Category Archives: Match Report

Match Report: Portugal 2-3 Germany

UEFA Euro 2008



Att: 42,000

Portugal 2-3 Germany

A tired maxim, but an important one: never write off the Germans. Once again, they prove that when it comes to clinical finishing and efficient, sharp use of possession, they are still the kaisers. After two poor performances, the Germans once again look like the favourites they were labelled as before the tournament.

Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose looked accomplished and dangerous alongside one another; Michael Ballack, improving more with every game and surely an early candidate for player of the tournament, controlled the centre of midfield with a delightful arrogance.

For Portugal, it’s a typical outcome: mercurial, thrilling and disgustingly talented, but wasteful and disorganised. It’s a disappointing exeunt from international football for Luis Felipe Scolari, who will now make the transition to Chelsea where many of his Portuguese stars, and Ballack, now take residence.

Portugal started off the better side, with Simão’s creativity going forward and Bosingwa’s pace proving troublesome on the right-hand side against Germany’s Philipp Lahm. If it weren’t for an ineffective Nuno Gomes, Portugal should have been a goal up after eleven minutes, after a teasing low ball from Bosingwa failed to be capitalised upon. Moments later, João Moutinho spurned a sitter in front of goal from a Bosingwa corner.

Then, after twenty-two minutes, a move of absolute excellence, with Ballack at its centre.

Klose passed to Ballack, and then a succession of one-touch passes between Ballack and Podolski resulted in a beautifully weighted ball from Podolski, and an unmarked Bastian Schweinsteiger waiting in the eight-yard area. A goal of the highest quality, and certainly up there with the two fine counter-attacking goals scored by Holland against the Azzurri.

Four minutes later, and the Germans were two up thanks to some woeful Portuguese defending. With Ricardo Carvalho nowhere to be seen, Klose rose and headed in unmarked, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo wondering who was meant to be marking the 2006 World Cup Golden Boot winner.

By now, Germany were in complete control of the midfield; but Portugal still threatened when going forward, and Ronaldo managed to put his side back in the game before half-time with his cross-angle run into the area and eventual shot rebounding for Nuno Gomes to finish. Ronaldo then almost equalised for Portugal minutes later, with a shot that just crept past Jens Lehmann’s left-post.

Portugal came out the better side after half-time, with Ronaldo becoming more of a threat. With a questionable spot of gamesmanship by Arne Friedrich, in which he intentionally stood on Ronaldo’s foot after a strong challenge, it was clear to see the threat he was now beginning to pose.

But that was wiped away thanks to some erratic goalkeeping by Ricardo. Ballack, who looked to have pushed his club team-mate Paulo Ferriera to gain an advantage, was there to header in from a Schweinsteiger free-kick that Ricardo failed to deal with.

Scolari later threw on Nani, who consistently threw possession away with thirty-yard efforts and misguided passes — apart from the one moment he actually used his eyes. With Helder Postiga also thrown on, Nani picked him out perfectly with three minutes remaining.

Yet by now, it was too late. Portugal and the world now awaits the talk of where Ronaldo will end up to re-emerge in earnest; while Germany expects once again, with Ballack — perhaps the best leader the Germans have had since a circa. Italia ’90 Lothar Matthaus — only growing in confidence.

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Filed under cristiano ronaldo, Football, germany, Match Report, michael ballack, portugal, Soccer, Sport, UEFA, uefa euro 2008

The 42nd Excellent Receptacle (aka Super Bowl XLII): The game and a conversion

Here is a full account of not just The 42nd Excellent Receptacle (aka Super Bowl XLII), but the conversion of a gridiron cynic and a ridiculously late night. Enjoy – David.


Forget the Six Nations (although good on Wales! I had a feeling the Ospreys gamble and the acquisition of Shaun Edwards, who did a fantastic job at Wasps, could pay off). Here on The Sight is in End, we’re not restricted to covering Britcentric sporting matters. So, we will cover that great gridiron American spectacle THE EXCELLENT RECEPTACLE in all its entirely later on this evening (or as late as possible since I do have to get up early in the morning…).

