Category Archive: FA Cup

FA Cup News

Mar 12

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte: I never, ever, ever train for the counterattack

• Conte responds to José Mourinho’s insinuations that Chelsea are defensive
• Italian does not feel timing of FA Cup quarter-final hinders Manchester United

Antonio Conte has responded to José Mourinho’s insinuations that Chelsea are a defensive team by offering an insight into his methods on the training ground and insisting that he is not a coach who focuses on counterattacking football.

Related: Chelsea v Manchester United: match preview

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 12

FA set to investigate Millwall fans’ racist chants towards Son Heung-min

• FA are aware of chants and awaiting reports from referee and police
• Harry Kane limped off with ankle injury during Tottenham’s 6-0 win

The Football Association is set to investigate claims that Millwall supporters aimed racially motivated abuse at Tottenham Hotspur’s South Korea forward, Son Heung-min, during the FA Cup quarter-final between the clubs at White Hart Lane.

Son was the star turn, scoring a hat-trick in Tottenham’s 6-0 win, on an afternoon when the club’s first-choice centre-forward, Harry Kane, limped off with an ankle injury that could end his season.

Related: Tottenham Hotspur hammer Millwall in Cup with Son Heung-min hat-trick

Related: Tottenham Hotspur hammer Millwall in Cup with Son Heung-min hat-trick

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 12

Tottenham Hotspur hammer Millwall in Cup with Son Heung-min hat-trick

It was tempting to say that when Vincent Janssen scores, the visiting team know they have problems. Those of Millwall, however, had taken hold long before the £17m striker came off the bench to score his first goal in open play for Tottenham Hotspur.

This season’s FA Cup has been defined by its shock results. Think of Lincoln City, Sutton United and Eastleigh, or even Oxford United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Millwall’s last victory over Tottenham had come in the months before the outbreak of the second world war. This stood to be an upset to rival them all, despite the League One club having arrived on an unbeaten run of 17 matches.

Related: Tottenham Hotspur v Millwall: FA Cup quarter-final – as it happened

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 12

Tottenham Hotspur v Millwall: FA Cup quarter-final – as it happened

Son Heung-min scored a hat-trick and Vincent Janssen netted his first Tottenham goal from open play as Mauricio Pochettino’s side battered their League One opponents

4.11pm GMT

Tuck into David Hytner’s match report right here:

Related: Tottenham Hotspur hammer Millwall in Cup with Son Heung-min hat-trick

3.58pm GMT

That was probably easier than Tottenham, even at that strength, would have expected. But their intensity and attitude were superb from the first minute to the 90th and that says a lot for them, I think. They battered Millwall, who just didn’t get into the game at all, for pretty much the entire game and could have scored more. Of those that did go in, Janssen’s was perhaps the highlight for its novelty value and the sheer joy on his face. Millwall slink away and look to gather themselves for their promotion tilt; Tottenham celebrate but with a cloud shaped a little like Harry Kane’s ankle hanging over them. We’ll hear more about that. But for now, it’s cheerio from me – head over here and catch Rob Smyth’s MBM of Liverpool v Burnley.

3.53pm GMT

And that is that.

3.53pm GMT

Son gets his hat-trick! But, ahhhh, poor old King. Eriksen finds the Korean unmarked at the back post and his volley is straight at the ‘keeper, who appears to have saved but then lets it slip through and into the net for an unhappy end to his – and Millwall’s – game.

3.51pm GMT

90 min: Sissoko plays a 1-2 with Son and bursts to the line but his cross can’t find a white shirt. Then Winks isn’t far off the mark from 25 yards.

3.49pm GMT

89 min: Keep-ball and “que sera” at the moment. I wouldn’t have thought we need much stoppage time here.

3.48pm GMT

87 min: Son careers towards the box, still looking for that third goal, and Craig – the last man – makes an important interception. Relatively important, anyway.

3.45pm GMT

85 min: There’s absolutely no shame in getting tonked by this Tottenham side, who have been so switched-on today, but Neil Harris might be frustrated that – if we’re honest – Millwall have not been able to make any impact on this game whatsoever.

3.44pm GMT

84 min: But Janssen should get a second goal there – pinpoint cross from Vertonghen and he’s right in front of goal but heads straight at a grateful King. Harder chance than the one he scored. He’s in the mood though – now he has another shot that’s deflected wide.

3.42pm GMT

82 min: “He scores when he wants,” sing the Tottenham fans. Janssen is a cult figure, it seems, but he’ll want to be rather more than that.

3.41pm GMT

It’s the biggest cheer of the afternoon! It’s Vincent Janssen! And it’s clinical! Son beats the offside trap, comes in from the left, passes to Janssen and the striker clips in a really good left-footed finish inside a static King’s near post. It’s his first Tottenham goal from open play and, let’s be fair here, it’s a really nice moment. His team-mates flock to congratulate him and his smile is glowing.

3.39pm GMT

78 min: A shot from Janssen! But it goes halfway to the corner flag. Wanyama now goes off and £30m FA Cup substitute Moussa Sissoko enters.

3.36pm GMT

76 min: Wanyama takes aim from 30 yards, measures one, and King dives left to make his latest save.

3.35pm GMT

75 min: Before someone says it, that was “lo, here’s Vincent” and not “lol, here’s Vincent”.

3.35pm GMT

74 min: Son leaves Webster for dead but Cooper intercepts his pull-back. And, lo, here’s Vincent! Off goes the excellent Alli, fresh from his goal – and on comes the man who is about to show exactly why he’s the one to fill Kane’s boots.

3.33pm GMT

Trippier, inside to Eriksen … a very clever low ball to the far post … and there’s Alli arriving late to blast high into the net. Very nice. Sixteen goals this season for Alli.

3.31pm GMT

71 min: Millwall put a free-kick into the box and it bounces around for a while, but then Cooper catches Vertonghen and Tottenham win a free-kick.

3.30pm GMT

70 min: Millwall make their final change. Here’s Shane Ferguson, replacing Not-A-Winger Wallace.

