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Shamrock Rovers v Celtic XI

In Soccerball on February 24, 2010 at 11:10

Shamrock Rovers 1 (Stephen Bradley pen 11)

Glasgow Celtic 1 (Paul Caddis 71)

A youthful and talented Celtic reserve side gave Shamrock Rovers a good pre-season workout at a soggy and wintry Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday night.

Rovers started the match brightly in front of a full-house when Dessie Baker rounded the keeper close to the touchline but his chip into the centre of the box caught Graham Barrett offside. Moments later Celtic centre half Declan Gallagher clumsily took down Barrett inside the Celtic area. The pointed to the spot amid protestations from the Celtic players but a calm Stephen Bradley dispatched the penalty with confidence.

Celtic’s right winger, Paul Caddis, who has featured in the Glasgow side’s first team, was very lively down the Rovers left, keeping Pat Flynn on his toes for much of the first half.

Approaching the half-hour mark, some great play down Rovers right-hand side resulted in a deep cross which Barratt came close to connecting with, but goalkeeper Cervi got his hands to the greasy ball and held on well. The play sharply switched to the other end as Caddis sent a low ball across the face of the Rovers’ goal only for Dan Murray to put it behind for a corner under pressure from James Keating.

Celtic were finding their feet at this stage, and after a spell of prolonged pressure and possession around the Rovers box, a clever cross to the back post by Wilson was nodded behind for a corner by a towering Murray. Celtic kept up the pressure on the Rovers rearguard and with a ball not cleared properly Kris Vallers drove a low ball goalward which Mannus saved comfortably down to his right. First-teamer Caddis was threatening to cause all sorts of problems for Rovers and one of his mazy dribbles was thwarted by an illegal challenge from Murray. The resulting free kick was thumped goalward but Mannus did well to punch the ball to safety.

Celtic came out the stronger team after the half-time break. Caddis again was involved in everything Celtic were creating. He drilled a good low shot early into the second half which Mannus parried away to the right. Just after the hour mark Paul McGowan looked to have breached Rovers’ defence but last man Murray hauled down the youngster. In what would have been a red card under League Of Ireland conditions, only a free kick was awarded and Murray got a ticking off from the referee.

With just 19 minutes remaining,Paul Caddis struck to level the game for the visitors. Great sweeping play from the Glasgow side sprayed the ball from left to right. Scotland B international Mark Wilson found himself in an advanced position on the left-hand side of the Rovers’ penalty area and pulled the ball back to Caddis who dispatched the ball from 12 yards past the diving Mannus.

Celtic could have won the game late on when substitute Philip Tnardzik hit a left-foot curler from 20 yards which thumped against the bar.

Afterwards, Michael O’Neill was pleased with the game: “I think it was a useful workout. We’re playing against good young professionals who are in mid-season and I think in the second half that told a bit to be honest. But the purpose on the friendly was the level of game that we would expect and we certainly got that. It was a competitive game. I’m pleased with a lot of aspects of our game in the first half, we played some really decent stuff. In the second half, I’m not so pleased, though in the last 15 or 20 minutes we had better play.

“It is pre-season, and some players are ahead of others and you’ll always find that. Some of the lads look as if they’re ready to play tomorrow and others look as if they still need a bit of work.”

Celtic reserves manager Neil Lennon was also happy with the performance of his youngsters: “I’m pleased with that. They showed real maturity against a very good Shamrock Rovers side. To go a goal down we could have wilted but we didn’t. It was a real test of our character to play here in Dublin in front of a big crowd. The experience it has given us will do us the world of good.”

Liverpool 1-0 Everton match report

In Soccerball on February 6, 2010 at 15:15

Liverpool 1-0 Everton

Ultra-consistent Dirk Kuyt saved the day for 10-man Liverpool by nodding home his 10th goal of the season to send the Anfield faithful delirious in what was an aggressive 213th Merseyside derby.

A beautifully delivered corner from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard flapping in front of Kuyt, who took full advantage by nodding the ball downwards into an empty net despite close attention from Phil Neville.

Up until the goal in the 54th minute, Everton had been holding their own against a Liverpool side unbeaten in their previous six Premier League matches. However, the Toffeemen failed to make their numerical advantage pay dividends much to their manager’s frustrations.

Everton started brightly in the opening 10-minutes and took the game to Liverpool with an array of tough tackles.

Thorn in Liverpool’s side Landon Donovan set out his stall as early as the second minute when getting in behind the Liverpool defence to win a corner from a Marouane Fellaini through ball.

