De Futebol

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West Ham broke Liverpool’s hearts in the dying embers of extra time of the fourth replay of the FA Cup to lift the Hammers to the 2-1 win. A strike by Michail Antonio in the 120th minute plus thirty seconds of extra time is a shocking reminder how cruel and unforgiving futebol can be. The Reds were sent home heartbroken while the Hammers advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The Guardians James Riach wrote- Of all the ways to win a Cup game, this was cruel and joyous in equal measure. This had almost been the last such tie at this old ground, but Angelo Ogbonna rose after 121 long minutes to head West Ham into the fifth round – they will play at Blackburn – and break the young hearts of Liverpool.

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In a week where the cost of football has been in acute focus, it is fair to say that both sets of fans got their money’s worth on a night of dynamic drama. Liverpool will be glad of Daniel Sturridge’s impressive return, but the profligacy of Christian Benteke late on ensured an exit for a fledgling side that had performed admirably in the face of a high-octane display by the Hammers.

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Michail Antonio had given Slaven Bilic’s side the lead just before half-time, but Philippe Coutinho’s free-kick crept under the wall to equalise three minutes into the second half. From thereon in, the game ebbed and flowed with chances for both, until Ogbonna rose in the dying moments to head Dimitri Payet’s cross over Simon Mignolet.

Both sides made significant changes from their previous league matches. Mignolet was the only player who remained in Liverpool’s starting lineup from the 2-2 draw against Sunderland, while West Ham made five alterations from the team that lost narrowly at Southampton.

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Klopp’s was a youthful selection and, most notably, Lucas Leiva started in central defence alongside Tiago Ilori. Coutinho was involved throughout a first half during which posts were hit and goalkeepers tested.

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West Ham have undoubtedly had the edge on Liverpool this season – scoring five against them over two league games without reply – and it was Bilic’s side who went in at half-time with the lead. Both teams demonstrated a refreshing attacking intent. In the 15th minute Darren Randolph was forced into the first save of the game, getting his body in the way of Christian Benteke’s effort from a Coutinho corner. A minute later and West Ham almost took the lead through an unlikely source. Joey O’Brien, the right-back returning to the team for the first time since playing in the Europa League last July, found space on the edge of the penalty area and was picked out beautifully by Dimitri Payet, but his low shot cannoned back off Mignolet’s near post.

Payet has been the star of Upton Park this season, and negotiations on an improved contract have begun for the midfielder signed from Marseille in the summer.

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He was a constant threat to a Liverpool defence containing Jon Flanagan and Brad Smith as full-backs, but the white shirts had plenty of attacking gusto themselves. It was Smith, in fact, who proved effective on the overlap on two occasions. The second, after 29 minutes, resulted in a deflected ball across goal from the byline which fell to the young midfielder João Teixeira, whose shot flew narrowly wide.

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Coutinho then came even closer for Liverpool, hitting the post after Benteke showed quick feet to beat his marker and find his team-mate in the 34th minute. The woodwork was rattled at the other end soon after, Payet’s curled free-kick from the edge of the D beating Mignolet but not his left-hand post, and the goalkeeper produced a smart save to keep out Michail Antonio from the rebound.

Antonio, though, was not going to be denied for long. With one minute until half-time, Enner Valencia retrieved the ball just outside the area on the left. The Ecuadorian demonstrated perseverance to beat a cluster of white shirts before drifting a precise ball to the far post, where Antonio volleyed in emphatically.

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Unfortunately for West Ham, the lead had gone three minutes into the second half. Benteke was caught in a bundle of claret and blue on the edge of the area and, despite the protestations from the home crowd, referee Roger East awarded a free-kick. Up stepped Coutinho. It seemed too close to goal to get a shot up and over but the Brazilian did not need to. Instead, he hit a grass-cutter under the wall and past Randolph.

Liverpool were rejuvenated. Smith was causing more problems in an advanced position and soon Sturridge was on. The striker, notable more for his absence than presence in recent times, replaced Coutinho with half an hour remaining, while Divock Origi came on for Teixeira. Instantly, Sturridge almost had an opportunity, but Benteke could not get a pass away quickly enough during a counterattack and Sturridge strayed offside.

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The intensity began to increase. Valencia went down in the opposition penalty area and appeared to be dragged back by Ilori, but despite the appeals inside the stadium and Bilic’s gesticulations, the referee ignored the penalty claims.

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Winston Reid was forced off through injury before Andy Carroll – who scored against his former club in the league last month – came on for Cheikhou Kouyaté.

In the closing stages Sturridge nutmegged O’Brien to win a free-kick, which Randolph saved from Benteke, while Valencia headed over for West Ham. It was Jordan Ibe, though, who came closest to scoring a winner, his left-footed shot from the edge of the area palmed away by Randolph.

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Mark Noble, the West Ham captain, forced a fine low save from Mignolet in extra time, but it wasBenteke who had two golden chances to seal it for Liverpool. The first, in the 99th minute, was a volley that the Belgian dragged wide. Seconds later he was played through, only to see his shot blocked well by the onrushing Randolph but it was to be Ogbonna who had the final word.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/feb/09/west-ham-liverpool-fa-cup-fourth-round-replay-match-report

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De Futebol

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Man U gave up a late goal to Blues however the signs of improvement are being seen. This is according to the Guardians Michael Cox. Cox wrote- Diego Costa’s late strike denied Manchester United all three points, but this was an encouraging away performance from Louis van Gaal’s side, based around a traditional United concept: width.

Throughout their most notable periods of success under both Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, United generally played with great width on both flanks, and based their play around quick diagonal passes out wide and plenty of crosses. Many have said Van Gaal’s possession-based approach doesn’t fit with United’s historic style of play, but more performances in this manner, and that criticism becomes less valid.

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That said, the width wasn’t provided in the conventional manner: Van Gaal fielded no touchline-hugging wingers, and instead fielded players who drifted inside into central positions. Jesse Lingard acted as an extra central midfielder at times, while Anthony Martial twice went close having cut inside from the left before shooting powerfully with right foot, the Frenchman’s trademark move.The width came from deep. Full-back duo Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Matteo Darmian were both excellent, taking up aggressive starting positions and timing their overlaps at the perfect moments. Borthwick-Jackson’s first cross of the game forced Branislav Ivanovic to head behind, winning the first in a succession of corners, while Darmian ended the first half by playing a superb low ball across the six-yard box.

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In truth, United lack a reliable penalty area poacher who thrives on crosses, with Wayne Rooney often taking up deeper positions, but their determination to stretch the play and go down the outside pushed Chelsea back, and ensured they dominated the opening period.

Their 61st-minute opener was a fine demonstration of their emphasis on pushing the full-backs forward: Borthwick-Jackson collected the ball on the left flank, whipped a wonderful cross into the box, before Rooney’s touch allowed Lingard to swivel and fire a superb shot into the top corner. It was a moment of individual magic, but also typical of United’s gameplan.

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Chelsea failed to offer anything similar, which was particularly obvious in the first half. Oscar and Willian both wanted to come inside and combine with Cesc Fàbregas, but Chelsea’s play was too congested and lacked variety. There was only one good piece of combination play from the home side, when Willian and Oscar combined in narrow positions, before the latter slipped in Costa to fire wide from the inside-right channel.

Of course, this narrowness wouldn’t have been a problem if Chelsea weren’t deploying such conservative full-backs: Branislav Ivanovic is a converted centre-back who has been particularly defensive this season, having been exposed when pushing up the pitch earlier in the campaign, while right-footed César Azpilicueta overlaps when possible down the left, but doesn’t offer a serious crossing threat.

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Willian, Chelsea’s best player this season, was most dangerous when providing right-sided width. He shimmied past Borthwick-Jackson to fire a good ball across the six-yard box which evaded everyone, and then shortly before half-time, played a deflected cross from a similar position, which saw John Terry’s close-range shot blocked by Daley Blind. Willian always wants to be involved, but he’s a player who thrives on space – and he usually finds it out wide.

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Just eight minutes into the second half, Guus Hiddink attempted to introduce more quality in wide positions with the introduction of Eden Hazard in place of Oscar, and later brought on Pedro Rodríguez with Willian moving into a central role. Regular crosses weren’t forthcoming, but Chelsea stretched the play more, had longer spells of pressure, and their central players found more space to get them back into the game.

Fàbregas’ pass for Costa’s late equaliser was wonderfully weighted, and a sign that the Spanish playmaker is beginning to rediscover his touch, but Chelsea can’t depend on this type of pass alone – they must offer more variety of angles in attack.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/feb/07/manchester-united-chelsea-width-louis-van-gaal-football

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De Futebol

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Man U had a chance to pick up some ground on fourth place Man Shitty however in the end the Blues scored the late equalizer by Diego Costa in the 90th minute plus one for one all draw. The tie leaves the Red Devils frustrated in fifth place with 41 points. Shitty has 47 big ones.

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Jesse Lingard gave Man U the lead in the 61st minute off a back to the goal spin around riser that found top shelf for the one nil lead. Chelsea defender César Azpilicueta and keeper Courtois were defenseless on this deft defying goal.

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It sure looked like the guys would pin a fifth home defeat on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But wait Diego Costa saved the day in the dying embers of the match to break the Red Devils hearts.

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The Guardians Dominic Fifield wrote- This should have been the afternoon Manchester United breathed new life into their pursuit of the top four. Becoming the fifth side to triumph at Stamford Bridge this season would have edged them within four points of their rivals from across their home city and offered Louis van Gaal some respite amid so much discord and doubt. Yet, as the Dutchman berated the fourth official in the mouth of the tunnel after the final whistle, it all felt thoroughly deflating.

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Diego Costa’s stoppage-time equaliser, a mess of a goal for the visitors to ship just as they were contemplating victory, has left United’s game of catch-up appearing rather forlorn yet again. There is too much sloppiness, too much wastefulness, in this team to sustain a proper challenge and Chelsea, far from impressive for long periods, had been opponents there for the taking. As it was, Costa went on to force David de Gea into a fine save with 17 seconds of those six minutes of added time. Perhaps that was appropriate given both these sides will probably complete their campaign wondering what might have been.

