Category Archive: Football

Football (Soccer) News

Sep 24

Saint-Etienne come from behind twice in Rennes draw

Jonathan Bamba scored his fourth goal of the season as AS Saint-Etienne came from behind twice to draw 2-2 with Stade Rennais FC at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Sunday.

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Sep 24

Brighton v Newcastle United: Premier League – live!

4.40pm BST

40 min Point of order: Hemed, as in Tomer Hemed, is pronounced with a guttural H, written in English as Ch, or in Hebrew with a chet, like thus: חמד. Thanks.

4.39pm BST

38 min Ritchie looks to curl the free-kick around the wall, hoping the keeper moves, which he doesn’t, and as such the ball clunks into his midriff.

4.38pm BST

37 min Nice from Newcastle, Ritchie allowing a pass from Merino through his legs before trying a wall-pass off Joselu. But Gross is wise to the ruse, blocking him off at cost of a free-kick, 30 yards out and right of centre.

4.36pm BST

36 min Brighton are back on top now, moving the ball around as Newcastle sit deep and wait for something to happen. Dunk then attempts to slip in Kncokaert, but Yedlin is paying attention and nips in front of him to clear.

4.35pm BST

33 min Brighton, who’ve been quiet the last few minutes, swarm forward when Propper sweeps out to March, who’s been a constant threat. He switches the ball back inside for Stephens, who finds Gross; inside the box,he can’t quite decide what to do and eventually squares when he might’ve shot … all the delay Clark needs to intercept.

4.32pm BST

31 min Merino starts a move with a lovely flick, moving the ball behind his standing leg and feeding Atsu, suddenly in all manner of space at inside-left. He then finds Mbemba who, with little left foot to speak of, nips inside and squares for Perez, arriving to send another shot wide. Brighton do not look at all secure at the back.

4.30pm BST

29 min Newcastle enjoy some possession and Perez bursts into the box at inside-left, looking to open his body and curl a perfect finish into the top corner before racing to embrace the adulation of his adoring public. Instead, he sends a miserable effort miles away from anything.

4.27pm BST

26 min Newcastle have been better the last five minutes or so, but then March chases a ball larruped down the line and shoves Yedlin to the ground, earning a free-kick in the process. Lascelles is not at all happy – with good reason – but when the cross, from the left touchline, comes across, he’s there to head away and one of his mates then clears Stephens’ attempt to put it back in the danger zone.

4.25pm BST

24 min Perhaps Newcastle’s gameplan is to sit deep and break fast, but they won’t have anticipated being put under as much pressure as they have been. Still, Dunk whacks a clearance into Duffy and Newcastle have a corner, but Bruno, at the near post, gets rid without much aggravation.

4.23pm BST

22 min Atsu breaks and finds Yedlin on his outside … his cross is a fair one, but Joselu makes it a fine one, dragging it into his path on the half-turn. For a second he looks a cert to score only for Duffy to come sliding in, nowhere near the ball but restricting the shooting angle; the eventuating effort is dragged wide of the far post from ten yards.

4.21pm BST

21 min The master of the genre…

4.20pm BST

19 min “Enjoyed Knockaert shoving Mbemba out of the way only to block the shot himself,” tweets Paul Waggott. “Football’s karma gods working well there.”

A team-mate blocking a goalbound shot is one of life’s true delights. I’m also a big fan of the prematurely celebrated goal.

4.19pm BST

18 min Mbemba makes a fine interception to keep a through-pass from finding Knockaert, but his team have a problem. They’re far too rigid to cope with Brighton’s movement, can barely muster a decent kick of the ball, and are going to concede if they don’t do something about it, and quickly.

4.16pm BST

16 min Brighton have been very good these last few minutes, Knockaert, Gorss and March giving Newcastle all manner of aggravation. The way that they’re interchanging is allowing them to stretch the play without being outnumbered in midfield, though they could use another man in the box when the ball comes in.

