FA Cup

Maidenhead United 1 Port Vale 3: Leitch-Smith double sends Page´s men through

Two second-half goals from AJ Leitch-Smith saw Port Vale come from a goal down to beat Maidenhead United 3-1 in Thursday’s FA Cup first-round replay.

Captain Alan Massey gave the National League South side an early lead with a precise finish after quarter of an hour, but Northern Ireland international Michael O’Connor levelled shortly before half-time.

Leitch-Smith put the League One outfit in control before the hour mark, scoring twice just after half-time, and Vale saw out the victory despite a spirited effort from the hosts.

Vale will now go on to meet Paul Tisdale’s Exeter City at St James Park.

Ben Wright’s bold run to the right of the area gave Maidenhead a dream start at York Road. The number 10 cut inside before seeing his shot blocked by Ryan McGivern, and when Jak Alnwick parried the first rebound, Massey fired a fine left-footed shot into the bottom corner through the crowded penalty area.

Vale survived a difficult period to draw level on 39 minutes, O’Connor rising high to head home Sam Foley’s cross into the bottom corner at the far post.

Robert Page’s side took the lead in the tie just four minutes after half-time, with Leitch-Smith reacting quickest to a loose ball in the box before prodding past Carl Pentney from six yards out. 

And the 25-year-old doubled his side’s advantage as he dived to nod home from close range after Foley’s cushioned header back across goal.

Maidenhead responded well and sustained some pressure in the second half, with Harry Pritchard heading one promising late chance over the crossbar, but Vale held on to book a trip to Exeter on December 6.

Thu 19 November, 2015
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Bradford City 2 Aldershot Town 0: Leigh, McMahon keep FA Cup dream alive

Bradford City booked their place in the FA Cup second round with a 2-0 win over Aldershot Town at Valley Parade.

The two sides played out a 0-0 draw the first time out but the replay was decided by goals from Greg Leigh and Tony McMahon, sending the Yorkshire side through and setting up a date with Chesham United.

Bradford, who beat Chelsea en route to the quarter-finals of this competition last year, required an impressive double save from Ben Williams to keep Aldershot off the board in the 10th minute.

Mark Marshall saw his shot turned onto the post by Aldershot goalkeeper Phil Smith in the 20th minute, but it was not until after the hour-mark that the deadlock was broken.

Leigh latched onto Billy Knott’s cross-field pass and raced in behind the defence before clipping an excellent finish over the onrushing Smith.

With 14 minutes remaining, Bradford were awarded a penalty when Omar Beckles fouled Luke James inside the area, McMahon firing the spot-kick into the bottom corner.

Wed 18 November, 2015
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FA Cup Review: Brackley and Braintree bow out

Brackley Town and Braintree Town were unable to extend their respective FA Cup runs, falling to League Two opposition in first-round replays on Tuesday.

National League North side Brackley, of the sixth tier of English football, were beaten 4-1 at Newport County, while Braintree, one division higher, lost 3-1 at Oxford United.

After Lenell John-Lewis and Yan Klukowski had put Newport two up, Brackley pulled one back through Aidan Hawtin. But any hopes of a comeback were extinguished in the second half as Alex Rodman added a third before Hawtin put through his own goal.

At the Kassam Stadium, Braintree gave Oxford a scare by taking the lead through Kenny Davis’ penalty in the 33rd minute, but goals from Liam Sercombe followed by a Pat Hoban brace saw the hosts through to a second-round tie with another non-League side, Forest Green Rovers.

Elsewhere, Oldham Athletic saw off Mansfield Town 2-0 to book a meeting with Sheffield United, and Dagenham and Redbridge will face Whitehawk in the second round after coming from two down to beat Morecambe 4-2 away from home.


Tue 17 November, 2015
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Boreham Wood 1 Northwich Victoria 2: Williams, Astles book Northampton tie

Goals in either half from Jordan Williams and Ryan Astles helped Northwich Victoria upset the odds in a 2-0 win at National League side Boreham Wood in Monday’s FA Cup first-round replay.

Northwich, who play in the eighth tier of English football, are the lowest ranked side in the competition, but forced a replay thanks to a 1-1 home draw.

Williams opened the scoring in the 28th minute of Monday’s contest at Meadow Park when he followed in Brian Summerskill’s saved effort.

The underdogs, who are four levels below their opponents, made it 2-0 when Astles met Summerskill’s free-kick with a thumping header eight minutes after the restart.

Charlie Macdonald grabbed a late consolation for the hosts, but it was not enough to deny Northwich who can now look forward to a round-two tie against League Two Northampton Town 


Mon 16 November, 2015
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FC United of Manchester 1 Chesterfield 4: League One visitors avoid FA Cup upset

Chesterfield successfully avoided an FA Cup upset at Broadhurst Park on Monday, seeing off non-League FC United of Manchester 4-1 to reach the second round.

A second-round clash with Walsall awaits after Dean Saunders’ side coasted past their sixth-tier opponents – both Gboly Ariyibi and Lee Novak scored 12 minutes into a first half that saw some home fans protest at the game being televised.

Sections of the FC United support, whose club was formed as a way of protesting at the commercialisation of Premier League giants Manchester United, skipped the opening 45 minutes but saw Chesterfield’s dominance continue in the second period.

Substitutes Ollie Banks and Rai Simons were on target prior to Luke Ashworth’s late consolation for the home side.

Chesterfield led after just seven minutes. Sylvain Ebanks-Blake outmuscled Chris Lynch down the left and saw his effort saved by David Carnell, deflecting into the path of Ariyibi, who finished emphatically.

The tie looked as good as over just five minutes later as Novak neatly converted Dan Jones’ left-wing cross with the outside of his right boot.

Richard Wood was forced into a dangerous clearance with Tom Greaves waiting as FC United began the second half strongly, albeit while failing to find a way back into the tie.

Former FC United midfielder Banks and Bermudan forward Simons were introduced off the bench and the pair made the most of their run-outs with a goal apiece within 20 second-half minutes.

Ashworth gained the part-timers a consolation goal from a corner in stoppage time but the 1997 semi-finalists negotiated a potentially tricky test with relative ease.

Mon 9 November, 2015
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FA Cup second-round draw: Salford host Hartlepool, Walsall face tough away trip

Giant-killers Salford City will host Hartlepool United in the second round of this season’s FA Cup.

The Northern Premier League side, who are part-owned by former Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville, stunned Notts County in the first round and will now host another League One outfit in the form of Ronnie Moore’s men.