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If the frustration at the end was United’s, it was Chelsea who had actually departed at the interval enraged not to have been awarded a penalty in the seconds before the break. Their opportunity had been born of a Terry block on the edge of his own penalty area, the captain joining Oscar, Willian et al on a galloping counterattack that culminated in his hooked attempt from the Brazilian’s centre. Daley Blind flung himself at the shot, the ball striking his left elbow, only for Michael Oliver to wave away the appeals. The hosts could point to Costa’s shot just wide of the far post, or a couple of half-chances when Oscar gained a sight at goal, as evidence of superiority for long periods, though this had lacked the quality, urgency or, indeed, relevance of meetings between the teams over recent years.

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A United side of proper pedigree would have capitalised on the flurry of corners and crossing opportunities that had marked out their initial dominance. As it was, the closest they had come to a first-half lead was Anthony Martial’s curled attempt which Thibaut Courtois did well to turn behind at full stretch. The Belgium goalkeeper was more active after the interval, stretching to save impressively from Wayne Rooney and Lingard, with Chelsea further hindered by what appeared a serious knee injury to Kurt Zouma.

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The young Frenchman had leapt to hack a loose ball upfield only for his right leg to buckle awkwardly as he landed. He was carried off on a stretcher, distraught and in pain. The scans on the ligaments over the coming days will determine the extent of the damage, though it felt natural to fear the worst.

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Those he left behind were still reorganising when they were breached, United building neatly courtesy of Michael Carrick, Martial and Juan Mata before Borthwick-Jackson’s fizzed centre was touched on by Rooney. The ball fell to Lingard, 12 yards out and with his back to goal; he took a touch, spun and dispatched a fine rising shot into the top corner before César Azpilicueta could summon a block.

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The hosts had flung on Eden Hazard by then in an attempt to breathe energy into their own performance, though it was Branislav Ivanovic’s crunched volley that threatened to pull them level. De Gea palmed that away and was soon blocking Cesc Fàbregas’s shot belted in at his near-post as Chelsea’s desperation grew. When Costa headed over late on their time felt up only for United to implode at the death.

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Fàbregas’s clipped pass should have been cut out but Blind slipped as he emerged from United’s penalty area. In trundled Costa, though it was actually Borthwick-Jackson’s sliding attempt to tackle that took the ball away from De Gea. The Spain striker simply collected and converted into the empty net and Chelsea’s unbeaten run had been stretched to 11 games. Even so, Guus Hiddink has still to oversee a home win in the Premier League in this second stint as manager. These sequences are deceptive.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/feb/07/chelsea-manchester-united-premier-league-match-report

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De Futebol

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Arsenal jumped back into third place with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth. The guys were led by Mesut Ozil’s goal 23rd minute and Oxlade Chamberlain’s strike 24th minute gave my Gunners the needed firepower to jump ahead of Man Shitty into third place with 48 points. Arsenal and Tottenham are tied on points however Spurs are a plus 26 while my Gunners are a plus 17.

The Daily Mail- The restorative sea-air worked its magic for Arsene Wenger curing his ailments in front of goal and reviving a faltering title challenge.

Arsenal were far from fluent. But, in a first-ever fixture at Bournemouth, they ended a run of more than five hours without a goal and turned momentum back in the right direction.

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At this stage in proceedings that was all Wenger wanted to see. Doubts still linger about the mental strength of his squad. He could not afford to waste more points.

Since winning the title in 2004, Arsenal have not led the Premier League in April or May. There have been stylish starts and flamboyant finishes, but a complete campaign has proved elusive.

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This year is supposed to represent their best chance of disproving the theory, of ending the wait to be champions.

And yet they had started to stumble. Familiar concerns had resurfaced ahead of this trip to Dorset, with only three points from the previous four games, and no goals in three.

Victory was vital at Bournemouth with Leicester due at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, and it was secured with two goals, 88 seconds apart, midway through the first-half.

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Mesut Ozil put them ahead when Olivier Giroud nodded a pass from Aaron Ramsey down into his path. Ozil adjusted quickly and volleyed the bouncing ball past Artur Boruc with his weaker foot.

‘He has become a very important player,’ said Wenger. ‘He has added a fighting attitude and if he starts to score with his right foot, he will become even stronger.’

Having stopped the clock on 328 minutes without a goal, Arsenal immediately scored another, this time converted by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and assisted by a poor clearance from Bournemouth defender Steve Cook.

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Ramsey collected the ball from Cook and released Oxlade-Chamberlain who produced a crisp and accurate finish, driven low, across goalkeeper Boruc and into the net off the far post.

It was his first in the Premier League since September 2014. Even more incredibly, it was the first time he had scored away from home in the Premier League.

Eddie Howe bemoaned a slow start by his side, and a decision by referee Kevin Friend to show Mathieu Flamini a yellow card and not a red one for a two-footed tackle on Dan Gosling when the game was still goalless.

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Flamini flew into the midfield challenge with studs on display. He did get the ball, and Gosling was not hurt, but the Bournemouth players were furious.

Howe thought it was a straight-red, Flamini insisted he went for the ball and got the ball, while Wenger claimed it should have been a free-kick to Arsenal. It is a game of opinions, as they say.

It was certainly a lenient decision by modern comparisons, as Southampton’s Victor Wanyama will testify after his red card against West Ham on Saturday for a tackle not nearly so reckless.

Referee Friend viewed it differently, and then redressed some of the balance in the eyes of the home crowd when he waved away a penalty claim from Nacho Monreal, who thought he had been tripped by Marc Pugh on a foray forward.

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Only when they were two goals down did Howe’s team begin to stitch their passing patterns together. Confidence grew steadily as half-time loomed, but they were rarely able to involved centre-forward Benik Afobe.

There would be no dream goal for in-form Afobe, a £10million signing from Wolves in January, against the club where he started his career in the youth ranks.

Bournemouth are easy on the eye but often their final pass went astray, or the cross would be delivered into the wrong area. Although they enjoyed plenty of possession in advanced areas, they were kept at arm’s length by the Arsenal back-four and only occasionally troubled Petr Cech.

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There was a swerving effort from Harry Arter, tipped over by in the first-half, and a brave block at the feet of Adam Smith. Seventeen efforts at goal were recorded from the home team, and yet only four on target.

Two of the four came in stoppage time at the end of the game when Cech produced splendid low saves in quick succession to deny first Cook and then Arter.

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Defeat leaves Bournemouth five points clear of the drop-zone. They have turned a corner since winning at Chelsea in December, and look as if they will have enough to avoid being sucked into a survival scrap.

For Arsenal, it was neither vintage football, nor the true test of nerves they must face in the next four months if they are to prove credible title challengers.

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Centre halves Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista were solid in defence for the visitors and Wenger was able to send on Francis Coquelin to bolster his midfield towards the end.

While Ozil and Ramsey impressed in midfield, Alexis Sanchez still looks short of his best on his third start after a hamstring injury.

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Sanchez sliced an early chance high and wide and fired a couple of passes into touch.

He did not work Boruc until early in the second-half, and his form is one of the things Wenger will attempt to fine-tune before Leicester roll into North London next weekend.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3436014/Bournemouth-0-2-Arsenal-Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain-Mesut-Ozil-hit-rapid-double-Gunners-title-charge-track.html#ixzz3zVwNr8Jw
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De Futebol

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Man Shitty was always a dominant team at Etihad. Leicester City came into the lion’s den kicked butt and took names in 3-1 massacre of Shitty to take a six point lead over Shitty. The Foxes are at the head of the class with 53 points.

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Leicester City took it to Shitty scoring when Robert Hurth shot fond its mark in the third minute for the quick one nil lead. Riyad Mahrez added another master piece in the 48th minute for the two nil lead. Hurth completed his daily double in the 60th minute for the 3-0 lead. Shitty added a cosmetic goal in the 87th minute off the foot of Sergio Aguero to make it a 3-1 victory for the visitors at Etihad.

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The Foxes have won three in a row and four out of their last five. The only blemish is a one all draw against Aston Villa. Man Shitty on the other hand has a loss, a win and a draw in their last three matches. Overall Shitty has two wins, two draws and a loss in this five match period.

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Shitty has six losses on the season and three of those are at home. Not good garoto. I am glad for Shitty. This is not a team I root for. I hope they lose.

Claudio Ranieri is considered a joke a “tinkerman” in futebol circles. He has now taken over Leicester City and has the Foxes heading for the EPL title.

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The Guardians Paul Wilson wrote- “It had been suggested beforehand that Leicester’s pace and precision might find reward against Manchester’s City’s somewhat ponderous central defence, though it was envisaged Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez might do the damage. Instead it was the unlikely figure of Robert Huth who turned out to be the two-goal hero as Claudio Ranieri’s team passed their greatest test to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League.

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The big defender nipped in ahead of Martín Demichelis to give the visitors a third minute lead, and the best possible start, as Manchester City failed to defend the first set piece of the afternoon. Mahrez had set up the opportunity, in fairness, drawing a foul from Aleksandar Kolarov with a run down the right and taking the free-kick himself. The home side might have been expecting a high cross but got a low one, and Huth simply reacted quickest to get a foot to the ball on the six-yard line, even if a ricochet off the defender was the final touch. Goal of the season contender it wasn’t, but it was a dream start for Leicester, and one that helped them stick to the gameplan that has proved so effective this season.

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There is nothing complicated about what Leicester do, they simply stay compact and deep in defence and try to hit Vardy upfield on the counter. Once City were obliged to chase an equaliser and leave gaps at the back it played into Leicester’s hands, at times excessively so, for on a few occasions in the first half the visitors were turning over a dangerous amount of possession. Constantly inviting the likes of David Silva and Raheem Sterling to carry the ball into the final third does not seem the most sensible of strategies, but Manchester City were short of ideas and invention and Leicester got away with it. The best chance Manchester City managed to create came right at the end of the first half, when Sergio Agüero rolled a cross right across the face of an unprotected goal, with no one available to tap it in.

