Shocks & Disappointments

That’s the only way to describe this weekend’s sporting events. Plymouth Argyle losing to championship struggler’s Sheffield United at Home Park. The English national cricket team collapsing spectacularly after bowling themselves back into contention on Friday. The English rugby union team being beaten by Scotland; and Chelsea and Manchester United being knocked out of the FA Cup. Although there was some good news for my sporting interests, Liverpool comprehensively beat Premiership struggler’s Newcastle at Anfield.

Let’s start with Plymouth’s 0 – 1 defeat to Sheffield United at Home Park on Saturday. It’s hard to believe that Plymouth lost this game based on the form guide and even the stats from the match. But only one stat counts at the end of the 90 minutes, that’s the final scoreline. James Beattie’s close range header converting David Cotterill’s cross was all that was needed to snatch all three points away from the Pilgrims. How Plymouth managed to not convert all their pressure into a goal I will never know, Argyle had ten shots on target compared to three shots for United, yet Sheffield took their chance when it came, Argyle didn’t, no excuses from me, well done to the Blades. I knew it would be a tight game, I predicted it would only be one goal in it because the Blades are a much better side than their league position would suggest. This defeat means that the Pilgrims drop to 7th behind the resurgent Hull City, but still only one point off 5th but Hull, Ipswitch and Watford all have a game in hand and West Brom have two games in hand because of cup commitments!

Liverpool had better luck in the Premiership beating Newcastle 3 – 0 at Anfield to add to Kevin Keegan’s misery on Tyneside. Liverpool won the game in a flurry of goals around the half time whistle. Liverpool’s opener was fortuitous to say the least, a goal that Jermaine Pennant will claim but he didn’t know much about it as Jose Enrique’s attempted clearance crashed into him and Steve Harper helplessly watched the ball loop over his head into the back of his net in the 43rd minute. Liverpool’s point man Fernando Torres doubled the lead two minutes later just before the half time whistle slotting home from close range after Steven Gerrard fed the ball through to him. Torres returned the favour in the 50th minute playing a nice little pass for Gerrard to unleash one of his trademark rockets from the edge of the penalty area. Liverpool are back in fourth in the league ahead of local rivals Everton on goal difference, let’s hope that Liverpool can have a strong end to the season after a lacklustre mid-season. But Liverpool have more pressing issue right now; a trip to the San Siro to finish the job they started at Anfield three weeks ago; defending their 2 -0 aggregate lead against Inter Milan to make it safely into the semi finals of the champions league.

In the Six Nations, England slumped to a 15 – 9 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield. Jonny Wilkinson’s magic boot even deserted him in the appalling playing conditions, but that’s not an excuse as his Scotish counterpart Chris Paterson kicked flawlessly in a game of penalty kicks. Frankly England weren’t good enough and lets face it Scotland aren’t exactly the best but full marks to them for grinding out a result. England’s final game of the tournament is against Ireland at Twickenham, let’s hope we can at least beat one of the home nations in this years Six Nations. Wales fought hard against the Irishmen to prevail 16 – 12 with Shane Williams scoring a try and James Hook scoring a late penalty kick to give the Welsh the win that they needed to claim the Triple Crown. Wales now face the France in the Millennium Stadium next Saturday to try to win the Grand Slam. This Six Nations has been poor for England and the Welsh have been a revelation and the Irish have put up a good showing as well, the only disappointment is England’s lack of composure and stamina, first game against Wales speaks volumes for the relative English and Welsh performances! England have not even remotely looked like they were world cup finalists a few short months ago!

In Cricket, the English national team were humiliated in the first test in Hamilton by New Zealand. England looked unlikely to win the test after they could only manage 348 all out in reply to the Kiwi’s 470 falling 122 runs short. But the English bowling attack hit back on the fourth day with Ryan Sidebottom taking 6 wickets for 49 runs limiting the home team to 177 declared leaving England a target of 300 to win in 81 overs on the final day. But the domino effect was in full swing as England found themselves four wickets down by the sixth over for 30 runs. With the exception of Ian Bell who hit an unbeaten 54 the rest of the team were atrocious being bowled out for a total of 110 falling 190 runs short of the total with more than 25 overs left to play. I don’t expect England to do anything in this series based on this performance, the Kiwi’s are far too strong for England. It’s only a three test series, so England need to win the next test to stay in contention, but I won’t be holding my breath!

Finally the FA Cup quarter finals, Portsmouth beating Manchester United at Old Trafford much to the anger and frustration of the gum chewing Scot. Pompey robustly stood tall to resist all the pressure that United exerted on them being saved by the woodwork on occasions and survived a penalty appeal. But their dogged defending proved worthwhile in the 78th minute when Milan Baros was upended by United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak and saw red for his cynical foul. Sulley Muntari made no mistake from the spot powering past out stretched stand in keeper Rio Ferdinand. And to make the pain of Argyle’s loss even less, Barnsley who knocked my premiership interest Liverpool out in the last round topped that by beating cup holders Chelsea 1 – 0 at Oakwell. Barnsley were well worth the win, no fluke for the The Tykes also being denied by an excellent save from Cudicini and the woodwork. Kayode Odejayi was hero of the hour putting Barnsley into the semi-finals. I would actually love to see Barnsley win the cup now and they have a very realistic chance as they have drawn Cardiff City at Wembley while West Brom have drawn Portsmouth after knocking Bristol Rovers out of the cup. Three championship teams in the FA cup at the quarter final stage, that’s unthinkable but I am loving it, shame it couldn’t have been the Pilgrims!

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