The London Olympic Games Day 13 – The Stadium of Dreams

Results and Highlights from Day 13 at The London Olympic Games 2012

Another sensational night in the London Olympic stadium. This games just keeps on delivering. What more could we ask for? A World Record in the Men’s 800 Metres and Usain Bolt completing the double double by winning the 200 Metres.

David Rudisha of Kenya was the out and out favourite for the 800 Metres Gold medal. There was good reason for that. He led the final from start to finish and while the battle was going on for the minor placings Rudisha crossed the line well ahead of the chasing field in a new World Record. But the following field were not slouching either, every one of them ran a new personal best or created a new national record. The 800 metres at the London Olympics will be long remembered.

The semi-finals of the Women’s 4 x 100 relay followed. The Americans blitzed the first heat, even though they rested their star sprinters. The Jamaicans came in second in the second semi, marginally behind Ukraine. They had a dodgy changeover on the third leg and also have some speedsters to bring in for the final. The Gold will probably be fought out between the USA and Jamaica, but do not discount Ukraine or Trinidad and Tobago.

There was more success for Jamaica in the 200 Metres final. Usain Bolt got away fast and ran a great bend to go into the straight in front of the field. He of course increased his lead, only to do his traditional slow down at the line. Yohan Blake was once again right behind him and Warren Weircame in third for a Jamaican clean sweep of the medals. The strength of Jamaica in sprinting is astounding for a tiny island nation with a population of less than 3 million people.

Usain Bolt and his compatriots celebrated hard again. This time Bolt even turned the tables on the press photographers, borrowing a camera from one of them and taking their photograph, as well as more of the crowd and fellow medal winners. Apart from being the world’s greatest sprinter, he is also one its biggest showman, which is why the crowds flock to the stadium whenever he runs.

Three other athletics medals were decided on day 13. Christian Taylor of the USA won the Men’s Triple Jump and Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic won the Women’s JavelinAshton Eaton of the USA won the Decathlon, ahead of countryman Trey Hardee, but it is those track events that are worth bottling.

The Women’s Football (Soccer) competition was finalized with USA winning the Gold by beating Japan 2-1 Canada claimed the Bronze with a 1-0 win over France. By now we were getting a little tired of hearing the US anthem.

Great Britain claimed three more Gold medals on day 13. Jade Jones won the Women’s 57Kg category in Taekwondo and Charlotte Dujardin won the Individual DressageNicola Adams made history by winning the first ever Olympic Boxing medal for women, in the Flyweight division.

In Kayaking Australia‘s Men’s K4 1000m crew of Tate Smith, David Smith, Murray Stewart and Jake Clear won GoldAustralia’s 6th of these games which brought them into the top ten on the medal table.

But Aussie fortunes were not so good elsewhere with the Opals losing the Women’s Basketballsemi-final to the USA 86-73. They will now play Russia for the Bronze medal. The Men’s Hockeyteam the Kookaburras, bowed out their semi-final losing 4-2 to Germany. In Women’s Water Polo Australia won the Bronze medal beating Hungary in the play off. The USA won the Gold medal beating Spain 8-5 in the final.

The London Olympics Day 8 – The Great British Gold Rush

Highlights and Results from Day 8 of The London Olympics 2012

Day 8 the second Saturday of the London Olympics proved to be the best Olympic day for Great Britain ever. Jessica Ennis fulfilled her promise, winning the 800M final event of the Heptathlon in front of a packed stadium of 80,000 people and who knows how many millions on TV. The pressure on Ennis had been immense, being the face of the games, appearing on billboards and screens all over the country and abroad. But she never let it affect her and delivered in all 7 events.

Sometimes the final leg of the multi discipline events can be an anti climax, with the winner of the whole event finishing down the field in the last race. But Jessica’s sense of the occasion never let anyone down. She led the 800 metres from the start, but was over taken at about 500 metres by three or four hopefuls, Ennis fought back on the final bend and overtook them all to a cheering crowd and delivered all the drama that her triumph deserved.

Jessica Ennis was rumoured to be the most heavily sponsored athlete going into these games, well I am betting she will be plagued with endorsement requests from here in. You are going to see a lot more of this young lady’s face and highly toned frame in the future.

One place I am hoping that we do not see it is in the 100 metres hurdles on Monday. There is talk of her backing up in the individual event that she started the Heptathlon with so well. But I would hate to see anything wreck the fairytale ending, should she not win and I would also like to see Sally Pearson of Australia get her moment in the sun, winning the event she has dominated and trained so hard for in recent years.