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http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/feb/06/manchester-city-leicester-city-premier-league-match-report

Liverpool v Sunderland - Barclays Premier League

Liverpool took a 2-0 lead only to give up two late goals in the final ten minutes to Adam Johnson and Jermain Defoe to voce vai zone Sunderland to wind up in a two all draw. The tie was a huge disappointment for the Reds. It sure looked like the guys would win. Not so fast bucko the Eagles didn’t give up to earn this hard earned point.

The tie keeps Liverpool I fell to ninth place with 35 points after Southampton defeated West  Ham 1-0. The Saints are now in seventh place with 37 points.

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Everton destroyed Stoke City 3-0 to jump ahead of the Reds into eighth place with 35 points. The Toffees are a plus 12 while Liverpool is a minus six.

Tottenham defeated Watford 1-0 to leap ahead of Man Shitty into second place with 48 points. Spurs have won four in a row.

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De Futebol

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The headline match of today features top the top two clubs squaring off at Shitty’s house. The Foxes and Man Shitty have a hot date later today. If Shitty wins they will move to the head of class on goal difference. Leicester City is the top dog with 50 points. Man Shitty is second with 47 points.

The cats who will duke it out later today are: Aston Villa-Norwich, Liverpool-Sunderland, Newcastle-West Brom, Spurs-Watford, Stoke City-Everton, Swansea-Crystal Palace, and Southampton-West Ham.

Sunday’s line up looks like this AFC Bournemouth-Arsenal and Chelsea- Man U. Both the Red Devils and Arsenal need to pick the “W’s” if they want to stay in the hunt for the title.

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De Futebol

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Leicester City is the top dog. No one expected this. The Foxes and Shitty have a huge match tomorrow at King Power Stadium. The Guardians Paul Wilson wrote- “Manchester United put in a decent performance for once at home against Stoke City, and in the press room after the match the in-house television channel was naturally full of it. We are back to our best, was the slightly premature MUTV message, while up in Sunderland the noisy neighbours had only managed to “scrape a win” by a single goal.

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Everyone laughed at that, believing it was routine pro-United, anti-City bias, yet blow me when we all got home and watched Match of the Day on catch-up it was apparent Manchester City had only scraped a win. But for some Joe Hart heroics in goal Sunderland would have had at least a share of the points, and as Sam Allardyce said afterwards with any sort of finishing the relegation strugglers might have taken a giant stride upwards.

The other thing that was apparent from the MotD highlights – well, more obvious actually – was that Leicester City are still not having any problems in the finishing department and are still on course for the shock of the new millennium. Jamie Vardy is now a contender to win goal of the season as well as player of the year, the Foxes have become the first Premier League team to hit 50 points, a five-point gap has been opened on Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal and their nearest challengers, Manchester City, lie in wait at the Etihad on Saturday.

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“Yes, of course,” said Claudio Ranieri, who possibly needed no reminding that the next two fixtures against Manchester City and Arsenal could define Leicester’s title challenge. “But we are in good condition and under no pressure.” The next two games will not define Leicester’s season – Ranieri, Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and a strong supporting cast have already done that – but if last season’s relegation escapees are still top by close of play on Valentine’s Day all the questions along the lines of “can they do it?” will have to stop.

Because they will be doing it. Valentine’s Day, by the way, could have a major influence on the way the title and the top four work out. While Leicester travel to the Emirates, for what one imagines might be little reward given the way Arsenal carved them open to win 5-2 at the King Power back in September, Manchester City entertain Spurs so that all the present top four are in action against each other on the same Sunday.

But first comes Saturday’s aperitif at the Etihad. The December meeting between the clubs was goalless and inconclusive, with Leicester glad of a point after suffering only the second defeat of their season at Liverpool the week before. This time practically everything is at stake, and though both managers would doubtless pooh-pooh the notion that titles can be decided in February, it should certainly provide a pointer as to who might finish on top.

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Leicester seem to be returning to peak form after a slight dip in effectiveness, personified by Mahrez performing at his best again after a quiet January. They are now out of the cups as well as out of Europe – not that they were ever in Europe – and, as Jürgen Klopp so succinctly remarked, their task now is simply to play a match a week while all their major opponents tie themselves in knots with fixture pile-ups.

Manchester City may well view their next two games – against Leicester and Spurs, do try to keep up – as the last before their fixture programme becomes hectic. They have the small matter of an FA Cup tie at Chelsea on 20 February, followed by a trip to Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League and then the Capital One Cup final against Liverpool at the end of the month.

And they have just announced a managerial change, not exactly an unexpected one but a development that has been known to impact adversely on teams’ concentration and results in the past, especially as it has been widely suggested that when Pep Guardiola takes over he will have a significant amount of money to spend on new players. If the City squad all love Manuel Pellegrini as much as they say they do, the most desirable outcome would clearly be to win the title and perhaps another pot or two and dedicate the silverware to the outgoing manager.

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With the best of intentions, that is what the City squad will probably try to do, but it is easier said than done. Think back to when Sir Alex Ferguson said he was bowing out at United (several seasons before he actually did) then had to change his plans about retirement because his team’s attempt to win every game in his honour went so spectacularly awry.

An outgoing manager, no matter how popular and successful, subtly changes the normal dynamic. An incoming one with money to spend does the same. Manchester City are not going to turn into a team of also-rans overnight; it is possible in fact that Pellegrini went public with the Guardiola news because he feared rumour and conjecture was already proving a distraction, but his team was not at its best on Wearside on Tuesday, night and it could turn out that City are below par again at the weekend.

Whereas the one thing Leicester have never been this season is below par. They have been fabulously above par, if that is not a golfing contradiction, punching above their weight from day one and using their relatively streamlined fixture programme to ensure they perform at their best for 90 minutes when a league game comes along.

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They are not so good as to go into Saturday’s game as favourites, but Manchester City will have to be at their best to beat them, particularly if Vardy and Mahrez get in among the still somewhat ponderous home defence. That is a huge compliment to Ranieri and his players, but only one of dozens they have thoroughly deserved all season. Regardless of the result at the Etihad, Leicester seem nailed on for a Champions League place whether they win the title or not.

Yet Leicester would do well to shut their ears to such talk and concentrate on the main prize, in case they subconsciously begin to accept that finishing second or third would still be an outstanding achievement. It would, of course, but the outstanding achievement to end all outstanding achievements is still on offer. Ranieri is smart enough to know that, and so are his players. Klopp sounded like he had been mugged on Tuesday night, which is exactly the effect a team like Leicester should be aiming for.

They are tough customers, you cannot argue with their approach, and at the moment no one is doing so. Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal all have stronger squads but Leicester have proved brazenly effective at 11 v 11 contests over 90 minutes. There is still a way to go but if titles were won on verve and confidence the bookies would probably be paying out already.

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http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/feb/03/leicester-on-course-premier-league-win

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De Futebol

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Do I have ESPN I mean ESP or what. We wrote that the guys at Man U are starting to figure it out. Well guess what the Guardians Paul Wilson wrote- “Wouldn’t you just know it? You wait 11 games for a first-half goal at Old Trafford and then two come along at once. Either Stoke have hit an unusually pallid run of form – they have gone out of two cups in the past week and here was a third league game without a win – or Manchester United might be back in business.

This was United’s first home game since the boo-fest 10 days ago that was defeat against Southampton, and Louis van Gaal’s arse, to use one of his own expressions, must have been twitching.

The suspicion all day had been that United had been put firmly in their place and thoroughly in the shade by His Pepness booking in across town, though there seems to be life in Van Gaal and his players yet.

Not only were Stoke put to the sword, no mean feat after the Boxing Day humiliation at the Britannia Stadium that had Van Gaal hinting darkly about resignation, but United have now put two results and two impressive three-goal performances together after recovering some of their composure in the FA Cup win at Derby last weekend. While a greater test of whether a corner has actually been turned will come this Sunday at Chelsea, at least United have confounded the cynics who suggested they only looked so comfortable against Derby because the Championship is their true level.

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These have been dark days for United fans, who are hardly used to jeering their own team or sitting through interminably dull games, yet right from the start against Stoke the atmosphere was positive.

The outstanding Anthony Martial received a ripple of applause after just a couple of minutes for a piece of skill on the left, and that seemed to set the tone for what followed. Wayne Rooney saw a shot saved shortly afterwards, nothing remarkable in itself until you remember Old Trafford has recently witnessed games where you could count the attempts on target on the fingers of a mitten.

Breaking forward at will, moving the ball around and finding spaces behind the Stoke defence, United looked much more like their old selves and deservedly went ahead after 14 minutes. Jesse Lingard had to stoop at the far post to power Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s cross over the line, though the ball into the area was so good and the six-yard line so packed that Stoke could hardly have complained had anyone else managed to score.

A supercharged Martial then took on and beat the Stoke defence, only to shoot into the side-netting, before confirming United’s resurgence was real with a stunning finish to find Jack Butland’s top corner.

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Stoke were not performing at their highest level, it must be admitted. As at Liverpool last week they deployed Peter Crouch up front but did not adapt their game sufficiently to bring the best out of him. Marko Arnautovic appears to alternate scintillating displays with humdrum ones, and this was one of the latter. And though Ibrahim Afellay was lively and inventive, his passing was not always incisive.

An injury to Phillip Wollscheid led to Glen Johnson moving across to play centre-half too, which in turn led to the game’s moment of comedy when Rooney barged him off the ball with an old-school shoulder charge and coolly beat Butland at his near post. The goal might have been allowed to stand in 1956, and perhaps ought to have done in 2016 for its cheek alone, though after checking with his assistants via his radio link Roger East thought not.

The incident was a useful barometer of Rooney’s mood. A couple of months ago he would have done something like that only through frustration or petulance. Here, the brash, almost bullying Rooney of old was back, trying it on because he was cocky enough to do so and rightly confident he could execute the goal-scoring part expertly.

Anyone watching this game would conclude reports of Rooney’s demise as a competitor and a goalscorer were mad, miles off the mark. As he nears the all-time Manchester United scoring record he seems to have found fresh legs and all his old enthusiasm.

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This is a visibly different Rooney from the player who toiled in vain at the start of the season and had everyone wondering why Van Gaal was keeping faith. His part in the second goal was impressive enough, completing a prolonged passing move by finding Martial in space, but the real evidence was his side’s third.