3.28pm GMT

68 min: Vorm gathers a low Wallace cross from the right. The pace has slowed a touch here; it’s playing itself out now.

3.25pm GMT

65 min: Wanyama’s shot + Cooper’s deflection = another corner. Alli air kicks it near the penalty spot.

3.24pm GMT

63 min: Son is looking for a hat-trick but shoots over from an angle on the left. Going to be a belting set of semi-finals, isn’t it? Spurs, Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea/Man Utd.

3.21pm GMT

61 min: A bit more life about Millwall now but it’s too late for them, really. They’re not Barcelona.

3.19pm GMT

59 min: Onyedinma has an instant impact! He dribbles in from the right and lays the ball back to Wallace, who flashes a shot wide at the near post when he should probably score. Comfortably Millwall’s best chance.

3.18pm GMT

58 min: From the free-kick, Alli takes Winks’ pass but drags well wide. Millwall now bring on winger Fred Onyedinma for Morison.

3.17pm GMT

57 min: You can only be impressed with Tottenham’s intensity and application here. Craig gets a booking now for fouling Trippier.

3.17pm GMT

56 min: Could be four as King has to tip away a Davies cross, with the ball only just scrambled away from Alli.

3.15pm GMT

Trippier, whose distribution is just so, so good, locates Son behind the defence with a wonderful 40-yard ball and the forward, watching it all the way, executes a difficult volley perfectly. It’s low past King, it’s Spurs’ third very nice goal of the game, and it’s definitely game over now.

3.12pm GMT

52 min: Tottenham win their first corner of the half as Craig cuts out Trippier’s cross. Eriksen outswings it but with too much power – it goes beyond everyone.

3.11pm GMT

51 min: A flicker from Millwall as Gregory controls a right-wing cross and tees up Williams, but the shot from outside the box goes into row Z. Their fans are making a noise though.

3.10pm GMT

49 min: Eriksen certainly doesn’t but another shot, from a bit closer in but under more pressure, flies well over.

3.09pm GMT

49 min: Now Eriksen has a go from 25 yards and King bats it away. Lots of space for Spurs early on and they don’t really look like relenting.

3.07pm GMT

47 min: Alli brings a Dier ball under his spell and for a second seems to have touched it away from King, but he cam’t quite control properly and the ‘keeper recovers. Then Ben Davies surges inside from the left but scuffs wide.

3.06pm GMT

Millwall can’t … can they? They’ve replaced Ben Thompson with ex-Spurs trainee Calum Butcher in midfield.

3.03pm GMT

Unrelated, but what a story this is. Kazuyoshi Miura has, at 50, become the oldest professional player to score a competitive goal! Makes Clint Hill, 38, who scored Rangers’ equaliser today, look a spring chicken.

Related: Kazuyoshi Miura scores at 50 to beat Sir Stanley Matthews’ record

2.52pm GMT

And while I go for a coffee I’ll let Mike Nagle continue his train of thought on Janssen:

“Alex makes a good point that Son is a better striker but Jill is right in that it is a matter of building confidence for Janssen, especially if Kane is crocked. The same would also apply to Nkoudou. No point in buying these chaps if they are not given extended time on the pitch. We don’t want another Soldado, who was also another great striker we did not blend in properly.”

2.51pm GMT

Chris McVandi writes: “Every time I watch Millwall in FA Cup, I am always reminded of the voice over in Only Fools & Horses episode ‘Time on our Hands’: ‘Your dad always said that one day Del Boy would reach the top but then again he used to say that one day Millwall would win the Cup.’”

2.48pm GMT

Not one for the cup romantic. Millwall somehow weathered an early storm, improved after the injury to Harry Kane but then conceded two – both great finishes – with half-time on the horizon. They haven’t offered much of note at the other end and it’s difficult to see this one deviating from its current pass. Tottenham have been professional and slick, although everything they do from hereon will be coloured slightly by concern over the extent of Kane’s ankle problem.

2.46pm GMT

45 min: Alli goes for the spectacular from 35 yards, and why not? Misses by miles though.

2.45pm GMT

44 min: Wanyama is off the pitch getting treatment but I think he’ll be back with us soon enough.

2.44pm GMT

43 min: Wanyama is down now – looks like he got clattered on the shin by Wallace, who is booked.

2.43pm GMT

Well, that was lovely. Son seems to get the ball caught between his feet when fed on the right, but sorts himself out sufficiently to cut inside and put a superb left-footed shot well beyond King and into the top corner. Fine finish and I do suspect that will be that. The home side are worth the two-goal margin.

2.41pm GMT

40 min: Jill O’Donnell on the Janssen debate – “I agree with Mike Nagel, Janssen should be given a chance. He’s been unlucky so far this season with some good shots on goal which have unfortunately brought out the best in opposition goalkeepers. If Kane is out for a few games why not give him a warm up today?”

2.41pm GMT

39 min: Another goal for Spurs before the break might mean a rather dull second half. They’re probing for it and Webster clears an Eriksen cross from the left.

2.39pm GMT

38 min: Alex Perring replies to Mike Nagel – “I’m sure Janssen will come on if we need another striker. But, Son has demonstrated to be much superior as a striker than Janssen. Why play your third best striker when you second best is on the pitch?”

2.38pm GMT

37 min: A reminder that this tie gets decided on the day. So if Millwall do sneak an equaliser, we’ll have extra-time.

2.37pm GMT

35 min: So nearly 2-0 and, surely, goodnight as Wanyama gets up highest for an Eriksen corner and thuds his header against the bar!

2.36pm GMT

35 min: Matt is right although it just so happened that, as that went up, Wallace made a really nice burst down the right before putting a cross in that was hacked away.

2.35pm GMT

34 min: Matt Loten writes – “The BBC commentary team just described Jed Wallace as a ‘flying winger’ unlikely to put in the defensive shift that his more experienced teammates might. Whilst Wallace can play on the wing, he is arguably better in the hole, and, when he was at Portsmouth at least, his greatest attribute was the fact that he ran himself into the ground, week in, week out. Just wanted to defend the young lad.”