Chesham United, who upset Bristol Rovers to reach this stage, will visit either Aldershot Town or Bradford City, while Northwich Victoria – the lowest-ranked club left in the draw – will travel to face Northampton Town should they defeat Boreham Wood.

League One leaders Walsall, meanwhile, will face a trip to either FC United of Manchester or Chesterfield, while 2008 winners Portsmouth host Accrington Stanley.

Second-round draw in full (ties to be played from December 4-7):

Aldershot Town/Bradford City v Chesham United
Barnet v Brackley Town/Newport County
Peterborough United v Luton Town
Portsmouth v Accrington Stanley
Stourbridge v Eastleigh
Northampton Town v Northwich Victoria/Boreham Wood
Exeter City v Port Vale/Maidenhead United
Cambridge United v Doncaster Rovers
Grimsby Town v Shrewsbury Town
Yeovil Town v Stevenage
Rochdale v Bury
Welling United v Carlisle United
Leyton Orient v Scunthorpe United
Millwall v Wycombe Wanderers
Colchester United v Altrincham
FC United of Manchester/Chesterfield v Walsall
Sheffield United v Mansfield Town/Oldham Athletic
Salford City v Hartlepool United
Dagenham & Redbridge/Morecambe v Whitehawk
Braintree Town/Oxford United v Forest Green Rovers

Mon 9 November, 2015
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FA Cup Review: Chesham leave Rovers reeling, Vale face tricky replay

Southern League Premier Division side Chesham United produced the biggest FA Cup first-round upset of the day as they won away at League Two team Bristol Rovers on Sunday.

Ryan Blake scored the only goal of the game at the Memorial Stadium after 77 minutes, with the assist being provided by former Rovers striker Barry Hayles.

The seventh tier side survived a late onslaught from the hosts to book a place in the second round for the first time since 1980.

Whitehawk of the National League South also sprang a surprise as they trounced National League side Lincoln City 5-3.

Sam Deering scored twice, with Danny Mills, Dave Martin and Jake Robinson also finding the net for the Sussex side, while the visitors saw Alan Power sent off late on. 

Elsewhere, Port Vale face the prospect of a tricky midweek replay after being held to a 1-1 draw at Vale Park by Maidenhead United of the National League South.

Byron Moore’s first-half effort had looked set to send the hosts through, but James Mulley found the net for the visitors deep into stoppage-time to set up another meeting between the two sides in Berkshire.

Brackley Town also earned a second bite of the cherry courtesy of a late equaliser in their 2-2 draw with League Two strugglers Newport County.

Aldershot Town and Braintree Town will join Brackley in the draw for the second round after battling to home draws with Bradford City and Oxford United respectively. Shrewsbury are through having edged past Gainsborough Trinity courtesy of a 71st-minute goal from James Collins.

Nine-man Yeovil Town, meanwhile, survived a massive scare at Maidstone United after losing both Jakub Sokolik and goalkeeper Artur Krysiak to red cards, but still advanced thanks to Wes Fogden’s second-half goal.

Sun 8 November, 2015
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FA Cup Review: Altrincham heap misery on Barnsley, Blackpool dumped out by Barnet

It was a miserable day for League One’s struggling sides in the FA Cup as the bottom five were all dumped out in the first round.

Barnsley, Blackpool, Fleetwood Town, Crewe Alexandra and Swindon Town were beaten, the latter going down 3-1 at Rochdale in Martin Ling’s first game at the helm.

Elsewhere on Saturday there were contrasting fortunes for three former winners of the competition, with Coventry City losing 2-1 to Northampton Town and Wigan Athletic thrashed 4-0 at Bury, but Portsmouth overcame Macclesfield Town 2-1.

Lee Johnson – who has suffered seven consecutive league defeats in charge of Barnsley – felt the pressure rise further on his shoulders in a 1-0 reverse at Altrincham, whose fellow National League sides Barnet and Eastleigh accounted for Blackpool and Crewe respectively.

Fleetwood’s defeat at least came at the hands of another third-tier side, with League One leaders Walsall triumphing 2-0 at the Bescot Stadium.

Ling was not the only manager to endure a losing start in the dugout, with Jackie McNamara’s York City beaten 3-2 at Accrington Stanley. 

Carlisle United returned from the lengthy journey to Plymouth Argyle with a place in round two as a brace of first-half goals got the job done for Keith Curle’s side.

Northern Premier League outfit Barwell were edged out 2-0 by Welling United, but a few non-League sides were on the receiving end of a drubbing as Wealdstone lost 6-2 to Colchester United, St Albans were beaten 5-1 at Grimsby Town, and Staines Town went down 6-1 at Leyton Orient.

National League leaders Forest Green helped to fly the flag for non-League football, though, as they beat League Two AFC Wimbledon 2-1 courtesy of Elliott Frear’s last-gasp strike, while Barwell’s league rivals Stourbridge remain in the hat following a 2-1 win at Dover Athletic.




Sat 7 November, 2015
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Salford´s cup win delights Butt, Neville

Salford City part-owners Nicky Butt and Gary Neville hailed their team’s performance after defeating League Two outfit Notts County 2-0 in the FA Cup first round on Friday.

Non-league Salford, who play in the seventh tier of English football, claimed a famous victory at Moor Lane as Danny Webber and Richie Allen scored second-half goals.

Ex-Manchester United duo Butt and Neville, who claimed a 10 per cent stake in the club in 2014 alongside former team-mates Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes, were thrilled to watch the action unfold.

“It’s amazing,” 40-year-old Butt said. “It’s fantastic for the lads.

“I thought we were the better team and it’s an amazing reward for the players and the fans.”

Neville, who splits his time between punditry and the England assistant-manager role, believes Salford deserved to advance.

“To be honest it was just a bonus being here tonight. But we were the better team, it’s an unbelievable effort,” he said.

“That goal-line clearance was a big moment. Notts County didn’t play well but that wouldn’t be easy for any club tonight. We were superb.”

Salford are also backed by Singaporean billionaire businessman Peter Lim, who has a 50 percent investment in the club, alongside his ownership of La Liga side Valencia.  

Sat 7 November, 2015
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Salford City to host Notts County in FA Cup first round

Non-league minnows Salford City have been rewarded for their FA Cup heroics on Saturday with a first-round tie against League Two side Notts County.

Salford – who are owned by former Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville – booked their place in the hat for the first round thanks to an audacious strike from James Poole against Southport, his long-range effort securing a 1-0 win.

That victory will see Notts County travel north desperate not to avoid a relative giant killing in the early stages of the competition.