With United breaking from halfway in the cluster-bomb formation last seen under vintage-era Fergie, Juan Mata had Martial haring ahead to his left and Rooney doing the same thing on his right, both calling for the ball. Mata picked out Martial, so Rooney continued his run to turn up at the far post so as to be able to tap over the line when the cross arrived on cue.

Simple, effective, unstoppable. How long United can keep it up is anyone’s guess, but at least two of their three goals were of the highest quality.

This time there were no boos at the final whistle and Van Gaal escaped unmolested, even signing a few autographs on his way along the touchline at the end. The Southampton fiasco is already a fading memory, and if United can emerge this jaunty from Stamford Bridge at the weekend then truly anything is still possible.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/feb/02/wayne-rooney-louis-van-gaal-manchester-united

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De Futebol

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Leicester City hung on to the top spot with a 2-0 win over Liverpool. The Foxes and the Reds were tied at half. Leicester City put this puppy to bed with two second half goals. Superman Jamie Vardy’s daily double 60th and 71st minute sent Liverpool crashing and burning out at the Foxes house King Power Stadium.

Liverpool stays in eighth place with 34 points. The Reds have lost two out of their last three. In Liverpool’s last six matches the guys have one win, three losses and a draw.

The Daily Mail- “Yes, it was a long ball over the top. And yes, it was a goal that comprised all of one pass, and one shot. But sometimes that is really all it needs. And it can still be quite, quite beautiful.

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The Jamie Vardy goal that helped keep Leicester top of the league going into Saturday’s match at Manchester City is destined to be shown time and again. Even if Leicester do not pull off the greatest achievement in the history of English club football – which winning this league would be – Vardy’s goal will be remembered. Certainly those present will not forget it including, no doubt, Roy Hodgson, the England manager.

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It was not just a timely goal in terms of its effect on the title race, but one that also serves to end a debate about Leicester’s style of play. There are no long balls, or short balls. No right or wrong way to win. There are good passes and bad passes. Good passes can be long or short – they just have to serve a purpose. And that is what the long pass struck by Riyad Mahrez after 60 minutes did.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3428862/Leicester-2-0-Liverpool-Foxes-stay-Premier-League-Jamie-Vardy-strikes-stunning-volley-defeat-Jurgen-Klopp-s-side.html#ixzz3z3CVx681

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Leicester City needed the “W” to stay ahead of Shitty. Man Shitty picked up a rare road 1-0 win over voce vai bound Sunderland. Sergio Aguero scored the only goal of the match in the 16th minute to keep Shitty on the Foxes heels with 47 points. Leicester City has 50 points. These two clubs will square this coming Saturday at King Power Stadium.

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Arsenal did bupkis in a nil-nil draw agianst Southampton at our house Emirates. The tie drops my Gunners to fourth place with 45 points.

The Daily Mail on my Gunners draw- “There will be times when Fraser Forster was a boy that he dreamed of keeping a team like Arsenal at bay for 90 minutes. Here he turned it into reality.

With the exception of Forster’s incredible performance during Celtic’s implausible 2-1 victory over Barcelona in 2012, this comes mighty close to matching it. This was his fourth successive clean sheet since he returned to the Southampton team from that career-threatening knee injury he suffered last March.

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This, undoubtedly, was the best.

The result leaves Arsenal five points off Leicester at the top and clinging on to fourth place in the table after rivals Tottenham moved above them on goal difference.

Arsenal have slipped away so many times before but it is becoming a real possibility this season after their failure to beat Ronald Koeman’s team.

This has been a sticky spell for Arsenal in the league, faltering in the first month of the year after failing to put away Liverpool, Stoke and Chelsea.

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It was gearing up to be the season Arsenal won their first league title since 2004. They will not get there by playing like they did in the first half, when they were booed off the pitch.

With memories of the 4-0 mauling at St Mary’s on Boxing Day still in his mind, Wenger made a big call by dropping Per Mertesacker and turning to Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista.

Sometimes the ball simply did not fall for them, one of the key factors behind Arsenal’s failure to take the lead in the opening 45 minutes against Southampton.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3428958/Arsenal-0-0-Southampton-Gunners-slip-title-rivals-Leicester-Manchester-City.html#ixzz3z3FVqtR4

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Spurs took care of business with a 3-0 thrashing of the Birdinhos Norwich. Tottenham jumps to third place with 45 points. Spurs are a plus 25 while Arsenal is a plus 15.

Man U stays put in fifth with a 3-0 win over Stoke City at Old Trafford. I think the Red Devils are starting to figure it out. Goals by Jesse Lingard 14th minute, Anthony Martial 23rd minute and the Rooney Man 53rd minute pleased the Old Trafford faithful with a huge win.

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The Red Devils have 40 points. Yet when one looks at Man U’s defense the guys have given up the second least amount of goals after 24 matches count em 21. Only Tottenham has given up less a whopping 19. Man U’s Achilles heel scoring. The Red Devils have only tickled the twines 31 times. This stinks. And this is why Man U is struggling big time. I think this is about to change.

The Daily Mail “On the way to Old Trafford on Tuesday night it was tempting to ponder the seemingly ridiculous. Would this be a night that we saw Stoke City come to Manchester and actually play the better football?

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The story of the Barclays Premier League season so far suggested it may be the case while memories of Stoke’s 2-0 win over Louis van Gaal’s pitiful United just a month or so ago bolstered the rather mischievous thought. Here, though, on a night when United needed it, Van Gaal’s team dismissed the notion comprehensively and utterly.

This was not the rebirth of United but at least the corpse twitched. Van Gaal’s side, at last, played some terrific football, scored three memorable goals and, for one night at least, allowed their supporters to forget how wretched this season has so far been.

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So far, so typical. Decent football but no goals. This time, however, it changed as, moments after Mata screwed a shot wastefully across goal, United actually took the lead. It was, in its own way, a lovely goal, even if it was soon to be eclipsed by a quite breathtaking second.

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Full-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson received the ball wide on the left and played a quite superb low cross to the far post where Lingard stooped if not to conquer then to head United in to the lead.

Stoke manager Hughes was not amused. His team had started poorly and the manner in which Ibrahim Afellay allowed Lingard to run off his shoulder to give United the lead with have impressed him not at all. So, United in the lead and ready to make some hay.

Almost immediately a Rooney backheel played Martial in and the young Frenchman ran forward, turned inside a defender and shot in to the side netting. It should have been 2-0 really but by the 23rd minute it was.

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Now this really was a good goal. Starting deep inside the United half the ball was shifted wide to full-back Matteo Darmian and his pass down the right was collected by Mata.

The next touch was perhaps the key one as the Spaniard turned deftly inside to lose his man and open up space infield. Next the ball was moved to Rooney and when he chipped across the top of the area to Martial the way he controlled it and passed it on the half volley across Butland with his right instep and in to the far corner was little short of majestic.

For all their problems, United have scored the occasional decent goal this season. Rooney’s in the FA Cup at Derby for example. This, however, was relatively celestial, a goal that will long be remembered whatever happens at the end of this quite dismal season.

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With only a quarter of the game gone, Stoke already looked in trouble. Hughes’ team were not themselves at all, short of their usual confidence and front-footed aggression.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3428818/Manchester-United-3-0-Stoke-Wayne-Rooney-Jesse-Lingard-Anthony-Martial-super-strike-Louis-van-Gaal-breathing-space.html#ixzz3z3Dht1u8

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De Futebol

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Staying true to form Louis Van Gaal has lashed out at the media according to the Guardians Paul Wilson. Wilson wrote- “Louis van Gaal went on the attack at his pre-FA Cup press conference when asked to clarify whether he had offered to resign after last weekend’s home defeat by Southampton.

The Manchester United manager claimed he was being questioned about his future in a disrespectful way and complained his treatment by the media had been “awful and horrible”, but perhaps significantly he did not offer a direct answer. “I don’t think that I have ever mentioned it,” he said. “You make your own stories and I am concerned that people believe what you write,” Van Gaal said. “This is the third time I am sacked and I am still sitting here. You write all these stories and then I have to answer questions about them. I am not doing that, it is awful and horrible.”

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That may be how the Dutch manager feels, though there is a distinction between offering to resign and being sacked, one that Van Gaal seems to be trying to blur. And it remains true that the first person to mention the possibility of resigning, or walking away before waiting to be sacked, was Van Gaal himself at the Britannia Stadium following the Boxing Day defeat by Stoke. A slight upturn in results in the New Year put the matter on hold, but a manager of Van Gaal’s immense experience ought to know that if you place such a comment on public record it will naturally resurface should resukts take a turn for the worse.

Van Gaal did then concede that Friday’s fourth-round Cup tie at Derby County had become a must-win game. “We cannot lose to a Championship club,” he said. “Maybe then you will have written the truth [about him being sacked] because sometimes it happens.”

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/28/louis-van-gaal-manchester-united-awful-horrible-resign

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We will see what happens. We can also see where Jose Mourinho gets his attitude from- Louis Van Gaal. Van Gaal is not the only one who hold the press incomplete disdain and disrespect I do. The press are a bunch arrogant pompous butt holes. They all have the same template whether it is the news media or the fake sports media create sensation, shoot the place full of holes and then leave. The drive by media to quote Rush Limbaugh.

This is the truth.

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De Futebol

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Liverpool and Wet Ham tied nil-nil to earn a fourth round FA Cup replay at the Hammers house.

The Guardian’s Andy Hunter wrote- Jürgen Klopp and Slaven Bilic fell about laughing when Joey O’Brien sliced a rare opportunity for West Ham United into the cold and presumably bored spectators in the Anfield Road. They had to find entertainment somewhere, to be fair, as there was precious little on offer in an all-Premier League affair that produced only another date in the congested diaries of Liverpool and West Ham.

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A replay “is not what we want”, said Klopp on the eve of the fourth-round tie, but a replay is what he got following a lacklustre contest of more long-term positives than incident. Cameron Brannagan, Kevin Stewart and João Carlos Teixeira took their latest opportunities to impress for Liverpool in the FA Cup while the visiting goalkeeper Darren Randolph was instrumental in delivering the stalemate.

