Nick Ames

Author's posts

Dec 06

Tottenham Hotspur v Apoel Nicosia: Champions League – as it happened

Goals from Fernando Llorente, Son Heung-min and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou gave Tottenham the most routine of 3-0 wins over disappointing opponents from Cyprus 10.16pm GMT Related: Fernando Llorente off the mark for Tottenham in stroll against Apoel 9.38p…

Permanent link to this article:

Dec 03

Bournemouth 1-1 Southampton: Premier League – as it happened

Charlie Austin’s second-half equaliser cancelled out a Ryan Fraser opener in a thoroughly entertaining south coast derby where neither side could quite find a winner 3.41pm GMT Read Ben Fisher’s match report here. Related: Charlie Austin goal enough to…

Permanent link to this article:

Nov 17

A brief guide to … the ups and downs of the Arsenal-Tottenham rivalry

Even if the truth is less than palatable to Arsenal fans, the old rivals have more in common than at any point since the Premier League’s formationWith the Guardian’s unstoppable rise to global dominance** we at Guardian US thought we’d run a series of…

Permanent link to this article:

Nov 08

The English managerial success story shunned by the Premier League

Graham Potter has performed minor miracles in seven years with Swedish club Ostersund but never gets mentioned when a comparable job becomes available in EnglandGraeme Jones knew there was something atypical about the full-back who had joined him in si…

Permanent link to this article:

Oct 27

A brief guide to … Everton, and why they think they deserve better

You can nudge the dial back almost a century to find out why the Merseyside club’s supporters expect more than they’ve been gettingWith the Guardian’s unstoppable rise to global dominance** we at Guardian US thought we’d run a series of articles for fa…

Permanent link to this article:

Oct 17

Dries Mertens, Napoli’s street dog striker, sets sights on Manchester City | Nick Ames

A striker crisis a year ago gave the Belgian winger his chance up front and the goals have not stopped since for the man Maurizio Sarri calls a ‘little animal’In isolation there was nothing special about the goal, almost exactly a year ago, that gave N…

Permanent link to this article:

Sep 24

Sheffield Wednesday 2-4 Sheffield United: Championship – as it happened

Sheffield United stunned their Steel City rivals on their own turf, with former Wednesday striker Leon Clarke scoring two of their goals in a see-sawing derby

3.35pm BST

Related: Leon Clarke double fires Sheffield United to derby victory over Wednesday

3.13pm BST

So, how about that? More Steel City derbies where that came from, please! Leon Clarke, returning to his old club with two goals, will take the headlines; the brilliant David Brooks will deserve his own share of them and let’s not forget the scorcher from John Fleck that started this off, too. United thoroughly deserved this; Wednesday will be absolutely kicking themselves for getting back into it and then throwing it away again, and they did defend horribly for at least a couple of the goals, but the better team won here. The city is, for now, the Blades’.

Thanks for joining me – now turn your attention to Daniel Harris’s MBM of Brighton v Newcastle. Bye!

3.08pm BST

What a thrilling derby – and what a result for Sheffield United on enemy turf!

3.06pm BST

90+3 min: Time is very much being played out. More by United than by Wednesday, who have pretty much given up.

3.04pm BST

90+1 min: Fleck gets a booking. He won’t care. He started all this! Four minutes of added time to be played.

3.02pm BST

89 min: United can toy around with Wednesday down by the corner flag now, and win a free kick that they won’t be in much hurry to take. Hillsborough is emptying at some rate.

3.01pm BST

Shaun Wilkinson notes that this has, in an entirely different way, still been a Scunthorpe-themed derby: “It seems that my reduction of this derby to the battle of ex-Scunthorpe players Hooper and Sharp has given certain other players extra motivation. Both Duffy and Clarke have also had spells at the Iron. You’re welcome Sheffield United.”

3.00pm BST

87 min: “We want five” demand the United fans. I reckon they’ll take the four if pressed. And they cheer Hunt’s hopeless attempt to keep the ball in play on the right touchline as if it was a fifth.

2.58pm BST

@NickAmes82 evertonian living in Chesterfield – we tried to buy Brooks for u23s, CFC tried for a loan. Sounds like he made right call!

Interesting. Brooks – who is now replaced by John Lundstram to rapturous applause and “Brooks will tear you apart again” from the away faithful – will have caught several more eyes today.

2.56pm BST

83 min: Hooper has a drive deflected wide by O’Connell and Wednesday are still trying here. But again the corner is inadequate.

2.56pm BST

83 min: Jacob Butterfield is on for Wednesday but his first meaningful contribution is to send a weak corner towards the near post.

2.55pm BST

82 min: You wonder, too, whether losing this – if they do – will put some pressure on Carvalhal. Wednesday are 10th as things stand and after nine games that’s not a huge deal. But so many teams at this level are spending so much huge money, Wednesday included, and at some point you fear there’ll be consequences for the ones for whom it doesn’t pay off. Can Wednesday risk that? Will they? I stick by what I said at the top of the show – they’ve transformed as a club, sure, but should still be doing a little better given their resources.

2.52pm BST

79 min: Could you have seen this when Wednesday got it back to 2-2? Me neither. This says so much for United’s spirit and ingenuity – and not a lot for a frankly quite lily-livered Wednesday, whose defending has been really bad throughout. United have been very bright but you could argue that they haven’t had to work terribly hard for some of these goals.

2.51pm BST

He’s got another and that is surely that! Clarke lays one back to Brooks, spins and goes for the return over the top. But he’s second favourite, maybe even third favourite. Lees or Van Aken should have this under control but no, it’s awfully feeble defending from the centre-backs and Clarke bundles past both, going face to face with Westwood and slotting home again!

2.49pm BST

76 min: Basham is booked for a pretty cynical trip on Hooper. Can Wednesday rouse themselves again? The free-kick is about 30 yards out and central. Wallace will go for goal … but it’s scuffed into the wall.

2.48pm BST

@NickAmes82 Rhodes is third-choice at Wednesday? What’s happened to the lad? Seemed destined for the big time a couple of years ago.

Managers – including the one who signed him, seemingly – aren’t always convinced by what he’s doing, or isn’t doing as the case may be, when he’s not scoring goals.

2.46pm BST

72 min: Yet more virtuoso play by Brooks brings a run inside from the right, a drilled shot and a crucial parry wide from Westwood. I must admit I’d hardly seen Brooks before today but he has been an absolute class apart. A former Manchester City youngster. This is his seventh Football League appearance and his second league start!

2.44pm BST

70 min: Bannan fires over from range. There’s no telling what will happen here now. It looked set fair for Wednesday to take this right by the horns after Joao’s goal.

2.43pm BST

69 min: What a special goal from Mark Duffy, a 31-year-old winger who has spent much of his career in the lower divisions. That is exactly how you silence a home crowd. Wednesday bring on the £10m Rhodes for Fletcher.

2.42pm BST

I don’t believe it! Hillsborough is absolutely bouncing but United take possession after the kick-off and Clarke plays a cute ball around the back to Duffy, the substitute. He gets away down the right, turns a defender inside and out, and lashes across Westwood into the far corner from the tightest of angles! They are back in front!

2.40pm BST

They’re not doing ok anymore! Wednesday work the ball too easily from halfway and Reach, very advanced on the left, centres low. A defender stumbles, leaving Joao to collect. A touch, a left-footed thwack from 10 yards, and Hillsborough goes berserk! The comeback is complete!

2.38pm BST

First Sheffield derby for donkey’s, and I’m stuck on a truck ferry in the middle of the Adriatic!
Come on you mighty Blades!

They’re doing ok at the moment, Allen.

2.37pm BST

64 min: United have come well into this half now and win another corner, which Hooper clears ahead of his own ‘keeper.

2.36pm BST

63 min: Clarke misses a chance to seal it! Or probably seal it. The excellent Brooks completely destroys Hunt with a spellbinding turn and nutmeg on the left byline. Clarke is free and screaming for it to his right. Brooks makes the pass … but overhits it slightly. Still, Clarke controls it as it pops up and is faced only with Westwood, who is advancing. He balloons it over! How costly could that be? United immediately replace Wright with Duffy.

2.34pm BST

61 min: Another Wednesday corner, slightly fortunately won by Reach after he’d overrun the ball. It comes in from the left … but United do their job after a prolonged bout of very derby-like head tennis.

2.33pm BST

59 min: United get lucky there, though, as Wright misjudges a diagonal from Reach and Hooper, should he control the ball, is in. He can’t; it was difficult, to be fair …

2.32pm BST

59 min: Free-kick for Wednesday, midway inside enemy territory, after Wright fells Hooper. It’s poor, but Lee salvages it before bursting into the box and losing control. Sheffield United will, increasingly, feel happier with themselves again and are showing more on the ball now too – although Brooks balloons over from a reasonable position 20 yards out as they toddle up the other end.

2.29pm BST

56 min: Clarke makes a determined run at Lees but, seemingly unwilling to take a shot or cross on his left foot, takes the ball a little too far and the chance goes. Space had opened up there.

2.28pm BST

55 min: Bannan sends Reach scampering away but the ball’s overcooked. One thing United will be happy with is that Wednesday haven’t fashioned a real chance from this early pressure. They’ll hope – and need – to slow things down.

2.25pm BST

52 min: Wednesday thread the ball along the edge of the United box and Carter-Vickers makes a vital interception before Wallace’s delivery can reach Hooper and Fletcher. Wednesday are pounding United with crosses at the moment, particularly from that left side.

2.23pm BST

50 min: Coutts nods that away. But this is an early barrage, one from which there’s a bit of respite as a speculative Reach shot is deflected for Blackman to smother. Very, very different look to Wednesday now. And a different sound to what had been a disgruntled crowd.

2.22pm BST

49 min: And another corner after Wallace and Hunt link up nicely down the right …

2.21pm BST

48 min: It’s the predicted bright start from Wednesday and Fletcher should do better than be dispossessed on the left with team-mates to lay off to. Could be a long half for United at this rate.

2.20pm BST

47 min: I quite fancy Joao to liven things up for Wednesday in those spaces in front of the back four. Reach wins them an early corner and it’s diverted away from the lurking Fletcher.

2.19pm BST

Wednesday make a change and it’s a fairly attacking one – Lucas Joao on for David Jones.

2.16pm BST

Feels like it will be the classic “big first 15 minutes of the second half” for Sheffield United now. They had this, they really did, but Wednesday will come out punching …

2.11pm BST

How did Sheffield Wednesday get their name? Here’s a fun video from Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton, both good friends of this parish, which sheds some light:

2.04pm BST

That was the last action of a half that United had completely controlled, scoring those two early goals and hardly finding themselves under any threat at all. Wednesday had been so poor, but now they’re right back in it and what a second half we’re in for now …

2.03pm BST

Game on! And United will be kicking themselves that they couldn’t hold out another 30 seconds, Wallace does brilliantly to hook a looping ball across from the right and Hooper gets across his man to snaffle up the half-chance at the near post. That has changed this game completely!

2.01pm BST

45 min: That was close to being some undeserved encouragement, though. Hunt drives a vicious effort in from the right corner of the area and it’s certainly on target, but Wright gets his head on the way and it soars over. Wednesday win one corner, then a second, but United survive.

