There was still some drama to be seen despite the fact that most of the European football leagues are currently enjoying their winter break. Here's the latest Euroscore Monday Round Up.
England – Boxing Day, 26th December
The Premiership has had a busy time of late with two full programmes of fixtures. Firstly, our Premiership heroes had to quickly run off any Christmas excesses by turning out on Boxing Day.
Arsenal let a two-goal lead at Aston Villa with central defender Zat Knight equalising for the home side in injury time for a 2-2 draw. Chelsea brushed aside struggling West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge 2-0. Didier Drogba scored after just three minutes and Frank Lampard added Chelsea’s second just as the first half closed.
Liverpool maintained their push for the title by beating Bolton Wanderers 3-0 at home. The game marked a personal triumph for their big summer signing from Spurs, Robbie Keane, who has so far struggled to find the back of the net on a regular basis. Keane scored twice in five minutes to silence claims that he is on his way out of Anfield in the upcoming January sales.
Manchester City’s manager Mark Hughes, previously under fire, breathed a sigh of relief as his side dominated Hull City 5-1. Hull’s bubble seems to have burst of late, and two goals apiece from City’s Caicedo and Robinho were added to by an 82nd minute fifth by Ireland.
The bottom of the table is so tight that a win can see a team rise from the bottom three to halfway up the ranks, a situation that should make the second half of the season go to the wire in the bid to avoid relegation.
Portsmouth were thumped 1-4 at home by West Ham United. Craig Bellamy, linked with a move away from Upton Park, scored two of the Hammers' goals. Middlesbrough continued their poor form, losing 0-1 at home to Everton with Tim Cahill grabbing the goal. They now have to travel to Old Trafford on Monday evening. Manchester United meanwhile, warmed up by beating Stoke City away 1-0 with a late goal from Argentinean star Carlos Tevez.
Spurs was held at home by draw specialists Fulham 0-0, and the same score shared the points between Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers. Wigan Athletic added to Newcastle United’s problems by beating them 2-1.
Sunday, 28th December
The game of the day saw an increasingly convincing Liverpool storm to a 5-1 win at troubled Newcastle United. Captain Stephen Gerrard scored twice as the reds destroyed the home side. The only surprise is how Liverpool only scored five, such was the gulf between the two sides.
West Bromwich Albion earned a welcome 2-0 home win over Spurs with two very late goals. Everton ensured that new Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia is under no illusions of what needs doing at the club by winning easily 3-0. The win was secured with two early strikes from the ever impressive Arteta.
Bolton lost at home 0-1 to Wigan thanks to a 44th minute penalty converted by Zaki. Meanwhile Mark Hughes took his Manchester City side to his old club Blackburn Rovers to fight out a 2-2 draw. City’s equaliser came deep into injury time from Brazilian star Robinho.
In the west London derby it was resurgent Fulham who took the lead in the 10th minute at home to rivals Chelsea. American Clint Dempsey making the most of Chelsea’s failure to clear a free kick, before hooking in the shot from a matter of inches.
Chelsea kept up almost constant pressure and after the break Fulham finally caved in when free scoring Frank Lampard capitalised on a misunderstanding between Fulham’s keeper Mark Schwarzer and defender Aaron Hughes to drive in the equaliser. The England star made it 2-1 to the visitors in the 72nd minute with a low free kick.
However there was a twist in the tail and just as Chelsea were beginning to celebrate an important three points Dempsey rose to head high into the net for an 89th minute equaliser sending the home crowd into raptures. Believe me, anything gained by Fulham against Chelsea is the stuff of wild celebration down at Craven Cottage.
Arsenal made amends for that last minute slip up at Villa by beating Portsmouth, managed by returning Arsenal hero Tony Adams, 1-0 with a goal from William Gallas ten minutes from time. West Ham added another three points beating Stoke City 2-1.
So after all this frantic activity Liverpool stay top on 45 points, three points ahead of Chelsea, who must be regretting that last minute Fulham equaliser. Manchester United are 3rd ten points behind the leaders but with three games in hand.
At the bottom West Bromwich Albion are on 18 points, the same total as Blackburn Rovers and two behind Stoke City. However Stoke remain just one win away from a mid table position with 11th placed Bolton on 23 points.
Top place AZ Aalkmar stayed three points ahead of Ajax by beating NEC 1-0. Ajax’s Cvitanich hit a hat-trick in the Amsterdam club’s 3-0 home win over ADO Den Haag. 3rd place FC Twente Enschede drew 0-0 at disappointing PSV Eindhoven.
Feyenoord had a welcome win, 3-1, over NAC but still find themselves in the bottom half of the table. Down at the very foot FC Volendam, who lost 1-3 at Vitesse Arnhem, are on 11 points, two points behind De Graafschap who drew 0-0 at Heracles.