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West Ham won the trophy when they completed a league double over Liverpool in 1963-64, a feat they only repeated this season, and will rate their chances of a hat-trick of victories on home soil with Klopp pledging to field a similar team for the replay.

“I don’t know where they will find a place for the replay, maybe in a morning when we play in an afternoon,” said the sardonic Liverpool manager following his team’s ninth game in 29 days. They will play eight matches next month, including the Capital One Cup final, should they overcome West Ham at Upton Park.

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“The most important thing is everyone could see our lineup was not disrespectful to the FA Cup. It was the other way around. We thought this was the best chance for us to go through. This young team did really well.

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“They played not too often together but they did well. We had a good structure, we had chances and we should have scored in one of the other situations. Now we play again.”

Bilic concurred: “Nobody is crazy about the replays but we can live with that. We got the clean sheet, we deserved the replay and now it will be one of those historical FA Cup nights at Upton Park.”

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Both managers rang the changes with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet the only Liverpool player to start here and in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final win over Stoke City. It was a credit to the home side’s young players in particular that the clearer threat and understanding came from those in red. Dimitri Payet apart, West Ham were subdued in their attempts to strike on the counterattack although Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyaté should have done better on the end of inviting crosses.

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Stewart was a tenacious presence in the holding role, Brannagan brought composure and accuracy while Teixeira’s touch improved gradually against a disrupted visiting defence. First-choice goalkeeper Adrián had returned home to Seville to attend the birth of his first child. James Tomkins returned at right-back with Sam Byram Cup-tied and Carl Jenkinson a long-term absentee, but was forced off with 13 stitches in a head wound following a clash with Joe Allen, Klopp’s seventh captain since he became Liverpool manager. Kouyaté was also withdrawn in the first half as a precaution against a groin problem and the changes told on West Ham’s display.

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A sterile Cup tie was in desperate need of incident and more alert officials might have provided it when Steven Caulker handled inside the Liverpool area shortly after the restart. Substitute Nikica Jelavic flicked Payet’s free-kick into a crowded six-yard box, in mitigation to the officials, and Liverpool’s on-loan defender raised his arm to make contact with the ball before the danger was cleared. A reprieve. Bilic admitted: “Because the benches are too close like in the British parliament, and we are democrats of course, we had few calls, they shouted few times and the crowd shouted all the time, but I didn’t see it.”

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The home side should have capitalised when Nathaniel Clyne presented Allen with a clear sight of goal but, under little pressure and 18 yards out, the midfielder blazed over. Randolph’s goal came under sustained pressure midway through the second half. Allen failed to pick out Christian Benteke when free inside the box, Randolph saved twice from Teixeira and the former Aston Villa forward completely miscued when Stewart’s shot dropped into his path in front of goal.

Liverpool’s brightest moment brought out the best in West Ham’s stand-in keeper. Randolph made three fine saves in quick succession as Benteke met Jordon Ibe’s measured pass with a first-time shot, Allen charged in for the rebound and then the Belgian had a second bite. The West Ham substitute Michail Antonio headed against a post in the final minute but only after Aaron Cresswell’s cross had sailed out of play. The replay no one wanted cannot be worse.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/30/liverpool-west-ham-united-fa-cup-match-report

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De Futebol

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The Guys took care of business with a 2-1 win over Burnley. Arsenal advances to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The Guardians David Hytner wrote- Arsenal have endured something of a dry post-Christmas, which is just as angst-inducing for footballers, so this was a welcome tonic. The club’s Premier League title hopes have been hurt by the losses to Southampton and Chelsea while there have been the draws at Liverpool and Stoke City but their FA Cup defence remains on track.

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It was a decent enough tie, with Burnley playing a full part, but Arsenal always looked to have too much and they put themselves into the hat for the fifth round courtesy of Alexis Sánchez’s winning goal.

The Chile forward was making his first start since 29 November, when he tore his hamstring at Norwich City, and he marked it by finishing off a sweeping second-half counter. It was a classic goal and one that was worthy of being decisive.

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Arsenal had been mindful of the threat from Championship opposition, having been dumped out of the Capital One Cup by Sheffield Wednesday in October, and Burnley had their moments, most notably when Sam Vokes powered home a headed equaliser. The home team had led through Calum Chambers’s beauty – the second goal of his Arsenal career, with the first against Burnley in the league last season.

But Arsène Wenger’s imposing record in the FA Cup against lower league teams was never really under threat. Only once in 41 ties has he been tripped up and that was by Burnley’s hated rivals, Blackburn Rovers, here in February 2013.

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Wenger hoped that the victory would be a boost for Tuesday’s home game against Southampton and he was reassured by Sánchez’s dynamic performance and the seal that he set upon it with the goal. “When he got injured, you could see signs of fatigue but he has had a long rest now‚” Wenger said. “Two months’ rest is a good winter break. Physically, you could see Alexis is ready.”

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It had looked like being a straightforward afternoon for Arsenal as they controlled the opening 20 minutes, even though Burnley had a good chance when Andre Gray banged Laurent Koscielny off a ball over the top to run in on goal, only for David Ospina to make an important block.

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The opening goal was a moment that Chambers will always cherish. Goals are not a prominent part of his armoury but the uninitiated would never have known given the quality of the finish. From Sánchez’s slipped pass, Chambers had to take on the shot first time, and with the outside of his right boot, but the execution was perfect, the effort curling inside the far corner.

Burnley responded in style and the equaliser came when they recycled a move on the edge of the Arsenal area. Kieran Gibbs sought to close down the ball but when he slid into a challenge, he succeeded only in upending his own man, Francis Coquelin, who lay in agony as Scott Arfield worked the ball to Tendayi Darikwa. The right-back’s cross was inviting and, as Chambers hesitated, Vokes rose to head past Ospina.

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Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager, talked of the reaction and his team’s overall performance, which was marked by hustle and physicality up front, as being the kind that “does no harm in terms of building mentality”. He proudly described them as having been awkward to play against and he was certainly right.

But Arsenal, for whom Coquelin made a comeback from his long-term knee ligament problem, did not look back after they went in front for the second time. The move started on the edge of their own box when Gibbs won possession and shifted it to Alex Iwobi and Arsenal were off and running towards the slickest of team goals.

Iwobi found Sánchez, who moved it up to Olivier Giroud, whose flick was perfect for Iwobi and he played it wide for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The winger’s cross teed up Sánchez and he tucked away his 10th goal of the season.

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Mohamed Elneny, the recent signing from Basel, enjoyed a solid debut after a cautious start, as the more attack-minded of Arsenal’s two central midfielders. He worked Tom Heaton with a vicious drive on 63 minutes and he went close late on while Iwobi could also reflect on a lively performance.

Arsenal had other opportunities in the second half with Koscielny having an effort headed off the line by Arfield, Heaton beating away Sánchez’s free-kick and then denying substitute Theo Walcott one on one at the death.

Burnley sought one more clear-cut chance. It did not come.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/30/arsenal-burnley-fa-cup-match-report

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De Futebol

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Man U looked like they would blow it against Championship side Derby at the Rams house. In the end the Red Devils scored two second half goals to defeat the Rams 3-1 to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The Rooney Man gave Man U the one nil lead in the 16th minute. Out of nowhere Derby equalised in the 37th minute. The Rams George Thorne sneaked past the Red Devils defense to poke home the rock.

Man U’s defense looked shaky. The guys rallied to put this sucker out of reach with two goals in the final twenty five minutes. Daly Blind 65th minute and Juan Mata 83rd minute sealed the deal for the Red Devils.

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The win saved Louis Van Gaal’s job for now. We will see what happens on Tuesday when the guys battle Stoke City at Old Trafford.

The Daily Mail- Louis van Gaal almost got out of his seat. He rose, still in the crouching position, to celebrate Daley Blind’s goal and then sat back down again, just as quickly. It is what passes for gay abandon at Manchester United these days.

Still, a place in the FA Cup’s last 16 is not to be sniffed at in a season of so many disappointments. Everyone knows what the cameras came to see last night. Derby are a thrusting Championship team, United reeling from drama to crisis. The broadcasters fancied an upset and so did half the country.

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Credit to United at last, for denying that little pleasure.

To be fair, Derby have gone off the boil lately, beaten 4-1 by Burnley in midweek, and the scoreline makes the contest look closer than it was. Derby went behind, scored a very fine equaliser but were second best after half-time when United ran out deserved winners.

The crucial goal, after 65 minutes, came from an unlikely source. Blind is supposed to be a belt-and-braces defensive presence but perhaps sensing that Derby were far too open and cavalier, popped up in the penalty area to finish with the certainly of a 30-goal-a-season striker. Not that United have too many of those on the books these days.

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Despite Derby’s best efforts, the goal had been coming for some time, really. In the 54th minute, Juan Mata had lost his marker but headed a Jesse Lingard cross wide from inside the six-yard box.

Soon after, a quick corner took Derby by surprise but Blind’s centre could not be turned in by Mata, and the white shirts scrambled clear. So it was third time lucky when Mata played Lingard in on the right and his cross was met by Blind at the near post, giving Derby goalkeeper Scott Carson no chance.

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Maybe after seeing his forwards dance around the chances, Blind decided to finish the job himself. He was certainly determined, having begun the move with a short pass at the opposite end of the field.

With seven minutes remaining, Mata finished it off. Anthony Martial, a lively presence as ever, cut the ball back from the left and the Spaniard finished smartly, ending any chance of a rejoinder from Derby. The result was about right.

So, for the time being, the heat is off Van Gaal. These lulls are measured in days, however, such is United’s inconsistency in the league. On Tuesday, Stoke visit Old Trafford, with the standard accompanying tension.

This was a win over a Championship team after all. United’s expectations are entitled to be higher.

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It had started so well, not just with the way United were playing, but with their lucky omen in Derby’s goal. Carson had played them on nine previous occasions — and conceded 29 times. And it wasn’t long before he made it an even 30.

Not that he was particularly to blame. It was a beautiful finish from Wayne Rooney, and a rare treat for those who had travelled down, singing all the way for Manchester United. If Old Trafford can be a painful experience for Van Gaal these days, it is away from home that he feels the love of the common people. To hear the large section of the iPro Stadium given over to away fans in full voice, one would have been forgiven for imagining that this was a club in crisis.

