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January 4, 2010

Old Rivals stun Old Trafford in FA Cup Giantkilling

For traditionalists, the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, when the teams from the top two divisions enter the draw for the first time, is one of English football’s most emblematic occasions. The history of the game is full of stories of ‘minnows’ from the lower echelons upsetting their supposed betters in the world’s best domestic cup competition.

This year’s 3rd Round, though, looked to be totally devoid of any such surprises – Liverpool being held to a draw at Championship Reading being the nearest to a real upset in the whole competition. That was until Sunday afternoon when, at Old Trafford, Manchester United were, fairly and squarely, dumped out of this season’s FA Cup by, of all people, Leeds United.

It’s fair to say that there’s not a lot of love lost between these two clubs from opposite sides of the Pennines. Along with Liverpool and Manchester City, Leeds are probably the team most United fans would like to beat. In recent years, Leeds’ decline from their once high position in the game has been dramatic but, under locally born manager Simon Grayson, this season they have finally looked as if they were heading back up the leagues again.

Their 1 – 0 victory, courtesy of a goal from much admired top scorer Jermaine Beckford, was a fair reflection overall. For Manchester United, this was the first time Sir Alex Ferguson has been knocked out of the competition at this stage in the whole of his career and this was their third home defeat in the last month.

Most of the other top clubs had fewer problems making it through to the next stage. Arsenal, a goal behind to West Ham’s Diamanti, needed late goals from man-of-the-match Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo and Everton struggled a little before finally finishing off plucky Carlisle 3 – 1. Chelsea, however, had no such problems, destroying Championship side Watford by five clear goals. The two goals scored by young Daniel Sturridge will have given the Blues great confidence in staying at the top despite Drogba being away at the African Nations Cup.

Spurs coasted home 4 – 0 against Peterborough, from the very bottom of the Championship, with Nico Kranjcar scoring twice and Defoe notching his customary goal. Fulham and Manchester City both won single goal encounters – against Swindon and Middlesbrough respectively. In one of the few ‘all premier league’ matches, Aston Villa eased past Blackburn 3 – 1, thanks to goals from teenager Nathan Delfounesca, Cuellar and a Carew penalty.

The draw for the 4th Round, in three weeks time, sees Leeds away at Spurs, Arsenal away at Stoke, Chelsea at Preston North End, Fulham at either Accrington Stanley or Gillingham, Manchester City at Scunthorpe with Villa at home to Gus Poyet’s Brighton, Everton against either Nottingham Forest or Birmingham and Liverpool, if they win their Reading replay next week, at home to Burnley.

La Liga

The biggest shock in La Liga’s 16th week was that none of the top three going into the fixtures managed a victory between them. Barcelona were held at home by Villarreal, despite Pedro scoring yet again to give them the lead. After Fuster equalised, Barcelona pressed for a winner but were very disappointing. This was all something of an anticlimax after the pre-match lap of honour with the 6 trophies won in 2009.

Real Madrid spent Sunday knowing that an emphatic victory at Osasuna could take them top of the table on Goal Difference but, in the end, they too had to be content with just one point in a very tame goalless draw.

And what has happened to Sevilla? Looking so strong just a few weeks ago, they are really struggling now and lost by the odd goal in three at a much better organised Atlético Madrid. Despite leading through a Renato goal, Sevilla eventually went down to an injury time Antonio López header.

All this meant that Valencia moved up into third place in the table – even though they themselves were far from convincing 1 – 0 winners over Espanyol, thanks to a Zigic header from a Joagúin cross. Mallorca’s 2 – 0 home victory over Athletic took them into the Champions League spots ahead of Sevilla.

The best goal of the day was perhaps the 89th minute volley from Ortiz Bernal which gave new Almería coach, Juanma Lillo, a victory against rock bottom Xerez, who were desperately unlucky not to have been given a penalty minutes before. In other games Sporting and Málaga drew 2 – 2, Racing defeated Tenerife 2 – 0, and the game between Zaragoza and Deportivo finished goalless.

After 16 games then, Barcelona lead the way with 40 points, followed by Real Madrid (38), Valencia (32), Mallorca and Seville (30) and Deportivo (28). At the bottom, Xerez still have 7 points with Málaga and Zaragoza both on 13. Next week’s big game sees on form Mallorca visiting the Bernabéu full of confidence.

Posted by admin @ 12:16 pm
Category: Premier League,Spanish League

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