Another league side hoping to avoid a potential banana skin are Chesterfield, Dean Saunders’ men having been drawn away against FC United of Manchester.

The draw – which will see ties played between November 6 and 9 – also handed Maidenhead United a trip to Port Vale, while National League side Altrincham will host Barnsley at Moss Rose and Worcester City will visit Sheffield United.

Meanwhile, 2012-13 winners Wigan Athletic will travel to Bury and 1987 victors Coventry City are at home to Northampton Town.


FA Cup first round draw in full:

Burton Albion v Peterborough United

Port Vale v Maidenhead United

Barnet v Blackpool

Bristol Rovers v Chesham United

Cambridge United v Basingstoke Town

Mansfield Town v Oldham Athletic

Altrincham v Barnsley

Crewe Alexandra v Eastleigh

Northwich Victoria or Chorley v Boreham Wood

Coventry City v Northampton Town

Brackley Town v Newport County

Grimsby Town v St. Albans City

Hartlepool United v Havant and Waterlooville or Cheltenham Town

Salford City v Notts County

Dover Athletic v Stourbridge

Stevenage v Gillingham

Millwall v AFC Fylde

Aldershot Town v Bradford City

Walsall v Fleetwood Town

Bury v Wigan Athletic

Portsmouth v Macclesfield Town

Sheff United v Worcester City

Barwell or AFC Rushden & Diamonds v Grays Athletic or Welling United

FC Halifax Town or Guiseley v Wycombe Wanderers

Crawley Town v Luton Town

Doncaster Rovers v Stalybridge Celtic or North Ferriby United

Didcot Town v Exeter City

Dagenham and Redbridge v Morecambe

Leyton Orient and Staines Town

Gainsborough Trinity v Shrewsbury Town

Maidstone United v Yeovil Town

Braintree Town v Oxford United

Whitehawk v Tranmere Rovers or Lincoln City

Accrington Stanley v York City

Scunthorpe United v Southend United

AFC Wimbledon v Forest Green Rovers

Plymouth Argyle v Carlisle United

FC United of Manchester v Chesterfield

Rochdale v Swindon Town

Wealdstone v Colchester United

Mon 26 October, 2015
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Prediction: Arsenal v Aston Villa

Arsenal have a chance to turn a decent season into a very good one by defending the FA Cup trophy, and no wonder they have been made favourites to win at Wembley. However, with Aston Villa making tremendous progress under Tim Sherwood, the Villans have plenty of reason for optimism ahead of Saturday’s clash.

Arsenal fans are growing increasingly frustrated by the club’s failure to challenge for the Premier League trophy, but last year’s FA Cup title was seen as a step in the right direction and the second successive triumph in the highly regarded competition could provide another major boost ahead of the next season. Seeing as the Gunners have been absolutely impressive since the Boxing Day triumph over QPR, they can only regret the slow start to the season, but another top 4 finish and automatic place in the Champions League group stages can be seen as a decent result. Arsenal did fail to win three successive Premier League fixtures ahead of the 4-1 victory over West Brom in the final day of the league season, but they, nonetheless, head into the FA Cup final in good spirits. The Gunners can be trusted to create a fair share of goalscoring opportunities against Aston Villa, but their back line could struggle to keep the likes of Benteke, Grealish and Agbonlahor at bay. Danny Welbeck has been ruled out of the game through a knee injury, but Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta has a chance of being involved. Wojciech Szczesny should continue his FA Cup run, while Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott are vying for the remaining place behind Olivier Giroud.

Even if not everyone thought that sacking Paul Lambert was the right way to go, chances are nobody is complaining any more after his successor Tim Sherwood helped Aston Villa turn the season around. The former Spurs manager not only led the Villans to Premier League safety, securing survival with two games to spare, but the club also made it to the FA Cup final under his guidance. The reality is that nobody will blame the players if they fail to add to club’s seven FA Cup titles, last of which was secured in 1957, but they do have a unique chance to get into those history books. Having the coveted trophy presented to them by Aston Villa fan Prince William could be another incentive for Tim Sherwood’s charges to give their best at Wembley, and they do have enough attacking potential to hurt the Gunners. With Christian Benteke scoring 12 goals in last 12 outings and the likes of Grealish and Agbonlahor providing support from the wings, I can definitely see Aston Villa scoring at least once on Saturday. The Villans should have veteran keeper Shay Given back from a groin problem, while Aly Cissokho, Kieran Richardson and Jores Okore are back in contention as well.


With both sides amongst the goals at the moment, chances are we will witness a thoroughly entertaining FA Cup final, with some end to end stuff. Predicting a winner does not seem too easy at the moment, but backing both teams to score could be a good decision.

Verdict: Both teams to score

Best odds: 19/20

Bookmaker: William Hill

Fri 29 May, 2015
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Wenger confident Walcott will sign new Arsenal deal

Arsenal F.C. manager Arsene Wenger is confident the club can agree a deal to keep Theo Walcott in North London.

Arsenal F.C. manager Arsene Wenger is confident the club can agree a deal to keep Theo Walcott in North London.

The England international, who is out of contract at the end of next season, scored a first half hat-trick in just 37 minutes against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday and Wenger is hopeful the player will sign a new contract at the Emirates Stadium in the summer.

“Without a hat-trick, with a hat-trick, we want him to stay,” Wenger said. “We are in negotiations. We are starting to speak with his agent, and that is before he had made his hat-trick.

“Theo is a good scorer, but he has been out for a year. A year in a football is a long, long time, and it takes time to be back at your best, [to regain] your sharpness and confidence.

“I have always said that he can play in the middle because he has good movement and good finishing. He did that well today.

“I hope he stays free of injuries now. He has had a few doubts on the injury front, and that is never good. You have to be consistently present to express your full potential.”

Walcott, 26, scored five goals in 14 English Premier League appearances for the Gunners, who are priced at 1/2 to win the FA Cup final against Aston Villa on Wednesday night, in 2014/15.

Carver calls for summer spending spree

Newcastle United boss John Carver has asked owner Mike Ashley to invest when the transfer window re-opens in the summer.

The Magpies’ 2-0 win over West Ham United on Sunday ended their 10-match win-less streak and helped the club secure their top flight status for another season.

However, Carver has now called on Ashley to bring in new players in the coming months to lift the club up the league table.

“The fact he’s saying he wants to win something is fantastic,” Carver said.

“We’ve seen how good our fans are, we’ve seen what performances we can put in when we get all together, and we all have to be together.

“If Mike’s come forward, fair play to him and credit to him because he wants this club to be united.