Will the New York Giants be able to stop the New England Patriots having the perfect season — the American equivalent of the Arsenal season of 2003/04? Will Tom Brady earn his fourth Excellent Receptacle ring by the time he’s 30 (anyone can see how that would be some achievement, gridiron follower or not)?

Will NYG’s Lawrence Tynes bring his kicking game with him? After all, he almost cost the NYG’s the NFC Conference game after failing to get his field goal at the end of regulation time, only to kick them to Arizona in sudden-death overtime.

I will perfectly admit that I hardly anything about gridiron, but I will certainly try and give my own British opinion and insight into an event that has always intrigued me with its pomp, excitement, half-time show and adverts. For those of you who have no idea about the grandiose nature of the ads that appear at The Excellent Receptacle, here’s one from 1984 — you could say that it certainly began a revolution somehow or another:

Ridley Scott directed it, by the way.

So join me at about 10.30ish for my take on this great American event. Or come back tomorrow and read the ramblings of someone who didn’t know what he was talking about.

11.08pm: Well, I said 10.30ish, but it’s more like 11ish… Just put the BBC on, and they’re profiling Tom Brady. They’re also talking about something called ‘spygate’, which I have no idea about, but will supposedly be explained later. Randy Moss, “a part of one of the most explosive offences”, will also be a major player for the Patriots.

What gets me is that the Beeb and the two panellists expect everyone who’s watching to know what they’re talking about, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Unless you’ve been up at silly hours watching it on Sky or managing to realise that the Beeb now have highlights on their website, you’ll be clueless – I largely am. Although to be fair, they’ve got a little beginners guide thing if you press the ubiquitous red button.

11.16pm: “Resiliency, resiliency, resiliency,” say the New York Giants. “Shut up, shut up, shut up,” I’m thinking. The NYGs began their season badly, but have come back and are now the lowest placed wild-card side to come onto a pitch to battle for the Vince Lombardi trophy.

“Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork,” mantra the New York Patriots, and they recite their season’s glories and record-breaking. What I have to say is that the pitch at the Uni. of Arizona’s stadium looks like a bowling green, and puts all Premier League pitches to shame.

11.24pm: The Stars and Stripes sung with gusto by the winner of American Idol, whose Dad was a former NYG player. Interesting stat is that the team who lead the passing yardage percentage has never won the Excellent Receptacle. That’s sounds like saying the team with the most possession in a European Cup final has never won it. Phil Collins in the background… Urgh.

The NYGs and Patriots come swaggering onto the pitch ready for the toss. The ref, Mike Carey, looks particularly dapper in his ref jersey, and the NYGs win the toss — they will receive.

11.30pm: The two Beeb pundits (sorry, I haven’t managed to get their names yet…) are split about who’ll win it. Away we go.

11.37pm: Well, the NYGs go through two of their 4 and need 6 yards, which they gain through Burress. Back to 1st and 10, and they manage to gain 3 yards, which means they need 7 more to go back to 1 again… do you understand? Four chances to gain 10 yards. If they do, they get four chances again; if not, they have to kick it away – think rugby league, and you’ll be pretty close. 2nd and 7 yards to go, and only a yard is gained. 3rd and 6 yards to go, and they gain them, so they go back to 1st and 10. Break.

11.30-11.46pm : Back, and Jacobs for NYGs manages to gain 7 yards. 2nd and 3, then 3rd and 1, then 1st and 10, and the NYGs are doing very well indeed, and are inside the Patriots’ 30 yard line. Kevin Boss couldn’t keep hold of the pass of NYGs quarterback (the fella who co-ordinates the plays and tactics on the pitch, throws the ball after all the number-calling (51! 71! 88! Hut! Hut! etc)) Eli Manning, and it’s 2nd and 10.