They went through the repertoire and, at first, so did United. Cynics will sneer that they have finally found their level as an attacking force, but they were in a different class from Derby for the opening third of the game. Not a huge number of attempts on goal, as usual, but they dominated play and got on the front foot from the start.

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The match was only three minutes old when Martial, deployed on the left once again, exchanged passes with Marouane Fellaini. Martial came on to the return pass at a lick and curled a shot over Carson’s bar.

Derby were finding it hard to get out of their own half, United’s possession running in excess of 70 per cent. For the beleaguered Championship team it couldn’t last; and didn’t.

Martial was the architect, slipping the ball into Rooney from his position on the left, but the England man did the rest. He cut inside and bent a quite brilliant shot from 20 yards, which flew into the far corner and left Carson stranded. He must have nightmares about the men from Manchester and at that moment, his team-mates won’t have been sleeping too easy, either.

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Yet this is Van Gaal’s United, and nothing is simple. From a position of considerable superiority — Martial had another shot soon after, but straight at Carson, much to his relief no doubt — they got sloppy. Passes went astray, momentum was lost.

In the 22nd minute, they got a warning, Cyrus Christie crossing for Nick Blackman to force an excellent save from David de Gea with a header. The away end continued its barrage of noise, confident of supremacy. After 37 minutes, their boisterous words choked in the night air.

It was a superb equaliser. Against the run of play, true, but well conceived and well taken — a goal that showed how vulnerable United now are to the slightest challenge.

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Chris Martin played a fine cross from deep into the box which George Thorne killed with one touch. Suddenly, the goal was looming and he made no mistake. A finish as sweet as his first touch, in at the far post, leaving De Gea no chance.

From coasting to crisis in the space of one pass: that is Manchester United’s lot now, and Derby sensed it immediately. They played out the rest of the half in the ascendancy and United will be pleased to have got back into the dressing room to regroup.

When they came out, it was with fresh impetus, Martial having Christie on toast again down the left. It was turning into quite a battle, with Christie’s strength being the counter attack. No sooner had Martial left him for dead when he returned in kind, speeding down United’s flank and putting in a cross that Tom Ince fell inches short of converting.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3423516/Derby-1-3-Manchester-United-Daley-Blind-Juan-Mata-ease-pressure-Louis-van-Gaal-deliver-FA-Cup-Fifth-Round-spot.html#ixzz3yfqM375c

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De Futebol

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Man U has a hot dated with Derby in the reply of the fourth round of the FA Cup later today. Louis Van Gaal is still under the gun of being fired. He will be evaluated on a match by match basis according to the Guardians Jamie Jackson.

Jackson wrote- “Louis van Gaal is set to remain in charge for Manchester United’s FA Cup tie at Derby County on Friday, although the manager’s job is being reviewed on a match-by-match basis.

Van Gaal returned from a two-day break in the Netherlands on Tuesday during which he considered his future, having offered to step aside following the 1-0 defeat by Southampton at Old Trafford.

The offer was rejected by United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, as it had been on two occasions at Christmas when Van Gaal oversaw the poorest December in the club’s 138-year history and was minded to walk away.

Van Gaal took training on Tuesday and it is thought he discussed his position with Woodward. It appears he will be at the helm at Derby but, given the uncertainty surrounding the manager’s position, there would be no surprise if the situation changed. If it did, Ryan Giggs, Van Gaal’s No2, would be expected to be asked to oversee the fourth-round tie at the iPro Stadium.

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Van Gaal nearly lost his job during Christmas week but the goalless draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford on 28 December offered renewed optimism as United played with a higher tempo and posed more of an attacking threat. The lack of both these elements had been the prevailing criticism of the form under Van Gaal.

The improved display was the start of a five-match unbeaten run, yet his position remained in the balance. It does so again and a defeat by Derby may be enough for Van Gaal to offer his resignation again or Woodward to sack him. If not, the same equation would be in play for next Tuesday evening’s visit of Stoke City in the league.

The uncertainty regarding Van Gaal’s future is understood to be causing bemusement among his players. Since he became manager in the summer of 2014 they have attempted to take on board his methods and individual management style but the sense is that Van Gaal’s authority is receding with each dismal performance.

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As the Glazers, who own United, make the Premier League the priority over any other competition, Woodward will be particularly concerned by the squad’s inability to improve results. The loss to Southampton on Saturday left United five points behind Tottenham Hotspur, who are in the last Champions League place, and was the sixth league defeat of the season. United have won only 11 of their past 29 top-flight matches.

A prime factor in Van Gaal still remaining as manager is Woodward’s preference to wait until the summer to find a replacement. He is unsure who might fill the role on a permanent basis at the moment.

José Mourinho would seem a prime candidate but the fact he has been ignored so far underlines the reservations Woodward has regarding the former Chelsea manager. Mourinho’s coaching abilities are not in doubt but his divisive nature is an issue.

Although he may be appointed should Van Gaal’s troubled tenure end, Woodward may also consider Giggs on a permanent basis as well as Gary Neville, the former United captain, Atlético Madrid’s Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino, Marcelo Bielsa and Jorge Sampaoli. Pep Guardiola appears destined for Manchester City but Woodward retains an interest.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/26/louis-van-gaal-manchester-united-position-match-by-match-derby-county

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De Futebol

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Liverpool needed a PK shootout to squeak past Stoke City 6-5 to advance to the finals of the Capital One Cup. The Reds will face Man Shitty who defeated Everton 3-1 at Shitty’s house and 4-3 on aggregate.

The Guardians Andy Hunter-Liverpool completed their journey to Wembley as their Capital One Cup run began, with victory in a penalty shoot-out following another gruelling night at Anfield. In the third round it was Carlisle United who lost out in the lottery against a side managed by Brendan Rodgers. Now it was Jürgen Klopp’s turn to take the acclaim after Stoke City suffered an agonising defeat in the semi-final.

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Mark Hughes’ side deservedly took the second leg to extra time and penalties with a 1-0 win inside 90 minutes courtesy of Marko Arnaoutovic’s offside goal. But they were beaten for the first time in six shootouts when Simon Mignolet saved from defender Marc Muniesa in sudden death and Joe Allen stepped forward to send Klopp to Wembley only three months into his Anfield reign.

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The second leg ended as so many of Klopp’s problems begin, with Liverpool desperately defending a corner as Stoke sensed the second goal that would take them to Wembley. This time, however, they held out but the sight of Joe Allen taking a booking for the team with a late lunge on Ibrahim Afellay summed up the home side’s state of anxiety.

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Hughes had urged Stoke to make history and secure a first League Cup final appearance since 1972 but they had to rewrite history, and cope without the injured Ryan Shawcross, to do so. Liverpool had never lost a League Cup semi-final at Anfield or a cup tie against Stoke and their manager never suffered defeat in a semi-final with Borussia Dortmund. The records and a 1-0 first-leg lead should have encouraged Liverpool in their quest for a 12th final appearance yet Klopp’s side made a cagey, apprehensive start and were eventually punished on the stroke of half-time.

As at the Britannia Stadium, it was the visitors who showed more composure in possession and created the clearer chances, though Simon Mignolet’s first serious test did not arrive until Arnautovic levelled proceedings.

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There was no subtlety in the Stoke manager’s approach. His intentions were clear the moment the team-sheet landed and Peter Crouch’s name was in the starting line-up while Xherdan Shaqiri sat on the bench. In fairness Liverpool had invited a direct game, or a “heading festival” as Klopp predicated before kick-off, through their persistent weaknesses when defending set pieces. Stoke provided Crouch with few opportunities to expose that flaw from open play but his aerial battle against Mamadou Sakho would prove crucial in dragging the France defender out of position for Stoke’s breakthrough.

The semi-final started at a frantic pace and to the backdrop of a vibrant atmosphere, with Anfield applauding en masse – Klopp and the travelling supporters included – in memory of Owen McVeigh, a 11-year-old Liverpool fan who recently lost his fight with leukaemia.

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In an intense, scrappy cup tie both sides struggled with their passing and first touch. The captains, Jordan Henderson and Glenn Whelan, were telling team-mates to keep cool heads after they were responsible for misplaced passes and Hughes was out of his seat with only five minutes gone to berate the Stoke defence for sitting too deep. Irritation on the touchline remained a feature of the first half from both managers.

The occasion got to Stoke in the first leg, an error-strewn performance undermining home advantage at the Britannia, but so too did Liverpool. Klopp’s injury-hit team never let Stoke settle and forced mistakes in a relentless display. They attempted the same at Anfield but without the same result as the long ball limited Liverpool’s pressing in the final third. It also created the first clear opening of the night when Erik Pieters’s clearance caught the home defence square and sent Jonathan Walters through on goal. As in the final act of the first leg, the boyhood Evertonian dragged a shot wide of Mignolet’s far post and took a blow to the ankle from Kolo Touré for good measure.

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A 25-yard drive from Emre Can was the sum total of Liverpool’s threat in the first half and Stoke’s confident display was rewarded, wrongly it transpired, in first-half stoppage time. Crouch won possession deep in the Liverpool half and Alberto Moreno was nowhere to be seen at left back when Walters released Bojan Krkic down the right. Bojan played a perfectly weighted pass behind the recovering Sakho and, despite Arnautovic being clearly offside in the middle, Lee Betts’ flag stayed down as the unmarked forward scored from close range.

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Klopp was first down the tunnel as the half-time whistle sounded and Anfield voiced its disapproval of the match officials. The Liverpool manager resisted a change in personnel until the 58th minute, when Christian Benteke replaced the struggling Henderson, but there was a different, improved tempo to his team from the restart. Roberto Firmino struck the outside of a post following a corner and Liverpool responded to their supporters’ appeals for greater urgency. Careless distribution and uncertain defending continued to offer Stoke hope, however.

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Arnautovic floated an inviting pass into the path of Walters but the Republic of Ireland international was denied by Sakho’s last-ditch block. The defender repeated the trick shortly afterwards when Crouch won another high ball into the box and Walters appeared set to convert into the far corner.