“We all want to win things and it’s a big summer for the football club. We have to invest – we know that, Mike knows that, [managing director] Lee Charnley knows that – and hopefully we will.”

Newcastle (10-9-19) finished the 2014/15 campaign in 15th-place in the league table with 39 points, a mere four points clear of the relegation zone.

Sun 24 May, 2015
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Federici opens up on FA Cup blunder

Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici finally opened up on his FA Cup semi-final blunder on Thursday, describing it as “shattering”, while thanking the club’s fans for their “amazing” response.

Federici let a shot from Alexis Sanchez slip through his hands and between his legs in the first half of extra-time at Wembley Stadium last week, as Arsenal triumphed 2-1 to reach the FA Cup final.

The Australian gloveman was inconsolable after the match, as the enormity of his error sank in: Reading have never reached the biggest stage in English football with last Saturday’s semi-final just the second time in the club’s 144-year history that they were involved in the FA Cup’s last four.

Speaking to the Reading Post, Federici was asked if it was the worst moment of his career: “Yes, 100 per cent. No doubt.

“It’s been a crazy couple of days afterwards as well. I hate being the centre of attention anyway, I really don’t like it.

“I’ve never dealt with that well. I’m a guy from the middle of nowhere in Australia, so it does get to me.

“I look back over the season and I’ve barely put a foot wrong. So to do that in a big moment was shattering for me, as everyone could see.

“I couldn’t understand it and I still can’t. But I’ll try to move on and hopefully I’ll stop seeing it everywhere in the next week or so.”

Apart from his decisive mistake, Federici impressed for Reading at Wembley, making seven saves as his side came from behind to force extra-time.

The 30-year-old from Nowra on the New South Wales coast in Australia has been at Reading since 2005 racking up 207 league appearances.

The response from Reading fans, who decked out the Madejski Stadium with Australian flags during their Championship clash with Birmingham City on Wednesday, seemingly underlined for Federici why he has been loyal to the club.

“Speaking to my family as well and hearing the messages of support from people around the world has been amazing,” said Federici, who also paid tribute to his team-mates.

“As I’ve said the Reading fans are amazing and I honestly couldn’t believe what they did on Wednesday night.”

Fri 24 April, 2015
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Villa and Reading charged over alleged FA Cup crowd trouble

Aston Villa and Reading have been charged by the Football Association (FA) over alleged crowd disturbances at their respective FA Cup quarter-final matches.

Villa, who booked their place in the final with a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday, are accused of failing to ensure spectators did not enter the field of play during their 2-0 win over West Brom at Villa Park.

Reading, meanwhile, face the same charge in relation to their 3-0 replay victory over Bradford City.

Steve Clarke’s men were beaten 2-1 after extra time by Arsenal on Saturday, with Adam Federici conceding the softest of Alexis Sanchez goals in the first additional period.

Both clubs have until Thursday to respond to the charges.

Tue 21 April, 2015
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Sherwood: Pressure all on Arsenal

Tim Sherwood said the pressure will all be on Arsenal when Aston Villa attempt to end their 58-year wait to win the FA Cup next month.

In-form striker Christian Benteke and England midfielder Fabian Delph were on target at Wembley on Sunday as Villa came from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1 in the second semi-final.

Sherwood will now turn his attention back to ensuring Villa avoid relegation from the Premier League, with a trip to champions Manchester City to come on Saturday.

The Villa manager will then look to pull off another surprise win at the home of English football on May 30 to deny Arsenal back-to-back FA Cup triumphs.

The former Tottenham head coach said: “We will be the underdog. The pressure will be on Arsenal.

“They are the holders. They want to win it again.

“We have a lot of hard work now. We put this on the back-burner.

“We need to secure our safety and then come back here and take the game to Arsenal.

“Every time we play we do that.”

Mon 20 April, 2015
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Sherwood marvels at Grealish potential

Tim Sherwood believes Aston Villa youngster Jack Grealish could become one of the Premier League’s best players after a fine display in Sunday’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat of Liverpool.

The 19-year-old was a constant threat to the Liverpool defence at Wembley, as goals from Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph secured a first FA Cup final appearance in 15 years.

Grealish played a key role in Villa’s equaliser and then set up Delph for the winner in the 54th minute, finding the England international with a clever reverse pass.

The tricky attacking midfielder has only started twice in the league this term, but Sherwood is convinced that the Birmingham-born teenager is set for a glittering career at the very top.

“He could be right up there amongst the best of them,” Sherwood told BT Sport. “The ball is a friend of his.

“He’s Aston Villa through and through. He lives a couple of miles away from the ground. 

“He just wants to play for Aston Villa and I want to give him the platform to do that because he has earned the right.”

Sunday’s Wembley clash was only Sherwood’s 10th match in charge of Villa since taking over from Paul Lambert, but he has inspired a swift change in fortunes at the club and is adamant that Liverpool were “outplayed” on the day.

“It’s going all right at the moment,” he added. “I’m delighted with that win. We were underdogs but we believed we could win it.

“We outplayed Liverpool to be honest. We created a lot of chances and they resorted to lumping the ball forward.

“The final will be a great occasion. You can’t win this cup with an easy route. If you win it you have to beat the best and Arsenal are right up there.”

Sun 19 April, 2015
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Aston Villa 2 Liverpool 1: Delph ends Gerrard´s hopes of dream farewell

Steven Gerrard’s hopes of a dream Liverpool farewell have been ended after Fabian Delph secured a 2-1 win for Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday to earn a place in the FA Cup final.

All the talk had been of whether Gerrard could finish his Liverpool career by lifting the FA Cup next month on his birthday in his final game before joining LA Galaxy, but there will no fairytale end for the long-serving captain.

Philippe Coutinho put the Merseyside club in front after half an hour to put them on course for a clash against Arsenal on May 30, but Villa fought back to reach their first FA Cup final for 15 years.

Christian Benteke equalised shortly after Coutinho’s strike, continuing his incredible run of form with a ninth goal in seven matches.

Tim Sherwood’s men continued to impress after the break and took the lead through a Delph goal with 54 minutes on the clock, forcing Liverpool to play more expansively.

Mario Balotelli had a late goal wrongly ruled out for offside and Villa held on to keep their dreams of winning the FA Cup for the first time since 1957 well and truly alive.

Gerrard and Martin Skrtel both slotted back into the Liverpool team following their respective bans, but the talismanic captain had little effect during the early exchanges as Villa began brightly.