Now 3rd and 7, and they ponder a field-goal, but too far away; doesn’t matter, for the quarterback makes a decent throw and now it’s 1st and 10. 1st and 10, and a throw made by Manning into the touchdown zone, but couldn’t be held. 2nd and 10, and NYGs keep perceiving, but are now at 3rd and 11 – going backwards! Now Tynes, the NYGs’ kicker, goes for field goal which is good, and they take the lead. 3-0 NYGs.

11.49-12.00am: NYGs kick long, and the Patriots end up 45 yards away from the NYGs’ touchdown zone. 1st and 10, and throw from Brady couldn’t be held. 2nd and 10, and they gain 8. 3rd and 2, and they gain them. 1st and 10 again, and Brady’s pass couldn’t be caught, so it’s 2nd and 10. 2nd and 10, and Brady sees a man free who manages to gain 7 yards. 3rd and 3, and the Patriots have their men ready to do something here, and Welker makes the yards. I am enjoying this!

This quarter has flown by, and the Patriots are gaining yards easily here. 1st and 10 on 17 yard line, and Brady throws towards the end zone, but couldn’t be held. If that were caught by Randy Moss, it would have been 1st and goal. 2nd and 10, and it couldn’t be held. Now 3rd and 10, and it’s getting tense; Brady makes the throw, and it’s knocked away by Antonio Pearce of the NYGs… no! Foul! Patriots gain 10 yards, and it’s 1st and Goal. Seconds ticking away.

Giants just about holding on, and now the Patriots get another chance – 2nd and 10. No! They don’t. End of the 1st quarter: New York Giants 3-0 New England Patriots.

12.01am-12.28am: Of course they get another chance, for they resume where they left off — forgot about that. 2nd and Goal — Touchdown Patriots, and the conversion goes over. Inevitable, really. NYGs 3-7 Patriots. Break.

So, the commentators tell us about the NFL visiting London again, and they make a nice reference to how the NYGs trained at Chelsea. “Chelsea are currently 15-1-4 (or something…), and have just reached the English League Cup final.”

Anyway, the Patriots restart sailed out into touch. God, this stadium they’re playing in is top draw; beats Wembley by a mile, and probably cost about a 1/10th of the price. NYGs 1st and 10, and gain 3 yards. And a retractable pitch! Honestly, it’s lickable.

Oh! drama! Looked like NYGs gained 10 and more, but it’s dropped and gained. Luckily goes down as a dropped pass, and NYGs 3rd and 3, and A MAMMOTH THROW BY MANNING! BEAUTIFUL! TOOMER TAKES IT. TOOK HIS TIME, AND THEY GAIN 38 YARDS. 1st and 10 in the 20 yard zone, and they gain 4.

The flag is thrown by one of the linesmen (unlike in football / rugby, the linesmen have a yellow flag which they chuck onto the field when a foul occurs and is spotted), and the NYGs forced back 5 yards for time-wasting. 2rd and 11, gain 6. 3rd and 5, thrown, fumbled, and the Patriots turn it over are away. They gain 30 yards from their 10 yard line, and it’s 1st & 10. 2nd and 10, and they gain 9. 3rd and 1, the Giants do very well, and the Patriots on their final chance. 4th and 3 and kicked deep, and NYGs manage to go up to their 30 yard line. Break. Are you following it? Am I wasting my time? Hmmm…

Back, and the NYGs are now 2nd and 13, fumble. Who’s got it? Bradshaw drops Manning’s pass — Giants ball. 3rd and 12, then 4th and 16 — not a good period for the NYGs. Punted away, and the Patriots go to their 30 yard line.

Aw nice! One of the US panellists for the Beeb in the mini-break explains gridiron in thirty seconds, and alludes to rugby league. Confuses his colleague, though.