1.59pm BST

44 min: Reach runs the ball out of play on the left, needlessly. Carvalhal frowns. The Blades fans cry out with laughter. The home fans glower. That’s how this is all going for Wednesday, who have been exceptionally poor.

1.58pm BST

42 min: O’Connell has a free header at the back stick from that corner, but the delivery was quite deep and he can’t get enough power on it. Still, Wednesday again look loose.

1.57pm BST

41 min: United win another corner after a slick move involving Stevens and Fleck on the left …

1.56pm BST

@NickAmes82 Weds have no pace. Slow build-up gives Utd time to get back in numbers. Misplaced passes. Hopeful punts into box. Poor.

Yes, the pace thing is a real issue. Neither side has much of it but Wednesday look particularly laboured.

1.55pm BST

39 min: It’s really quiet inside Hillsborough at the moment. Hunt causes the volume to go up a notch after running onto a diagonal ball but the Wednesday right-back’s touch takes it backwards.

1.52pm BST

36 min: I haven’t mentioned Steven Fletcher yet either, so here’s a mention as he’s just won a free-kick from Carter-Vickers. Some expensive footballers need to be doing better than this for Wednesday. The free-kick comes to nought.

1.51pm BST

35 min: A right-sided United corner sails beyond everyone, but Brooks retrieves it and … that’s a chance for Basham. Brooks’ cross flicks off the head of Hooper and, on the stretch, Basham volleys over from 15 yards. Could have been three at the feet of a more clinical finisher.

1.50pm BST

33 min: A promising-ish Wednesday move ends with a directionless Reach pass that Blackman – there’s a good reason I hadn’t named the United keeper til then, he’d barely been involved – gathers. Play quickly switches upfield and Clarke is sprung away again, Westwood coming out sharply to deny him on the right of the box.

1.47pm BST

31 min: Baldock volleys across the Wednesday goal but nobody is attacking it. Why take risks now? The Blades have this well under control.

1.46pm BST

Meanwhile, the scene outside is still less than desirable …

@FSF_FairCop now only 1 turnstile for hundreds of fans

1.44pm BST

29 min: The Wednesday crowd howl at a backwards pass from midfield. They should be cheering two successfully put together on current form. United just haven’t let them play, but the speed with which the home team have looked a disconsolate and argumentative bunch must be a concern too.

1.43pm BST

27 min: Wednesday do win a corner though, through Reach, and it’s their first contribution of note since going two down. Lee’s delivery is good, but Wright clears from around the penalty spot and Brooks – the game’s best player so far – is able to counter rapidly before eventually conceding a free-kick.

1.41pm BST

25 min: United look like one of those promoted sides that, with momentum and organisation – not to mention individual talent, too – just keep striding on, making light of the level higher. Clarke shoots wide now and they are totally dominant.

1.39pm BST

Adam Griffiths requests: “Could I get a Guardian MBM shout-out for my mate Rich Stokes, an Owls fan exiled in Melbourne; he’s stayed awake for this despite it being midnight-ish where he is and having to fly to Perth for work in a few hours. The things we do for football.”

Worth it for you at the moment, Rich?

1.37pm BST

22 min: Wednesday could do with something perhaps a little quicker than they’d expected. At least some sort of comfort between now and half-time. They’d started to threaten properly just before the second goal. But there are pointing fingers and withering glances out there now. It’s not happening for them.

1.35pm BST

20 min: That ends up coming to nothing but United look so sharp here. Even so, could anybody have predicted a first 15 minutes like that?

1.34pm BST

19 min: Leon Clarke spent three and a half seasons at Wednesday but only scored 18 times and wasn’t exactly a popular figure. He’ll be far less popular now. Blades win another corner kick, in the meantime …

1.32pm BST

These guys will have mixed feelings …

10 mins in, still not in @FSF_FairCop

1.31pm BST

Well I never! Westwood punches the corner away and, eventually, Wednesday clear beyond halfway. But it’s knocked straight back over the defence, a good 60 yards, and Clarke finds himself beyond the back line for the second time in a minute! This time he keeps his cool and slides home coolly. United are in dreamland!

1.30pm BST

14 min: Oooh, should Clarke do better there? He escapes beyond the home back line and then, with Van Aken belatedly for company, shrugs the centre-back off sufficiently to get a shot away. It’s tame and straight at Westwood. Then a lovely United move wins a corner …

1.28pm BST

12 min: Bannan is shown the afternoon’s first card after going in late on O’Connell by the left touchline. It was pretty hefty, that, and he can’t have any complaints. Simon Hooper, the ref, will probably have a few more of those to flourish.

1.27pm BST

11 min: A glimmer for Wednesday left-back Reach, who makes a superb run into the box and takes a Bannan ball over the shoulder first-time. Really difficult one to execute though and he skews it across goal. Brooks then counters for United but is squeezed out when he gets to the box. Wasn’t much support there.

1.25pm BST

10 min: Jones can’t match Fleck. He tries to dink one but it flicks off the ball and over for a corner. The flag kick is wildly overhit by Wallace and goes out for a throw-in to jeers from the visiting support.

1.24pm BST

8 min: Now an equally – if not more – dangerously-positioned free-kick for Wednesday, on the edge of the ‘D’, for a foul on Hooper …

1.22pm BST

7 min: It’s going to be tough for Wednesday now but they mustn’t panic, there’s time. They show for the first time as Hooper makes ground on the left before overhitting his cross. Eventually the move fizzles out but United will want not to sit too deep too early here.

1.20pm BST

5 min: That all came from a superb piece of initiative by Brooks to win the free-kick, and from an assertive all-round start by United. But the finish owed totally to Fleck. An exceptional hit and the away fans went berserk! Red smoke and arms everywhere.

1.19pm BST

What a goal! What a way to start the derby! The free-kick takes an age to set up, but eventually United spring into action. It is backheeled to Fleck, rather than laid off to a decoy runner, and he blasts a vicious, swerving 25-yarder past a motionless Westwood and into the corner. Brilliant goal!

1.17pm BST

2 min: Bright start from United and Lees crudely halts a fine run from Brooks just beyond the ‘D’. Very dangerous, central free-kick for the visitors …

1.17pm BST

@NickAmes82 Big-boned Leon Clarke once broke his toe after kicking an ad hoarding to celebrate a rare goal for Owls. #NotTheSharpestBlade

I should have mentioned this – Blades striker Clarke faces his former employers here ….

1.16pm BST

Left to right they go. The noise!!

1.12pm BST

The teams have emerged! And what a din they’ve emerged to!

1.09pm BST

Shaun Wilkinson writes: “It’s a shame Billy Sharp is only on the bench, otherwise for me this would not be the Steel City derby, but the ‘Strikers who came to prominence by scoring loads of goals for Scunthorpe’ derby – Gary Hooper one side, Billy Sharp on the other. As you can probably guess, I am from Scunthorpe. Frivolity aside, great to see this derby back; Sheffield is a great city that deserves a proper derby.”

Good point on the strikers, Shaun. Sharp looks a very handy sub for the Blades today.

1.08pm BST

@NickAmes82 Boxing Day 1979 best Steel derby – 4-0 to the Owls. Wish we still had Terry Curran (although he might have lost a yard of pace).

Was it the best, Blades?

1.07pm BST

“I’ve asked this elsewhere and never received a proper explanation. Why is a local contest named after a city?” asks Ravi Raman.

I’m not sure anybody knows definitively, Ravi, but the most commonly given explanation is that it originates from the Derby – the famous horse race founded by the Earl of Derby in 1780. It just spread from there to other tightly-fought contests between rivals. Not completely satisfactory, I know, but I think that’s widely held. Anyone know better?

1.04pm BST

The “battle” thing might be worth thinking about. If we are being reductive, this looks as if it could come down to Wednesday’s guile vs United’s grit. Can United stop Wednesday playing? Can Wednesday open United up? Can United set a high tempo and cause problems of their own?

1.02pm BST

Carvalhal on his first derby: “We can’t say that a derby is a normal game, the emotional environment is completely different. In practice for me as a coach it’s a normal game, I must be focus, looking at how the opposition play, their weak points and strong points. my players are ready [for a battle] all the time.”

1.00pm BST

In case you’ve missed it, read this very nice preview of the game by Mr Nick Miller:

Related: Sheffield United fan Chris Wilder keen to put boot into Wednesday as manager

12.53pm BST

@NickAmes82 Old Firm top, Hearts & Hibs second, then Merseyside, then Sheffield, then Dundee. Sixth is Tyne & Wear, then South Wales. 1/2

@NickAmes82 7th is B’ham vs Villa, Spurs/Arsenal only 8th. Forest/Derby & the East Anglia ‘Old Farm’ complete the 10. Controversial I know.

12.43pm BST

Where would this rank in your list of UK derbies? I’d like to hear from you. For me, probably in the top five – certainly potential-wise. There’s something visceral about it. But it’d look better in the top flight.

12.38pm BST

Here is a link to that famous semi-final from 1992/93. Well worth a few minutes of your time.

12.35pm BST

Sheffield United have a few injuries and will particularly miss Clayton Donaldson, who scored twice on his debut earlier in the month after his move from Birmingham. On the bench for Wednesday is Jordan Rhodes, who cost around £10m from Middlesbrough earlier this year. That’s the Championship these days. And it’s partly why I think Wednesday, who lost to Huddersfield in last season’s play-offs, haven’t done quite as well over the last couple of seasons as is sometimes suggested. They’ve put a lot of money towards it and although I’d give them credit for sticking with Carvalhal, who is clearly a decent manager, the time will probably come where they want to be getting some end product.

12.29pm BST

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Hunt, Van Aken, Lees, Reach, Wallace, Jones, Lee, Bannan, Fletcher, Hooper. Subs: Wildsmith, Rhodes, Butterfield, Palmer, Nuhiu, Joao Pudil.

Sheffield United: Blackman, Baldock, Carter-Vickers, Wright, Basham, O’Connell, Stevens, Fleck, Coutts, Brooks, Clarke. Subs: Moore, Lundstram, Sharp, Duffy, Lafferty, Evans, Carruthers.

12.11pm BST

A little over 24 years ago, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday met at Wembley in an FA Cup semi-final. It didn’t really seem too extraordinary back then, although the wonderful free-kick from Chris Waddle that opened the scoring sticks in the mind to this day and there is also the memory of a grizzled Alan Cork rolling in an equaliser for the Blades. Wednesday went on to win and ran Arsenal agonisingly close in the final after a replay; it isn’t an exaggeration to say football in the Steel City has not come remotely close to a peak like that last-four clash since then, not really. Meetings between the clubs – and what a derby this is, at its best – have tended to smell of decline. Until now.

This is the first Sheffield derby in five and a half years, and the first to take place as high as the second tier in more than seven. Both teams are in the top 10 of the Championship; one of them, whatever happens, will be in the play-off positions at close of play today. While Sheffield Wednesday have come on very strong over the past two seasons under Carlos Carvalhal – perhaps not strong enough given the huge amount they’ve spent, if one is looking critically – it has been a slower route back for United after their prolonged stint in League One. Yet Chris Wilder’s team are the higher-placed of the two going into this one, lying seventh, and have started the season with real spark. Could we be about to see at least one Sheffield side finally make it back to the top flight?

11.32am BST

Nick will be here shortly.