Villa youngster Jack Grealish looked particularly threatening, but it was Charles N’Zogbia who had the first attempt at goal with a 25-yard drive which was tipped over the crossbar by Simon Mignolet in the 12th minute.

Despite their superiority, Villa struggled to craft goal-scoring opportunities and Liverpool capitalised on hesitant defending to take a 30th-minute lead.

Jores Okore – on for Nathan Baker after he took a blow to the head – and Delph both failed to clear and, Coutinho burst into the penalty area and coolly slotted past Shay Given after racing on to Raheem Sterling’s through ball.

Their joy was short-lived, however, as Villa deservedly levelled only six minutes later.

A fine move down the left resulted in Grealish releasing Delph in the area and his cut-back was dispatched beyond Mignolet by the lurking Benteke, his fifth goal in seven games against the Merseyside club.

Rodgers introduced Balotelli for the anonymous Lazar Markovic at half-time, but that switch changed little with regards to Villa’s control and Sherwood’s side soon had a well-earned lead.

The impressive Grealish produced a clever reverse pass into the area for Delph and the England international jinked past Dejan Lovren, before sliding past Mignolet.

Falling behind forced Liverpool’s hand and they began to open up, finding themselves exposed on the break on a couple of occasions.

However, Villa were unable to punish them again and Liverpool piled the pressure on towards the end, Gerrard – who was far from his best – having a header cleared off the line by Kieran Richardson with four minutes to go.

There was further frustration for Liverpool as Balotelli incorrectly had an 88th-minute strike disallowed for offside and that proved to be a costly decision, as Villa held on to book another trip to Wembley.

Sun 19 April, 2015
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Liverpool 1/3 to see past Aston Villa in this afternoon’s FA Cup semi-final

soccernews fooball-betting-tips pic

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool to win against Aston Villa
Odds: 1/3 @ William Hill

Aston Villa and Liverpool square off at Wembley this afternoon in the FA Cup semi-finals. The Midlands outfit made it there by seeing past Blackpool, Bournemouth, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion, and are hoping they can be the bogey team for Liverpool when the two sides locks horns later on. The Reds had an easier run-in to the semi-finals, beating AFC Wimbledon, Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers.

Liverpool won 2-0 the last time the two Premier League sides met, but the Villans do have a good recent record against the Merseysiders that could see them pull of a shock. Tim Sherwood’s men have won one, drawn one of their last three league meetings, and striker Christian Benteke has a good scoring record in games against the Reds too.

Nevertheless, Liverpool are the slim favourites to emerge victorious by any means, with Brendan Rodgers’ side boasting a lot of creative and attacking individuals. William Hill, as a result, are giving odds of 1/3 for the Reds to reach the final of the competition be it extra time or penalties against Villa this afternoon.

Bet: Liverpool to see past Aston Villa in this afternoon’s FA Cup semi-final @ 1/3 with William Hill >>

Sun 19 April, 2015
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Reading motivation ´on a different planet´ – Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Reading’s motivation was “on a different planet” as they fell just short of an FA Cup semi-final upset on Saturday.

After Alexis Sanchez had given the holders a first-half lead, Garath McCleary grabbed Reading a deserved leveller nine minutes into the second period to force extra time.

The match ended in heartbreak for the Championship side though as goalkeeper Adam Federici, who was otherwise excellent, allowed a routine Sanchez effort to squirm between his legs, sending Arsenal into the final with a 2-1 win.

“It was tough,” Wenger told BBC Sport. “They defended well. We didn’t find our stride and they were very strong in the challenges.

“We struggled to win the 50-50s and they were really on a different planet in motivation to what we have seen on tapes.

“It’s the semi-final of a cup and you never go easy into a final.

“We couldn’t find the second goal and, for a team like that, it’s the occasion of their lives and they will not give up until the end. That’s what they did.

“We controlled the first half quite comfortably but in the second half they came more into the game.

“I think we started flat but they decided to go a bit more on the aggressive side and we started to lose balls that we didn’t in the first half.”

And Wenger is hopeful his side can defend their crown against the winner of Sunday’s second semi-final between Liverpool and Aston Villa.

“When you’re in the final you can win it,” he added. “Let’s prepare well and finish well in the Premier League.

“We come back here and we’ll do absolutely everything to win it.”

Sat 18 April, 2015
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Reading 1 Arsenal 2 (aet): Federici left red-faced as holders avoid upset

Goalkeeper Adam Federici conceded the softest of extra-time goals as Arsenal avoided a semi-final upset in a 2-1 victory over Reading at Wembley.

Arsene Wenger’s men, who required penalties to see off Wigan Athletic at this stage last year, struggled to find the momentum that has seen them embark on an eight-match winning run.

Nevertheless, Alexis Sanchez put the holders in front six minutes before the break with a cool finish having been fed by Mesut Ozil.

But the Arsenal section of the ground was stunned into silence after 54 minutes when Wojciech Szczesny failed to keep out a Garath McCleary volley.

Arsenal hit the woodwork twice as they looked to avoid extra time – once via a superb save from Federici – but the Australia international will have wanted the ground to swallow him whole when he allowed another Sanchez effort to squirm underneath him at the end of the first period of additional time, dashing Reading hopes of a first final.

The result sees Arsenal become the outright record holders for most appearances in the FA Cup final, their 19th moving them one clear of Manchester United.

Arsenal welcomed back defender Mathieu Debuchy for his first appearance since January following shoulder surgery and, after a bright start from Reading, the holders began probing their opponents’ back line.

Federici got down well at the feet of Danny Welbeck to thwart an early attack, before tipping around his left-hand post when Per Mertesacker threatened to open the scoring with a header from a corner.

But Reading weathered that storm and Jordan Obita unleashed a powerful strike from 25 yards at the other end, albeit straight at Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny, while Nathaniel Chalobah saw a volleyed effort deflected wide.

Having seen an earlier chance fizzle out courtesy of a heavy touch, Sanchez made no mistake with his next opportunity, showing great composure in the box to bring down an Ozil pass, see off his marker and send the ball between Federici’s legs.

Reading refused to go down without a fight, though, and pulled level nine minutes into the second period.

Pavel Pogrebnyak crossed from the byline for McCleary to volley home via a deflection off Kieran Gibbs, although birthday boy Szczesny should have done better.

Reading then had appeals for handball against Debuchy in the Arsenal box waved away by referee Martin Atkinson, before Danny Williams skewed wide from a promising position.

Gabriel Paulista came off the bench for Mertesacker shortly after the hour mark and one of his first contributions was to draw a fantastic save from Federici, who pushed the Arsenal defender’s header onto his crossbar.

