happy to announce good news for the footballing world: “Fabrice Muamba remains in intensive care at The London Chest Hospital. He is continuing to show signs of improvement this evening. He is currently able to breathe independently without the aid of a ventilator. He has also been able to recognize family members and respond to questions appropriately.”
Tottenham’s home fixture against Stoke City will be played out as scheduled.
Chelsea 5-2 Leicester: Fernando Torres found the back of the net after going 1541 minutes spanning a five month period without scoring a single goal. Although he has been an affective player for Chelsea, racking in assist after assist, the prolific striker was seemingly under a curse as he struggled to find form for Chelsea after transferring to the North London side from heated rivals Liverpool.
Chelsea were favored to bring in a good result against the Championship side Leicester, and that they did. The first goal of five came just twelve minutes into the match from Gary Cahill, who saluted his former Bolton teammate Fabrice Muamba by printing “Pray 4 Muamba” on his under armor. Saloman Kalou made it two just six minutes later as the Premier League club asserted their dominance in the early minutes of the match.
The score was 2-0 to Chelsea at the half, but no one would guess who scored the first goal of the second half in the 67th minute. Torres’ first goal and the goal to end the drought was a dramatically slow tap-in that crept ever-so-slowly past the outstretched arms of Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel. His second was a well-placed header off of a corner kick and into the back of the visitor’s net in the 85th minute, finishing off the visiting side and giving Chelsea the 4-1 lead after Jermaine Beckford scored for Leicester in the 78th minute. Marshall scored a second goal for Leicester in the final moments of regulation time, sending a brilliant shot from outside the box curving past Petr Cech but his final efforts would be in vain as Raul Meireles scored in the first minute of stoppage time to ice Chelsea’s FA Cup cake and secure the 5-2 win.
King Kenny's men march on
Liverpool 2-1 Stoke: Liverpool are rolling again after a rough patch. They were able to ride off of the victory against local rivals Everton FC in league play by defeating Stoke City at Anfield and securing themselves a place in the semi-finals and a potential rematch against Everton at Wembley if the other team in Merseyside can defeat Sunderland in their FA Cup rematch on March 27th.
The first goal for the struggling home side in the 23rd minute was a fabulous strike from the controversial striker Luis Suarez who got a shot off and placed into the bottom corner despite being surrounded by Stoke defenders. Stoke would equalize just three minutes later with a powerful header from former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch. Reds keeper Pepe Reina appeared to argue that he was being shielded by a Stoke player, but the goal was left to stand. Many will argue that the goal was the fault of Liverpool striker Andy Carroll, who failed to mark Crouch as he made his run into the box and towards the cross. Despite a few more attempts from both sides, the score stood at 1-1 when the halftime whistle blew.
Liverpool came into the second half dominating after the two sides seemed evenly matched in the first 45 minutes of play. The home side made plenty of chances for themselves but Stoke were soon threatening their net as well, forcing action from the Liverpool defense. The breakthrough for Liverpool finally came in the 57th minute and in the form of another sweet strike, this time from midfielder Stuart Downing who curled his shot around Stoke’s keeper and into the back of the net. Downing was thrilled with his contribution to the victory, telling, “I’m absolutely delighted. It was a tough game, but the main thing is that we got through. Now we have another trip to Wembly.”
Liverpool will hope that the FA Cup will be the second trophy for them to add to their cabinet after the won the FA Cup in February.
Newcastle 1-0 Norwich: Norwich City paid a visit to Northern England with hopes of producing a good result to lift them from the bottom of the four-way tie in the middle of the table. Unable to produce points, Norwich still sit in 13th place with 36 points, tied with 11th and 12th place teams Fulham and West Brom and 14th place side Stoke City. Newcastle are in the final European spot in 6th place with 47 points.
Newcastle would be the side to claim the points after Cisse found the back of the net with just 11 minutes gone in the match. Cisse, who is relatively new to the Newcastle side after signing with them in the January transfer window told Newcastle’s official website: “It was a great win against Norwich. We didn’t play as well as we can do, but it was important that we got all three points- that was all that mattered.”
 Newcastle didn’t fail to threaten the goal for the remainder of the match, shooting ten times on target and five times wide. They held 52% of possession but their dominance was not obvious, as play was continuously broken up by the Norwich defense. The visiting side conceded fifteen fouls as they tried to hold off the Newcastle attack and create chances for themselves. Three Norwich players saw yellow in the full ninety minutes.
Wolves 0-5 Manchester United: Manchester United continue to sit at the top of the table after overtaking city rivals Manchester City when they failed to produce a win against Swansea City. United have an unblemished win streak in their last five matches in the Barclay’s Premier League but they must tread carefully now; after being eliminated from the EUROPA League in midweek play, they must now focus on the Premier League since it is their only chance to earn silverware this year.
The visiting side dominated the match, holding 59% of possession and taking a total of 18 on target shots. They immediately began pressing the Wolves defense, earning themselves seven corner kicks in the entire match. United’s first goal and 100th goal in all competitions this campaign came in the 21st minute from center back Johnny Evans, who found the back of the net for the first time in his United career. Evans was left unmarked in the Wolves box and put the cross right past the helpless goalkeeper Hennessey. By the 40th minute, Wolves were already down to ten men after Zubar received his second yellow in the 39th minute and was given marching orders. Manchester United took advantage of the fractured defense and Antonio Valencia made it 2-0 in the 43rd minute. Danny Welbeck added another goal in stoppage time of the first half and the score at halftime was 3-0 United.
Expectedly, Manchester United dominated the second half as well, even more so as Wolves struggled to fill up the gaps caused by being short a man. The managed to hold off the visitors until Chicharito scored a free header from the middle of the box where he stood unmarked. There was so little pressure on the Mexican striker that he didn’t even need to leave the ground as he headed the ball into the back of the net. Five minutes later a cheeky back heel pass from Welbeck to Valencia set up the cross and Chicharito slammed the shot past Hennessey and made the score line 5-0 in United’s favor. The visitors continued to press, but the scattered defense of the home team managed to hold them off and deny them a few more good looks at goal.
For now, Manchester United are at the top of the table, but Manchester City now have a game in hand. The final decision may ultimately come down to goal difference, and if that is the case than City would be the victors, as they have conceded seven goals less than United.

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