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Sep 21

Gareth Barry aims to carry on after passing Ryan Giggs appearance record

West Bromwich Albion midfielder, who will play his 633rd Premier League game at Arsenal on Monday, has taken up yoga, shows no signs of slowing down and says he could still be playing at 40

If Gareth Barry was beginning to feel frazzled by a morning of media commitments at The Hawthorns, the message that popped up on Phil Neville’s iPad brought home the reason all this was happening. Neville was interviewing his former England team-mate for television and Barry was genuinely touched to be shown a recorded offer of congratulations from Ryan Giggs, who is only a vague acquaintance but had made contact to acknowledge the passing-on of his Premier League appearance record.

The handover will be formalised on Monday when Barry starts for West Bromwich Albion at Arsenal, making his 633rd top-flight outing and confirming his place in the modern history books. “I’m not going to argue with Ryan about trophies and things like that,” Barry says in response to some light ribbing from Giggs about the difficulty of their respective achievements. “It was lovely to hear from him. I’m aware he’s played in the old First Division before and collected a few more appearances than the 633. I’m also aware the Premier League started in 1992 and records existed before that too. I’m not here to say I’m top of the tree in English football history.”

Related: Gareth Barry’s remarkable career continues to push the boundaries

I’m not going to argue with Ryan about trophies and things like that. It was lovely to hear from him

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Sep 19

Game changers: Rio Ferdinand and the stars who swapped sports

The ex-Manchester United defender has taken up boxing – following in the footsteps of such sports multi-taskers as Victoria Pendleton, Ian Botham and Michael Jordan

When former footballer Paolo Maldini bowed out of his nascent tennis career after a solitary chastening afternoon on clay, he summed up the difficulties with the elegance of a man more used to taking effortless command of the defences of Italy and AC Milan.

“It was like writing a poem after studying years of maths,” Maldini said after suffering a 6-1, 6-1 doubles defeat at the Aspria Tennis Cup in June.

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Sep 17

Manchester United 4-0 Everton: Premier League – as it happened

Manchester United overpower Everton thanks to Antonio Valencia and late strikes from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial

6.11pm BST

Related: Antonio Valencia screamer sets up Manchester United win over Everton

5.57pm BST

No happy return for Rooney, then. Perhaps it should have been – he had a couple of presentable chances and the one just after half-time, in particular, will be replaying in his head all evening. United pulled clear at the end, not for the first time this season, and deserved the win although never by that margin. Everton were decent in the second half: they might wonder how a more proactive attitude from the start could have helped them.

United go joint-top, with an *identical* record to Man City. Everton are a deeply unsatisfactory 18th. Do we have the Mourinho-Guardiola battle this season that we were falsely promised before 2016/17? I’ll leave you with that question, and doubtless many others. Bye!

5.50pm BST

An odd game, and never a 4-0, but that’s your lot!

5.49pm BST

Well this has all escalated. Dispatched smoothly to Pickford’s right.

5.48pm BST

Martial runs through, looks set to score, but Schneiderlin handles the ball away from him. Martial to take and …

5.48pm BST

90+1 min: Sandro forces a smart save from De Gea but then …

5.48pm BST

Well that is a little unfortunate for Everton, and namely those fans who jeer mockingly when Lukaku’s tame free-kick cannons off the wall. The problem is that the ball stays alive and is quickly returned with interest from the left hand side, deflecting off a couple of people and sitting up just nicely for Lukaku to convert at the back stick. Oops. His celebration is vigorous.

5.45pm BST

89 min: Lukaku apparently gave the Everton fans a bit of the old “hush” when the second goal went in. Endearing. He might fancy one of his own now as United win a free-kick on the edge of the area that’s perfect for a left-footer …

5.44pm BST

87 min: Schneiderlin looks for Baines but the pass is 15 yards ahead of him. Mkhitaryan now gets his moment of applause, replaced by Martial.

5.42pm BST

86 min: Hard on Everton after this second half, but they just haven’t taken their chances – Rooney in particular – and have tended to dally at the back. They’ve been punished for both.

5.41pm BST

That’s that, and Everton have had a few of these in them. Williams fudges a pass 10 yards outside his own area, Fellaini diverts it to Lukaku, the striker brings it forward and then does really well, seeing Mkhitaryan to his left and passing unselfishly. The finish is low and clinical. Everton did that to themselves, and that particular mistake had perhaps been coming.

5.39pm BST

82 min: Williams only just manages to smuggle another Mkhitaryan cross away. Bailly is then booked for a foul on halfway and … now Rooney is taken off during the stoppage, to brief chants of “Rooney, Rooney”. So we won’t get the fairytale. We will get Kevin Mirallas, though.

5.36pm BST

80 min: United have got better. Do Everton have a big last 10/12/14 in them?

5.35pm BST

78 min: Lingard almost gets a touch on a Mkhitaryan ball but retrieves possession and squeezes a shot to Pickford. Was he pulled back in the process? Quite possibly, but no penalty is given and perhaps he was “almost too honest” in carrying on and trying to score despite the impediment.

5.33pm BST

77 min: Matic is given an invitation to shoot from distance, first by the crowd and then by Everton’s reluctance to close. It fizzes a metre wide. Subs for both now: Calvert-Lewin replaces Gueye in an attacking move for Everton, and Herrera takes Mata’s spot for United.

5.31pm BST

74 min: Rooney and Baines combine before Sandro sees a shot blocked from 18 yards. United break and Lingard, lively since coming on, has an effort of his own deflected not far over.

5.29pm BST

72 min: You sense there’s another goal in this game, at one end or the other. Martina tries to make sure it doesn’t go to United, tripping Lingard unnecessarily and earning a yellow.

5.27pm BST

70 min: Lingard could seal it for United, after Young does well to get to the left byline and cuts back to the near post. It’s on his left foot though and, under pressure from Williams, he skies it.

5.25pm BST

68 min: This half is surely the best Everton have played all season. Rooney feeds Sigurdsson on the left and he looks to check and bend a right-footed cross in; he gets it all wrong, though, and it sails out.

5.22pm BST

66 min: Sandro comes on for Everton now, in place of Davies, who has played well.

5.21pm BST

64 min: Pickford almost undoes all of Everton’s better work with a terrible ball out from the back that lands straight at Mata, who dallies a little and is bundled over by Williams right on the edge of the box. Yellow card. Free kick. Thudded onto the near post by Mata’s left foot! That would have won it for them!

5.19pm BST

61 min: De Gea saves United again! A stray Jones header is latched onto by Sigurdsson and, with Rooney also lurking, he stretches to shoot from the corner of the six yard box. It’s repelled by the goalkeeper’s body. But Everton have, bar Lukaku’s chance earlier, probably had better opportunities than United now.

5.17pm BST

61 min: I was right, just this time – Rashford, not great today, goes off.

5.17pm BST

60 min: We are about to see Jesse Lingard. I’d remove Rashford, but then hooking Mata would add extra speed on the break.

5.15pm BST

58 min: There’s just no real speed to United’s play. Everton, nicely compact, have had some influence on that and you’d have to say Pogba is missed too. But the likes of Mkhitaryan and Rashford haven’t done enough here, for me.

5.13pm BST

57 min: This is, actually, probably the least impressive I’ve seen from United so far this season. Everton can sense similar and look a lot more assertive now. Can they create enough chances though?

5.11pm BST

54 min: Better from United now as a Mata delivery swings over Jagielka’s head. That means Lukaku has room in front of goal, but his chest control is heavy and the ball pops up, meaning the resulting volley is awkward and spooned high.

5.08pm BST

51 min: Gueye is caught on the ball by Fellaini, who feeds Mkhitaryan. The Armenian finds Rashford in turn, but he checks inside from the left and curls well wide. Not great. United still yet to come out after half-time.

5.07pm BST

50 min: Rooney is at it again, almost rounding Bailly on the edge of the area, but Jones is across in the nick of time. United having a few nervous moments at the hands of their returning legend.

5.05pm BST

49 min: That was such a good opportunity for Rooney. Everton should be level. United haven’t really begun the second period yet.

5.04pm BST

46 min: Rooney has an even better chance! What a start to the half that would have been! He exchanges passes with Davies, sashays into the right of the area, and seems to have been crowded out – but he bundles through and, at an angle, has only De Gea to beat! But his left-footed shot is too close to his former team-mate and the save is made. Should have scored!

5.02pm BST

Can Everton and Rooney turn this around?

4.57pm BST

“Ronald Koeman said his team has to be more aggressive, Everton signs Angry Birds as sleeve sponsor,” Sibi Titus and a number of others point out.

4.54pm BST

@NickAmes82 How many sleeve corrections is Jagielka away from being labeled “Angry Birds Captain” to “Angry Captain”?

4.53pm BST

Valencia shinned his goal, by the way. But who cares?

4.51pm BST

A bit more pizazz going forward and Everton could yet trouble United. They were set up so cautiously at the start though – and this was supposed to be the season where they went toe to toe with the top six …

4.46pm BST

Not a great half, although we did see a great goal from Valencia. Lukaku should have made it two for United but Everton, awful for 20 minutes, did get better and Rooney missed a reasonable opportunity to write the headlines. You feel United can and should step this up and win in comfort; for now, they’ll have to be vigilant and make sure Martina, Everton’s biggest threat, gets a little less space down the right.

4.44pm BST

44 min: Jagielka chooses to leave a harmless dinked ball by Mata for Pickford, who is distinctly surprised and fumbles. For a split second Lukaku might pounce, but the goalkeeper recovers. When pressed, Everton to not look secure.

4.42pm BST

42 min: Some real seat-of-the-pants defending by Everton now, passing the ball up towards halfway without ever really having it under control. They’ll be happy to hear the whistle.

4.40pm BST

41 min: Rashford shanks a poor, flat cross beyond everybody. He’s blown hot and cold so far.

4.39pm BST

39 min: It could have come there, Lukaku running clear again after a give-and-go with Rashford before Jagielka slides in superbly as the trigger is pulled. United win one corner, and then a second that loops around and causes some bother, but Everton just about survive again.

4.37pm BST

38 min: Williams has to make another crucial challenge as the last man to prevent Mkhitaryan from breaking. You do feel a second United goal would finish this, but until then Everton are certainly keeping them honest.

4.36pm BST

37 min: Everton have, to be fair, improved massively since that first 15 or 20 minutes. Still a lack of real pace and zest though.

4.35pm BST

35 min: Pickford slides in adeptly to *just* beat Rashford to the ball and, also, avoid handling it outside the area. It was a beautiful pass by, I think, Mkhitaryan that set him scurrying away.

4.33pm BST

34 min: A scrappy phase, now. You’d have say that United haven’t turned the screw as they could have. What is Sir Alex, shown sitting next to Mick Hucknall in the directors’ box, thinking?

4.31pm BST

31 min: A smooth Everton move ends up at Martina’s feet again, but he crosses poorly into Matic with players waiting. He gets another chance to overlap moments later but is adjudged to have pulled Young back.

4.29pm BST

29 min: Davies dives onto a Martina cross and De Gea saves with his legs from point-blank range … but Davies was offside anyway. That right side is providing them with some joy.

4.27pm BST

28 min: That might yet prove crucial. Awful error by Keane just as Everton were getting a reasonable foothold – but he was let off!