2.34pm GMT

32 min: Millwall try to hit back straightaway and O’Brien flicked a deep free-kick well wide.

2.33pm GMT

I was literally just typing that Millwall could feel fairly happy at the moment. Then Alli cushions a high, looping Millwall clearance just inside the box and leaves it for Eriksen, shaping his body in textbook fashion, to drill what is not even a half-chance into the far corner. Super finish and Millwall need to make sure they stay in the game now.

2.30pm GMT

30 min: “If Pochettino does not trust Janssen why have him on the bench? Give the guy another go,” suggests Mike Nagle.

2.30pm GMT

28 min: Another Tottenham corner, half-cleared by Williams to Vertonghen 19 yards out. The position is good but his right-footed shot is wild.

2.29pm GMT

27 min: First chance for Millwall, as Gregory troubles the Spurs centre-backs with the ball eventually dropping to Morison, running onto it 20 yards out, who curls a couple of yards high and wide. Might have done slightly better, there was space to work with.

2.26pm GMT

25 min: King gets lucky as he fluffs a clearance and is far out of goal, but Son can’t get the ball under wraps.

2.25pm GMT

23 min: On cue, Alli finds space in the area, tries to turn Craig and the Millwall defender is all over him, clearly tugging his shirt. Nothing given but that should have been a penalty for Tottenham.

2.24pm GMT

23 min: The movement of Son and Alli up front will be key for Spurs, who have slowed up since Kane went off. In some ways Millwall’s defenders may have preferred a battle with a striker who went right up against them.

2.23pm GMT

22 min: Useful delivery from Williams to the far post, where Morison heads against Davies and earns Millwall a corner. Nice little bit of pressure here, but Vorm claims Williams’ left-footed corner with Gregory jumping against him.

2.21pm GMT

20 min: Wanyama trips Thompson just outside the box, on the left, and Millwall have a very dangerous free-kick. A few more positive signs from them now.

2.20pm GMT

19 min: Williams gets a cross in for Millwall but Vorm claims easily. Spurs counter and Trippier has space in behind at the back post but lets the ball run beyond him a little wastefully.

2.19pm GMT

17 min: Nothing comes out it and a bit of sloppiness from Spurs gives Millwall a throw-in right up the other end; their first real foray into opposition territory of the game. It doesn’t last long.

2.17pm GMT

16 min: Millwall survive again as a fine diagonal ball from Tripper locates Alli, ghosting into the box, who sort of fades out of a potential challenge with King but the ball strikes him anyway and bounces towards goal before a defender hurriedly clears. Then Tottenham come once more and win another corner …

2.16pm GMT

15 min: Tottenham win a corner as Davies, found perfectly by Winks, drills a cross against Wallace. Eriksen’s inswinger is headed behind by Morison for a second flag kick. No aerial threat from Kane anymore of course, and Millwall are able to clear eventually.

2.13pm GMT

12 min: Eriksen has a low shot blocked almost instantly. Millwall really haven’t got out at all yet.

2.11pm GMT

11 min: Yes, here’s Eriksen. Spurs with a very fluid look to them.

2.11pm GMT

10 min: We’re going to see Eriksen in Kane’s place, which is the latest slap in the face to Vincent Janssen, who Mauricio Pochettino plainly doesn’t fancy at all. Kane’s absence might help Millwall, who have been on the ropes – but will be of huge wider concern to Tottenham.

2.09pm GMT

8 min: Now this is bad news for Tottenham – Kane appears to be coming off … and indeed he’s making his way down the tunnel …

2.08pm GMT

7 min: Another save from King – this time Son shooting from pretty much the same place as Kane did, with Alli screaming for it. Millwall can’t really carry on like this.

2.08pm GMT

6 min: King has to save again after Kane is played in by Trippier. The angle is very, very tight towards the right byline but the shot is sharp and King repels it well. Kane goes down heavily on his ankle as he lands and requires treatment; with Kane off the pitch Tottenham take the corner and Winks ends up shooting with his left foot, King smothering at the second attempt. Four saves from him already.

2.06pm GMT

4 min: Early effort from Winks, putting a useful low curling effort in from 20 yards that goalkeeper Tom King parries to his left. Not the hardest save ever but had to be made. Then Son tries one from an angle and King gathers at his near post. Good start from Spurs.

2.04pm GMT

3 min: Tottenham taking the sting out with some early possession around the box. The key for Millwall will be to make sure they get a foot on the ball here and there; they haven’t yet.

2.02pm GMT

1 min: Martin Atkinson is the referee, by the way. Not too much feistiness for him to police in the opening minute.

2.01pm GMT

Spurs in white and dark blue; Millwall in all yellow. The Lions kick us off, via the greying figure of Steve Morison.

1.58pm GMT

The teams are walking out at White Hart Lane – for the last-ever FA Cup tie at the stadium in its current form! Can Millwall do this? Make no mistake, with Tottenham’s form and the strength of the lineup they’ve put out, it would be an absolutely almighty shock.

1.44pm GMT

Rangers have equalised against Celtic with three minutes to play, by the way. You can imagine the scenes. Read on.

1.43pm GMT

In case you weren’t aware, Millwall are unbeaten in 17 games and before last week’s 2-1 win over MK Dons they’d kept nine consecutive clean sheets. Tottenham should be strong enough to get it done here but they may need to be patient.

1.40pm GMT

Precautionary measure at Spurs, the club branded signs removed at Millwall end. Heavy stewarding inside ground

Nothing being left to chance at the Lane. If you’re there, how’s the atmosphere? Hopefully everyone is behaving.

1.37pm GMT

Want to read about exactly what Harry Kane’s loan at Millwall did for him? Read this, from David Hytner:

Related: How Harry Kane’s loan saved Millwall from relegation and made him a man

1.28pm GMT

What do we all think of Millwall? Is it me, or is the “no-one likes us” thing becoming a little bit inaccurate? We all rallied round them in their recent CPO battle, didn’t we? And Harris is working very hard to ensure they keep what has always been a pretty unique personality. It has had, and probably still has, some unsavoury elements but the positive side is the really special place Millwall hold in their community. In a football world where a lot of clubs are losing that, Millwall’s preservation of their identity surely has to be lauded.