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The anxiety around Anfield increased as Liverpool toiled for the goal that would take them to Wembley and Stoke absorbed the pressure comfortably.

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Benteke and Jon Flanagan, impressive on his first senior start in 20 months, almost capitalised on a goalmouth scramble and the home side took heart from their late, dramatic comeback at Norwich City on Saturday.

Hughes introduced Charlie Adam for Bojan in a bid for more midfield control and Klopp followed suit with Joe Allen, albeit at the expense of a defender, Kolo Touré. Allen delivered to improve Liverpool’s display but Adam limped off injured in the first period of extra time, when chances were non-existent until the Scot’s replacement, Marco Van Ginkel, latched on to a Crouch header, held off Can and shot low against the post.

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Liverpool ended the tie with a back line of James Milner, Lucas Leiva, Sakho and Moreno as Klopp sought the equaliser that would lead to Wembley but Crouch almost doubled the visitors’ lead when Pieters broke down the left. The decisive touch eluded both sides, however, until Mignolet, Allen and co prevailed in the penalty shootout.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/26/liverpool-stoke-city-capital-one-cup-match-report

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De Futebol

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The day of decision will happen this coming Tuesday on the fate of Man U manager Louis Van Gaal. The guys were given two days off and now it’s back to work. The Daily Mail reported Manchester United returned to training on Tuesday as they begin work to pick themselves up from the gloominess engulfing the club after Saturday’s defeat by Southampton.

United’s players were given two days off follow a sixth Barclays Premier League loss of the season as manager Louis van Gaal went home to Holland to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

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The Dutch boss flew back into Manchester Airport on Monday evening before a return to Carrington with his struggling players on Tuesday.

He will hold talks with United chiefs on Tuesday in the aftermath of another day of disappointment in an underwhelming campaign.

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Preparations have begun for Friday night’s FA Cup trip to Derby County in a game that could spell the end of any silverware hopes in Van Gaal’s second season.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been canvassing opinions of senior players on their manager but still wants to stand by his man despite debating his methods with United’s stars.

Woodward is not keen on a record of two sacked managers in two years and has not given up hope of luring Pep Guardiola to Old Trafford.

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However, the widespread belief is that the Bayern Munich head coach will be heading to Manchester City at the end of the season.

Jose Mourinho’s confirmed interest in taking the United job throws a spanner in the works, with Woodward now facing two options if he chooses to get rid of Van Gaal.

The other would be to promote Ryan Giggs from his role as assistant in a similar move that saw him take over as caretaker boss after David Moyes’ sacking in 2013.

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United were booed from the field on Saturday after falling 10 points adrift of Premier League leaders Leicester City with yet another disappointing home display.

Van Gaal’s side have not scored in the first half of any of their last 11 games at Old Trafford and have the fewest goals in the top eight.

‘They are right to boo. I cannot deny that, I saw the match,’ Van Gaal said after Saturday’s defeat.

‘For better or for worse we have to stick together. We are working very hard, but we have had a lot of injuries. That you cannot change.

‘I’m very disappointed that I cannot reach the expectations of the fans.

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‘They have — or they had — great expectations of me, and I cannot fulfil them, so I am very frustrated. I agree with them, so it doesn’t have any impact (on me).

‘They have knowledge of football, of entertaining football, and you have to play football to entertain the fans.’

A staggering 79 per cent of Sportsmail readers believe United should put Van Gaal out of his misery by sacking the Dutchman.

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Supporters appear to have given up on Van Gaal following their 1-0 defeat by Southampton and 15,294 of our readers agree that it is time for United to cut all ties.

Charlie Austin, who netted Saturday’s winner for Southampton, says the toxic atmosphere around United’s 75,000-seat home can help the away side.

‘We were strong all over the field and you know with Man United that if you frustrate them early in the game the fans will get on their back,’ he told talkSPORT.

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‘I’m not saying that played a part, but when you’re at Old Trafford and there are 75,000 people booing…well, they were certainly booing after I scored.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3417147/Manchester-United-training-Louis-van-Gaal-leads-dispirited-players-Carrington-HQ-two-days-off.html#ixzz3yOLNckic

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De Futebol

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Word is out Louis Van Gaal is set to resign this Saturday according to the Guardian. Jamie Jackson writes- “Louis van Gaal offered to resign as the Manchester United manager on Saturday following the dismal home defeat by Southampton but Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, persuaded him to discuss his future with his family. Having returned to the Netherlands on Sunday Van Gaal will hold fresh talks with Woodward on Tuesday when he is expected at the club for first-team training.

At the meeting Woodward and Van Gaal will discuss the way forward but it is possible the manager could yet insist it is best for the club if he leaves.

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Van Gaal admitted publicly for the first time on Saturday he had failed the United supporters, his comments coming after boos had accompanied him from the field at the end of the 1-0 defeat. It was the first open revolt against him from inside Old Trafford and, because Van Gaal has often cited fans’ backing as a prime factor in his hunger for the job, it moved him to make the offer to resign to Woodward.

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The 64-year-old did so in calm fashion and it is a measure of Van Gaal’s loyalty to Woodward that he agreed to think again. He then returned to the Netherlands for his daughter’s birthday.

Woodward also wanted time to digest the defeat and assess the situation because he is keen to avoid having to appoint a manager in the middle of the season. He would much rather wait until the summer to make that decision, should he have to. He also wants to gauge Van Gaal’s mood on his return but, should United lose to Derby County in the FA Cup on Friday, the two may come to an agreement that the manager should walk away.

Woodward is solely responsible for Van Gaal’s future and who will manage United in the long term. Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s most successful manager who is now a director, has no knowledge of Woodward’s thinking regarding Van Gaal. Woodward talks daily with Joe Glazer, the joint-chairman, and the American family will back Woodward whatever he decides.

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When David Moyes, Van Gaal’s predecessor, was sacked Ferguson was unaware of the move and in his book, My Autobiography, made it clear other supposed powerful figures in the hierarchy were not consulted by Woodward either. Of a claimed hotel meeting he wrote: “I would like to know which hotel, because I wasn’t there. Nor were [directors] Bobby Charlton, David Gill or Mike Edelson.”

Van Gaal’s job has been reviewed by Woodward on a game-by-game basis after he came close to losing it following the 2-0 Boxing Day defeat at Stoke City, which was a fourth consecutive reverse and a seventh match without a win.

Although the next result, two days later, was a 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford the side’s determination to attack throughout allowed renewed optimism. It was the start of a five-game unbeaten run, yet during this sequence United, apart from a 3-3 draw at Newcastle United, again failed to take the initiative in most matches.

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They were fortunate to scrape a 1-0 win at Liverpool, as the team were once more devoid of ideas. At the weekend United continued in their lacklustre fashion against Southampton. It was the manner of the defeat that led to renewed scrutiny of Van Gaal. He appears unable to inspire United to play with the tempo and attacking style the club’s tradition demands.

Van Gaal resigned from Barcelona in 2000 and reached a mutual agreement to depart the Catalan club three years later during a second spell at the club. He also resigned as Ajax’s technical director in 2005 and came close to walking away from Alkmaar when he managed the club from 2005-09.

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If Van Gaal is sacked or walks away, Woodward will have plenty to ponder over who replaces him. José Mourinho, who left Chelsea in December, remains a candidate to take over because United believe Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola is destined for Manchester City in the summer. They could yet make a move for the Spaniard, who has not revealed where he will be managing next season. Ryan Giggs, the United No2, is another option but most likely on an interim basis

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/25/anchester-united-louis-van-gaal-resign-offer

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De Futebol

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The Schneid lives on my Gunners. Chelsea capitalized on bonehead play by Per Mertesacker in the 18th minute. Mertesacker tackled Diego Costa. This set the stage for the Blues to score in the 23rd minute. Costa poked home a great cross by mate Branislav Ivanovic for the only score of the match.

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Chelsea wins 1-0. The loss keeps the guys in third place with 44 points. Leicester City is top dog with 47 points. Man Shitty is in second place with 44 points. Shitty is a plus 22 while my Gunners are a plus 15.

The Daily Mail-” As he made his way with impudent sloth to the touchline, derision filled the evening air. Boos and catcalls, familiar gestures of anger and impotent rage. And then the response from the blue corner. ‘Diego Costa – he’s done it again,’ the Chelsea end crowed. And he had. Drawn the red card. Again. Got the goal. Again. Got right up Arsenal’s hooter. Again. It was just like old times.

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The result was a traditional one, also. A Chelsea win. These teams have met 27 times competitively in 12 seasons and this was Chelsea’s 16th victory, with seven draws. The last 12 goals, in league fixtures, have belonged to Chelsea too, and it is five years since Arsenal beat them at home. Do Arsenal have the nerve to win the title this season? Maybe. But they don’t appear to have the steel required to see off Chelsea.

They behave uncommonly around those blue shirts, too. They get sent off, they dry up. The game was almost over before Arsenal mustered a shot on target and even then it was the result of a goalmouth scramble rather than any precision manoeuvre from the training ground. Not many teams will drop six points to Chelsea this season, but Arsenal are the first. And while they may curse bad luck and Costa’s dark side for the defeat at Stamford Bridge, the buck stops with the home team here.

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Per Mertesacker made a dreadful decision leading to his dismissal, which handed the advantage to Chelsea; his replacement Gabriel failed to pick up Costa from the goal and the architects of Arsenal’s season such as Mesut Ozil were quiet and ineffectual.

Cesc Fabregas ran the game in midfield, aided as ever by the tireless Willian, and was unfortunate not to win a penalty when bodychecked by Laurent Koscielny after a beautiful run in the second half. That Nemanja Matic gave away a foul, and was booked, for an identical challenge on Alexis Sanchez in midfield soon after illustrated the inconsistency.

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True, Arsenal were down to 10 for 71 minutes of the match but, even handicapped, they knew what they had to do after half-time and disappointed. Their best chances were scrappy scrambles with opportunity coming by fortuitous deflection rather than invention. Leicester will have looked at this with quiet satisfaction. Everyone thought they would be the ones to blink first but Arsenal have now taken eight points from 18 in their last six league matches.