4.27pm BST

26 min: What a miss from Lukaku! Keane plays a disastrous square pass in his own half that totally wrong-foots Schneiderlin. Lukaku seizes the ball, surges into the box, commits Williams and has most of the goal to aim at from about 10 yards. He slots it past Pickford, but also wide of the post!

4.24pm BST

24 min: It’s a bit more open now. United might like to create another opportunity or two, although they now win a free kick when Williams goes in late on Lukaku. It’s just too far out for a crack at goal and Mata’s delivery is cleared with ease by Keane.

4.21pm BST

21 min: Lukaku flashes a ball across the box from the left, and then can’t reach a Mata cross from the other side. Then Everton break and Rooney has a chance! Martina, a good outlet down that right side, cuts one back towards the edge of the area, and Rooney, taking it first-time on the run, cuts it just past a diving De Gea’s right post! Might have done better!

4.19pm BST

19 min: Lukaku goes on his first real run and touches it forward to Rashford, breaking on the right of the area. Williams has to get his tackle spot on, or it’s a penalty – and to give him credit, he does.

4.17pm BST

18 min: United, still overwhelmingly in control if not exactly creating chance after chance, are playing the ball around with some comfort. They’re not being pressed with much ferocity.

4.15pm BST

15 min: A lovely Rooney touch frees Davies with Martina in a great position on the overlap ahead of him, but the pass is poor. Everton have at least perked up a touch. They then win a free-kick midway inside the United half, which Sigurdsson whips in. Rooney fouls De Gea, though.

4.13pm BST

13 min: Everton do construct an attack now and Martina delivers well from the right, but Jones gets up to flick the ball away before Rooney – the only player in proximity – can attack it.

4.12pm BST

12 min: Rooney tries to do something, looking to spread wide for Martina just beyond halfway, but Young is in to intercept and bring the ball forward. There are one or two jeers.

4.10pm BST

11 min: Mata picks out Young on the left byline but he drills high and beyond the far post. Everton have literally not been in the United half yet. Literally.

4.09pm BST

9 min: Back to my earlier point, it kind of helps relieve pressure if you field a striker …

4.08pm BST

8 min: United have really stepped the tempo up now, knowing that a second would be very hard to come back from. A couple of skirmishes in the box lead to a panicky Pickford clearance. Everton are still camped so deep and really can’t get out.

4.06pm BST

6 min: Quite glad of that, as Everton had come here to dig in and can’t really do that now. That was a once-a-season strike from Valencia, and came from absolutely nothing.

4.05pm BST

Errrr, nothing slow about that! Matic whips the ball from the left side across the edge of the box, left-footed, with most of the Everton team incredibly deep inside their own area. Valencia, lurking just beyond the corner of the area, takes the ball after it bounces and absolutely thrashes it plum into the far top corner! An absolutely brilliant strike – and what a start for United!

4.03pm BST

3 min: It is raining hard at Old Trafford. There’s no torrent of attacking movement so far though. It’s been fairly slow United buildup.

4.01pm BST

1 min: A couple of nice economical early touches from Rooney. That’s a takeaway from the opening minute. The crowd aren’t lingering on him though, it’s strictly business now.

4.00pm BST

Lukaku kicks off for United, who go right to left.

3.59pm BST

I mean, I look at the Everton team here and – with the best will to the player Rooney is these days, which is still a fine one – there really isn’t a proper striker. Not really.

3.57pm BST

The teams are walking out, I’ve already seen at least one Rooney banner in the home end – the reception looks to be a very warm one.

3.56pm BST

Wayne Rooney has scored 9.7% of Man Utd’s PL goals at Old Trafford. He must be tempted to slot in some hot own goals today to reach that 10%


3.53pm BST

Michael Cosgrove asks: “So, it’s Rooney’s return to Old Trafford. Will he be welcomed onto the pitch by generous applause reserved for former heroes or the bitter boos that are reserved for traitors?”

I mean, that’s the question isn’t it. Looks like being the former though (as it should be … read Danny Taylor’s excellent piece for more on that).

3.49pm BST

Interesting, too, how Mourinho – speaking now – refers to Everton’s “five at the back”. He’s done that before, he doesn’t think three at the back is really a thing. I know what he means; in most cases it’s a hedging of bets at very best.

3.48pm BST

Koeman on a switch to three at the back: “We know how to play this system, we had a good result away at City and we did it several times last season. I think we need a bit more of a compact team and in the last few teams we lost a little bit our strength.”

3.42pm BST

Rooney on a nice reception when he bowled up earlier: “Of course it was nice but I’m here to try and get a result for Everton, it’s a big game for us and important to try and get something. It’s going to be strange but I’m here with Everton and trying to get a result, obviously I’m with Everton and trying to win. It’s a game of football, 90 minutes on the pitch, everything will be going into trying to get a result for us.”

Reading between the lines, I’d say he’s here with Everton and wants to try and win the game.

3.41pm BST

So, Everton fans, what’s gone wrong lately? Without Lukaku and, of course, Barkley there just seems little drive and flair. Not enough pace, not enough vim. How big a failure was it not to snare a striker?

3.29pm BST

Another thing Rooney did as an Everton player at Old Trafford – a matter of weeks before it all kicked off with that goal against Arsenal:

3.24pm BST

Ok, so Chelsea v Arsenal finished goalless and wasn’t great. Here’s some better warm-up material for you. What did Wayne Rooney do the last time he played at Old Trafford as a visiting player?

3.12pm BST

Hang on, no, I can’t let this go:

| A first look at our sleeve sponsor, @AngryBirds, as part of our new partnership with @rovio#RedIsABlue

3.07pm BST

Let me know what you think of those teams – email and Twitter addresses are appended. I’ll talk to you more when Chelsea-Arsenal, currently finely balanced at 0-0, is finished. You can keep up with that here:

Related: Chelsea v Arsenal: Premier League – live!

3.01pm BST

Man Utd: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Young, Fellaini, Matic, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Martial,
Smalling, Lingard, Carrick, Romero, Herrera, Darmian.

Everton: Pickford, Keane, Jagielka, Williams, Martina, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Baines, Davies, Sigurdsson, Rooney. Subs: Sandro, Mirallas, Klaassen, Besic, Stekelenburg, Calvert-Lewin, Holgate.

2.49pm BST

Wayne’s World. Fountains of Wayne. Wayne Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. However you like your Wayne, there’s something for you today – are you an Evertonian, outraged by his departure all those years ago, who has clutched him firmly back to your bosom this time around? Perhaps you’re a United fan who, despite his slow fade over his final couple of seasons, believes he can do no wrong? Perhaps you’re somebody who takes a little from columns A, B and all the others, admiring the good and the bad from a brilliant if complex career that still have a fair few turns left in it.

The latest one, his return to Old Trafford, would have been billed a month or so back as the potential storming of the citadel by a vibrant, new-look Everton lineup led heroically by the man of the moment. Everton started the season reasonably well, Rooney scoring the obvious winner on his league re-debut, but it’s not gone remotely to plan since. A 1-1 draw at Man City – Rooney again – look a better result by the week but everything since has, let’s be honest, been turgid. They were virtually invisible against Chelsea and Tottenham; they were execrable at Atalanta on Thursday night and more of the same would see them take a hiding this afternoon.

10.36am BST

Nick will be here shortly.

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Sep 13

Feyenoord 0-4 Manchester City: Champions League – as it happened

John Stones scores twice while Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus are on target too in the easiest of Champions League openers for Pep Guardiola’s side

9.46pm BST

For those lingering/reliving/basking, here is Jamie’s on-the-whistle report:

Related: John Stones double helps Manchester City to easy victory over Feyenoord

9.40pm BST

Excellent from City, execrable from Feyenoord. Would things have been different had Vilhena not messed up so badly in the second minute? Maybe, but probably not. City were on a different plane there, the home team simply looked cowed and fearful throughout, offering virtually nothing all game. Job done, and City will face much better opponents in Europe this season, but they are purring nicely into gear and look an intimidating proposition.

Liverpool 2-2 Sevilla and Spurs 3-1 Dortmund, by the way. And, of more interest to City and Feyenoord, Shakhtar 2-1 Napoli.

9.34pm BST

Never in doubt. By which I genuinely do mean never in doubt.

9.33pm BST

90+1 min: Two added minutes to contest, if that’s ever really been an appropriate word tonight.

9.32pm BST

90 min: St Juste gets Bernardo Silva with what sees at first to be a high foot but is actually a follow-through lower down. No need for a second booking.

9.31pm BST

4-0 and City coast convincingly carefree…

Alliteration from our man in Rotterdam. Not the worst game for a tight evening deadline, this.

9.29pm BST

87 min: More keep-ball results eventually in a De Bruyne pass, a Mendy criss, a Jones fumble but little further danger.

9.26pm BST

84 min: Fine block by St Juste on Sane, who is played through by Bernardo Silva and tries to shoot across Jones, with Sterling screaming for it in the middle. One corner becomes two, and from the second De Bruyne’s daisycutter is blocked too.

9.23pm BST

81 min: Nothing is really happening on the pitch. It’s just consummate from City, with Feyenoord largely chasing shadows. Everyone is playing out time.

9.21pm BST

78 min: Amrabat goes off, applauds the home fans and is applauded warmly in return. The crowd do deserve credit for keeping on keeping on. Sam Larsson, in only his second game for the club, comes on.

9.18pm BST

76 min: Boetius wins a free-kick from Sterling a yard outside the City box. They couldn’t get one back … could they? Nope. Toornstra balloons it well over the top.

9.16pm BST

74 min: Kevin De Bruyne has taken the armband now, by the way. What a start to the season he is having; he gets better and better. He plays Sterling through down the right now but it’s perhaps a little overhit and the substitute flashes his cross beyond goal.

9.14pm BST

72 min: Feyenoord bring on 18-year-old local lad Dylan Vente for the thankless Kramer.

9.13pm BST

71 min: Yes, here’s Sane for Fernandinho. City have so much pace and power these days!

9.12pm BST

70 min: It’s the City fans in good voice now with their Glad All Over effort. Leroy Sane will be coming on soon.

9.10pm BST

@NickAmes82 How’s the atmosphere? I’m stuck in a Bosnian hotel with only #ItaliaSerbia (basketball) or even worse #LIVSEV to watch on TV

Had Feyenoord made a game of this, the atmosphere would have been absolutely spectacular. As it is, fair play to the home crowd, they’ve given it a shot this half despite their team’s non-performance.

9.09pm BST

67 min: Botteghin is booked for a thoroughly useless foul on Jesus down the right. David Silva comes off now, and on comes Fabian Delph.

9.08pm BST

65 min: De Bruyne goes right to left and Sterling is waiting at the back post. He brings it down with his chest and Jones saves smartly enough at the near post. City had lulled but the tempo is up again now. From the corner, Jones clears unconvincingly and then gathers when Otamendi drills a low effort back in.

9.06pm BST

Another for Stones! And a cleaner one this time. It’s another short corner from the left and, come on, when are Feyenoord going to learn about these? This time De Bruyne whips the ball in after it’s returned to him and Stones, six yards and with barely a finger laid on him, rises to thud a header into the roof of the net. All so, so easy.

9.04pm BST

@NickAmes82 vampire names: Vampeta which actually means ‘devil vampire’. Looked like a vampire as well with his little moustache.

The winner.

9.04pm BST

@NickAmes82 Just once, I’d love to read an MBM or match report that doesn’t refer to Manchester City’s spending. Just the once.