Chalobah tried his luck from 20 yards out with seven minutes left of normal time, forcing Szczesny into an unconvincing save, before Aaron Ramsey – Arsenal’s goal hero when they won last season’s competition – hit the post after forcing his way into the Reading box under pressure from Obita.

Reading then squandered a two-on-one situation as the match headed for extra time, and Ramsey gave the Championship side a scare when his effort bounced over off Federici.

The match looked set to be heading for the second period of additional time with the sides all square until Sanchez burst into the Reading penalty area from the left and fired a shot straight at Federici.

The Reading stopper was unable to hold the low strike and somehow allowed the ball to sneak through his legs and over the line, sending Arsenal into a final clash with the winner of Sunday’s semi-final between Liverpool and Aston Villa. 

Sat 18 April, 2015
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Arsenal 1/4 to win tonight’s FA Cup semi-final clash in 90 minutes against Reading

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Arsenal to win against Reading
Odds: 1/4 @ Ladbrokes

In-form Premier League title-chasers Arsenal face mid-table Championship side Reading at Wembley this evening in the FA Cup semi-final. The Gunners are looking to defend their trophy after last season’s triumph, while Reading are hoping for another giant kill to reach the final against all odds.

Arsenal come into this evening’s clash off the back of eight consecutive league wins, while their opponents have struggled in the league since they’ve gone deep in the domestic cup. Arsene Wenger’s men are well aware of being over-complacent, as they were made to endure a penalty shootout this time last season against the lesser-fancied Wigan Athletic, so they won’t make the same mistake again.

The Londoners know they are favourites, but also know this is Reading’s biggest game for some time, so the Royals won’t make life easy for them, especially with an FA Cup final at Wembley at stake. However, Arsenal are in fantastic form, and will boast a very aggressive attacking lineup to face Reading, which has led Ladbrokes to give odds of 1/4 for the Gunners to win against the Royals in 90 minutes.

Bet: Arsenal to win tonight’s FA Cup semi-final clash in 90 minutes against Reading @ 1/4 with Ladbrokes >>

Sat 18 April, 2015
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Crisis too strong a word to be used about Liverpool

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers managerial methods have been questioned this season

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers managerial methods have been questioned this season

Liverpool set up a Wembley FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa last night with a 1-0 victory at Championship side Blackburn in a quarter-final replay.

A Philippe Coutinho effort 20 minutes from time was enough to give the Reds a hard-won victory.


On Sunday the Liverpool coaching staff and players held a meeting to discuss their recent displays and other issues.

Claims that it was a crisis meeting was slightly over the top, as it was not like the Reds were in a relegation battle, or outside the top six.

They may have lost consecutive games, but they were against two of the Premier League’s current form teams in Manchester United and Arsenal. The defeats were almost fatal for their top-four challenge, but still crisis is slightly too strong a word to describe the situation at Anfield.


Liverpool overachieved last season with strike-partnership Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez tearing the Premier League up at times. Youngster Raheem Sterling also experienced his breakthrough season and suddenly became one of the hottest young properties in European football.

Suarez leaving, Sturridge out for most of the season and Sterling suffering from fatigue have contributed to the Reds current fifth place position in the Premier League table.

The Liverpool squad of last season was nowhere near the second best in the Premier League, but momentum and the goals of the aforementioned Suarez and Sturridge put the Merseysider’s in contention for the title and eventually a second place finish in the league.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was acclaimed as one of the brightest young British bosses in the game. However, football is a fickle old game and earlier this season some Reds fans were questioning the Northern Irishman’s ability to take Liverpool forward.

Aside from poor moves in the transfer market, Rodgers has shown enough in his time at Liverpool to be given a chance to build at Anfield. He is still young in terms of top-flight bosses and does still have things to learn, like when to talk to the media and when to keep his mouth shut.

His football philosophy is an admirable one and he knows exactly how he wants his team to play. That way of playing so very nearly landed Liverpool the Premier League title, despite the fact on paper they had nowhere near the best team or squad of players.

Rodgers is trying to build a team and a philosophy at Anfield. He is not there to provide a quick fix, or to plaster over the cracks. Whether that philosophy will work or not remains to be seen.


Liverpool does not have a squad of world-class players, or oil millions to spend on strengthening the squad. There is still a massive gap in terms of talent compared with league leaders Chelsea and some would argue Manchester City and Arsenal as well.

As an outsider looking in, Liverpool are probably in about the right position for the players at the club. Had Sterling been on fire, or Sturridge had stayed fit all season then maybe the Reds may have been closer to the top teams this season.

To put it simply though, the Reds simply do not have the same level of player compared to the teams above them in the Premier League table.

Chelsea are the prime example, Liverpool do not have a player in the same class as Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas or even Diego Costa, despite spending a fortune last summer. Chelsea purchased Costa and Fabregas for less than what Liverpool spent on the likes of Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli.


Liverpool are trailing fourth-place Manchester City in the Premier League table by seven points and are currently odds of 6/1 to finish in the Champions League spots.

It looks unlikely that the Reds will claim a Champions League spot this season, a position they were expected to challenge for at the beginning of the season. The problem that the Reds have is that six other teams were also expected to challenge for the Champions League places and obviously only four can make it.

Crisis may be too strong a word to describe Liverpool’s current situation, but Brendan Rodgers will know that his team must start producing more convincing displays until the end of the campaign otherwise those questioning his methods may be slightly higher in number.

Is crisis too strong a word to be used about Liverpool?

Thu 9 April, 2015
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Blackburn Rovers 0 Liverpool 1: Coutinho sends Reds through to FA Cup semis

Philippe Coutinho scored the only goal as Liverpool booked an FA Cup semi-final date with Aston Villa thanks to a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers in their quarter-final replay at Ewood Park.

The Brazilian shot low across goal with 20 minutes left as Liverpool finally broke down Gary Bowyer’s resolute home side, who had earned a replay with a gritty 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Blackburn battled bravely, and they caused brief late panic when goalkeeper Simon Eastwood was sent forward for a corner in injury time.

But they could not deny the Premier League side, as Brendan Rodgers’ search for a first trophy as Liverpool manager remained on course.

Visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet played his part as he kept out a shot from Tom Cairney and then turned a Ben Marshall header onto the post early in the second half.

Eastwood, though, was by far the busier – and had kept his side in the game in the first half with saves from Glen Johnson and Coutinho.