The featured match this weekend took us to Ibrox for the latest Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic. These encounters never fail to ignite the passion, and even for a casual, uncommitted football fan, they remain one of the most passionate and partizan of all of football’s derby matches. The rivalry between the two Glasgow clubs is the stuff of legend.
The history of the Old Firm will be covered in depth on Euroscore in a series starting later in January. We will also be revisiting Ibrox Stadium later this week to remember those fans who were tragicaly killed in the 1971 disaster, in another Old Firm match against Celtic.
Glasgow Rangers v Glasgow Celtic
Earlier in the season Rangers went to Celtic Park and emerged 4-2 victors. Since then Celtic have gone on an incredible run that has seen them secure 40 points, with 13 wins, one draw, and one defeat. Rangers’ subsequent form has seen them gain 33 points, losing twice and drawing three.
Champions Celtic therefore went into this match with a four point lead over Rangers. The home side knew that a win would open up the title race and put them only one point behind. Meanwhile Celtic realised that this was a chance to pull a massive seven points ahead of their arch rivals. Thus the scene was set for a typically no holds barred Old Firm clash.
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was without the influencial Shunsuke Nakamura, his position being filled by Koki Mizuno. They also had to do without the talents of suspended Aiden McGeady. Rangers meanwhile had the in-form partnership of Kris Boyd and ex-Celtic star Kenny Miller up front. It was Rangers' manager Walter Smith's 42nd Old Firm match.
On an icy surface the early stages were marked by several missed opportunities for Rangers. Steven Davis shot wide in the 4th minute and Celtic’s erratic keeper Artur Boruc saved well from Kris Boyd during a spell which saw Rangers on top.
The treacherous conditions made for some scrappy passages of play with some typically Old Firm tackles flying in. On ten minutes Rangers forced the ball into the Celtic net only to see Boyd’s ‘goal’ correctly ruled out for a foul by Broadfoot on Boruc.
With the pitch providing some Torvill and Dean moments both sides often resorted to long balls launched towards their main strikers. Rangers midfielder Pedro Mendes tried a couple of long range shots but was off target and the game remained balanced at 0-0 at the break.
It was the midfield battle that provided the most interest. Celtic had Paul Hartley and Barry Robson going head to head with the equally skilfull, yet arguably more physical Rangers pairing of Pedro Mendes and skipper Barry Ferguson.
In the second half, Celtic keeper Artur Boruc, brilliant one minute and erratic the next, quickly underlined his reputation as one of the most unpredictable goalkeepers of the moment. His excellent save from Kris Boyd, who had been put through by a threaded pass from Barry Ferguson, shortly after the break, again denied Rangers the vital breakthrough.
In the 58th minute Celtic’s Gary Caldwell sent a ball in towards Georgios Samaras. The Greek striker got just enough of a flick on the ball to set up Scott McDonald. The Australian still had a lot to do and brilliantly gained enough space from Rangers defender Broadfoot before sending a searing shot into the top corner of the net. Allan McGregor in the Rangers goal had no chance as McDonald’s shot flew in to give Celtic the all important first goal.
Rangers continued to try and breakdown the Celtic defence and brought on both Kyle Lafferty and Charlie Adam as they pressed forward. Celtic defended deeper and Rangers were struggling to find that final ball to create opportunities. Even the hero of many previous Old Firm clashes, Nacho Novo, couldn’t find the equaliser this time, his shot from the edge of the box going wide.
Celtic brought on ex PSV Eindhoven striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink in the last minute for his first appearance following a spell out with injury. Quite how they fit that name on the back of a Celtic shirt is beyond me. Despite increasingly desperate attacks from the home side Celtic held on for a vital 1-0 victory, avenging Rangers 4-2 win at Parkhead earlier in the season.
Next weekend sees Celtic host 3rd place Dundee United. Rangers meanwhile travel to Inverness.
Final Score: Rangers 0 Celtic 1
Elsewhere Aberdeen beat Hearts who had Zaliukas sent off in the 73rd minute 1-0. Dundee United stayed in 3rd spot beating Falkirk 1-0. Kilmarnock won 4-2 at Hibernian, and Motherwell saw off visitors Inverness Caledonian Thistle 3-2 with a hat trick from striker Chris Porter.
Thought For The Week
The January transfer market is the only sale where it isn't always a good idea to buy one and get one free.
Thank you for reading the Euroscore round up. This week the featured articles include the second part of the Football in Malta series. We also return to Ibrox to remember the disaster that occured on January 2nd 1971. Our past legends feature this week looks at Franky van der Elst of Belgium, before going to Budapest next week, to remember the silky skills of Florian Albert.