Someone else started it! But look, context is important. It doesn’t belittle the fact that they’re going to be one heck of a team to watch this season. I love them with Walker and Mendy down those flanks.

9.02pm BST

60 min: Shakhtar 2-0 Napoli in the other game, which makes you wonder whether City are in for a procession to top spot. Spurs now lead Dortmund 3-1 at Wembley, Harry Kane with two left-footers. We interrupt this results service to tell you that Sterling is replacing Aguero.

9.00pm BST

58 min: After those little flurries, City are popping the ball around well again. I think Raheem Sterling will come on soon, which isn’t really much respite.

8.59pm BST

56 min: Boetius wins a corner on the left, but Toornstra overhits it. Shame. Even at 3-0, the home fans have shown a huge appetite to get back behind their team but there was nothing to cheer there.

8.56pm BST

53 min: I think this half will probably be a tapering-down for City, who play Watford at the weekend and probably quite fancy keeping themselves fresh. It will probably help Feyenoord look a touch livelier but I can’t really see the next 40 minutes counting for a lot.

8.53pm BST

51 min: Kramer now scampers down the right but his attempt to play Amrabat in reckons without Stones, who recovers smoothly to win that race and come away with the ball.

8.51pm BST

49 min: Toornstra goes on a bit of a run down the left and sets up a situation around the edge of the City box, which is eventually defended. That’s a great improvement though, already.

8.50pm BST

Sergio Aguero only five goals away (yes?) from equalling Eric Brook’s all-time goal scoring record for Manchester City in all competitions.


8.48pm BST

46 min: The hosts have made a change by the way. Berghuis – who was actually relatively lively, though it’s very relative indeed – has gone off and been replaced by Toornstra. A disastrous back three has morphed into a back four.

8.47pm BST

Will Feyenoord give us something? Anything? One goal could … avert the inevitable for a little while.

8.40pm BST

And Watford supporter @mattrowson mentioned Valon Behrami in the same vein:

And go on again, because it’s important to stress that this kind of frippery repeats itself across the site.

8.39pm BST

@NickAmes82 Vampire footballers: I reckon Dragos Grigore (Romania and Al-Sailiya) has got a reasonably vampiric name.

Go on then.

8.39pm BST

On the third goal, it wasn’t deflected from Mendy – it was just a poor parry from Jones, who was perhaps unsighted and thus wrong-footed.

8.37pm BST

From Ciaran Burke: “Feyenoord fans having nothing to complain about – they could complain that their club has fought back from bankruptcy in the last few years while City have racked up £535m accumulated losses in the last few years by buying up Europe’s most coveted manager and a string of top players. Just a thought.”

Yes, my MBM has failed thus far to reference the fact that football in Europe is rotten to the core. Something we must fight hard against being normalised to.

8.31pm BST

Painfully soft opening goal from Stones, clinical second from Aguero, simple third from Jesus, and we can’t really say this isn’t entirely reflective of the score. City may as well be on a different pitch – let’s be honest.

8.30pm BST

45 min: Feyenoord win a corner though, after a move where Berghuis nutmegs Mendy. That made the crowd smile! The flag kick comes to zero in the end, which makes them frown.

8.29pm BST

44 min: Whistles, now, as a Feyenoord attack ends up back with their own ‘keeper, Jones. This is very limp from them.

8.27pm BST

43 min: We’re not going to need the second half, really. I predict 4-0 and perhaps a Feyenoord red card.

8.26pm BST

41 min: They’ve lost it here, Feyenoord. Vilhena follows briskly in the footsteps of his colleagues with a wild crunch on De Bruyne. Now he’s booked too and the last two minutes have just been stupid from him and his team.

8.25pm BST

40 min: And now Kramer does something similar, with an utterly needless hack at Fernandinho. I’ve seen red cards given for those, he went in with two feet and essentially scissored into him. Yellow card.

8.24pm BST

39 min: St Juste is booked for a rather petulant, frustrated kick at Jesus and concedes a left-sided free-kick. It’s a delicious delivery from De Bruyne that bounces up and Jones has to repel with his body, but somebody is offside. Jesus I think.

8.23pm BST

38 min: Liverpool have turned it round to be 2-1 up, Salah has just scored. As things stand English clubs will be – yuck – five for five!

8.22pm BST

37 min: You’re not missing a lot, it’s just City possession, although Walker almost manages to squeeze the ball across again after a lightning dash. Mendy and Walker make a huge difference to City – huge. Make no mistake about that.

8.20pm BST

34 min: Feyenoord are still barely able to touch the ball. They’re just being absolutely killed. Boetius does, at least, earn applause for robbing Aguero down by the byline – but there’s a problem with that as Boetius is meant to be a forward himself, and lumps the ball upfield to nobody.

8.16pm BST

31 min: Could have been four, Aguero squeezing a De Bruyne centre – again from the right – ever so slightly wide at the near post.

8.15pm BST

30 min: Nights like this, when the crowd are so patently up for it and ready to whip up a storm, are always a real shame when they fall so flat so quickly. It’s a letdown. But the home fans can’t complain about anything.

8.13pm BST

28 min: This could honestly be any score if City – and Feyenoord for that matter – carry on like this although I expect they’ll slow it down soon enough now they have the cushion.

8.12pm BST

Errrr … that was a bit odd, but it’s game over now. The corner is cleared out to Mendy, who drills towards goal from 25 yards at the second attempt. I think it’s deflected a bit and Jones can only half-save. Everyone stops because Otamendi, in front of goal, is about two yards offside. Jesus, also in front of goal, is definitely not offside though and has the simplest, most unopposed of tap-ins while the others all wait. And City lead by three. This is a rout.

8.10pm BST

24 min: City are getting tonnes of space on the right and De Bruyne is the latest to have some joy, slipping in David Silva, who wins a corner before …

8.08pm BST

23 min: David Silva bursts into the box now but Jones is out very sharply to gather at his feet some 15 yards out.

8.07pm BST

21 min: Close from Feyenoord! Much better as the striker, Kramer, is fed by Boetius and has a clear sight of goal on the left of the area. He lets fly and it clips off Ederson … into the side netting. Some of the home crowd think it’s in, but it’s not and the corner comes to nothing. Better though.

8.05pm BST

Dear @UEFA do you think this is an acceptable way to treat people who’ve paid 60€ to watch a match (that we can barely see)? #ManCity

The away end, ladies and gentlemen.

8.04pm BST

19 min: Bernardo Silva finds Aguero, faced with only one man, who takes it just a little too far left for a good angle but still manages to snaffle away a shot, which Jones parries. City keep up the pressure but Jones takes a subsequent cross at the second attempt.

8.02pm BST

17 min: Elsewhere in the group, Shakhtar Donetsk lead Napoli at home, perhaps a touch surprisingly. Spurs are now 2-1 up over Dortmund by the way.

8.00pm BST

15 min: Yellow card for De Bruyne for going right through Vilhena. Nasty, maybe not helped by the surface though.

8.00pm BST

15 min: I’m receiving a few vampiric footballers from you, as requested. Events having overtaken us a little, I’ll try and share them at half time …

7.58pm BST

13 min: A bit of determination from Berghuis there, surging towards the area, but De Bruyne gets back and blocks well. First real flicker from Feyenoord and it may already be too late.

7.58pm BST

13 min: Stones’ goal, timed at 95 seconds, was City’s quickest-ever in Europe. At this rate there will be other records broken. Can Feyenoord get any kind of grip on this before they’re totally blown away?

7.57pm BST

They’re running away with it! So simple, so clinical. Walker overlaps at high speed down the right, whips in a wonderful low cross and Aguero, swiping across the ball brilliantly, flashes it into the far corner. Was that the kind of goal City might not have been able to score last season?

7.55pm BST

9 min: David Silva is a bit generous in trying to slip Jesus in when he could probably shoot. Amrabat is in to snuff out the danger. Feyenoord just haven’t been remotely involved yet – or at least not in any good way.

7.53pm BST

7 min: Not too far off being two! Bernardo Silva bends a cross over from the right and Jesus is up well to loop a header of his own towards that same back post. It’s dropping in until Botteghin, arriving in the nick of time, leaps like a salmon to head it out from under the bar.

7.51pm BST

6 min: How will Feyenoord respond on and off the pitch? It was absolutely throbbing in there before kick-off. Now it’s near-silent and their team can barely get a touch at the moment.

7.50pm BST

5 min: Tottenham are winning against Dortmund and Sevilla winning at Liverpool. The goals are flying in tonight!

7.50pm BST

Well that might silence them! What a horrible, horrible goal to concede though. The corner is played short to David Silva, who chips one across and Stones is up to win the header. It’s directed well, towards the back post, but Vilhena is doing his job there and is perfectly positioned to clear. He doesn’t! The ball squirms awkwardly, awfully, through his legs and slips into the net in slow motion. Charitably you’d say it must be quite wet; in reality that’s a terrible mistake. City are ahead before we’ve really started.

7.47pm BST

2 min: City are being whistled at very loudly whenever they’re on the ball, which will be a common occurence. Jesus wins an early corner off El Ahmadi down the left and …

7.46pm BST

Yer referee, Mr Marciniak, gets us underway with the whistle. And Feyenoord, going left to right in the Rotterdam rain, do likewise with the ball.

7.43pm BST

How could I forget – Feyenoord captain Karim El Ahmadi is one of numerous players who have failed at Aston Villa in the past half-decade. He’s doing well at Feyenoord. It’s almost as if the problem at Villa was rather bigger.

The players are out on the pitch now, by the way, and trilling along to the Champions League anthem. There are flares. The atmosphere is HOT.

7.38pm BST

“If I were reading a novel which featured a dashingly handsome footballer who hasn’t seemed to age a day in two decades called Giovanni van Bronckhurst, I’d assume right away that he’s an undying vampire count,” writes Kari Tulinius. “I’m also pretty sure Zinedine Zidane is a wizard.”

Any more vampiric footballers or managers?

7.31pm BST

Guardiola on … whether City are favourites! “It’s your job to say who is the favourites so we try to play to do our best.”

On Ederson: “It’s OK, in the end he was lucky but I think with a helmet he can play.”

7.28pm BST

Matt Loten sends us his take on City. Their defence isn’t up to the job, he says:

“Whilst I think that De Bruyne, the Silva Brothers, Jesus and Aguero are as talented an attacking lineup as has graced the Premier League, until Pep comes to his senses and instills some semblance of order and tactical cohesion in his defenders I don’t expect City to get much further than the quarters. Whilst his Barcelona side were prone to the odd lapse in concentration at the back, the fact remains that Dani Alves, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were phenomenal players, capable of organising themselves and putting their bodies on the line.

7.23pm BST

Jamal Mascott writes: “All the way from Barbados, just want to let you know that I am so grateful for the coverage, I’m here at work and can’t watch Manchester City win tonight, but I have my City Scarf on my desk, wish I could have worn my jersey to work. Come on City!”

Thanks Jamal, and all the best to everyone over there after the frightening situation of recent days.

