Carling Cup, Leeds United and Womens' World Cup
Came across a number of moments of interest in the Carling Cup competition. Notably a sweet performance from Fernando Torres with a hat-trick, not just because he is a Liverpool player before anyone starts commenting negatively but of his handling in obtaining the goals admist the occurrences of sneaky misalignment of foot movement by Reading defenders Michael Duberry and Andre Bikey in pursuit of the ball but instead making contact with Torres' lower limbs. How the referee did not give the penalty for Liverpool was bewildering, much less how he allowed the mentioned misalignments.
James McFadden grabbed two and set up new Toffee man Aiyegbeni Yakubu at Hillsborough to overwhelm Sheffield Wednesday and I never understood why David Moyes hardly played McFadden. The player has skills and vision and complements the likes of Yakubu and Andrew Johnson almost in the same way as Mikel Arteta does. His goal for Scotland against France recently was a superb way to win a game much less a qualifier and I see his playing for Everton to be key to their season with the addition of Arteta when fit. Alongside Kris Boyd for Scotland, McFadden in such form can lead Scotland to the Euro2008 tournament too.
Man Utd fielded a completely changed side on Wednesday from that which won on Sunday, starting with six internationals in Tomasz Kuszczak, Jonny Evans, John O'Shea, Gerard Pique, Nani, Anderson and Dong Fangzhou, not to mention Chris Eagles who was loaned to Watford last season and has featured in the first team before. In front of more than 74,000 at Old Trafford, Utd were expected to parade up-n-coming players to shine but were outdone by two Michael Mifsud finishes. Wes Brown came on for the second half and Michael Carrick joined in some 11 minutes later with the score at 0-1. It was a surprise but congrats to Coventry City, they earned the scalp and proceed to the next round.
Leicester City were guests at Villa Park, the hosts featuring the much sought after Curtis Davies in his Villa debut, at home too. But the match saw Villa efforts thwarted and then the hosts going behind to a Matt Fryant effort underneath Stuart Taylor in the 74th minute. By his own admission, Davies said he was like "a pub team player", so disappointed was he in his performance. Having been on for 80mins before being replaced, Martin O'Neill must have thought differently. It is now about where Leicester go from Wednesday night. New boss Gary Megson has earned a Premier League team scalp too, away, so it will be interesting to see how Leicester take confidence from the result.
Where North London was concerned, my colleague T has written on his Gooners' showing on Tuesday, so that leaves that of Spurs. The is-it-isnt-it saga about Martin Jol being replaced continues, and so does he with his responsibilities, which include managing the team during games. Jol considered that Jermaine Defoe's efforts during the tie were not forthcoming enough and replaced him with Robbie Keane. Boos went around White Hart Lane as a result, YET Keane provided the touch within a minute or two of coming on for Gareth Bale, who rounded Brad Jones in goal and slotted in.
Inspirational substitution, no? Still worthy of Jol being booed? I don't think so. If the message was the fans were behind Jol, the boos fell way short of extending that message, so it was a good thing Keane was so influential so quickly, otherwise the knives would definitely be out for the Spurs manager. The message to Defoe is score every time you play and I expect he will get confidence from scoring to enhance his position.
A little mention about Leeds United. Well documented about their pre-season financial positioning and that within the FA, they have gone unbeaten with a 100% record since the beginning of the season. I hope they can do it, get promotion back into the Championship. If Juventus can do it, so can Leeds United.
Final mention goes to the Women's World Cup. Not the first time of watching women's football for me but I've followed the England team since the opening 2-2 draw with Japan, two superb freekicks from Japan's Aya Miyama in that opener. England went out to the USA team 0-3 in the quarter-finals, and the Americans featured yesterday afternoon in the semis against Brazil. I had the fortune to be able to watch the match from the second half and saw great playability from Brazil who tore into the 10 American players remaining after the sending off of Shannon Boxx, which was as unjust as the penalty decision at Anfield! Boxx was already on a yellow card but Brazil forward Christiane clipped onto the back of Boxx and both players fell. The referee then came over and stiffly raised a second yellow for Boxx. Christiane reacted by a clear clenched fist and a big grin which was definitely uncalled for and unsportsmanlike.
Brazil had already gone two goals ahead by then, as Formiga's corner caused panic and Leslie Osborne inexplicably nodded a low header into her own net. Then woman-of-the-match Marta cut inside from the right and slotted in from the edge of the box with veteran keeper Brianan Scurry getting two hands to the ball to no avail. Scurry was not first choice for the tournament and why she was selected ahead of the first choice Hope Solo, who had not conceded in the previous three games in the competition, is another baffling question. Coach Greg Ryan said Brazil's play meant the potentiality of plenty of shots and touches which he felt was more suited for Scurry to deal with. Sorry but Scurry was not looking credible enough for her selection.
The second 45mins it was pure Brazil. Maycon used the left wing as a landing strip every time she galloped down it to bring cross after cross into the box, Marta and Formiga used the left flank more and piled more pressure on the defence while Christiane waited in the box for the numerous passes that came her way. The third goal came courtesy of Formiga as she slotted a sweet slide-rule pass for Christiane to tee up and side-foot her goal. The USA put on Tina Ellertson to help reduce the attacks of Marta but the Brazilian forward left the USA defender with skills on two occasions. One, she did a 360-degree turn to feed Christiane to no avail but the second was where she received a pass from Formiga and then flicked it with the outside of her left foot around Ellertson and went the other way to collect. Ellertson tried to hold her up with a tug but Marta was already gone, dropping her shoulder to fool another defender as she entered the box and then fiercely striking the ball low with her weak right foot past Scurry.
The USA team had gone previously fifty-one games unbeaten. The Germans meet the Brazilians in the final, on Sunday at 1pm. The Americans face the Norwegians in the 3rd/4th place play-off also on Sunday at the earlier time of 10am. I note that when a tackle goes in on a player, there is no diving, no theatrics and players get up and get on with it. My goodness, how I would endorse the same in the mens' game.