Following Ennis’s win on the track, next up was Britain‘s other great medal hope Mo Farah he was also an almost unbackable favourite to win the 10,000 metres. But it was never going to be easy, being up against the Kenyans and other Africans who have ruled this event for so long. But they seemed to run the wrong race, not going out fast enough to negate Farah’s renowned fast finish. And Mo ran his own tactics perfectly, streaking into the lead on the last lap. His American training partner Galen Rupp of the USA was right behind him and the Kenyans Tariku and Kenenisa Bekele came in third and fourth.

Meanwhile in the same stadium Greg Rutherford was earning Great Britain’s third Gold medal of the evening in the long jump. He leapt to victory with a jump of 8.31 metres ahead of Mitchell Wattof Australia and Will Claye of the USA.

All this British Gold overshadowed the final event of the night and one that normally takes the headlines, the women’s 100 MetresJamaican Shelley-Ann Fraser-Price successfully defended her Beijing title, beating out Carmelita Jeter of the USA, who led in the first 50. Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica came in third. It was a great race, but way too many hyphens for my liking.

Prior to the Brits lighting up the stadium with Gold, their countryman had already picked up 3 Goldmedals in the Velodrome and in their boats. Great Britain won Gold in the Women’s team Pursuitand set a new world record on the way. The USA and Canada claimed Silver and BronzeAustraliaand New Zealand came in fourth and fifth.

In Rowing Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hoskingwon the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls and Great Britain picked up their fourth straight Olympic Gold in the Men’s Coxless Four just beating Australia in a thrilling race.

In the last night at the pool Michael Phelps ended his Olympic career in style, with Gold in the 4 x 100M Medley. The USA finished almost 2 seconds in front of Japan and Australia who collected the Silver and BronzeJames Magnusson swam a great anchor leg for Australia, which will hopefully silence his critics.

The US Women were also clear winners in the Women’s 4 x 100M Medley. Again almost 2 seconds clear of the place getters, but the position were reversed from the Men’s event with Australia collecting Silver and Japan the Bronze. So Liesel Jones finishes her Olympic career with medal too.

The Brits did not have it all their way on super Saturday. Their Men’s Football team crashed out of the tournament losing in a penalty shoot out to South Korea, after finishing 1-1 after extra time. This followed the Women’s 2-0 loss to Canada on Friday. In Basketball Australia beat Great Britainconvincingly 106-75. This game followed the American Dream Team’s narrow win over Lithuania99-94.

But all that Gold saw Great Britain finish the day third on the medal table, with only China and the USA in front of them. Australia are sitting 19th after their most disappointing week in the pool in recent memory.

Whatever day 9 holds, it will be hard to pass the glory and drama of day 8, especially if you areBritish. But the Olympics will always have something to surprise and delight.

The London Olympics Day 5 – Great Britain Win First Gold

Highlights and results of Day 5 of The London Olympics 2012

On the fifth day of the London Olympics host nation Great Britain won their first Gold medals. Women’s Rowing Pair Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were not only GB’s first London Gold medallists, but also the first ever British women to win a rowing event. They led their final from the start and appeared to keep putting distance between them and the opposition. There was a little tiring towards the end of the race when the followers gained some ground, if you can do that in the water, but the British girls still finished almost 3 seconds ahead of second placed AustraliaNew Zealand came in third for an all Commonwealth sweep of the medals.

Shortly afterwards the Men’s 8 took to the water. The German crew were firm favourites for Gold. But the British eight pushed them all of the way and even led for some brief moments. But all that effort told in the final stages and Canada passed Great Britain to win Silver, the British held on for Bronze.

Across the country Bradley Wiggins, this years Tour de France winner, was fighting out the Individual Cycling Time Trial and leading by some distance. He finished 2 seconds ahead of German Tony Martin. Fellow Brit Christopher Froome secured the Bronze medal. This was far from Wiggins first Olympic medal he is the most successful British athlete and Olympic cyclist of all-time with seven Olympic medals, including four Gold medals. He began his career on the track, but has made the transition to road cycling, becoming one of the few cyclists to gain success in both disciplines. But Great Britain can not lay sole claim to Wiggins, he was born in Ghent Belgium to an English mother and Australian Father, who was an endurance cyclist. But do not expect the Britsto be sharing his success.