1.20pm GMT

Worth noting that Mousa Dembele misses out for Tottenham with an ankle complaint, by the way.

1.19pm GMT

I spent a little bit of time with Neil Harris last week and what came across loud and clear was how much he loves the FA Cup. He’s a real traditionalist in that sense. “This is the best club competition in the world and it gives me the inspiration where I can stand in front of my players at five to two on Sunday dreaming we can make a semi-final,” he said. And why not?

1.10pm GMT

While we await this one (kick-off 2pm UK time), let me introduce you to Rob Smyth’s MBM of Celtic v Rangers. It’s 1-0 to Celtic, it’s as lively as you’d hope, and there are about 40 minutes still to play.

1.08pm GMT

Tottenham: Vorm; Trippier, Alderweireld, Dier, Vertonghen, Davies; Wanyama, Winks, Alli; Son; Kane. Subs: Lloris, Walker, Wimmer, Eriksen, Onomah, Sissoko, Janssen.

Millwall: King; Cummings, Craig, Williams, Webster; Wallace, Thompson, O’Brien, Cooper; Gregory, Morison. Subs: Girling, Hutchinson, Romeo, Butcher, Ferguson, Worrall, Onyedinma.

12.51pm GMT

Sunday afternoon, so Tottenham must be at home. They’ve made short work of Stoke and short-ish work of Everton at White Hart Lane on the last two weekends – but big a job will they be faced with against Millwall?

Neil Harris’s side have already beaten Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester in this competition, albeit all at the New Den. And Harris himself has a bit of previous at this stage of the FA Cup – in 2004 he scored what proved to be the winner in the Lions’ quarter-final replay at Tranmere and, as we all know, they ended up at the Millennium Stadium that May for a final against Manchester United. What price more of the same?

11.37am GMT

Nick will be here shortly. Until then, read Dominic Fifield’s interview with Tony Craig:

Tony Craig wears the scars as a badge of honour. There is the seven-inch track of a surgeon’s knife that snakes round the outside of his left knee from thigh to calf, a legacy of his attempt to block a shot from Bradford’s James Hanson in the autumn of last season. “He must have caught it quite well because it bent the joint back and took the hamstring tendon and lateral ligament completely away,” he says as if relishing a chance to relay every gruesome detail.

Related: Millwall’s Tony Craig: ‘All those scars show the sort of player I am’

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 12

Marcus Rashford and a back three: how to halt Chelsea without Ibrahimovic

José Mourinho may follow Tottenham’s lead and reinforce Manchester United’s defence in FA Cup sixth-round tie to counter the loss of his No1 striker

Events this season are not quite going as José Mourinho has told them to. There is a possibility, of course, that he was being sincere in his praise of Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the EFL Cup final and that he had no ulterior motive in telling Manchester United fans to camp at his Swedish striker’s house until he signed a new contract, but it would go so against the grain of the past 15 years of public utterances that have either been emotional outbursts or calculating manipulations that there is little point detaining ourselves any further with the notion.

So what was Mourinho attempting to achieve? In part, presumably, it was to flatter Ibrahimovic and perhaps to encourage fans to make clear to him that he is loved at Old Trafford. Equally it was probably to ensure that, if Ibrahimovic does not sign an extension to his existing deal, which expires in June, nobody can say Mourinho did not want him to stay. The possibility of Ibrahimovic leaving has become distinctly more credible this week with reports of a huge offer from LA Galaxy.

Related: José Mourinho facing Chelsea selection conundrum with Rostov looming

Related: Chelsea have the look of an unstoppable force thanks to N’Golo Kanté | Dominic Fifield

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 12

Chelsea v Manchester United: match preview

José Mourinho was humiliated on his return to Stamford Bridge back in October, his players humbled 4-0 on the turf and the Manchester United manager taking Antonio Conte’s cheerleading of the home support on the sidelines as a personal slight. His team will be tougher this time, even without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Chelsea will play a stronger side than in previous rounds. They know they can inflict a significant psychological blow if they maintain their push for the Double. Dominic Fifield

Kick-off Monday 7.45pm

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

Christian Eriksen praises Victor Wanyama’s impact at Tottenham Hotspur

• Victor Wanyama can help Spurs past Millwall into FA Cup semi-finals
• ‘It makes me free to do my thing,’ Eriksen says of team-mate’s impact

Christian Eriksen believes the arrival of Victor Wanyama at Tottenham Hotspur has had a liberating effect on his game, as he targeted an FA Cup quarter-final win at home to Millwall on Sunday and glory in the competition.

Wanyama signed for a bargain £11m from Southampton last summer and has established himself as the midfield shield in Mauricio Pochettino’s formation, whether the manager plays with a back four or a back three.

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

N’Golo Kanté was a champion already but Antonio Conte has made him better | Dominic Fifield

N’Golo Kanté was already a Premier League winner with Leicester City but when Chelsea face Manchester United in the FA Cup they will field someone who has plainly improved

There was no fumbling for the right words, or even the slightest of pauses to contemplate how best to elaborate, in his second language, on all things N’Golo Kanté. Instead, Antonio Conte snapped right back with the kind of compliment that carries proper weight. “He is an example to all,” said the Chelsea manager of a player making the difference. “N’Golo is a fantastic guy, a fantastic player, with great commitment and great behaviour. Yes, a great example.”

Almost nine months into Kanté’s career at Chelsea and the temptation is already there to take him for granted. The Frenchman is setting new standards in Chelsea’s midfield, just as he did at Leicester City, but the world has grown used to his lung-busting efforts.

Related: José Mourinho left trailing by calmed-down Antonio Conte | Daniel Taylor

Related: Chelsea have the look of an unstoppable force thanks to N’Golo Kanté | Dominic Fifield

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

Arsène Wenger still obsessed with Bayern despite high five against Lincoln

• Wenger: ‘I’ve watched Bayern game three times and it was killed by referee’
• ‘Lincoln had clarity about what they wanted to do and they did that very well’

With Arsenal’s place in the FA Cup semi-finals secured, Arsène Wenger insisted his team had been “outstanding” during the 5-1 home defeat by Bayern Munich last Tuesday, again blaming the referee for “killing” his team.