8.35 remaining in the 2nd quarter, and Patriots 1st and 10, no good. 2nd and 10, and Brady can’t manage the pass — great defence by the NYGs. 3rd and 19, and NYGs force them back beautifully! Right onto Brady! 4th and 24, and it’s punted away. Break.

12.29am-12.57am: 6.45 left in the quarter, and the Giants are 1 and 10. 2nd and 8, and Bradshaw for NYGs does brilliantly and gains 13 yards. 1st and 10 on the 40 yards line, gain 4. 2nd and 6, and it’s another 1st down! This is excellent by the Giants, but can they get anything before half-time?

1st and 10 becomes 2nd and 6 on the 27 yard line, gains two. 3rd and 4, and Mannings brought down, ball loose, and NYGs manage to recover it – just. Flag thrown; one of the NYGs players ‘bats’ the ball forward – 10 yard penalty. 3rd and 14, another huge Mannings throw that is almost intercepted, but dropped.

4th down with 1.54 remaining in the 4th quarter. London game plugged again, and we’re told how one of the Giants players handed a pigskin to “British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.” Punted away.

1st and 10 for the Patriots on their 11 yard line, and a huge throw by Brady, but incomplete. 2nd and 10, but the NYGs defence push them back 4 yards. 3rd and 13, and the Giants call their first time out; they sense an opportunity here. Patriots manage to make the yards, and they get out of jail. 1st and 10 – nothing. 2nd and 10, gained but flag. 10 yard penalty for the Patriots, 2nd and 12.

Under a minute left now, and New England call their first time out. Yards gained, 1st and 10, and Randy Moss makes the catch. 1st and 10 on the halfway, and there’s a loose ball which the Giants gain. Seconds remain and 1st and 10, and Manning tries to make the yards, but incomplete. Five seconds to go, and I expect a huge Manning throw — Patriots timeout; they’re feeling the strain. Giants are really putting the pressure on the undefeated. 2nd and 10 and a ‘hail-mary’ throw into the Patriots end-zone from Manning’s own half, but it’s not picked-up.

Half-time: New York Giants 3-7 New England Patriots

I’m no expert (hahaha, as if you can’t tell), but the Giants are all over the Patriots. They’ve had 19 minutes 27 seconds worth of possession compared to the 10 minutes 33 for the Patriots, and have gained 139 yards compared to the Patriots’ 89. The Giants really should be leading, but haven’t converted their chances.

01.04am-01.06am: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are on. Yawn… Apparently the audience on the field all have to be auditioned and vetted, probably on looks. Ah yes! Just seen a rather attractive buxom brunette picked out by the cameraman there.

01.25am-01.53am: And the second half is under way, with Tynes kicking off for the NYGs. Good start for the Patriots, and get to 3rd and 3 on almost halfway. Gain the 3, but are driven back 2 and get to 2nd and 12. 3rd and 5, and a good tackle by Pierce for NYGs prevents the Patriots going to 1st and 10. Punted by Hanson, and the NYGs collect and run it out. Break.

The Patriots make a challenge, suggesting that 12 men were on the field instead of the regulation 11. It seems that one of the Giants players didn’t step off the field before the play was made. The Patriots get the 1st down, and the Giants will smart from that.

Meanwhile, Patriots false start, and are penalise five yards – 2nd and 11. 3rd and 13, and Patriots need something, and gain the yards! Fantastic. 1st and 10 becomes 2nd and 10, then 3rd and 7, then Brady is sacked and the Patriots 4th and 13. Brady goes for the throw into the end-zone but it’s long. Giants do well to quell the Patriots threat. My enjoyment of gridiron is growing with every passing minute.

Giants 1st and 10, then 2nd and 6 on their 35 yard line, and Toomer gets the 1st down. 1st and 10 on their 45 becomes 2nd and 8 on the 43, and Manning throws a great pass for the Giants to go to another 1st down on the 45 yard Patriots’ line. Fantastic throw by Manning, but it’s just fumbled in the Patriots’ end-zone. 2nd and 10 becomes 3rd and 6, and an incomplete pass results in an out-of-bounds punt by the Giants.