It was another busy night in the pool with four Swimming medals decided. Great Britain almost picked up their third Gold of the day in the first of those.

The Men’s 200M BreaststrokeMichael Jamieson was gaining on Gold medallist and new world record holder Daniel Gyurta, from Hungary, at the end of the race and had there been a few more metres would have won. Jamieson finished only 0.15 seconds behind Gyurta and 0.12 behind the previous record. Japan in the form of Ryo Tateishi picked up yet another Swimming Bronze.

The Women’s 200M Butterfly final did not feature an Australian for the first time in many years. Liuyang Jiao of China won Gold, in a new Olympic record, Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain Silver and surprise, surprise Natsumi Hoshi of, you guessed it, Japan Bronze.

The Men’s 100M Freestyle featured Australian favourite and Goldmedal hope James Magnussen. As always, it was a very close event with only 0.92 separating first and 8th. Magnussen appeared to have delivered the Gold, but was actually beaten on the touch by an agonising 0.01 of a second by Nathan Adrian of the USABrent Hayden of Canada came in third.

The final event of the evening was the Women’s 4 x 200M Freestyle Relay. Having won the 4 x 100M event Australia were going for the double. It was a close battle between Australia and the USAAlicia Coutts entered the water with a lead on the final leg, but Allison Schmitt swam a brilliant anchor for the USA and they finished with the Gold and a new Olympic record. Francecame in third some distance behind. Great Britain placed a commendable 5th.

In the Men’s Football, Great Britain secured a 1-0 win over a Uruguay side that featured Liverpoolstar striker Luis Suarez. Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal of the game for GB to finish top of Group A. They now face South Korea in the quarter final knock out stage at the Millenium Stadiumin Cardiff on Saturday.

The controversial news of the day was that 8 women were disqualified from the Badminton doubles competition for “not using one’s best efforts to win”. The competitors from South Korea, China and Indonesia appeared to be trying to lose their games in order to secure an easier opponent in the next round.

As a result of the days events Great Britain finished the day in 11th position on the medal table. Australia dropped out of the top ten for the first time at these games. The USA remains second, some distance behind the leaders China.

The London Olympics Day 4 Michael Phelps Breaks the Record for Olympic Medals

The London Olympics Day 4 Results and Highlights

Although Michael Phelps may be past his 8 Gold medal haul of Beijing four years ago, he managed to put himself in the record books once again yesterday. He picked up two medals to take his Olympic hoard up to 19. More Olympic medals than any other athlete has ever won. Phelps was narrowly beaten in the Men’s 200M Butterfly. Looking for all the world like he had it won, his final stroke left him short of the wall and as he coasted in Chad le Clos of South Africa touched before him, taking the Gold, five hundredths of a second in front of PhelpsTakeshi Matsuda of Japanpicked up the Bronze, which is becoming a regular habit for Japanese swimmers at this Olympics.

An hour later Phelps was back in the pool with his team mates for the 4 x 200M Freestyle final. The Americans pretty much dominated the event from start to finish. Both the British and Australian teams featured in the medal positions for parts of the race, but by the time Phelps hit the water, in the anchor leg, there was little doubt who would take the Gold. Team USAfinished over three seconds ahead of second placed France, China came in third.

Love him or hate him, no one can deny Michael Phelps work ethic and self belief. He believes that anyone can do anything that they put their mind to and even his 19 medal total can be beaten. He even hopes to add more medals to his stash before he leaves London.

The American Women were not to be denied either, Allison Schmitt won the 200M Freestyle in a new Olympic record of 1:53.61 Camille Muffatt of France claimed Silver and Bronte Barratt of Australia the Bronze.

Australian golden girl of the pool, Stephanie Rice, looked like she would add to her Beijing medal haul for most of the 200M Individual Medley final. But she was beaten to the medals by Shiwen Yeof China, Alicia Coutts of Australia and Caitlin Leverenz of the USABritish girl Hannah Mileycame in 7th.

In the Basketball both Australia and Great Britain were in action and both slipped to defeats. Australia were beaten 82-70 by second favourites Spain, while Great Britain went down 67-62 to Brazil. The British looked competitive, but they were always playing catch up and missed a lot of seemingly straightforward shots that would have given them the win. Russia secured a resounding win over China 73-54

The Boxing competition is still in its early stages (round of 32) and the seeded fighters have not yet joined the contest. But there have been some very competitive bouts, especially in the lower weight divisions. Boxers from Thailand and Kazakhstan have put in some very commendable performances.