Arsenal eased past Lincoln City at the Emirates with a few gears to spare on Saturday afternoon. But rather than styling victory as a return to form Wenger was adamant his team had simply carried on their fine performance in the midweek thrashing that ended their Champions League campaign.

Related: Arsenal’s Theo Walcott opens floodgates to wash away Lincoln fairytale

Related: Arsenal and Arsène Wenger humiliated again by ruthless Bayern Munich

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

José Mourinho left trailing by calmed-down Antonio Conte | Daniel Taylor

Chelsea’s manager, whose team host Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Monday, has got under his predecessor’s skin by winning games rather than by goading

In Italy, they know it isn’t actually true that Antonio Conte – contrary to the impression he might have given during his first season at Chelsea – is immune to the kind of sniping that leaves the distinct impression he has already burrowed his way under José Mourinho’s skin.

Those who remember Conte’s work at Juventus might certainly be surprised by his newly acquired restraint given he previously had a habit of taking great offence, with hair‑trigger sensibilities, when managers or pundits talked about his team, even sometimes if what they said might have seemed perfectly innocuous.

Related: Antonio Conte will stay exuberant when Chelsea face Manchester United

Related: José Mourinho facing Chelsea selection conundrum with Rostov looming

Related: Antonio Conte and Chelsea set to agree new contract beyond 2019

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

Arsenal’s Theo Walcott opens floodgates to wash away Lincoln fairytale

Arsenal eased into the semi-finals of the FA Cup with an initially tight, ultimately rather overwhelming defeat of a spirited Lincoln City team on a muggy, decelerating afternoon at the Emirates Stadium. Goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud either side of half-time killed a tie that had looked quite well matched initially, with the last half-hour reduced to a possession exercise for the home team, and a dogged rearguard for the men from the National League.

The scars of the midweek mauling by Bayern Munich will be soothed a little, but only a very little, by this victory, while there were concerns for Arsène Wenger in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s early injury and Granit Xhaka’s early substitution after another bone-headed booking.

Related: Manchester City and David Silva catch Middlesbrough cold to reach semi

Related: Arsène Wenger has been living on borrowed time at Arsenal for too long | Richard Williams

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

Millwall’s Tony Craig: ‘All those scars show the sort of player I am’

The Millwall captain has gone under the knife six times and been sold twice by his boyhood club but is back living the dream as Tottenham await in the FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane

Tony Craig wears the scars as a badge of honour. There is the seven-inch track of a surgeon’s knife that snakes round the outside of his left knee from thigh to calf, a legacy of his attempt to block a shot from Bradford’s James Hanson in the autumn of last season. “He must have caught it quite well because it bent the joint back and took the hamstring tendon and lateral ligament completely away,” he says as if relishing a chance to relay every gruesome detail. “Proper trauma. I knew I was in trouble when I hit the ground that time.”

That detail is worth clarifying not least because, rewinding to the autumn of 2009, the defender had been unconscious even before landing back on the turf after a kick in the head from Gareth Ainsworth that left him with a depressed fracture of the cheekbone and eye socket. The operations that followed inserted a titanium plate into Craig’s face, though he was still badgering his manager at Millwall at the time, Kenny Jackett, to pick him for a league fixture against MK Dons a little over a week later wearing a custom-made carbon fibre protective mask. Jackett refused while a merciless squad delighted in christening their rugged left-back “the Phantom”.

Related: How Harry Kane’s loan saved Millwall from relegation and made him a man

Related: Neil Harris proud of putting blood and thunder back in Millwall’s boots

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

Arsenal 5-0 Lincoln City: FA Cup quarter-final – as it happened

Non-league Lincoln played superbly for 45 minutes at the Emirates before Arsenal’s superior class and fitness told in a one-sided second half

7.39pm GMT

Related: Theo Walcott opens floodgates for Arsenal to end Lincoln’s fairytale run

7.27pm GMT

Peep peep! Arsenal ease into the last four of the FA Cup with an ultimately comfortable win. Lincoln’s magical cup campaign is over; they won’t be forgotten in a hurry. They were very good for 45 minutes, before Theo Walcott’s goal inevitably opened the floodgates. Lincoln won’t be going to Wembley but they have achieved something even rarer: they have joined the FA Cup immortals. Thanks for your company, night.

7.23pm GMT

89 min “I’ve been trying to come up with something to say for a while now, and all I can think of is ‘arse’.,” says Phil Sawyer. “At least the FA Cup unexpectedly turned up at work on Thursday, which is the nearest I’ll ever get to it.”

7.21pm GMT

87 min A corner is half cleared to Walcott, who takes it on the chest and volleys a few yards wide. It’s been a battering in the second half, though that shouldn’t obscure how well Lincoln did for the first 45 minutes.

7.19pm GMT

86 min Sanchez cracks a superb free-kick against the bar!

7.18pm GMT

85 min Raggett is booked for a weary hack at Ozil just outside the area.

7.18pm GMT

84 min Ramsey misses a great headed chance from a brilliant driven cross by Ozil. Moments later Perez falls over in the box – “what a joke when you’re 5-0 up,” sniffs Chris Sutton – and then Sanchez’s fierce shot is very well blocked.

7.15pm GMT

81 min “Could anything now happen to allow the TV director to pick out Man With Wenger-Out Placard, who seems to have established Equity appearance rights at all games?” says Charles Antaki. “On Arsenal’s recent form, nothing is completely impossible.”

A sixth Arsenal goal might tip our beloved eejit over the edge. Why couldn’t they score six against Bayern and Liverpool?

7.14pm GMT

80 min Power hits a good curling shot from 25 yards that is well claimed to his left by Cech.

7.13pm GMT

79 min “I love it,” says Andy. “Arsenal have their ‘swagger back’ against a side 1 million leagues below them? It’s an almost embarassing statement.”