Everton continued to cause the Liverpool defence problems, especially from set-pieces. A corner from the left had Kyrgiakos and Fellaini tussling at the back post, with Greece defender Kyrgiakos eventually ending up on the ground and winning a free kick.

However, Liverpool soon found their feet and a fluid passing move from one end of the pitch to the other resulted in a cross from Carragher on the right being lashed over the bar from Lucas.

Kuyt was booked for a challenge on Donovan around 25 yards from goal. A curled free kick by left-footed Baines had Reina at full stretch to tip it over the bar.

 An explosive high-tempo midfield battle was threatening to boil over approaching the half-hour mark.

Kuyt was kicked in the face by Fellaini after being chopped down by Pienaar and just moments later Pienaar was lucky receive just a yellow card following a very high lunge on Javier Mascherano. Seconds later Carragher was booked for an old-school retaliation on Pienaar deep into Everton territory.

A decisive moment came in the 34th minute when Kyrgiakos slid in with a two-footed block on Fellaini. Replays suggested that both Fellaini and Kyrgiakos could have seen red for that clash, having both gone at each other with two high feet. However, it was Fellaini who came off worst physically and was stretchered off, needing six minutes of treatment on his right ankle before the physio admitted defeat and Mikel Arteta entered the fray. In the meantime, a visibly frustrated Kyrgiakos was sent off by referee Martin Atkinson.

In a first half heaving with strong challenges, a highly motivated Jamie Carragher was leading by example, marshalling the home sides’ defence and keeping the Everton forwards at bay. He started the game at right back, and within seconds of the match kicking off, clobbered Pienaar. The strong, full-blooded challenges continued from the Liverpool vice-captain, who switched to central defence after Kyrgiakos’s dismissal, and continued to dominate and clear anything Everton threw in his direction.

Minutes before half-time, Gerrard controlled a ball 25 yards from goal but went over quite easily from Cahill’s lunging leg. Gerrard took the free-kick himself and his curling effort pinged the crossbar, just out of reach of Howard’s out-stretched fingertips.

However, best chance of the first-half fell to Cahill, who had a free header at the back post from six yards out. A misdirected defensive header from Mascherano found its way to Cahill on the back post and with Reina scrambling across his goal line, Cahill’s diving effort brushed the top of the bar.

Liverpool started the second full of gusto and immediately put the Everton defence under pressure. The Reds won a corner which was dealt with effectively and Everton countered through Donovan, whose pace was too much for Insua. He played in Cahill whose drive was saved well by Reina.

The Kop showed their appreciation for Mascherano, who chased and harried the Everton attackers single-handedly on the left-hand side of the Liverpool penalty box and eventually blocked an attempted cross.

Liverpool regained the upper hand and started to control the pace of the game. They were rewarded with Kuyt’s simple headed goal from which Everton were visibly shaken by the goal and took them some time to recover. Moments later, Gerrard had a free kick easily saved by Howard and also caused some problems from a corner.

Late on, a sliding challenge from Gerrard on Pienaar, who was already going to ground from a Mascherano tackle, caused a mêlée in the middle of the pitch, with substitute Anchibe retaliating most. Both he and Gerrard were booked for their parts in the tussle.

Anchibe could have carved a decent scoring chance for Everton as he took a touch too many deep inside the right-hand side of the Liverpool box, but his attempted cross was charged down by a sliding defender and collected at the second attempt by a grateful Reina.

Pienaar was sent off deep into injury time for a second bookable offence. He challenge Gerrard late in the air and referee Atkinson had no hesitation in brandishing a second yellow to the South African.

Kuyt was substituted with just seconds remaining on the clock to a standing ovation. As the final whistle  blew, the Anfield crowd roared their approval at their sides’ hard fought victory again their city rivals and the winning of three vital points to lift the Reds into the much-coveted fourth place in the league.

Soccer picks for February 6th, 2010

In Betting preview, Soccerball on February 6, 2010 at 10:45

Here’s a few brief tips I’ve come up with by scouring the Saturday morning papers.

Liverpool v Everton — HOME — 5/6

Tottenham v Aston Villa — HOME — 23/20

Nottm Forest v Sheffield Wed — HOME — 8/13

Swindon v Charlton — HOME — 6/4

Wycombe W v Yeovil — HOME — 13/10

Hereford v Torquay — HOME — 13/10

Rochdale v Crewe — HOME — 4/6

East Fife v Dumbarton — AWAY — 7/4

East Stirling v Berwick — AWAY — 11/4 (great value)

For more tips, and in-depth previews on the Liverpool/Everton and Spurs/Villa games, go to www.sportsnewsireland.com . (Also preview of Sunday’s Chelsea/Arsenal game.