I’m seriously beginning to struggle now. I have to be up at 8.20am as well. May be time to get into bed with my laptop and a Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate. I can also feel my eyes straining. Why am I doing this? What am I trying to prove? Will anyone even read this?

01.54am-02.03am: Flag called; Patriots offensive error. Still 1st down, but the Patriots practically on their own line, here. Brady pass incomplete, and it’s 2nd and 15, which is this time completed. 1st and 10 is 2nd and 1, and they get the 1st down with the clock approaching a minute to go in this third quarter. 1st and 10, and a fine Brady pass results in the Patriots going to the half-way line and another 1st and 10.

20 seconds remaining, and it’s 2nd and 15 after yet another flag — false start by the Patriots. Brady goes for the throw to the end-zone again, but nout, and he isn’t happy. 3rd and 15 will become 4th down, and it’s the end of the 3rd quarter, and the Patriots are still leading. NYGs 3-7 Patriots.

Just being told about the spy saga thing, and it seems rather unsavoury on the Patriots’ part. TVs, cameras and following the coach responsible for the plays…

02.04am-02.12am: Patriots punt it away, goes out, and the final quarter begins. 1st and 10 on their, and NYGs’ KEVIN BOSS IS AWAY! 50! 40! 30! Brought down on the 30 yard line; just what the Giants needed. 1st and 10 becomes 2nd and 7, and the Giants can sense something. 3rd and 4 and great by the NYGs’ again! Manning doing well here! Now only fifteen or so yards away from the Patriots’ line. 1st and 10 is 2nd and 3, throw from Manning AND TOUCHDOWN GIANTS! CONVERSION GOOD. NYGs 10-7 Patriots.

02.13am-02.20am: It’s been an exhausting yet thrilling watch, and it’s bound to increase as we enter the final ten minutes. Flag thrown; Patriots penalised again, and forced back 5 yards.

Patriots 1st and 10, and Brady makes a good pass and Randy Moss receives to gain another 1st down. Becomes 2nd and 7, and Brady makes a pass for Moss who has a clear run to the end-zone, but too long. 3rd and 7, and Brady waits… and waits… and throws, but it’s incomplete, and the Patriots lose the chance to hit back.

02.22am-02.41am: 9.20 remaining, 2nd and 9, and a Manning throw results in Bunness leaping, only to just miss it. 3rd and 9 becomes 4th and 1, and a big decision to be made by the Giants here; they will punt it away, and the Patriots will get possession and another precision chance to fightback.

1st and 10 is then 2nd and 6, which then turns to… my eyelids are becoming unbearably heavy, but not long to go. Erm.. 1st and 10, 2nd and 1, 1st and 10 into the Giants half. New England have under six minutes to try and save the Excellent Receptacle. 2nd and 6, and Welker runs all sorts of angles to get the 1st down.

You feel that this could be the Patriots’ chance to grab this game from the Giants, but 1st and 10 becomes 2nd and 10 deep into the Giants half, and they gain the 1st down again inside the 20 yard line. The pressure is building, the drive progressing, the clock ticking. 1st and 10, Brady makes the throw, 1st and Goal for the Patriots — the drive has almost paid off.

1st and Goal, and the clock is stopped on with 3.12 remaining. What does Brady have planned? Brady throws into the end-zone, but Boss can’t complete the pass. 2nd and Goal, and the pass is incomplete, and some good defence by the Giants again. 3rd and Goal, Brady throws into the end-zone, and RANDY MOSS RECEIVES — TOUCHDOWN PATRIOTS, CONVERSION GOOD. NYGs 10-14 Patriots.

02.41am-02.57am: Patriots kick-off, and charge down the Giants to leave them deep in their own half. 1st and 10, Manning comes back on, and they instantly gain the 1st down. 1st and 10 is then 2nd and 10, and the two minute warning arrives with NYGs 3rd and 10. The Giants also have three time-outs remaining, so they’ve certainly got the time needed to forge a winning play.