This was the definitive can’t-win game for them, wasn’t it.

7.11pm GMT

78 min Lincoln’s last change: Adam Marriott replaces Terry Hawkridge.

7.11pm GMT

77 min “The problem with Xhaka, I would argue, is that he – is – technically good enough to play for a title-winning team,” says Matt Loten. “Energy, vision, range of passing, aggression: he has every attribute you would want from a player in his position. Unfortunately he has no idea how to string them together and apply them properly.”

7.09pm GMT

76 min “What with the habit of footballers and managers covering their mouths when speaking,” says Keith Poliglotus, “I was wondering if anyone had been caught saying something about a fellow professional which they probably shouldn’t have?”

Nothing springs to mind.

7.09pm GMT

It’s getting messy now. Sanchez’s cross deflects to Ramsey, who walks around Farman and literally walks the ball into the net.

7.06pm GMT

A beautiful goal from Alexis Sanchez. He ran at Wood, who missed his tackle completely, and opened his body to place a lovely curling shot into the far corner from 20 yards.

7.04pm GMT

71 min Coquelin is fortunate not to be booked for a studs-up lunge at Hawkridge. Coquelin and Xhaka really aren’t good enough for a team that wants to win the Premier League.

7.02pm GMT

69 min Lincoln are struggling to chase the shadows, never mind the Arsenal players. This is going to be a long 20 minutes for them as Arsenal are in swagger mode now.

7.01pm GMT

68 min Sanchez, on the left wing, picks out a lovely lofted pass to Ozil, who heads over from 12 yards.

7.00pm GMT

67 min “Xhaka off?” says Ian Copestake. “How dare you.”

6.59pm GMT

66 min Lincoln make a change as well: Matt Rhead leaves the scene to be replaced by Joe Ward. Rhead played well in that impressive first-half performance.

6.58pm GMT

65 min An Arsenal change: Lucas Perez replaces Olivier Giroud.

6.56pm GMT

63 min Margetts is booked for an absurd, retro lunge at Gibbs.

6.54pm GMT

61 min An Arsenal change: Xhaka off, Coquelin on.

6.53pm GMT

59 min “Instructions are available for putting the internet back in its box,” high-fives Ian Copestake.

6.52pm GMT

A cruel moment for Luke Waterfall, whose own goal finishes the match. Sanchez played the underlapping Gibbs into the box on the left, and he cut the ball back towards the near post. Waterfall stretched to intercept but in doing so stabbed it past Farman.

6.51pm GMT

57 min All of a sudden the Emirates pitch looks absolutely huge. Lincoln are being pulled all over the place. Ramsey’s flicked shot is deflected out to the edge of the area, where Bellerin nutmegs the sliding Power and then places a shot just wide of the right-hand post.

6.48pm GMT

55 min “Since I’m sure you appreciate the irony of posting “CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE PUT THE EFFING INTERNET BACK IN ITS BOX PLEASE FOR THE LOVE DIGNITY.” on a medium only enable by the internet I’ll content myself with pedantically pointing out the missing OF,” says Julian Borrill. “From a laptop tethered to a phone on the 6:11 from Oban to Glasgow.”

Oh that was the autocorrect and the booze.

6.48pm GMT

54 min A Lincoln substitution: Jonny Margetts replaces Jack Muldoon.

6.47pm GMT

This is a lovely goal. The superb Bellerin plays a one-two in a phonebox with Sanchez to go through on goal. He declines to shoot himself and instead gives the goal to Giroud with a simple cut-back.

6.45pm GMT

51 min Arsenal look much sharper since half-time. If they get a second soon you’d expect this to end maybe 5-0 or 6-0; games of this nature often open up in the second half. For now, Lincoln can still fantasise.

6.43pm GMT

50 min A double chance for Arsenal. Farman makes a terrific save low to his left from Giroud, and then Gibbs heads over from six yards after Walcott lobbed the loose ball back into the box.

6.42pm GMT

49 min Ozil shapes one towards the corner that hits Power and goes behind for a corner. Xhaka drills it flat towards the far post and Rhead heads away.

6.40pm GMT

47 min Arsenal play around Lincoln’s high press until Woodyard ploughs through Gibbs and is booked. “I feel for him,” says the defiantly old-school Chris Sutton of a foul which, alas, was a clear yellow card in the modern game.

6.38pm GMT

46 min Peep peep! Arsenal begin the second half, kicking from right to left.

6.38pm GMT

“I guess thank you for pointing out that Arsenal actually finished second last year, thus qualifying for a Round of 16 exit in the Champions League this year,” says Ted Storer. “I just assumed as an American paying attention to a Guardian MBM I was allowed to use alternative facts in an attempt at humour.”


6.32pm GMT

Half-time sing-song

Matt Dony has been busy, for at least eight seconds:

6.27pm GMT

“I love Suarez’s over-the-top theatrics, probably cause it reminds me of his most inspired moment: when he pretended to clutch his tooth in pain after he bit Chiellini,” says Phil Podolsky. “Transposing typical football playacting into the realm of biting shows a talent for invention that’s pretty impressive.”

Yes, the best cheats rely on their instinct.

6.23pm GMT

Half-time reading

Related: Millwall’s Tony Craig: ‘All those scars show the sort of player I am’

6.23pm GMT

Pee peep! Lincoln did a fine defensive job for most of the half, and had a chance to take the lead, but Theo Walcott’s injury-time goal changed the mood of the match and even the scoreline. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.

6.19pm GMT

45+3 min This could get nasty now, and not in a nice way. Walcott plays an excellent pass to pick out Ramsey, who smashes into orbit from 14 yards.

6.18pm GMT

An Arsenal corner wasn’t cleared and eventually came back to Walcott, whose sidefooted shot from 10 yards took a decisive deflection off Habergham and ended up in the corner of the net.

6.17pm GMT

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

6.17pm GMT

45+1 min There will be six minutes of added time. Six minutes! Arsenal almost score in the first of them. Ozil’s inswinging cross is left at the last minute by Raggett and would have sneaked in the far corner without Farman’s desperate fumble round the post.