Equestrian has never really been my thing. Personally I think the horses should get the medals, they do all the running and jumping, the jockeys just steer and sit back for the ride. But the medals were decided in the 3 Day Event with Germany taking Gold in the team event, Great Britain, Silver and New Zealand, Bronze. The story is most newsworthy because Zara Phillips, the Queen’s Granddaughter, is a member of the British Team and the first member of the Royal Family to win an Olympic medal. Although her Father (a commoner) also won Silver in the same event in 1972 and 1988 and her Mother, Princess Anne, was also an Olympian in 1976 but did not feature in the medals. But she has enough Gold and Silver of her own.

Zara Phillips came in 8th in the individual competition, which was won by Michael Jung of GermanyAustralia’s highest finisher was Andrew Hoy at 13th competing in his seventh Olympic games at 53. It doesn’t say how old his horse is.

In Women’s Football, Great Britain faced Brazil and beat them 1-0. Stephanie Houghton scored the goal in the second minute of the match.

The Hokeyroos, Australia’s Women’s Hockey team beat Germany 3-1 recovering from their 1-0 loss to New Zealand in their first game. Great Britain had their second win beating South Korea 5-3

Great Britain and Australia faced each other in the Men’s Volleyball with the Australians winning 3 sets to nil.

In Water Polo the Australian Men made a comeback after their defeat to Italy beating Kazakhstan7-4 While Great Britain went down by a devastating 21-7 to Serbia.

Another busy day ahead in London awaits.

Arsenal Make Room At The Top Of The Premier League

Victory over Norwich Takes Arsenal Two Points Clear

Arsenal took advantage of Liverpool’s earlier draw at Newcastle to go two points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday, with a great performance against a tenacious Norwich City.

The home fixture against the Canaries extended Arsenal’s unbeaten run to twelve games, with one of their best performances of the season so far.

Arsenal dominated the opening 20 minutes and secured the lead, with potentially one of the goals of the season, in the 18th minute. Jack Willshire started and finished the move, which began on the edge of Arsenal’s 18 yard box and culminated with a spectacular finish involving Willshire, Giroudand Cazorla.

Shortly after the goal there was a head clash between Mathieu Flamini and Alexander TetteyFlamini insisted on continuing, despite complaints from the medical staff. But moments later he withdrew suffering with double vision.

Flamini was replaced by Aaron Ramsey, who was being rested on the bench in preparation for Tuesday’s Champions League fixture against Borussia Dortmund. The substitution saw a change in the flow of the game and Norwich entered a long period of ascendancy, lasting the remainder of the first half and early into the second.

But against the flow and against the normal formula for Arsenal goals, Olivier Giroud supplied a superb cross for Mesut Özil to head in, giving Arsenal a 2-0 lead and Arsenal fans in the stadium much needed relief.

Norwich however did not lie down, they continued to pressure and pulled one back through Jonny Howson, who hit Martin Olsson’s cross low into the corner of the Arsenal net.

In commentary Trevor Francis reported that he saw Arsene Wenger saying that he wanted to take off Özil, but he could not now, with only a one goal cushion.

The man that Wenger started off resting came to his rescue. Ramsey put Arsenal back in front with a goal equally as spectacular as Willshire’s first. But, where Willshire’s goal was a great team effort, this one was all down to Aaron Ramsey.

Ramsey swayed and shimmied around the Norwich defence, leaving defenders lying on the floor and finished with a close range shot that gave goalkeeper Ruddy no chance.

For the final nail in Norwich’s coffin, Europe’s number one goal assist man, Mesut Özil, once again became the scorer, with who else but Aaron Ramsey providing the assist.

Final score 4-1 to the Arsenal.

On this sort of form Arsenal can beat anyone. They have undoubtedly the best midfield in the Premier League and more in reserve. Tomas Rosicky came off the bench to replace Cazorla, in his first game back from injury and Theo WalcottAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolskicannot be far off of a return.

Bring on Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

While Liverpool slipped back behind ArsenalChelsea stayed in pursuit with a 4-1 win over Cardiff. But manager Jose Mourinho was once again sent to the stands, for complaining too often and too loudly to the officials.

Manchester City also had a good win, 1-3 away at West Ham, but Manchester United dropped points, managing only a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton and continue to languish in an unfamiliar 8th position in the League.