4.15pm BST

14 min Brighton are all over this now, Knockaert finding Bruno, whose cross is brilliantly headed away by Yedlin, straining every follicle to reach it. March, though, is on-hand to zip in a low cross, strongarmed out by Elliot with Hemed, perfectly placed to intervene, caught on his heels.

4.13pm BST

12 min Knockaert, doubtless still smarting, hauls back Atsu and is booked.

4.13pm BST

11 min Oh mate! Maaaate! Gross drifts outside so Knockaert comes in inside and spreads play out to March on the left. His cross is a good one, the ball arriving back with Gross who drives a shot at goal …. it’s going in … until it hits Knockaert!

4.11pm BST

11 min After a reasonable start, things have slowed down. Brighton are enjoying – in the loosest possible sense – most of the possession.

4.09pm BST

9 min I like to think that Andre Marriner goes as Dre, still has love for the street, and is the subject of this song.

4.08pm BST

8 min Perez pops up between the lines and slides a pass out to Atsu. He swiftly whacks a cross into the nearest pair of shins, then does so again when the ball rebounds straight to him.

4.07pm BST

7 min Stephens makes a mistake and Atsu pounces on the loose ball 30 yards out, quickly finding the nearest shins into which to smash the ball.

4.06pm BST

6 min Gross drifts left and swerves in a cross for Hemed, peeling away at the near post. He gets his head to it, but can’t quite get his head around it, sending the ball wide of the near post.

4.05pm BST

5 min And Knockaert swings the ball in, Propper and Duffy throwing feet to try and get it in but a phalanx of defenders doing just enough to block.

4.04pm BST

4 min Stephens sweeps a ball wide to March, and he lays back for Suttner. His cross is deflected behind and now it’s Brighton with the corner.

4.03pm BST

2 min Well! Ritchie curls the corner to the edge of the box, far left side, and Gross chases over to block. But all he succeeds in doing is blocking Ryan’s sight of Merino’s volley, into the ground and only just wide.

4.01pm BST

1 min Perez wriggles some space and feeds Joselu, so Duffy ploughs through the back of him, a reet sair yin. There’s a brief pause, and Ritchie will now curl one in from 40 yards out, on the right – Hemed heads behind.

4.00pm BST

1 min Away we go!

4.00pm BST

Imagine the nick the Newcastle fans are in right now; imagine the nick they’ll be in when they get home. ENVY.

3.57pm BST

Out come the teams!

3.56pm BST

“Regarding your assertion about Andre Marriner,” emails Kári Tulinius. “Surely the least (or possibly most) referee name for a referee ever is golden oldie Segar Bastard, ‘The Knight of the Whistle’, who refereed the 1878 FA Cup final and then went on to earn an England cap. Incidentally, his first name is an old norse name, Sægeir, which means ‘sea spear’.

I did think of him – and his grandson Spoilt, of Viz fame – but decided that wasn’t such an unorthodox name in its era.

3.53pm BST

I wonder if this game will be decided by which number 10 has the better afternoon. Pascal Gross was excellent in Germany last season and is growing into the Premier League, while Ayoze Perez has the kind of improvisational talent that, if harnessed, will see him develop into a proper player. In a tight contest, that could be crucial.

3.49pm BST

Rafael Benitez says his team is unchanged because it’s only playing one game a week. Chris Hughton says he’s happy with how his team have been playing, and that people said they’d struggle to score before they did so thrice against a well-organised West Brom team.

3.48pm BST

Graeme Souness likes someone! Well done Matt Ritchie!

3.46pm BST

I do not think we’re going to see many goals today. I’m going 0-1, but Jonathan Pearce reckons Brighton will shade it, so a draw is the most likely outcome.

3.40pm BST

We’re watching tape of Davy Propper, having been told by Chris Hughton that he’s used to playing in a three not a two. As for the man himself, he’s more comfortable now he’s certain he can score and create goals in the Premier League, and Newcastle will need to get a hold of him today.