6.15pm GMT

45 min Bellerin’s cross is only half cleared to Ramsey, who tries to flick a shot into the far corner with the outside of his right foot, and fails.

6.12pm GMT

43 min See 35 mins.

6.12pm GMT

42 min Giroud is down after a clash of heads with both Raggett and Waterfall. That looked especially painful, though he seems to be okay.

6.11pm GMT

41 min A quick recap in case you’ve been asleep for the last two months: Lincoln City are potentially one goal away from the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

6.10pm GMT

39 min Lincoln have wasted two or three free-kicks by being caught offside, usually Rhead. That’s really wasteful as those set-pieces are their best chance of a goal.

6.09pm GMT

38 min The greatest surprise is not that it’s 0-0, but that 0-0 is a fair score. Farman has only had one significant save to make. The Arsenal crowd, and the Arsenal players, are just starting to go into brat mode. They could use a goal before half-time.

6.08pm GMT

37 min There has been some clumsy defending from Arsenal, and now Koscielny has been booked for a foul on Muldoon. I’m not sure he did much wrong that time, mind.

6.07pm GMT

36 min “I think the last time a hairstyle like Rhead’s was seen on national TV was when Ralph Coates was in his pomp,” says Charles Antaki. “But Coates had a terrible time in London, so, y’know, not the best precedent.”

6.06pm GMT

35 min It’s still 0-0.

6.05pm GMT

34 min Sanchez’s low ball into the box is collected on the run by Walcott, whose left-footed shot is deflected straight through to Farman.

6.04pm GMT

33 min “Arsenal’s second place last year is used as a stick to beat them with, as “if they can’t win when everyone else is crap, then when will they win?” is the established narrative,” says Graeme Thorn. “Firstly, this attitude is extremely patronising to Leicester who genuinely had an excellent season, and secondly, why didn’t Chelsea or Manchester United or Manchester City or Spurs or Liverpool last season win it if the competition was that poor?”

Indeed. This is the problem with turning sport into a soap opera: people then want melodrama rather than stability. It’s a greater achievement to finish 11th and then 2nd than it is to finish 3rd and 2nd.

6.01pm GMT

31 min Rhead is receiving treatment after an accidental elbow from Koscielny. He has been down for a couple of minutes now.

6.00pm GMT

28 min Lincoln almost take the lead! Arnold plays a give-and-go with Woodyard on the right and then makes a beeline for goal. Koscielny comes across but Arnold slips inside him and places a lofted shot across goal that is palmed behind by the diving Cech. That was a lovely piece of play. He was slightly off balance as he hit the shot, though it would still have gone in without Cech’s touch.

5.57pm GMT

27 min An Arsenal substitution: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, presumably injured, is replaced by Mesut Ozil.

5.57pm GMT

26 min Bellerin has been Arsenal’s best attacker so far. He is such a good player. Lincoln do look pretty comfortable in open play, however. Most of the problems have been from Arsenal corners.

5.56pm GMT

25 min “Good to be seeing a domestic replay of the classic Barcelona-PSG match,” says Charles Antaki. “Lincoln doing a fair impersonation of Barça so far, just minus the goal (leaving aside irrelevancies like skill etc, also diving).”

The omerta over Barcelona’s win-at-all-costs-to-dignity approach was a bit weird. It was an amazing win but should have an asterisk against it because of the extent of their cheating and a refereeing ineptitude that verged on the suspicious.

5.54pm GMT

24 min After another Arsenal attack falls down, Xhaka is booked for an inept lunge at Rhead.

5.53pm GMT

23 min “As much as it goes against all my natural inclinations, I really want Arsenal to win,” says Matt Dony. “Or rather, I need Arsenal to win, for the sake of my job. One of my colleagues is a big Arsenal fan. After the Liverpool game, I obviously gave him the requisite amount of Top Bantz, then there was the Bayern Capitulation (the most entertaining film in the Matt Damon franchise) which left him teetering on the edge. A loss today, and I probably won’t see him again.”

I’d be careful with that banter.

5.52pm GMT

22 min Arsenal have an extended spell of possession. Eventually the ball is fed into Giroud, who is muscled off it.

5.51pm GMT

20 min “Hey Rob,” says JR in Illinois. “I follow football pretty closely so you can imagine my surprise to see that Gareth Southgate is on the touchline and managing for Lincoln City. But seriously, people must have mentioned this before, yes? It somehow had escaped me until now.”

That’s blatant beardism. You people make me sick.

5.51pm GMT

19 min Mustafi is penalised for pushing Rhead, who has started this game excellently. He’s a smart player who knows exactly where, when and how to throw his weight around. Lincoln try the old fake misunderstanding, Aberdeen-Bayern free-kick: it’s headed clear nonetheless.

5.49pm GMT

18 min Though Lincoln are under pressure, they are not camped in their own box by any means. This has been a very good start for them.

5.49pm GMT

5.47pm GMT

15 min “Lincoln has not one but three Wetherspoons within easy walking distance of the high street,” says Phil Sawyer. “Make of that what you will.”

What are the house prices like? Asking for a friend.

5.46pm GMT

13 min Walcott hits the post! A corner was played short to Gibbs and lofted towards the far post. It was headed it clear to Walcott, who hit a rasping volley from 18 yards that the diving Farman just managed to touch onto the post.

5.44pm GMT

12 min Arsenal have started to warm up after a sluggish start, and the game has assumed the expected pattern: attack and defence, invasion and repulsion, just like when Nick Hornby was a teenage boy.

5.43pm GMT

11 min “Your typos at six minutes aren’t because of a sneaky tipple,” says Ted Storer. “It’s autocorrect. Which is what Arsenal fans should be complaining about as the club has been on an autocorrect to third or fourth place for years.

Again, I wish I could blame autocorrect. Also, Arsenal finished second last year. I know that doesn’t change the overall picture but it’s interesting how that has been airbrushed out of history.