Arsenal Break Transfer Fee Record For Mesut Ozil

Germany and Real Madrid Star Joins The Gunners

Arsenal have broken their record transfer fee to bring German international Mesut Ozil to the Gunners from Real Madrid.

The German playmaker was the biggest signing on the final day of the (Northern) Summer transfer window, eclipsing news of Gareth Bale’s move to Real Madrid from Spurs, which was confirmed the day before.

Arsenal have completed the £42.4m signing of Real Madrid and Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil to break their club record by £27.4m.

Ozil, 24, has signed a five-year deal.

“I am thrilled to be joining a club of the stature of Arsenal and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League,” he said.

The Gunners have also signed Palermo goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, 27, but talks have broken down with Chelsea to sign striker Demba Ba, 28, on loan.

“It will be great for my own personal development as a player and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsene Wenger,” Ozil told

“From our negotiations it is clear the club has huge ambition and I look forward to being part of an exciting future.”

Arsenal have failed in high-profile attempts to sign Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain, a former team-mate of Ozil at Real Madrid, this summer.

But they have now captured Ozil after Gareth Bale’s world-record £85.3m switch from Tottenham to Real triggered further deals on the final day of the transfer window.

The move easily surpasses the £15m they paid Zenit St Petersburg for Andrey Arshavin in 2009.

Arsenal manager Wenger said: “He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.

“I have said throughout the summer that we have been working hard to bring in top quality players to this football club.

“This has involved many many people across the club and I have always had the full support of the club in making decisions on the football side.”

Germany international Ozil joined Real from Werder Bremen three years ago for a fee believed to be about £12.4m and has played 155 times for the club.

Going into transfer deadline day, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had previously made only two signings – striker Yaya Sanogo, 20, and midfielder Mathieu Flamini, 29, arriving on free transfers.

But the signing of Ozil, who helped Real win La Liga in 2011-12 and was named in Uefa’s team of the tournament at Euro 2012, delivers a signal of intent to the Gunners’ Premier League rivals.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: “This is an exciting day for all of us. We have signed a world-class player who is one of Europe’s brightest young talents.

“Mr Kroenke, our controlling owner, has always fully supported Arsene and the club in making significant investments to strengthen our squad and to bring in talented players who fit our style and ambitions.

“Like all of us, Mr Kroenke wants to see Arsenal winning titles and trophies and he has absolute faith and belief in our manager to achieve that. We will continue to work towards that goal and look forward to an exciting season.”

There is no doubt that this is landmark capture for the club and probably gives Arsenal the strongest midfield in the Premiership, possibly the whole of Europe. Ozil provided a phenomenal amount of goal assists at Real Madrid and no doubt will bring that to Arsenal. But I can not help thinking that Arsene Wenger has failed to strengthen where it is most needed.

It’s great that he has brought in a new Goal Keeper. As good as Szczesny and Fabianski are at stopping shots, they are both prone to making poor decisions and mistakes that lead to goals. I know little about Emiliano Viviano, but hopefully the competition between the three will see Arsenaldevelop the reliable keeper that they require.

However, no one has been brought in to fill the vulnerable and under manned central defensive positions. We now have only three recognised players to cover the two positions and one of those, Vermaelen, is already unfit to play.

Admittedly Bacary Sagna has done well when he has covered that role and Carl Jenkinson has deputised for him at right back. But we can only hope that injuries and suspensions are kept to a minimum in that area, until the January window when Wenger can go shopping again.

Arsenal’s next match is away to Sunderland on Saturday 14th September. There is no Premier League football this weekend, due to international World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Arsenal’s Pre-Season Form Disappears on Opening Day

Arsenal Lose to Villa and to Injuries.

Arsenal’s impressive pre-season form did not last long on the opening day of the Premier League. After taking an early lead through Olivier Giroud, who was fed a great ball by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, things went downhill very quickly.

Pre-season Arsenal had a successful tour of Asia, where they won every game and culminated with a win over Manchester City in Finland, the week before the season got underway. The more optimistic of us Arsenal fans saw this as a good sign for the coming season, despite the lack of spending, with only one new acquisition, Yaya Sanogo a 20 year old forward.