3rd and 10 and Toomer makes the catch, but it’s very tight. Measuring tape comes on, but it’s 4th and 1, which is made. 1st and 10 on their own 39 yard line, and Manning makes the dash and gains five. Time-out called by Giants.

2nd and 5, the Manning pass almost intercepted, but just too much. Time-out called by Giants. 1.15 remaining, and Giants 3rd and 5, and Manning sacked… no, gets out, makes the massive pass, and A MASSIVE PLAY! Now deep into Patriots half! Brilliant.

1st and 10, and Manning chased down. 2nd and 10, and Giants call their final time-out. This could be where it’s won and lost; 2nd and 11 will be 3rd and 11 after an incomplete pass. Manning receives, and Steve Smith completes the pass, and goes out of bounds to stop the clock.

1st and 10. Manning makes the pass, and BURNESS RECEIVES TOUCHDOWN GIANTS! Manning has surely won it for the Giants with 35 seconds remaining. Conversion good. NYGs 17-14 Patriots.

02.58am-xx.xxam: A Patriots field goal would take it into over-time, but the clock is against the them. Long pass attempted by Brady, but incomplete. Patriots 2nd and 10, and Brady is SACKED and unsurprisingly, the Patriots call a time-out. 3rd and 20, and the Brady pass is tantalisingly missed. 4th and 20, and a time-out called.



You have to feel sorry for the Patriots. Consistency, in the end, is made to look absolutely meaningless.

03.06am: Time for bed.


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Filed under American Football, Apple, Arsenal FC, Eli Manning, England, Gridiron, Lawrence Tynes, Match Report, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFL, Ridley Scott, Rugby Union, Super Bowl XLII, Tom Brady, Wales

Match Report: Newcastle United 0-0 Bolton Wanderers

Kevin Keegan returned.



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Match Report: Liverpool 5-0 Luton Town

Liverpool 5 – 0 Luton Town

FA Cup: Third Round Replay

Anfield, Liverpool

Att: 44,446

This was a game with a spine of survival, albeit of two different kinds.

After the revelation that Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillette were chasing the Bayern Munich bound Jurgen Klinsmann, Rafael Benitez decided to start Steven Gerrard; Fernando Torres; Peter Crouch and Jamie Carragher, who claimed his 500th Liverpool appearance, in a bid to arguably extend a stay of execution, and avoid one of the biggest FA Cup shocks ever witnessed. In the end, it proved more than ample.

For Luton, whilst their time in the FA Cup is now over for another year, they’ll at least return to compete again. The 2020 consortium and this valuable replay have offered a pardon for its sixteen remaining players and the soon to depart Kevin Blackwell, who was forced to play the injured Dean Brill (who struggled to even kick the ball); and the former Liverpool playing Scot Don Hutchinson, who was given the unfamiliar position of centre-back, and forced to deal with the threat of Gerrard.

The experience of Hutchinson, who called for composure before half-time, almost kept Luton right in the game until a fatal lapse in concentration by his fellow players led to Ryan Babel’s neat finish in the 18-yard area in first-half stoppage time.

Prior to that, Hutchinson was there to close down Gerrard and throw himself in front of his long-range efforts; while the Luton back-line was managing to cope with the threat of Torres and Crouch.

And, when able to go forward, Luton did occasionally threaten. Dean Currie and David Bell were useful; and Calvin Andrews’ effort and determination was undeniable, coming close to being clean through on goal after 37 minutes, only to be judged just offside – that was as close as Luton came.

The increasing pressure from Liverpool was telling, and the Babel goal was almost inevitable. To go into half-time all square would arguably have outdone the result at Kenilworth Road. After the break, you could sense that more goals were due. This was confirmed seven minutes later, when Gerrard slotted in a close range header after a neat lay-off from Crouch.