3.36pm BST

“So Seagulls v Magpies, eh?” asks J.R. in Illinois. “I think this match-up should be pretty even. Seagulls have a massive size advantage (have you seen Shane Duffy?) being anywhere around five times the mass and up to three times the wingspan of magpies, but being the only non-mammal to recognise itself in a mirror means magpies absolutely crush the seagulls in the intelligence department.”

I wonder about this. Perhaps the real brain is the seagull, who is above the narcissism and painful self-awareness that pains anything cursed by a sense of self. Deep, yeah?

3.33pm BST

“It’s bigger than I thought it was going to be,” says Graeme Souness of the Amex. I’m glad he doesn’t bother with the internet – if he did I’d have to re-evaluate my entire system of belief.

3.32pm BST

“Newcastle not being in the EPL was just a temporary blip,” returns yerman Rob, “while Brighton shouldn’t really be there. This is the difference, and it will out again before tea-time too.”

I’m not sure about this. Couldn’t we say the same about Stoke when they came up, and Burnley – even Huddersfield?

3.31pm BST

Hairs on back of neck, etc.

The atmosphere is building outside the Amex ahead of today’s game between #BHAFC and @NUFC. #BHANEW

3.30pm BST

Email! “Does anyone seriously think that Brighton can ‘do’ ‘gritty’?” asks Rob Coughlan.

Well, to the extent that anyone can “do” “anything”, of course not. And I don’t think they’ll stay up, but reckon it’ll be lack of goals that does for them.

3.29pm BST

So what does it all mean? Well, Brighton make one change: Liam Rosenior of the Guardian is replaced at right-back by Bruno, his new diet of lentils and hummus ill-received in the dressing room. Newcastle, meanwhile, are unchanged; as such, they have a bench which hosts Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle, key men for them last season.

3.19pm BST

Brighton & Hove Albion (a retro 4-4-1-1): Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, March; Gross; Hemed. Subs: Krul, Rosenior, Huenemeier, Schelotto, Izquierdo, Murphy, Brown.

Newcastle United (a characteristic 4-2-3-1): Elliot; Yedlin, Lacelles, Clark, Mbemba; Hayden, Merino; Ritchie, Perez, Atsu; Joselu. Subs: Darlow, Gamez, Manquillo, Diame, Murphy, Shelvey, Gayle.

10.22am BST

There are certain phrases that appear, at first glance, to describe a circumstance … but at all other glances describe the individual using them. “Gritty realism”, for example, could suggest depressing drama that it complex, yet approachable … or it could suggest a person who speaks in television listings and is unwilling to or incapable of thinking for themselves.

In a Premier League context, Brighton v Newcastle could not be more gritty, more real, nor more grittily real. After spending last season in a mass pagga to get promoted and earn the right to play in the biggest matches, both squads will now know that life isn’t actually like that. The games are a slog, the season is a slog, and if they want the privilege of repeat slogging they’ll need to outslog at least three other devoted sloggers.

Continue reading…

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Sep 24

Leon Clarke double fires Sheffield United to derby victory over Wednesday

It was worth the wait. Five years after the last Sheffield derby, when both teams were in League One, Wednesday and United put on a brilliant, pulsating game that the Blades won 4-2. There won’t be a happier man in Yorkshire than United manager Chris Wilder, who watched his first derby from the terraces as a fan 37 years ago.

Leon Clarke, once a Wednesday player, scored twice, the others coming from John Fleck and Mark Duffy, and goals from Gary Hooper and Lucas Joao couldn’t deny the visitors their first win at Hillsborough since 2006.

Continue reading…

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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.

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Ashley Cole still burns: forgotten man will not forget his English foes | Ewan Murray

The LA Galaxy left-back is living a relatively quiet life in Hollywood but still blames the English press for the negative perception of him in his homeland

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