Fans have been crying out for Arsenal to clear out the deadwood and it was done wholesale in the off season, with 21 players either sold or loaned out. But this was where things started to go wrong. These players were released before adequate cover had been brought in. This took its toll immediately on the first day of the season. Arguably Arsenal’s most reliable mid-fielder, Mikel Arteta, was injured in training and faces up to 6 weeks out with a thigh injury. Thomas Vermaelen and Nacho Monreal both have back problems, leaving the side with no cover at left back or at the centre of the defence. Those holes were soon opened up in the Villa clash.

Kieran Gibbs was injured and Sagna was forced to cover the left back position, while Jenkinsontook his place on the right. When Sagna was later injured himself he was replaced by Lukas Podolski, because he was the only remaining left sided player on the bench.

Arsenal were unable to capitalise on their early lead and had both good and bad fortune at the back. They were lucky not to concede two goals, when Szczesny ventured about 10 metres outside of his area and when Fabian Delph hit the inside of the post but the ball failed to cross the line. But luck did not hold out, Szczesny brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the area and managed to save the resulting penalty, but the rebound went straight back to Benteke who headed it into the net.

Aston Villa’s second penalty should never have been awarded. Koscielny slid in on Agbonlahor and cleared the ball, but the referee saw this as a foul, awarding the penalty and booking Koscielny. Minutes later Koscielny was booked again, this time without touching a Villa player. The second booking meant that he was sent off and Arsenal were reduced to 10 men, with no cover at centre back.

Arsenal went all out to try to claim back some points. Guzan made impressive saves from Rosickyand Cazorla. But all of this attack left gaps at the back. Eventually Andreas Weimann released Luna and he fired past Szczesny at the near post, to finish the game 3-1 in Aston Villa’s favour.

The Arsenal fans at the stadium were far from happy, chanting to Arsene Wenger “You don’t know what you’re doing” and “Spend some fracking money”. I’m not sure what fracking has to do with the money, maybe it’s an interest of Stan Kroenke.

Now I have long been a defender of Le Boss, when other fans have been calling for his head. But now he has me completely baffled. Why would you release all of your cover players unless you are sure that you have players to bring in and replace them?

Secondly the targets that they have gone after in the transfer market do not seem to cover the weaknesses in the squad. The positions which need strengthening and have done for several seasons now, are in the centre of defence, defensive midfield and goalkeeper. These are far more urgent requirements than for a striker.

Arsenal had four players who scored well over 10 goals each last season. Theo Walcott scored 21 mainly from the wing. Having the goals come from a variety of sources is an advantage that many supporters do not seem to appreciate.

I for one would hate to see Luis Suarez at Arsenal. Of course we would love his goals, but a player who spits, bites, dives and racially abuses other players is not my idea of an Arsenal man and I would far rather we got our goals elsewhere.

In the meantime the three sides that finished above Arsenal last season all got off to great starts again, despite all of them having a change in management. Man Utd beat Swansea 4-1 in WalesChelsea beat newcomers Hull 2-0 and Manchester City got off to a superb start with a 4-0 win over Newcastle. Ex Arsenal men Van Persie and Nasri both scored for the Manchester sides.

Arsenal’s next big challenge is on Wednesday night in Turkey, where they face Fenerbahce in the Champions League qualifying first leg. We wait to see what side Arsene Wenger will pick with Sagna and Oxlade-Chamberlain being added to the injury list.

Grit and Determination Beat Money Power in The FA Cup Final

Tiny Wigan Defeat Big Spending Man City

It really was one up for the underdog in the FA Cup Final on Saturday evening. The tiny club, from the town more associated with Rugby League than Football, beat the enormous spending power of Manchester City.

City’s squad is valued at over $500 million while Wigan’s comes in at well under $100 million. City’s squad was built by a big foreign conglomerate, while Wigan’s was built by a man who was born and bred in the town and invests heavily in business and facilities there. For those reasons alone Wigan must have had every neutral fan on their side for the final.

As if that wasn’t enough to sway the neutrals, Wigan came out fighting, using attack as the best form of defence. Unlike many smaller sides when they face the big boys of the Premier League, who often stick nine or ten men behind the ball.

Wigan Athletic claimed the first major trophy in their 81-year history when Ben Watson’s last-minute goal won the FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley.

Roberto Martinez’s side produced a performance full of attacking intent and verve to fully deserve this historic win against firm pre-match favourites City, who had Pablo Zabaleta sent off six minutes from time.