Joe Allen wasted Liverpool’s first opening after four minutes when, having got to the ball first on the edge of the Blackburn area, his shot was well wide.

Raheem Sterling also tried his luck as Liverpool pressed early on, but his effort flew over.

Blackburn’s first real attack came after 13 minutes when Mamadou Sakho left the ball for Liverpool goalkeeper Mignolet but was forced to race back to block Craig Conway’s shot.

Daniel Sturridge – recalled to the starting line-up in place of Lazar Markovic – shot narrowly over as Liverpool continued to dominate, before the England striker failed to control Jordan Henderson’s long ball.

Jordan Rhodes then got in front of Dejan Lovren at the other end after 25 minutes, but he headed over with a rare Blackburn chance.

An injured Sakho could only watch that attack, and the limping defender was soon substituted by Kolo Toure, in the absence of suspended Martin Skrtel.

Johnson forced a good save out of Eastwood on the half-hour mark after the defender’s initial cross had come back to him, before Eastwood again got down well to turn Coutinho’s low shot through a crowd of players and around the post.

But Blackburn began the second half with more purpose and Mignolet was forced to turn Cairney’s shot out for a corner before, from the resulting flag kick, the Belgian pushed Marshall’s header onto the post.

Corry Evans then tested Mignolet with a shot 10 minutes into the second half, as Blackburn continued to force the pace.

Just after the hour, Bowyer brought on Rudy Gestede – who was restricted to a role on the bench because of a hamstring injury – and in his first moment of action, the striker played through Rhodes, whose shot was blocked by Toure.

Finally, with 20 minutes to go, Coutinho broke the deadlock with a moment of magic. The Brazilian took a return pass from Henderson in his stride and fired low into the opposite corner from the edge of the six yard area.

There was almost late drama when, in injury time, Blackburn threw goalkeeper Eastwood forward for a corner and he caused panic as Liverpool somehow survived to book their semi-final against Villa at Wembley.

Wed 8 April, 2015
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Liverpool 1/3 to reach the FA Cup semi-final against Blackburn Rovers tonight

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool to qualify
Odds: 1/3 @ Coral

Liverpool travel to Ewood Park to face Championship side Blackburn Rovers tonight in the FA Cup quarter-final replay. The Reds were held to a draw at Anfield, and come into this evening’s clash off the back of consecutive Premier League defeats.

Manager Brendan Rodgers admitted his season would be a failure if the Merseysiders were now eliminated from the cup, and is desperate to come away with some success after their Premier League disappointment.

Blackburn won’t be easy, however. Gary Bowyer’s side have won four of their last six games, but have only won just once at home in their previous five, so Liverpool will be confidence of getting a result. A place in the semi-finals against Aston Villa at Wembley awaits the two sides, which will be deemed as a winnable clash, so it’s all to play for tonight.

Liverpool’s away for, had been good prior to their recent defeats, and Rodgers’ men have still won five of their last seven games on the road in the league. As a result, Coral are giving odds of 1/3 for Liverpool to beat Blackburn by any means, be it extra time or penalties.

Bet: Liverpool to reach the FA Cup semi-final against Blackburn Rovers tonight @ 1/3 with Coral >>

Wed 8 April, 2015
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Bowyer relishing Blackburn rebuilding job

Gary Bowyer believes he has laid the foundations for success at Blackburn Rovers following a turbulent time at Ewood Park.

Bowyer was installed as permanent boss almost two years ago after keeping the Lancashire club in the Championship in a season which saw Steve Kean, Henning Berg and Michael Appleton all vacate the hot seat.

Owners the Venky’s were public enemy number one at Blackburn, but the air of hostility has cleared and the club will face Aston Villa in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley if they beat Liverpool at home on Wednesday.

Bowyer has relished the opportunity to prove his managerial credentials and thinks the club are ready to kick on following a miserable few years.

He told Perform: “History was probably not on my side [after getting the job], but I think the owners have been very supportive of me. I was fortunate to be offered the position, I sat down and put plans in place to rebuild the club, because that’s what needed to be done.

“I think the owners realised that mistakes have been made and they are the first to admit that, but we sat down and put a plan in place and recruited young, hungry players who have proved to be a valuable asset to the club.

“You look at the investment they have made, the value of those players has gone through the ceiling. We have laid the foundations and can build even further now, this cup run has helped us along the way and raised their profiles even further.”

He added: “I think the supporters realise the financial investment that the owners have put in keeps the club going, because being out of the Premiership proved very costly to this club and especially the owners.

“Their financial contribution is massive and long may that continue. Hopefully with this cup run that we’ve had they’ll get something back, they deserve some credit that sometimes people are not so keen to give them.”

Bowyer’s father, Ian, knows what it takes to succeed in the game after winning the European Cup twice, among other honours, at Nottingham Forest in his playing days.

Bowyer senior works as a scout at Blackburn and the 63-year-old feels his son should also credit his mother for the impact he is making at Ewood Park.

He told Perform: “He’s done really well, I think they needed to settle things down, take stock of what they had and what they needed.

“They have done that and now they need to be moving on, football doesn’t wait for anyone. You can’t have a period of stability that lasts for five years, you need to be moving on.

“He’s done great, I’m really proud of how he’s done for the club. He’s got his mother’s mannerisms and character, so he’ll be alright.”

Tue 7 April, 2015
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Reading 3 Bradford City 0: Clarke´s men clinch semi-final trip to Wembley

Quickfire first-half goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Garath McCleary paved the way for Reading to set up an FA Cup semi-final showdown against holders Arsenal and end 10-man Bradford City’s fairytale run with a 3-0 win at the Madejski Stadium.

The Championship side made a blistering start to Monday’s quarter-final replay and booked a trip to Wembley through Robson-Kanu’s header and McCleary’s deflected strike inside the opening nine minutes. 

Jamie Mackie added a third midway through the second period following Filipe Morais’ straight red card just after the hour mark for clattering a high boot into Nathaniel Chalobah’s midriff to further compound Bradford’s woes. 

Bradford – who dumped out Premier League sides Chelsea and Sunderland to reach the last eight – never recovered from the early blitz as it proved a game too far in a competition that Phil Parkinson’s men have injected some much-needed magic this season.

While Parkinson turns his attention to securing Bradford a League One play-off berth, Reading counterpart Steve Clarke was left to bask in steering the Berkshire club to their first FA Cup semi-final since 1927.

Clarke, an FA Cup winner during his playing days at Chelsea, fielded an entirely different XI to the team that lost 4-1 at Watford on Saturday, but any fears from home fans that Reading may take time to gel were quickly extinguished. 