7.19pm BST

Don’t forget Feyenoord beat Manchester United at home in the Europa League last season – although they were taken to school rather at Old Trafford. City should be warned by that first one though, surely …

7.16pm BST

Van Bronckhorst has done such a fine job at Feyenoord and if I didn’t know better I’d say he’s making a good pitch to be a successor to his old boss, Arsène Wenger, if and when the latter ever retires. Here’s a nice piece from Ed Aarons, a few months ago, which tells us just how he’s done it:

Related: Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s quiet revolution returns Feyenoord to summit | Ed Aarons

7.13pm BST

Other MBMs are available:

Related: Liverpool v Sevilla: Champions League – live!

Related: Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund: Champions League – live!

7.07pm BST

Do email tonight, by the way. We can chat. Are City contenders? Should they see themselves as contenders? How good are 1970 European Cup winner Feyenoord?

7.01pm BST

Ederson starts for City, then, completing that miraculous recovery from his face’s awful meeting with Sadio Mane’s boot. Quite a front-loaded lineup from City there, Bernardo Silva in from the start for Danilo in what looks a very attacking swap.

Feyenoord include ex-Liverpool man Brad Jones and ex-Watford man Steven Berghuis. The Ambrabat you see before you is Sofyan, brother of current Watford (well, on loan at Leganes) man Nordin. They have a big miss tonight in the form of key striker Nicolai Jorgensen, who is injured.

6.55pm BST

Feyenoord: Jones; St Juste, Botteghin, Van der Heijden, Nelom; Amrabat, El Ahmadi, Vilhena; Berghuis, Kramer, Boetius. Subs: Bijlow, Diks, Geertruida, Tapia, Toornstra, Larsson, Vente.

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Silva, Jesus, Aguero. Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Sterling, Gundogan, Mangala, Delph, Sane.

6.40pm BST

Here we go, then. Manchester City, who are definitely not contenders at all for a competition that it would be daft to imagine them winning and will be lucky to get away scot free against a well-aged European behemoth tonight, kick off their Champions League campaign.

Disclaimer: the above aren’t my actual thoughts, they’re a hilarious pastiche of the protestations Pep Guardiola makes when he thinks people are getting that little bit too puffed up about City’s chances of winning this competition – as per Jamie’s piece below. Guardiola has been at it before: he talked similarly after they outclassed Barcelona last season, and while the humility is admirable and it does no harm to reference City’s place as relative arrivistes, you wonder whether at some point it might become self-fulfilling. Monaco were brilliant last season, but City should probably not have been knocked out by them.

9.39am BST

Nick will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s Jamie Jackson’s pre-match scene-setter:

Related: Pep Guardiola calms talk of Champions League success for Manchester City

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Sep 10

Excitement at painful odds with reality as Renato Sanches makes Swansea bow | Nick Ames

Mitigating factors can be found for a tepid debut for the Bayern Munich loanee against Newcastle but the Portuguese will be expected to improve quickly

The stacks of freshly woven scarves outside Swansea City’s home bore Renato Sanches’s name; the mouths inside mused excitedly about the potential of the team that will foster him. Two hours later there was just as much to discuss but with brows rather more furrowed. If a scrappy defeat by Newcastle proved anything, it was that one cannot microwave oneself a hero and on this evidence patience will be required if the loanee from Bayern Munich is to become a leading man in the battle to stay in the Premier League.

Related: Jamaal Lascelles heads Newcastle past Swansea with Benítez convalescing

Related: Renato Sanches, the invisible wonderkid, goes from celebrity to the Liberty | Barney Ronay

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Sep 07

Ipswich Town lead the Championship battle to give away fans a fair deal

In reaction to some second-tier clubs charging up to £44 for travelling supporters, Ipswich are pioneering a ground-breaking reciprocal deal of £25

Back in April the disgust in Simon Grayson’s voice was evident when, before a visit to Leeds United, the then-Preston North End manager was asked for his views on the cost of supporting his team at Elland Road. “It is bordering on a disgrace that it is £37 for a Championship fixture and £42 on the day,” Grayson said. “There’s got to be some thought for supporters who want to go and watch football matches. How can Championship clubs charge more than Premier League teams to watch their team play?”

Related: Championship ticket prices: how did clubs end up charging £52 a game?

Related: Premier League tickets: fans have been taken for granted for too long | Owen Gibson

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Aug 27

West Bromwich Albion v Stoke City: Premier League – as it happened

Peter Crouch salvaged a point for Stoke after an error by Ahmed Hegazi, whose West Brom side had taken the lead through Jay Rodriguez

3.24pm BST

All square, then, and it’s a fair result although West Brom will be the ones with all the regret. They were pretty comfortably in control after Rodriguez’s goal but then Hegazi, who was very good in all else that he did, made a horrible error and Crouch popped up to equalise. There were flickers at either end after that, particularly from Choupo-Moting for Stoke, but neither side can really complain at the outcome.

Not as bad as all that in the end, eh? You can keep your Chelsea 2-0 Everton, just supposing a game like that had ever existed. And you can now join Daniel Harris for Liverpool v Arsenal via the link below. Enjoy that, and it’s goodbye from me!

Related: Liverpool v Arsenal: Premier League – live!

3.20pm BST

And now it is, indeed, over.

3.19pm BST

90+3 min: McClean now does well on the left and fizzes a difficult ball in for Rondon, who slices it all the way out for a throw-in. This game is now by some distance the best it’s been, but it’s going to be over in a minute.

3.19pm BST

90+2 min: Sobhi tricks to the byline but Livermore nods his dinked cross away … only into the path of Fletcher, 25 yards out, who senses a fairytale of his very own but sees a harmless first-time shot blocked.

3.16pm BST

90 min: We will have four minutes of stoppage time.

3.15pm BST

89 min: Burke immediately puts in a nice, deep cross for McClean, who drills a volley into the ground and into a defender.

3.14pm BST

88 min: Allen is booked now for a foul on Rodriguez. West Brom will take the respite as Stoke have been crisper and more threatening than at any point in the second half since equalising. And now Burke comes on in place of Rodriguez for his debut. Fairytale imminent?

3.13pm BST

87 min: What a chance for Choupo-Moting! Shaqiri’s cross beats both Nyom and Dawson, who were occupied by Crouch, and the Cameroonian brings the ball down at the far post. He has space to get a shot away, but lashes it wide!

3.11pm BST

85 min: Zouma goes in search of said winner, letting fly again. It’s a good couple of yards wide but interests Foster enough to provoke a dive, and the away fans “ooooh” in such a way that suggests they didn’t have the angle we did.

3.10pm BST

84 min: Rondon is booked for a high foot on Fletcher. Can anyone find a winner? The ante has certainly been upped and you wouldn’t rule it out.

3.09pm BST

83 min: If you want a visual of the equaliser, it reminded me a bit of that famous Koscielny/Szczesny to-do when Arsenal lost to Birmingham in the League Cup final. Stoke have the wind in their sails now and Allen fizzes a cross-shot in from the right that Foster has to repel.

3.07pm BST

82 min: Two goals here, though, eh? Was there ever any doubt?

3.06pm BST

81 min: West Brom will be kicking themselves and Pulis will be fuming. Stoke had offered nothing since going behind and Albion appeared to be getting stronger. One lapse in an otherwise watertight performance, and here we are.

3.05pm BST

That one came from nowhere too! And … ohhhhh … what a mistake by the otherwise immaculate Hegazi! Foster has a relatively simple job of collecting a delivery from the left but Hegazi, for no reason at all, wafts a foot at it and the ball ricochets up away from them both. It leaves Crouch, lurking behind, with the very simplest of headers from three yards. It seems Hegazi didn’t hear Foster’s call – and what an un-West Brom-like error that was.

3.03pm BST

77 min: Shawcross defends that one and Yacob makes a total hash of his subsequent attempt at the spectacular. And moments later …

3.02pm BST

76 min: Rondon, working hard as ever without posing a direct goal threat, scurries down the channel and wins another corner. Crouch wins two consecutive headers to get it out, but McClean drills it back in from range and it deflects out for yet another flag kick.

3.00pm BST

74 min: Not quite, but Rodriguez meets it at the far post and, although the header never looks a great threat, it actually bounces out off the top of the bar. That’s the prompt for James McClean to replace Phillips.

2.59pm BST

73 min: Ooops, Butland has a relatively simple gather as a long pass drifts beyond Phillips but he takes his eye off it and it slips away for a right-sided corner. Will he be made to pay?

2.58pm BST

72 min: In an alternative universe, Chelsea are still two up against Everton.

2.56pm BST

70 min: Barry wins the ball from Shaqiri with the cleanest tackle you will ever see. He then plays a loose pass but, no mistake, he has been very good here. His midfield partner, Morrison, is now replaced by Claudio Yacob, while Stoke bring on the attack-minded Sobhi for Cameron.

2.55pm BST

68 min: Crouch leaps to meet a delivery from Pieters and, even though the ball doesn’t trouble the goal, there may be some small encouragement there.

2.53pm BST

Good to see West Brom are well on their way to the magical forty-point mark. They might be able to drop the intensity in January this year

It is something to aim for.

2.53pm BST

67 min: Headed away by Shawcross – but Albion are seeking blood.

2.52pm BST

66 min: Could have been two – should have been two? Hegazi meets a free-kick six yards out, gets it on target … but Butland flips it over sharply! Another corner.

2.51pm BST

66 min: “This game isn’t boring! It’s one for the purists. Why are we so reliant on goals as a form of stimulation? What about a nice firm pass? Or a well taken throw-in?” quips Dan Osborn. Who was it that said goals are overrated?

2.50pm BST

64 min: It’s going to be a difficult half hour for Stoke now. They’ve dominated the ball here but chances have been few and far between as it is. Crouch might be a necessary means of mixing things up.

2.49pm BST

62 min: Didn’t see that coming, did we? West Brom are just so good at finding a way, even if there are elements of their game that you wouldn’t watch if it was on in your back garden. Peter Crouch immediately comes on for the very quiet Jese.

2.48pm BST

From nothing! It’s great work from the excellent Nyom, who sprints beyond the puffing Shaqiri on the right and whips in a fine cross that goes beyond Rondon and bounces up for Rodriguez, anticipating perfectly, to thud a header beyond Butland!

2.46pm BST

60 min: Choupo-Moting looks for space in a pocket in front of the box but Barry, imperious here, nudges him away.

2.45pm BST

59 min: Sky have just apologised for technical issues preventing them showing replays but, honestly, there has been nothing in this second half to replay.

2.43pm BST

57 min: And because the floodgates are opening in my mailbox, if nowhere else, this from Adam Timmins:

“You gotta love the fact that the reason Stoke got rid of Pulis was because they ‘wanted to move up to the next level’, and since then have done – to quote Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black – ‘precisely, d**k’.”

2.42pm BST

56 min: Charles Antaki wonders something that I, too, sometimes wonder: “Strip determinism – I wonder if the dullness of the game is caused in any sort of magical-thinking way by the simple dullness of these two sides’ strips? Red stripe on white. Dark blue strip on white. Yes, I know that they’re historical and authentic. But this are also usually the cheapest kits you can buy when trying to equip a park team on a no-budget basis. Perhaps it’s playing on the teams’ minds.”

2.41pm BST

55 min: Laurence from Winchester has bad news for us – “JR has offered to be the hex but ‘ain’t no way there are going to be goals scored’ is in fact a double negative So JR is about as committed to his statement as these teams are to actually scoring in this game.”