5.41pm GMT

10 min Arsenal miss the first good chance of the match. Oxlade-Chamberlain sprays a beautiful crossfield pass to Bellerin, who takes it down and then picks out Ramsey on the edge of the box. He takes the shot first time and places it a few yards wide of the near post.

5.38pm GMT

8 min Lincoln are pressing so high up the field. They surely can’t do this for 90 minutes but at the moment it is working extremely well.

5.38pm GMT

7 min Lincoln have had 62 per cent of the possession so far. I wish we were doing a companion liveblog from Lincoln Wetherspoons, assuming there is a Lincoln Wetherspoons.

5.37pm GMT

6 min “‘They’re team’; ‘every seen’ – you sure you haven’t been at the Cup Fever yourself, Rob?” hics Matt Loten. “Surely it’s a bad sign if the typos are out in force before the match has even kicked off! Not that I could blame you for having a sneaky tipple, what with having to work on a Saturday night, we used to have the odd sly snifter when I worked weekends in the pub trade.”

If only I could blame it on booze.

5.35pm GMT

5 min Arsenal haven’t really got going as yet. It’s not an exaggeration to say Lincoln have been the better side and have won the first of the 18 five-minute segments.

5.34pm GMT

3 min Matt Rhead, the Lincoln centre-forward and Joey Barton’s nemesis, is already putting himself about and has just landed a stiff arm in Mustafi’s face while jumping for a high ball. He is an inspiration.

5.33pm GMT

2 min It’s been a fine start from Lincoln, who are pressing high up the pitch, and Muldoon almost wriggles through Koscielny on the edge of the box.

5.32pm GMT

1 min Lincoln win a free-kick on the right wing after 15 seconds. Habergham lofts it into the box, and the referee Anthony Taylor blows for a free-kick against Lincoln. Why’s he gotta be so cold?

5.31pm GMT

1 min Lincoln kick off from right to left. They are in green; a strong Arsenal XI are wearing red.

5.30pm GMT

The Lincoln manager Danny Cowley smiles as he gives all his players a hug on the pitch. Even if he lives to the age of 172, he’ll experience nothing like this. Hasn’t had a shave though.

5.16pm GMT

An email! “Here in Plucky Little Lincoln, it’s fair to say cup fever has reached, erm, fever pitch,” says Phil Sawyer. “In fact walking down the high street earlier it appeared that quite a few of the locals had had a pint or two of Cup Fever early doors. No matter how the result goes, I fear there are going to be a fair few Lincolnites feeling tired and emotional by the end of the evening.”

Imagine if they win. There will be some of the happiest 2am drunken brawls ever seen.

4.59pm GMT

Some pre-match reading

Related: ‘Nine thousand Lincoln fans at Arsenal is going to be unreal’

Related: Lincoln City line up Arsenal Impvasion for one more shock in golden FA Cup run

Related: Lincoln’s Danny Cowley: ‘We have one-in-1,000 chance at Arsenal but we can do it’

4.42pm GMT

Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Xhaka; Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez; Giroud.
Substitutes: Martinez, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Iwobi, Ozil, Lucas.

Lincoln (4-4-2) Farman; Wood, Waterfall, Raggett, Habergham; Arnold, Woodyard, Power, Hawkridge; Muldoon, Rhead.
Substitutes: Marriott, Margetts, McMenemy, McCombe, Calder, Ward, Etheridge.

11.31am GMT

Hello. One set of supporters arrive at the Emirates today in a foul mood. They know their team are going to win. The other group of fans are in a grand old mood; they know their team are likely to get stuffed. That’s the slightly odd backdrop to Arsenal’s quarter-final at home to non-league Lincoln City.

Lincoln can’t lose today. This isn’t a contest so much as a reward for their giant-killing, a football spa day at one of the biggest grounds in Britain. But if they do win, and reach the semi-finals, there won’t be enough exclamation marks in the world.

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

Aitor Karanka praises Middlesbrough’s ‘fighters’ after loss to Manchester City

• Middlesbrough manager’s future still in doubt after FA Cup exit
• Manager under scrutiny for dropping Stewart Downing and Patrick Bamford

Aitor Karanka’s future as Middlesbrough’s manager remains uncertain following FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester City at The Riverside but, outwardly at least, the Basque remains typically defiant.

“City showed they’re one of the best teams,” said Karanka after goals from David Silva and Sergio Aguero propelled Pep Guardiola’s side into the semi finals. “But I’m really proud of my players because they’ve given a massive effort, from the first minute until the end. We were trying to apply high pressure and the effort has been amazing.”

Related: Manchester City and David Silva catch Middlesbrough cold to reach semi

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

‘Nine thousand Lincoln fans at Arsenal is going to be unreal’

Rob Arnold has been going to games for more than 45 years and seen promotions and play-off finals but nothing matches the FA Cup quarter-final at the Emirates

I saw my first match in September 1971 – Grimsby at home and we won 3-0. My first football hero was Frankie McMahon, a little ginger-haired Irishman. He scored twice that night and the game had everything. A local derby, a pitch invasion, great goals. That was it. I was hooked and could never have supported anyone else after that. I live in Manchester now and it is hard supporting the little team but it’s never left me.

Related: Lincoln’s Danny Cowley: ‘We have one-in-1,000 chance at Arsenal but we can do it’

Related: Lincoln City topple Burnley as Sean Raggett seals historic FA Cup shock

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Mar 11

Manchester City and David Silva catch Middlesbrough cold to reach semi

If Leroy Sané was almost certainly Manchester City’s man of the match, Brad Guzan’s status as Middlesbrough’s outstanding individual brooked absolutely no debate.

Aitor Karanka’s goalkeeper performed wonders to keep the scoreline respectable on a day when Pep Guardiola’s side warmed up for Wednesday’s second leg Champions League tie in Monaco by extending their unbeaten run to 11 games as they coasted into the FA Cup semi-finals.

Related: Middlesbrough 0-2 Manchester City: FA Cup quarter-final – as it happened

Related: FA Cup photo essay – Middlesbrough v Oxford United in the fifth round

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Older posts «

» Newer posts