This finally broke Luton, who were almost embarrassed when confusion between defender Keith Keane and Brill lead to the ball having to be swept off the line. Sami Hyppia added a third moments later after his header was deflected inwards; an astutely placed Gerrard strike inside the area added a fourth after 64-minutes, and Gerrard completed his hat-trick eight minutes later with a sweetly struck long-range effort of which he is only capable of.

Although the scoreline will please Benitez, it was to be expected considering the current plight Luton are in. What will not please him is the form of Babel and substitute Dirk Kuyt, who were occasionally wasteful and, in the case of Kuyt especially, looked increasingly desperate. This over-reliance on Torres and Gerrard could be the difference between Benitez keeping or losing his job.

The Sight is in End’s Man of the Match: Don Hutchinson

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Filed under Don Hutchinson, FA Cup, Football, Liverpool FC, Luton Town, Match Report, Opinion, Rafael Benitez, Soccer, Sport, Steven Gerrard

Match Report: Stoke City 0-0 Newcastle United

Stoke City 0-0 Newcastle United

FA Cup: Third Round

Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent

Att: 22,681

It was built up as the match that could determine Sam Allardyce’s fate as Newcastle manager; it now holds more significance, but for now at least, Allardyce remains safe.

Meanwhile Stoke, while being pleased in keeping the Premier League outfit at bay, forcing the replay and with it the extra cash needed to boost their attempt in reaching the top flight, will be somewhat disappointed with the goalless draw after playing the better football and having a 67-minute Jon Parkin header cleared off the line – a minute after he arrived as a substitute.

It was an astute tactical decision by Tony Pulis, still under pressure by some Stoke fans despite their current 4th position in the Championship, which was almost enough for Stoke to claim a famous win. Parkin’s intimidating (to say the least) stature was a nuisance for the Newcastle defence, and also caused a goal-mouth mêlée seconds after his headed effort, which Liam Cresswell couldn’t capitalise on.

Parkin came on for Malian international Mamady Sidibe, who looked deeply annoyed at being substituted. He had a right to be, as he was industrious and selfless, and did all he could to try and be inventive in a game that lacked a lot of it.

He used his towering presence to assist with defending, but was also threatening with his vision and through-balls to Ricardo Fuller that constantly questioned Newcastle’s Abdoulaye Faye, who was composed throughout the 90 minutes.

But ominously for Allardyce, Newcastle and Fabio Capello’s England, Michael Owen is a long distance away from his best. The loneliness of being a long distance away from your best showed, as he cut an at-times isolated and beleaguered figure in the cold and wet of Stoke-on-Trent.

Owen was sluggish, rusty, and struggled to generate any sort of basic pace, impetus or threat. On 55 minutes, Owen failed to connect with a clear chance after Steven Taylor’s header hit the post and goalkeeper Steve Simonsen was left stranded. Allardyce eventually gave him the full ninety minutes, but he’s going to need many more not just for his sake, but for his club and Allardyce himself.

Damien Duff, who filled in for the ill James Miller, is also some way off his best; while Mark Viduka had a frustrating evening, with his only decent effort coming after 18 minutes thanks to a Charles N’Zogbia ball into the penalty area. N’Zogbia was the pick of the Newcastle players, and worked extremely hard on the left-hand side to pressurise an occasionally uncertain Simonsen with an array of crosses.

Newcastle were almost saved from an awkward replay as substitute Andrew Carroll’s desperate lunge at an N’Zogbia cross hit the post.

Allardyce looked pleased as the final whistle went, but the tie has now gained even more significance, for a loss at St. James’ would surely signal the premature end of Sam Allardyce.

That’s if it doesn’t happen beforehand, that is.


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Filed under Barclays Premier League, BBC, FA Cup, Football, Football League, Match Report, Michael Owen, Newcastle United, Sam Allardyce, Sport, Stoke City