Substitute Watson, who has missed much of the season after breaking his leg in November, sent Wigan’s fans into ecstasy with a near-post header from Shaun Maloney’s corner at the very moment the board went up to signal three minutes of stoppage time.

The goal was just reward for Wigan, whose drive and intensity was in sharp contrast to the desperately lacklustre display served up by City as last season’s Premier League champions end this campaign empty-handed.

It completed a miserable day for manager Roberto Mancini, which began with reports that was about to be sacked and replaced by Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini and ended with a defeat that left City’s hierarchy looking on stone-faced from the Royal Box as Wigan celebrated.

Opposite number Martinez is also at the centre of speculation about his future as he has been linked with the forthcoming managerial vacancy at Everton – and his stock will have risen markedly now he has the FA Cup against his name.
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And when this final is remembered, the performance of Wigan’s Callum McManaman will be recalled alongside Watson’s goal after a magnificent, and close to unplayable, display of wing play which gave City defender Gael Clichy a harrowing afternoon.

It was also a moment of sheer joy for Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, who broke his leg playing for Blackburn Rovers in the 1960 FA Cup final against Wolves at Wembley. He led the team out, then watched in delight as they lifted the treasured trophy.

Once the delight has died down, Wigan must focus on what Martinez insists has always been their main priority, ensuring they stay in the Premier League as they remain in the relegation zone with only two game remaining.

Mancini made one surprise selection decision as he replaced Romanian Costel Pantilimon – City’s FA Cup goalkeeper throughout their run to Wembley – with first choice Joe Hart.

It was his opposite number Joel Robles who was into the action first as he saved from Yaya Toure after Carlos Tevez’s poor free-kick had been charged down.

After this uncertain start, however, Wigan visibly grew in confidence and produced a first-half display of real composure and enterprise, exemplified by the excellence of McManaman and James McArthur.

McManaman had the opportunity to put Wigan ahead after only nine minutes but chose to cut inside when a first-time shot might have been the better option, curling a left-foot effort wide.

For all Wigan’s trademark comfort in possession, it was their keeper Robles who was busier in that first half. He used an outstretched leg to save Wigan as Tevez looked certain to score after he was set up by Samir Nasri and David Silva eight yards out.
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McManaman was a threat once more as he evaded Hart and weaved his way around the area, only to see his goalbound effort blocked by Zabaleta.

City’s threat was sporadic but Robles was still being made to work and he saved from Gareth Barry and Nasri as an entertaining first 45 minutes came to a close.

The favourites had more of a spring in their step in the moments after half-time and it took a crucial touch from Latics defender Emmerson Boyce to divert Sergio Aguero’s glancing effort at the near post following good work by Tevez.

Mancini was visibly unhappy with some of City’s work and he wasted no time in making his first change, sending on James Milner for Nasri after 53 minutes.

The noise levels among the Wigan support rose every time the exciting McManaman got on the ball and it took a superb block from City captain Vincent Kompany to end another jinking run into the area.

Mancini made another, somewhat surprising, change with 21 minutes left when Jack Rodwell came on for Tevez and swiftly had a header that was clutched by Robles.

Wigan, to their immense credit, were refusing to take a backward step and gave City another anxious moment when Maloney’s angled free-kick glanced off the bar.

City, who had struggled for rhythm all afternoon, were reduced to 10 men with six minutes remaining when Zabaleta was dismissed. It was a simple decision for referee Andre Marriner when the Argentine, played into trouble by Barry’s careless pass, hauled down McManaman having earlier received a yellow card.

Then came the moment that will be recalled in Wigan forever. Watson escaped from Rodwell at the near post to meet Maloney’s corner and history was made.

Wigan now have to set their minds to retaining their place in the Premier League. They face Arsenal away on Tuesday which must be a do or die fixture, as they are now sitting 4 points behind their closest rivals for the drop.

The Battle is on for the Premier League Final Placings

Relegation and European Qualification Goes Down to the Wire.

It’s on for young and old in the final matches of the English Premier League.

Although the title has been decided, with Manchester United out of reach of the following pack. In theory Chelsea could still finish second. Man City have already guaranteed themselves European Champions League Football next season, as they can finish no lower than third.

The real battle is for the third and fourth places and the prize of Champions League Football that goes with that. It could go to any two of Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham.

Man Utd made it easier for Chelsea with a with a rare loss at home on Sunday, giving Chelsea all three points.