2.40pm BST

54 min: Choupo-Moting is harshly penalised when the ball pops up onto his arm after a low Cameron cross, and that little glimmer fades for Stoke.

2.39pm BST

52 min: Rodriguez is booked for a take-it-for-the-team foul on Pieters, who was charging towards the West Brom area. The free kick comes to nothing, so job done.

2.36pm BST

50 min: Phillips’ delivery is decent but Shawcross gets it away, and Phillips is caught offside when the ball is returned to him.

2.36pm BST

49 min: Rodriguez gets into more space down the left but runs into trouble as he nears the box. Fletcher has tracked him and comes away from the ball. West Brom look a bit brighter on the ball in these early stages, with a few more runners. Now they win a corner kick via Brunt …

2.34pm BST

48 min: Shaqiri produces a couple of nice stepovers but can’t outfox the very solid Hegazi, who is in West Brom’s team to stay, I think.

2.33pm BST

47 min: Some early purpose from the Baggies but Cameron snuffs out a Rodriguez sortie, before Rodriguez does similar against Shaqiri at the other end.

2.31pm BST

No changes. No surprises.

2.27pm BST

Still here? The second half is coming up. Echoing the earlier point by JR, I wonder if Oliver Burke will come on later for WBA. Fine talent and a shame it didn’t work out in Leipzig. One of his problems there was his “defensive hard drive” – but presumably it’s been loaded up enough to satisfy Pulis.

2.19pm BST

JR lends us a hand: “This one’s going to end 0-0 isn’t it? You can admit it. Maybe this game needs for someone to confidently say ‘This game will end goalless’ in order to hex themselves and then look foolish when they are proven wrong. I’ll be glad to volunteer. But seriously, ain’t no way there are going to be any goals scored in this game.”

Happy to leave the hexing to someone else after writing this on Friday. Ipswich went on to lose.

2.17pm BST

Pretty much to the letter of what you’d expected, really. West Brom not threatening much beyond set pieces, Stoke having more of the ball but finding it tough to break them down. Zouma’s deflected shot, very well saved by Foster, is as close as we’ve come. Surely there’ll be a clear chance or two after the break. If that doesn’t persuade you to stick with us, nothing will!

2.15pm BST

45 min: Nyom has probably been the best player of this half. He mops up again on West Brom’s right.

2.14pm BST

44 min: Livermore tries to slide Rodriguez down the line but it’s just too far in front of him. West Brom’s threat has increased although that is not saying much at all.

2.13pm BST

43 min: It’s cleared though, and now Choupo-Moting can break. He finds Shaqiri, who quickly spots Jese’s run, but he’s crowded out and skews the ball behind under pressure from – again – Nyom.

2.12pm BST

41 min: West Brom appeal for handball when a Jese shot pings up off Brunt but it never really looked on. Phillips then finds some rare space at the other end but nobody attacks the cross … and then he runs onto a Brunt delivery at the far post, drills it across and Shawcross has to thump the ball behind for a corner. Better.

2.10pm BST

41 min: Hypothetically, what if Chelsea were 2-0 up against Everton thanks to a Morata header?

2.09pm BST

39 min: Rodriguez causes brief interest with a nice ball from the left but Shawcross clears; then Nyom spoons a cross up for Butland to claim. West Brom looking a bit livelier now but they have done nothing with the ball in open play.

2.08pm BST

38 min: Same again, almost – Brunt aims for Dawson round the back stick and Butland is up but can’t claim properly. This time, though, it is deemed that he was fouled.

2.07pm BST

37 min: Dawson wins a corner on the right after Stoke can’t clear a free kick. West Brom haven’t done a lot going forwards since the first few minutes so this is a welcome chance. Brunt again goes fairly deep and Butland can only get a finger to it on the stretch, but Cameron is on hand to help it away from any interested parties. And now Rondon wins a free kick near to the same corner flag …

2.04pm BST

34 min: Superb play from Fletcher sends Jese scampering away down the left but Nyom marshals him really well, holds him up and eventually confuses him into running the ball out of play.

2.03pm BST

33 min: Nyom is heavily involved again, and audibly yelps as Pieters scythes him down after being beaten to the ball. Yellow card for the Stoke man. No real complaints either.

2.02pm BST

32 min: Dangerous Stoke free kick on the right – in theory, anyway, but Shaqiri’s underdone delivery is headed away by Rodriguez, who had conceded it.

2.00pm BST

31 min: Nyom fouls Jese with an outstretched arm across the face, causing a pretty dramatic reaction, which itself prompts anger from the Cameroon international. All are now up and about again.

1.59pm BST

30 min: The tempo has dropped here but it should be said that Stoke – for whom Choupo-Moting heads wide from a Martins Indi cross – look the likelier.

1.57pm BST

28 min: If I told you Chelsea were playing Everton and Cesc Fabregas had just put them one up, would you believe me?

1.56pm BST

26 min: Stoke turn West Brom’s midfield around the the first time, really, and Shaqiri finds Cameron in a good position on the right. His shot lacks any kind of conviction though, and is sidefooted well wide of the near post.

1.55pm BST

25 min: Save by Foster! Zouma carries the ball a long way upfield, looks a little surprised, and then lets fly from 25 yards. It deflects off Barry, spins up in the air and is going to drop into the net before the West Brom ‘keeper reacts well to tip over. The corner results in a rather strange blowing of the whistle that baffles everybody.

1.53pm BST

24 min: Barry again distributes well and finds Rondon, who has dropped off, to feet. Rondon then looks to play in someone running beyond him. But there isn’t anyone running beyond him.

1.52pm BST

23 min: I’m enjoying this game, I genuinely am, but I do think it will be decided by a single goal at best.

1.50pm BST

21 min: I can hear chants of “Tony Pulis, your football is sh*t” from the travelling wags. I think their banter is worse – Stoke wouldn’t be here without him.

1.49pm BST

20 min: Phillips gets to the byline for the first time after receiving a lovely switch from Barry, but crosses into the side netting.

1.48pm BST

18 min: Choupo-Moting engages Nyom, this time on the left of the box, and goes over once more. Again nothing doing although I think the fall was more down to his own contortion in trying to wriggle past the defender.

1.48pm BST

18 min: Engaging stuff so far then, without much in the way of chances really. There’s a bit of dissent at the moment regarding a Stoke throw-in, which is eventually taken without incident after a spot of pointing and shouting.

1.45pm BST

16 min: In the meantime, Stoke scramble to clear a West Brom long throw and then an inviting Nyom cross is gathered by Butland. Somebody could have attacked that.

1.45pm BST

15 min: JR writes – “Of course every Premier League game is available here in the U.S. (though this year NBC has forced us to pay $50 for what last year was free, but I digress) so if, for example, there was another game beside West Brom v Stoke happening I might just be keeping half an eye on that one.

“Most of my attention will be on the Baggies though as they’re my club. Wonder if, when, or how much we’ll see of Oliver Burke.”

1.43pm BST

14 min: Shaqiri is given too much space to cut in on his left foot, but doesn’t make a good connection and is fortunate to win a corner via a deflection. He takes it himself and Zouma, rising with Hegazi, looks for a moment as if he could power it home – but he is distracted just enough by his rival’s jump and loops his header over.

1.42pm BST

12 min: Martins Indi bundles Rondon over and West Brom take the free kick quickly. Their approach has been more about speed and brawn then poise, so far, but it’s making for a fun tussle. The move comes to nothing here, mind you.

1.41pm BST

11 min: Now West Brom’s third corner. It’s been a lively enough start here and the tempo is good. Brunt goes over again, unfurls that left foot … but crosses beyond the back post and out. What a waste. Unusual; his set pieces are usually a huge plus.

1.39pm BST

9 min: Stoke win a corner now, which Shawcross volleys towards goal. It’s stuffed but Martins Indi gets a toe on it, diverting the ball not that far wide of an unguarded far post.

1.38pm BST

8 min: Hegazi leaves Choupo-Moting on the floor. Think he fouled him, but nothing is given. Nothing is given moments later, either, when Choupo-Moting breaks into the box on the right, goes down under Brunt’s challenge – but no penalty! Right decision, should have been booked for a dive.

1.37pm BST

7 min: Any success for Stoke might depend on how long they are able to retain possession with their more technical players. They have a long spell on the ball now, building patiently, and at the end of it Foster has to come out alertly to punch Shaqiri’s cross away from Pieters.

1.35pm BST

5 min: It’s whipped in by Phillips, nicks off someone at the near post, and Martins Indi has to concede another corner on the other side – West Brom’s right. Brunt swings this one in … and Morrison gets a little bit of space at the back post, but he sees it a bit late and glances wide.

1.34pm BST

4 min: Rondon holds off Shawcross – should be a good battle, that – and wins a corner from the centre back …

1.32pm BST

2 min: Butland has to clear ahead of – I think – Barry after some dithering from Pieters. West Brom have started the better, if it means anything yet.

1.31pm BST

1 min: Both sides wearing white stripes and white shorts, which on a sunny day isn’t the most convenient look. For onlookers, anyway.

1.30pm BST

Let’s do this.

1.30pm BST

Don’t be sniffy about West Brom v Stoke. These two hate each other. Could be juicy.

Nick knows. Not this Nick, that Nick.

1.26pm BST

The teams are striding out at the Hawthorns. It’s a beautiful day. Nearly ready …

1.25pm BST

Matt Loten writes: “I have a proposal: how about we all mutually agree, whatever one’s personal stylistic preferences, to appreciate Tony Pulis for preserving the art of defending in an era when many managers treat it with disdain? I fully understand scoring goals is the aim of the game, but keeping them out is just as vital, and watching a well-drilled backline repel the league’s top talents is satisfying in its own right. Klopp, Guardiola and their ilk seem to think that defensive ability is irrelevant if you have stellar forwards, and perhaps Pulis goes too far the other way, but there’s no reason it should be an either/or choice between thrilling forward play and competent defending.”

It’s an interesting point. Will specialist defenders even exist in a decade?

1.18pm BST

Mark Hughes: “Our form’s good at the moment in my view. Beating Arsenal was a continuation of that form, I’m pleased with the level of performance we’re putting in at the moment.”

Tony Pulis: “It’d be absolutely fantastic [to go second] but we have to get through a tough game, a local derby, we have to be right on it and make sure we’re not complacent at all.”

1.06pm BST

“It feels very unnatural to see a Tony Pulis team field only half as many centre-backs (Dawson, Hegazi) as his opponents (Zouma, Shawcross, Cameron, Martins Indi),” points out Doremus Schafer.

By the way, Hegazi has been good so far hasn’t he? Scored the winner against Bournemouth, impressed against Burnley. I watched him at the Africa Cup of Nations in January and his name was seared into my eardrums by Jonathan Wilson, often of this parish, who couldn’t stop raving about him. Wilson was, of course, right.

12.49pm BST

Not to put a dampener on things but I think these two sides are perfect examples of the frustration and ultimate futility that life beneath the Premier League’s top six – plus whatever odd faction of their own Everton are in – and the others involves these days. I tried to explain that, using the context of West Brom, in their pre-season preview a couple of weeks back:

Related: Premier League 2017-18 preview No19: West Bromwich Albion | Nick Ames

12.36pm BST

West Brom: Foster, Nyom, Dawson, Hegazi, Brunt, Phillips, Livermore, Barry, Morrison, Rodriguez, Rondon. Subs: Yacob, Myhill, McClean, Burke, Chadli, Field, Kane Wilson.

