The Churchill Cup got underway tonight (Wednesday) with the first round robin games in both the North and the South sections. Here is a round up of how the first games panned out.
CELTIC ………. 1 MANCHESTER UNITED ……. 1
Celtic and Manchester United kicked off their campaigns with a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park. This was expected to be a comfortable win for United as they are doing reasonable well in Division 1 while Celtic are looking for promotion from Division 5 but although United dominated the possession, Celtic defended well and refused to buckle under pressure. The first half failed to produce a goal and it also failed to produce a Celtic shot on target but that didn’t concern the Glasgow side as long as the score sat at 0-0. The game looked to have turned Celtic’s way when on 48min Michael Carrick was shown the red card after having been booked just before half time but in true soccer manager style, the ‘new’ match engine laughed in the face of referees and Rooney(53) got the breakthrough United had been searching for. The Celtic fans sang ‘one-nil to the match engine, one-nil to the match engine’ a Celtic tried to find a way back into the game. Celtic, at least, were starting to give the United defence something to think about it and they got their reward when Haraguchi(72) fired an equaliser. Ten-man United responded well and tried to find a winner but Celtic soaked up all they had to offer and the game finished 1 goal each and 1 point each. United boss, Joe Jordan, refused to shake ruts 66 hand at the end of the game in case the Celtic manager fell over in front of the referee, apparently a reference to the ordering off of Carrick.
LIVERPOOL ……… 0 SUNDERLAND ……….. 1
Liverpool boss Kinnear slammed his players after a disastrous start to their Churchill Cup exploits after they crashed 1-0 at home to Sunderland. Kinnear blamed his attack saying they looked uninterested and has promised to axe them (Sturridge and Destro) for the remaining games in the competition. It may all have been so different if Coutinho’s 7th minute strike had been allowed to stand but the linesman had flagged much to the annoyance of Coutinho who was clearly onside by more than a couple of yards. It is believed the linesman had failed to flag a goal offside last Sunday and was making up for it tonight. Sunderland didn’t complain and in fact boss Bullough was in stitches on the sideline and even held up a huge card with LOL written across it. The decision seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Liverpool players and Sunderland started to dominate possession. It was no surprise when Halilovic(29) struck a superb shot into the top corner, giving Szczesny no chance. Liverpool struggled to get through the solid Sunderland defence with only an Oscar shot that hit the outside of the post, coming close. Lallana and Gabbiadini came on at half time for the ineffective M’bia and Destro but while Gabbiadini gave it his all, he wasn’t getting the support needed to break Sunderland down. Neither keeper was worked hard but Liverpool were given a late boost when Baumgartlinger picked up a second booking with three minutes to go to reduce Sunderland to ten men but again they failed to take advantage and Sunderland held out for a famous 1-0 win.
NEWCASTLE UNITED ………… 2 EVERTON ………. 1
Newcastle got off to a good start in the Churchill Cup when they beat fellow second division side Everton 2-1 at St James’s Park. It was a well deserved win for the Geordie outfit with some fans starting to wonder if boss Oran Robson is related to the great Bobby Robson. Newcastle were the better side throughout the 90 minutes and the only surprise was it took them until 42 minutes to open the scoring. The other surprise was that it was defender Mikel Gonzalez with only his second goal for Newcastle, that scored it. There was drama at the start of the second half when Newcastle won a penalty just 46 seconds in but Sissoko couldn’t even find his contact lenses in the dressing room before the game, never mind find the target. It was a let off for Everton and a chance for them to kick on and pressurise for the equaliser. Everton pushed forward and were all over the home side. Haha, only joking, it was Newcastle who kept pushing a listless looking Everton back and the second goal arrived when Cisse(64) knocked home a Ben Arfa cross. Everton at last came to life but it’s no good doing that after you go 2-0 down. Anyway, they hit back and on 68min Pereira struck an unstoppable shot that beat Krul to half the deficit. Pereira tried another unstoppable shot later on but it was stopped. The game was quite even after this but Newcastle were content to hold on to what they had and it finished 2-1 and three points to Newcastle.
ASTON VILLA …………… 0 CHELSEA …………… 5
Promotion seeking 3rd Division side Aston Villa would have been thinking they could pull off a shock win over 1st Division Chelsea but it turned into a nightmare as they shipped 5 goals for no reply. Chelsea showed how serious they were taking this tournament when they named an English player in the starting line up and it was that English player that gave them an early lead with Jason Henderson(4) finding the bottom corner from just inside the box. It was one way traffic as Chelsea pounded the Villa goal and with Rahul W considering filing several missing persons reports, Sanchez(19) added the second. The Villa Park side didn’t have an effort on goal until the 28th minute but Courtois made the save look easy by catching it with his teeth. There was controversy on 36min when Fabregas was adjudged to have caught Sanchez (the Villa one) with his elbow. Replays showed that Fabregas was very unlucky as he had quite obviously tried to catch him with his wrist. Down to ten men, Chelsea survived an Aston Villa corner before stringing together 429 passes before going up the tunnel for the interval. Ok, 419 of they passes were after the half time whistle but hey, who are we to judge. I don’t know what Rahul said to his team at half time but it made them worse. Two minutes into the half, Aranguiz made it 3-0 but there was more confusion on 62min when Sanchez was booked for a foul on Sanchez. We are not sure which Sanchez was booked but the tannoy started to play Me and Mr Sanchez by Blue Rondo a la Turk (one for the oldies there). So, yep, still none the wiser. Chelsea were now treating the match like a training game with Isco out wide running zig zag between cones. Costa made it 4-0 with 15 minutes remaining and with the Villa players wishing it was full time, Isco came inside from the cones to add the fifth with two minutes remaining. A great win for Chelsea and they have sent out a warning to the rst of the clubs that they want to win the World Club Cup at the end of all this. As for Villa, Liverpool boss Kinnear has been in contact asking if they fancy a game.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR ……….. 3 WEST HAM UNITED ………. 1
Tottenham Hotspur got their cup off to a winning start by defeating fellow Londoners West Ham 3-1. Spurs had started heavy favourites against the 4th Division strugglers and it took only 8 minutes for Dembele to fire a low shot into the West Ham net but if they thought they were on their way to an easy win then they received a shock just 4 minutes later when Payet equalised after good work from Noble. To be fair, the West Ham players looked more shocked than the Spurs players and Reid had to be treated on the sideline. Tottenham were easily the better side but the Hammers were holding their own and they managed to get to half time with the score still at 1-1. In the second half we seen why they call Dave The Fox Piero, the squirrel. He must have went nuts at the Spurs team in the dressing room as they looked far sharper when they came out for the second half. I have in fact just been told that they call Dave The Fox Piero, the fox but we don’t know why. Maybe he goes round the gardens at night looking for food. Back to the game and Spurs’ dominance told on 66min when Icardi restored their lead with a shot that flew into the top corner. With the Spurs fans breathing a huge sigh of relief which, because of the freezing temperatures, almost caused the game to be called off for fog, Tottenham began to play the ball around and they finally sealed the points when Icardi (87) scored his second of the night to make the final score 3-1. Comfortable win for the North London side.
That’s all for the first night of the Churchill Cup and we, well I, will have a report next Wednesday night for Matchday 2