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And so to the call that changed the game. By popular consent, Petr Cech is the best goalkeeper around here since David Seaman. So, knowing that, why didn’t Mertesacker trust him to deal with Diego Costa in the 19th minute, even one on one?

When a quite lovely pass from Willian put Costa through, Mertesacker’s lack of pace left him floundering. At that point, however, he still had a choice. Lunge, risk missing his tackle, and play the inevitable game of red card roulette with Mark Clattenburg, the referee, or chase Costa, applying as much pressure as possible and hope that Cech would do the rest. The worst that could happen, in those circumstances, would be that Arsenal went a goal down, against a team that started the day in miserable 14th place, with 70 minutes to retrieve the game. Instead, Mertesacker pressed the self-destruct button.

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3414475/Arsenal-0-1-Chelsea-Diego-Costa-makes-Mertesacker-pay-early-dismissal-scoring-winner-five-minutes-red-card.html#ixzz3yCDJ02lh

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The Guardian- “Arsenal have made a series of statements this season, as Arsène Wenger plods the long distance towards the ultimate vindication, such as beating both of the Manchester clubs at the Emirates Stadium and even getting a point at Stoke City. Some things, however, never seem to change.

Chelsea remain their nemesis, even without José Mourinho as their manager, winding them up and, well, beating them, and it was another character who they have come to loathe that was the match-winner here.

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Diego Costa was involved in a red-card flashpoint – as he was in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal in September – but this time, there could be no recriminations. The striker was simply too fast for Per Mertesacker in the 18th minute and, when the Arsenal defender slid in and got none of the ball, there was an inevitability about his dismissal for a last-man foul.

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Costa promptly showed the clinical side to his game in front of goal, when he pounced to meet Branislav Ivanovic’s cross and steer a shot beyond Petr Cech. He is back in business, after his toils during the Mourinho implosion, with this a sixth goal in six matches under the interim manager, Guus Hiddink.

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/24/arsenal-chelsea-premier-league-match-report

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De Futebol

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Once again Man U is an enigma. The Red Devils look good one minute, bad the next and then average. Southampton defeated Man U for the second time this season. The Saints struck the match winner in the 87th minute when Charlie Austin sent the Old Trafford faithful home in tears. Southampton defeated Man U 1-0.

This is the Red Devils sixth loss of the season. Man U’s first in their last five EPL matches. Man U is stuck in fifth place with 37 points.

Tottenham fell behind one nil to Crystal Palace only to storm back with three straight goals to win 3-1. Spurs are secure in fourth place with 42 points.

Leicester City destroyed Stoke City 3-0 to leap to the head of the class with 47points.

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Liverpool’s 5-4 win over the Birdinhos gave the Reds a bump into seventh place with 34 points. Liverpool trails fifth place Man U by a scant three points.

Man Shitty came back from 2-1 deficit to draw even with West Ham at two all. The tie moves Shitty into second place over my Gunners. Both Man Shitty and Arsenal each have 44 points. Arsenal and Chelsea will duke it out later today at our house Emirates. Shitty has plus 22 while my Gunners are a plus 16.

The Daily Mail described the Man U fiasco this way- “Southampton deserved their victory, secured by a late header by Charlie Austin, signed from QPR last week, on his debut. United deserved nothing. They were desperately poor, devoid of inspiration or guile, lacking passion and intensity. They looked like a team going through the motions. They looked like a team that does not believe.

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They are now five points behind fourth-placed Spurs, who have momentum with them. Leicester are not showing any signs of blowing up. The alarm bells must be starting to ring louder and louder in the office of United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, although his fate may be tied to that of his manager.

Sure, there is still a strand of opinion at Old Trafford that the criticism of Van Gaal and his style is unjust and excessive. At a time when success, not just in football but in society as a whole, is expected to come instantly, it is very much an old-fashioned attitude.

It argues that United supporters had become so used to success under Sir Alex Ferguson and so unaccustomed to anything beyond the most brief of blips that they are now psychologically unable to cope with adversity.

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It is easy to adhere to that theory from a distance, less easy when you witness the desperate, turgid, dreary, sterile, soporific fare that United serve up these days at close quarters. It is as if somebody has asked Van Gaal to provide a brand of football that is the complete antithesis of the panache and verve with which Ferguson’s United played.”

The Daily Mail added this- “Watching Manchester United at Old Trafford has become a strange, unnerving experience. It is as if the crowd has had the soul sucked out of it. It is as if the players have been drained of all their dynamism. It is as if enthusiasm has died and optimism has perished and ambition has been throttled.

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The whole character of the place has changed. This used to be a place pulsating with dreams and excitement and the chase for trophies. Now it is a stadium populated by resignation and shrugs and boos. The first jeers broke out eight minutes before half-time yesterday. United’s DNA has been altered.

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Even the stadium announcer sounds downcast these days. ‘Hope you have a great weekend in Manchester,’ he told one fan over the loud speaker system at half time but he could not muster much feeling for the sentiment. Fat chance of having a great weekend when it starts like this.

The first half was stripped bare of excitement. Wayne Rooney managed a couple of shots. Both were tame. Both were well wide. Marouane Fellaini nearly created a chance for Shane Long by miscuing an attempted clearance high into the air towards his own goal. United were booed off at half time and no wonder. They have now failed to score a goal in the first 45 minutes for 11 games in succession.

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Every time Southampton gained possession in the attacking third, they showed an urgency that underlined just how laborious United have become. It was from one of these bursts of energy, eight minutes before half time, that the visitors should have taken the lead but Mane could not quite control a through ball that had left him with only De Gea to beat.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3413462/Manchester-United-0-1-Southampton-Charlie-Austin-scores-late-winner-debut-boos-ring-Louis-van-Gaal-s-side.html#ixzz3y5Yytqtq

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Man U is in a world of hurt right. This can change. The pundit idiot class are calling for Van Gaal’s scalp. The Red Devils have been decimated with injures. The team looks bad. Yet I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There are positive signs. Yes the futebol is not pretty to watch. The guys are struggling under a system that is foreign to them. I just have this sense that Man U will make a run and finish in the top three. Call it crazy yet victory is in progress.

Transitions are hard. The younger players have to step up. They will nice the guys figure it out. Stop thinking and play.

Man U is ten points off the leader board. There is a ton of season left so anything came happen. It will. It always does.

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This time last year Man U was in third place with 43 points. This is six points off the pace. The Red Devils record was 12 wins, 7 draws and four losses. This year the Red Devils have 10 wins, 7 ties and 6 losses.

All is not lost.

The Guardian added this parting shot at Van Gaal and Man U “Now came Austin’s dream start to his Southampton career and the nightmare ending for United and their manager.

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This could – and should – restart the questions about Van Gaal’s ability to lift United back into the rarified air their rich tradition demands.”

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/23/manchester-united-southampton-premier-league-match-report

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De Futebol

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In a wild affair between Liverpool and the Birdinhos Norwich the Reds may have saved their sorry season with a goal in the dying moments of the match 90th minute plus five when Adam Lallana tickled the twines for thrilling 5-4 win.

This was a back and forth affair between Liverpool and Norwich. The Reds took a 4-3 lead. James Milner strike found its mark in the 75th minute. It sure looked like the Reds would win. Not so fast bucko. The Birdinhos struck for gold in the 90th minute plus two. Norwich’s Sebastien Bassong 20 yard howitzer rocked the back of the net to make it four all.

This set up the wild and crazy final three minutes of stoppage time that led to the Lallana winner in the 90th minute plus five.

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Liverpool has 34 points.

The Daily Mail on the match winner from Adam Lallana- “And this mood wasn’t helped when Sebastian Bassong drilled home Norwich’s equaliser in the second minute of additional time.

However, in the end Klopp was grateful for the extra seconds as Lallana drilled home his shot after Norwich failed to clear their lines with mere second remaining.

Klopp lifted himself from the away dug-out and set off on a sprint down the touchline after beckoning Lallana towards him.

The manager jumped into the arms of the shirtless Lallana and was mobbed by his other players, including Christian Benteke, who knocked his glasses off.

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Klopp was seen inspecting his spectacles for damage at the final whistle and may need to make a visit to the opticians this weekend.

Klopp said afterwards: ‘I usually have a second pair of glasses but I can’t find them because it’s hard to find glasses without glasses.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3413395/Jurgen-Klopp-loses-glasses-brilliant-touchline-celebration-Adam-Lallana-scores-Liverpool-s-gasp-winner-thriller-Norwich.html#ixzz3y5DmSw33

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The Daily Mail added this on the thriller at the Birdinhos house Carrow Road. “A delightful move; a goal that will reflect badly on Liverpool in the analysis, as did the third, early in the second half.

Moreno was clearly at fault, not only for allowing Naismith to get on his wrong side but then for the two fouls he committed, the second of which drew a penalty. Hoolahan chipped just off centre and Mignolet didn’t get especially close.

That should have been the game. But Norwich are flaky, even if their results at home are deeply impressive.

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Liverpool’s second came rapidly after the Norwich third, with Nathaniel Clyne sprinting down the right flank and crossing for Firminio, whose lay off reached Henderson, unmarked. He swept in the volley. A lovely finish, more terrible defending. Wonderful entertainment.

The equaliser kept to the theme. With 63 minutes played, Adam Lallana, on as a substitute, crossed from the left and found Firmino. He clear, stuttered, dummied and chipped, beating Rudd and pulling Liverpool level.

Cruel on Norwich and it would only get worse. Martin was at fault for Liverpool’s fourth, blindly hitting a backpass from an absurd distance. Milner chased, took the ball, shuffled to his right and rolled past Rudd.

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Brutally entertaining but not over. Crazy, bonkers football. And yet so repetitive, with Sakho losing out on a stoppage time header to Cameron Jerome and Bassong drilling Norwich level.

Klopp was furious; a minute later he lost his glasses in delirium, Lallana shirtless among a pile of bodies. A ridiculous match.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3413372/Norwich-City-4-5-Liverpool-Adam-Lallana-James-Milner-Jordan-Henderson-Roberto-Firmino-complete-TWO-amazing-comebacks-nine-goal-thriller.html#ixzz3y5FGijil

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