Stoke: Butland, Zouma, Shawcross, Cameron, Martins Indi, Fletcher, Allen, Pieters, Shaqiri, Jese, Choupo-Moting. Subs: Johnson, Berahino, Adam, Crouch, Krkic, Sobhi, Grant.

12.26pm BST

This is an MBM of West Brom v Stoke, not Chelsea v Everton. That match isn’t on telly on the UK so it doesn’t actually exist. However, the Darren Fletcher Derby very much does so here we are, on a very bright and perky Sunday lunchtime, for a clash that should tell us plenty about which of these sides is more likely to finish 13th.

That’s not quite fair. West Brom are, as they say, “two for two” and were efficient in 1-0 wins over Bournemouth and Burnley. They are making use of quite a kind early run of fixtures and you wouldn’t bet against Tony Pulis, against his old club, pulling off a similar kind of stunt here. They might not have brought in all the players they wanted yet this pre-season, but West Brom and Pulis just keep on finding a way to make it all happen.

10.56am BST

Nick will be here soon enough. Until then, read our match preview:

Related: West Bromwich Albion v Stoke City: match preview

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Aug 25

Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich finding a way back to good times after last year’s low

Four wins out of four have put Ipswich on top of the Championship despite injuries and are helping to dispel memories of negativity last season

Mick McCarthy had just seen Ipswich Town go second in the Championship when it was put to him the only team sitting above them, on goal difference at that, was a Neil Warnock-managed Cardiff City. “Two old farts who know nothing about the game, hey?” he said. “I’ll have to get my iPad out now.”

The wit may not change but there is a sense of transformation around Ipswich. A 2-0 win over Brentford put them into the top two and brought up maximum points from their first four games; if Fulham are beaten at Portman Road on Saturday it will be the club’s best start to a season and the remove from 2016-17, an unhappy campaign that brought widespread calls for McCarthy’s head, could hardly be more pronounced.

Related: James McArthur breaks down Ipswich young bloods to take Palace through

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Aug 25

Europa League group stage draw – as it happened

Arsenal will play BATE Borisov, Cologne and Crvena Zvevda, while Everton face Lyon, Atalanta and Apollon Limassol

12.51pm BST

Group A: Villarreal, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Astana, Slavia Prague.

Group B: Dynamo Kiev, Young Boys, Partizan Belgrade, Skenderbeu.

Related: Europa League group stage: Arsenal face Cologne and Everton meet Lyon

12.41pm BST

I’ll post the full groups in a bit but a recap of Arsenal and Everton’s fates:

Group E: Lyon, Everton, Atalanta, Apollon Limassol.

12.38pm BST

And we finish with Vardar Skopje of Macedonia – they complete Group L with Zenit, Real Sociedad and Rosenborg.

12.37pm BST

Vitesse into Group K with Lazio, Nice and Zulte Waregem.

12.37pm BST

Ostersunds, the Swedish surprise package, get a nice Group Jn with Athletic Bilbao, Hertha Berlin and Zorya Luhansk!

12.37pm BST

FC Zlin, of Czech Rep, are in Group F with Copenhagen, Lokomotiv Moscow and Sheriff.

12.36pm BST

Konyaspor enter Group I with Salzburg, Marseille and Vitoria SC.

12.36pm BST

Apollon Limassol will play in Group E with Lyon, Everton and Atalanta.

12.35pm BST

Red Star Belgrade join Arsenal, BATE Borisov and Cologne in Group H! That IS tasty!

12.35pm BST

Lugano are in Group G with Plzen, FCSB and Beer Sheva.

12.34pm BST

AEK Athens go with Austria Vienna, AC Milan and Rijeka in Group D.

12.34pm BST

Istanbul Basaksehir join Group C with Braga, Ludogorets and Hoffenheim …

12.33pm BST

Skenderbeu, of Albania, top off Group B with Dynamo Kiev, Young Boys and Partizan Belgrade. Hang on, that’s Albania v Serbia …..

12.33pm BST

Here we go then. Slavia Prague complete Group A with Villarreal, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Astana.

12.32pm BST

We await Pot 4. Would Arsenal fans like something a bit more exotic here? BATE is a bit Champions League, even though they haven’t played one another, and Cologne is fairly standard.

12.31pm BST

Zulte Waragem are added to Group K with Lazio and Nice, which leaves Rosenborg to join Zenit and Real Sociedad in Group L.

12.31pm BST

Sheriff Tiraspol link up with Copenhagen and Lokomotiv Moscow in Group F.

12.30pm BST

Zorya Luhansk go into Group J with Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin.

12.30pm BST

Vitoria SC join Marseille and Salzburg in Group I.

12.29pm BST

Cologne join Arsenal and BATE in Group H. Currently I think Arsenal would take this.

12.29pm BST

Atalanta, a bit of a dark horse I reckon, join Everton and Lyon in an exciting-looking Group E!

12.28pm BST

Rijeka plop into Group D with AC Milan and Austria Vienna.

12.28pm BST

Hoffenheim join Braga and Ludogorets in Group C; Hapoel Beer Sheva are with FSCB and Viktoria Plzen in Group G.

12.27pm BST

Partizan Belgrade join Dynamo Kiev and Young Boys in Group B.

12.27pm BST

Pot three! And here we go with Astana in Group A – Villarreal and Maccabi Tel Aviv with them.

12.26pm BST

We finish with Group F, Lokomotiv Moscow in with Copenhagen.

12.25pm BST

Real Sociedad are in Group L with Zenit … and Everton in Group E with Lyon! Tough!

12.24pm BST

And now Nice come out of the bag – they’re in with Group K with Lazio. Tasty, too!

12.24pm BST

Hertha Berlin will play in Group J with Athletic Bilbao. Not terrible.

12.23pm BST

A trip to Belarus for the Gunners, then! Cracking on, Marseille go into Group I with Salzburg.

12.23pm BST

FCSB (Steaua Bucharest as was) go into Group G with Viktoria Plzen; BATE Borisov land in Group H with Arsenal!

12.22pm BST

Ludogorets join Braga in Group C; Austria Vienna are in Group D with AC Milan!

12.21pm BST

Next out are Young Boys, into Group B with Dynamo Kiev.

12.21pm BST

Onto Pot Two. Maccabi Tel Aviv, coached by Jordi Cruyff, enter Group A with Villarreal.

12.20pm BST

Going along at a nice speed, this. Lazio will be in Group K and Zenit St Petersburg in Group L – so that wraps up Pot One.

12.19pm BST

Salzburg lead the way in Group I. Athletic Bilbao pop into Group J.

12.18pm BST

Viktoria Plzen enter Group G, and Arsenal are in Group H.

12.17pm BST

AC Milan go into Group D, Lyon into Group E and Copenhagen into Group F.

12.16pm BST

First out in pot one are Villarreal! They will play in Group A. Dynamo Kiev will helm. Braga in Group C.

12.15pm BST

Ok, we’re into pure draw stuff – starting now …

12.15pm BST

“Hoffenheim are probably one of the stronger teams outside of pot 1. One for Everton and Arsenal to avoid?” asks Alexandra Johnson.

Definitely! They are better than they showed against Liverpool.

12.12pm BST

Some nice points from Matt Loten in the meantime:

“I think, as well, that people forget that the general standard of football across Europe, particularly in the major leagues, is of such a high level these days that there are some genuinely excellent teams in this competition. Last year’s semi-finalists were Ajax, Lyon, Celta Vigo and Manchester United: all teams with distinct styles and exciting individual talents. Add in the fact the likes of Villareal, Fiorentina, Roma, Olympiacos and others had fallen before we even reached that stage, and it’s hard to argue their isn’t plenty of entertainment and talent to be found in the Europa League. Not to mention, it’s a much more difficult competition to predict, which is always a good thing.”

12.11pm BST

Uefa general secretary

Claudio Ranieri Jr
Giorgio Marchetti is now introducing proceedings so we’re really not far off now …

12.09pm BST

Eric Abidal is now up on the stage too – so I suspect he’ll be involved in the fun that’s to come.

12.07pm BST

@NickAmes82 Gooner living in Berlin so Arsenal vs. Hertha will do me very nicely

That’d be a very nice tie too.

12.07pm BST

By the way, the draw ceremony has begun here. Henrik Larsson has taken to the stage and going through the usual awkward-ish chit-chat about his career.

12.06pm BST

Ceri Jackson wants a big push from England’s representatives: “Hopefully after United winning it last year and getting to the champions league this year we will see English teams take the competition more seriously. Wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal or Everton really went for it this year.”

12.04pm BST

This is the ball they will be playing with:

New season. New ⚽.
Introducing the new 2017/18 #UEL official match ball by @adidasfootball. #HereToCreate

12.02pm BST

From Sandra Nunez: “I agree with you about the most interesting teams but maybe I add Slavia Praha to your list. They have some interesting players like Halil Altıntop, Ruslan Rotan or Van Buren. After the disappointment of not being in Champions League the will want to do their best in Europa League.”

Good shout. And isn’t Danny there now, too?

12.00pm BST

Martin Turnbull writes: “I am with you. The UCL is so predictable and ever more slanted to the big countries, getting more so next year. Might as well just have six teams from the big five in the UCL and chuck everyone else in the Europa.”

We’ll almost be at that stage a year from now, of course. Let’s enjoy this season because the pause button is about to be hit.

11.57am BST

If I say Zulte Waregem, you say…? Honestly curious to know whether the Farmers already ring a bell (and if so, which) across the Channel

What do you say?

11.50am BST

Ahem. Here are some of the interesting names to look out for in the draw:

Ostersunds: Swedish minnows who, incredibly and implausibly, have made it this far under the stewardship of Englishman Graham Potter. They’re based a five-hour train ride north of Stockholm. Brilliant trip for somebody.

11.42am BST

It’s a really fun-looking draw, this. Something for everyone. The most eclectic mix I think there’s been in a major European competition for some time.

Which brings me to something that has annoyed me. I’ve seen more than one tweet from Arsenal fans – in this instance, but some Man Utd fans were similar last year – bemoaning “the state of these teams/this draw” upon viewing the posts. The state of what, exactly? The state of a draw that contains four previous European Cup winners? The state of a draw that contains teams from around 30 different countries? What you’re seeing here, like it or not, is the state of European football – and I think you’re lucky to be a part of it. The Champions League draw looks great but the prevailing thought that it means everything is one of modern football’s great tragedies; in this draw you have a brilliant and far more accurate cross-section of exactly what is going on, football-wise, on this continent. You’re implicated in it; you might even be partly responsible for it. So why not enjoy it and take an interest? If you really love football, this is a great lineup of teams and a fascinating set of challenges.

11.11am BST

The Europa League draw is here! Soon, anyway, and hopefully very soon – this one usually lacks the excruciating pageantry of the Champions League ritual, and with 48 teams in this one there is every reason to get cracking at a fair pelt. I’ll put some ramblings up shortly but for now, here are the pots. Arsenal and Everton both involved here, as if you’d forgotten:

Pot 1: Arsenal, Zenit St. Petersburg, Lyon, Dynamo Kiev, Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao, Lazio, AC Milan, Viktoria Plzen, FC Salzburg, FC Copenhagen, Braga

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article: