zondag 20 november 2011

Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona yesterday.

Swansea City 0 - 1 Manchester City.

Early Chicharito strike keeps Red Devils within five points of leaders City

The Mexican star struck early against the Premier League new boys to give Sir Alex's Ferguson's men the spoils in a hard-fought encounter

Manchester United moved back to within five points of Premier League leaders Manchester City after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.

Javier Hernandez's 11th minute strike gave the visitors all three points, with the Mexican slotting home after Ryan Giggs played him clean through after Angel Rangel’s defensive error.
Swansea started in brave fashion in front of their home fans, opting for a 4-3-3 formation against the reigning champions, who welcomed Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs back to the starting line-up.
But just over 10 minutes into the game, Rangel saw his slack pass intercepted at the edge of his own area, allowing Giggs, playing for the first time in his home nation, to surge into the box and square for Chicharito, who calmly lifted his effort into the net from close-range.
It was a tense 90 minutes in Wales, with both sides carving out a host of chances early on. Scott Sinclair was guilty of the worst miss of the match when he allowed a cut-back to slip through his legs with the goal gaping in front of him, as the hosts squandered a glorious chance to equalise.
Swansea, who were defending an unbeaten home record in the league this season, pressed hard for a share of the spoils in the second half, with Danny Graham in particular looking a big threat to David de Gea’s goal.

But United’s rearguard, which saw Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand partnered together once more, held firm against the pressure from the Swans, and the visitors saw a handful of chances to make the points secure go begging towards the end.

Wayne Rooney came close with two efforts in quick succession and Nani curled an effort just wide of the far post after a late, twisting run.
With only one minute left on the clock, Phil Jones saw a rasping drive rattle against the post after a counter-attack which had displayed a quality of football largely lacking for much of the game.
While a second goal may have made Ferguson’s time on the touchline a little more comfortable, in the end, the clash was settled by Hernandez's early strike, with the Mexican showing just how crucial his clinical finishing could be to United's title chances this season.
The win keeps the Red Devils on the tailcoats of fierce rivals City, who had cemented their place at the top of the pile with a 3-1 win over Newcastle United earlier on Saturday.


Real win thriller in Valencia

Real Madrid went back on top of La Liga with a thrilling 3-2 win at fellow title-chasers Valencia.

Real win thriller - FOOTBALL - La Liga

After Barcelona’s 4-0 win at home to Real Zaragoza briefly put the defending champions top on goal difference - and with Los Che knowing a win would put them a point behind the Liga leaders - Madrid almost played the perfect tactical game as goals from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos put them 2-0 up.
Former Real striker Roberto Soldado pulled one back for the hosts soon after Ramos’s goal, but that was swiftly followed by yet another strike from Cristiano Ronaldo - his 14th in La Liga this season - after Valencia keeper Diego Alves went walkabout.
But the night was not done as Soldado snatched a poacher’s second, setting up a grandstand finale that saw Real hold on - just, as Aritz Aduritz fired straight at Iker Casillas, while Soldado had another sublime finish ruled out for offside and hit the bar in the final seconds.
The victory puts Madrid three points clear of Barca, with Valencia in third four points behind Jose Mourinho’s side.
Both sides set out a relatively defensive stall, with Valencia operating with lone ex-Madrid striker Roberto Soldado and the visitors throwing in Lassana Diarra to congest the midfield as Cristiano Ronaldo played more as a winger.
Having been told by boss Unai Emery to “stay at home until Monday” if they were not convinced they could beat Real, Los Che started brilliantly, attacking with vigour but kick off as Tino Costa smacked an effort just wide.
In reality though Valencia had left most of their creative players on the bench, with Aduriz, Pablo Piatti and Jonas - who scored twice for Brazil against Egypt - strangely absent, as if somehow they lacked the hunger for victory even if they did boast the ability.
Real regrouped quickly enough and, with Sami Khedira elected as the attacking element of the three-man central midfield, they started to get forward with regularity as the Germany international half-volleyed wide after a Xabi Alonso free-kick created havoc in the box.
Karim Benzema, preferred to Gonzalo Higuain as the lone striker, drilled a low shot just wide after Ronaldo’s diving header was blocked, while Khedira miscontrolled after Alonso played him through again, Real now in charge of proceedings.
And they took a deserved lead on 20 minutes, thanks to quick thinking from Alonso, who lobbed a free-kick from halfway for Benzema to chase: the France striker, who has scored seven Liga goals all at home this season, broke his away duck with a delicate flick-volley combination that rasped past Diego Alves and in.
Two minutes later Real thought they had doubled the lead when Benzema lashed a ferocious finish into the roof of the net, but the ex-Stuttgart midfielder had strayed offside, while Ronaldo - sporting an early-90s style ‘step’ haircut - had a shot deflected by David Albelda off the post and wide.
Ronaldo, until then relatively quiet by his strutting standards, was finding more space and should have doubled his side’s lead after a deft through-ball from Benzema sent him scuttling clear: Alves was equal to his finish, spreading himself to keep out the attempted chip.
There were no changes from Valencia at half-time but they again started well, with Jeremy Mathieu driving a wicked low ball across the face of ball that somehow flew through the lunging Soldado.
That was about it for a good 20 minutes though as the match descended into a fit of histrionics, diving, shoving and gamesman-type attempts to get players sent off, with Jordi Alba the main culprit as he repeatedly tried to con the unflappable referee into showing Mesut Ozil a second yellow.
Valencia were the greater irritant in that respect, although six of the eight yellow cards were shown to Real players.
The match seemed to be drifting into ennui but, on 72 minutes, a Madrid corner saw Ramos rise imperiously to power a header in off the post to put his team 2-0 up.
It also sparked the hosts into life, with Emery bringing on Pablo Hernandez, who immediately raced through to force a superb save from Casillas - his first of the night. It was in vain though as Soldado drilled home the rebound, showing exceptional technique to meet the spinning ball first-time and guide it through a sea of players from a tight angle.
Within four minutes the two-goal lead had been restored, thanks in part to Alves’s rush of blood but also the brilliance of Ronaldo: the Brazil keeper raced out to clear a loose ball, losing out to Ronaldo who controlled an dragged in the finish from a tight angle.
But Valencia came back again and Soldado again put in a masterful finish, flicking the ball across Casillas and in after a clever low ball from Pablo.
It was 3-2 with seven minutes left and Los Che threw everything at Real to find a leveller, Soldado having one disallowed for offside - a shame for the purist as it was a wonderful first-time finish - and Aduriz firing straight at Casillas with Mathieu begging for the pass.
It was kitchen sink time and the real drama came in the fifth minute of stoppage time as Tino’s corner was rattled against the bar by Soldado, with Ronaldo blocking the rebound on the line with his chest.
Convinced it was a handball, Valencia surrounded the referee both then and seconds later at the final whistle, but it appeared to strike the former World Player of the Year on the chest and Madrid clung on for a superb victory.

Barcelona's Gerard Pique after 4-0 win over Real Zaragoza: We must continue picking up three points each week

The champions' stopper has emphasised the importance of maintaining their winning run, to give themselves the best chance of catching up with Real Madrid at the summit of La Liga

Following Barcelona's 4-0 victory over Real Zaragoza on Saturday, defender Gerard Piquesays it is imperative that his side carry on picking up points to keep up the pressure on Primera Division rivals Real Madrid.

The former Manchester United man scored the opening goal in what proved to be a convincing win for the Blaugrana, and he wants to see their ruthless streak sustained for the rest of the season.

"There are the games where the ball can be taken advantage of, especially when we have rivals closeby," Pique said after the match according to AS. "Today we have begun pressuring more and we have created more chances."

Pique then proceeded to discuss their forthcoming fixtures, which sees them travel to AC Milan in the Champions League, and Real Madrid in the first El Clasico of the season in the league, but is confident that they can come through unscathed.

"It is a complicated month, with many important games in the league such as against Real Madrid, and we want to stay top of our Champions League group," he continued. "But we have the quality to overcome it."

However, when quizzed on what he felt would be the outcome of Jose Mourinho's side's clash with Valencia, the 24-year-old preferred to put the onus back onto his team.

"We have to focus on ourselves and keep on adding three [points] out of three, because there will come a time when every game is like a final."

Barcelona temporarily go top of La Liga, but await Real's result with Valencia.


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