Chelsea host Tottenham tonight in a match which could decide who plays European Football next season. If Tottenham lose or draw then Arsenal only need to win their remaining two fixtures to finish above them.

If Tottenham manage to beat Chelsea then everything rides on the results of everyone’s last two games. But Tottenham need to win more points than Chelsea or Arsenal with their much poorer goal difference record.

At the bottom of the table things are even more complicated.

QPR and Reading already face relegation but the final team for the drop could theoretically be any one of the sides currently sitting from 12th to 18th.

Wigan are of course most likely to go down, currently sitting 18th after losing to Swansea yesterday. But North East giants Newcastleare far from safe, with only a three point cushion and they are on the same goal difference as Wigan.

Newcastle started the season really well but fell away. They have some excellent players, but not really enough of them to compete with the big boys. Of course losing Demba Ba to Chelsea in January cannot have helped matters.

After tonight’s vital match at Stamford Bridge the games to look out for at the weekend will be:-

Chelsea away to Aston Villa could prove slippery for the current European Champions

Tottenham away to Stoke, they are always a tough side to beat.

QPR v Newcastle, a must win for the Toon.

Arsenal host Wigan on Tuesday and Wigan have perennially escaped relegation in recent years.

FA Cup’s new kick-off time shows little thought for fans

Football and Rugby Fans are not Considered by the Powers That Be

Jim White reports in The Telegraph that this year’s FA Cup Final has been moved to a 5:15PM Kick off with no thought for the travelling fans or Football tradition. Rugby is following close behind, including two Friday night fixtures for next year’s 6 Nations Tournament.

Please read Jim’s story below and our suggestion on what true fans of both sports should do after that.

There is not much football and rugby fans agree on. The shape of the ball, the selection of chants, whether to stage a minute’s silence for a deceased former prime minister: the two tribes rarely see eye to eye. But this week, they have found common ground: they are united in a disdain for those who mess with their kick-off times.

Over the past few days, the news has been drearily predictable for traditionalists in both camps. First it was announced that the FA Cup final on May 11 would begin at 5.15pm. So the longstanding three o’clock start for the game’s showcase is now history.

Never mind that this year’s final features two clubs from the North West. Never mind that, in the event of extra-time and penalties, supporters of Wigan will have about 30 minutes to make it from Wembley to Euston station to catch the last train home and Manchester City fans all of half an hour longer.

Never mind that the Cup semi-final this year was besmirched by a bunch of meatheads who had taken advantage of a similarly late kick-off to spend the day marinating in lager. Never mind that nobody attending the match actually wants it; 5.15 it will be.

On Tuesday, the body coordinating the Six Nations revealed that two games in forthcoming championships would be staged on Friday evenings.

Rugby has been here before. Friday-night kick-offs were experimented with for two seasons. And it was thought the idea had been quietly binned after Wales played England in 2011 and Cardiff traffic was paralysed in Friday-night gridlock because no one could rely on public transport at that time.

There was a degree of rejoicing when common sense appeared to have won the day and no Fridays featured in the schedules for 2012 or 2013. After all, the Six Nations is as much a travel experience as a rugby one, an opportunity for the visiting fan to weekend in a rival capital, to absorb the local hospitality. It seemed as if this silly idea had been dispensed with. But it is back. And this time it is here to stay.

We know why. Television likes these evening contests. ITV, broadcaster of the FA Cup, enjoys the advertising-friendly manner in which a football audience carries through into an evening of talent show and chat. While the Six Nations organisers believe Friday night on the box exposes their game to a new, sizeable audience. The stadiums are already rammed, they argue, so how better to expand their fan base than proselytise to the sofa-bound?

In other words, the concerns, interests and ease of those actually turning up to watch the game in the flesh are secondary. As yet, neither the Football Association nor the Six Nations has acknowledged that their decision might dismay their long-term loyal customers.

If you believe that the travelling fans of both Football and Rugby should be given more consideration, that the games traditions should be upheld, indeed if you are one of those fans travelling down from the north west for the FA Cup Final, or travelling away to a 6 Nations game next year, then make your voice heard.

Post your thoughts on these Facebook pages

On the RBS 6 Nations page you can not create a new post so I suggest that you lodge your complaints under the post with the fixtures for 2014.

Also spare a thought for the small contingent (that runs to several millions) who follow the FA Cup and RBS 6 Nations on the far side of the world. These late evening kick offs mean that we have to stay up well into the next day in order to see the games live.