Robson-Kanu broke the deadlock when he timed his run to perfection to get ahead of Stephen Darby and glance a six-yard header across Ben Williams after meeting McCleary’s inswinging corner at the near post. 

McCleary then doubled Reading’s advantage three minutes later in rather fortuitous circumstances to leave Bradford shell-shocked. 

The Jamaica international cut in from the right, worked some space for himself with some quick footwork before hitting a shot that clipped Andy Halliday and looped over the goalkeeper. 

Ben Williams reacted sharply to palm away a swerving 25-yard Danny Williams effort as the hosts went in search of a third and McCleary created a carbon-copy of the build-up play that led to his earlier goal, but curled well over. 

Any slim hopes of a Bradford fightback disappeared when Morais saw red for his rash challenge on Chalobah, who then picked himself up to set up Mackie’s fifth goal in his last six games with 22 minutes remaining. 

Chalobah slipped the ball through for Mackie to beat the offside trap and drill between Ben Williams’ legs to send the home supporters into raptures.

Mon 16 March, 2015
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Reading 10/11 to beat Bradford in tomorrow night’s FA Cup clash

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Reading to win against Bradford
Odds: 10/11 @ Coral

Reading host FA Cup giant-killers in the quarter-finals of the competition on Monday night, but the Royals aren’t in the best form ahead of the clash. Steve Clarke’s men recently lost 4-1 against Watford at Vicarage Road, but their performances on home soil have been more convincing. As a result, they will be hoping to see past their League One opponents at the Madejski to book their place in the last four of the FA Cup.

Bradford have beaten the likes of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Sunderland at Valley Parade to make it this far, so they’ll certainly put up a fight against Reading on Monday. But despite their opponents being considerably less than the Premier League duo they came up against, Reading will frustrate them, and are a side that could well stop City from getting into a rhythm. Manager Steve Clarke won’t be taking the competition for grant, with a chance for a clash at Wembley at stake, and Coral are backing the Royals with odds of 10/11 to win against Bradford at home.

Bet: Reading to beat Bradford in tomorrow night’s FA Cup clash @ 10/11 with Coral >>

Sun 15 March, 2015
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Liverpool/Arsenal 5/6 to be this season’s FA Cup finalists

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Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool/Arsenal to be finalists
Odds: Bet: Liverpool/Arsenal to be this season’s FA Cup finalists @ 5/6 with 5/6 @ William Hill

Arsenal booked their place in the FA Cup semi-finals against Manchester United at Old Trafford, which now has the supporters dreaming of back-to-back FA Cup triumphs. They will face Reading/Bradford which gibes the Londoners a real opportunity to make the final again at Wembley this season.

As for who they could face, Liverpool/Blackburn and Aston Villa are still in the competition. Liverpool drew to their Championship opponents at Anfield, so they will need to emerge victorious at Ewood Park to progress, where they will face Aston Villa. It won’t be a formality, however, given how the Reds have both won and lost against the Midlands outfit this season, but they are expected to reach the final.

Liverpool and Arsenal last met in an FA Cup final back in 2001, with Michael Owen scoring twice to earn the Merseysiders victory at Wembley. Arsenal have since gotten their revenge, winning each of their last three meetings in the cup competition – with the most recent being last season’s 4th round win at the Emirates in February.

And with the two Premier League elite sides facing lesser opposition this time round, William Hill are giving odds of 5/6 for Liverpool and Arsenal to be this season’s FA Cup finalists.

Bet: Liverpool/Arsenal to be this season’s FA Cup finalists @ 5/6 with William Hill >>

Tue 10 March, 2015
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LVG: Di Maria has ‘no excuses’ for red card

LVG - Di Maria has 'no excuses' for red card

Manchester United F.C. manager Louis van Gaal has insisted winger Angel Di Maria has ‘no excuses’ after being sent off for grabbing referee Michael Oliver’s shirt during the Red Devils’ 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal at Old Trafford on Monday evening.

The Argentina international, who joined United from Real Madrid for a British-record fee of £59.7 million last summer, was sent off in the 77th-minute after reacting wildly to being yellow-carded for simulation.

“In Spain he knows that he doesn’t touch the referee, but that is also in his emotion,” said Van Gaal. “I’ve already spoken with him, he knows my opinion but also I have to see on the video.

“I think he’s touched the referee and that’s forbidden in every country, so he has no excuses.”

The defeat to Arsenal means United will have to wait until next season for their first title under Van Gaal, but the club have nobody but themselves to blame, according to the Dutch supremo.

LVG added: “I said in advance that [a top-four English Premier League finish] is a priority but as a manager, and as a player and club, you want to win titles and now we cannot win a title.

“I’ve said in the dressing room we gave [the game] away by ourselves and that is the biggest disappointment. In the second half, we had the first chance also then we gave it away again. We don’t lose from the opponent, we lost from ourselves and it was very disappointing. You play this match to win; to beat the opponent, we wanted to be in the semifinal.”

Inter offer Toulalan three-year contract

FC Internazionale Milano have offered AS Monaco midfielder Jeremy Toulalan a three-year deal worth around €2 million per season, according to Italian sports TV channel Rai Sport.

Toulalan, whose current contract at the Stade Louis II is set to expire at the end of the season, is available on a free transfer in the summer, and the Nerazzurri are believed to be leading the race for the 31-year-old’s signature.

Meanwhile, Premier League side Newcastle United have also been linked with the former Olympique Lyonnais star in recent weeks.

Internazionale are currently 10 points off the pace for UEFA Champions League qualification, but are scheduled to host Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg in a two-legged Europa League tie later this month.

Even if Roberto Mancini’s side do not finish in the top-three in the Serie A table, they can still claim a place in next season’s Champions League by winning the aforementioned Europa League.

Now then, will Inter Milan be playing in the UCL in 2015/16?

Tue 10 March, 2015
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In-form Liverpool 1/1 to win this season’s FA Cup

Competition: FA Cup
Market: Liverpool to win the FA Cup
Odds: 1/1 @ William Hill

Liverpool have enjoyed an incredible turnaround of fortunes this season, and could cap such an unlikely and unexpected upturn in form with an FA Cup triumph. The Merseysiders drew to Blackburn in the FA Cup quarter-finals, so they will face the Championship outfit again in a replay, but they certainly boast a side capable of going all the way.

Manchester United face Arsenal in the other semi-final clash, so one of the two Premier League giants will be out of the competition regardless. Liverpool have been flying in the domestic league in the last few months, with Brendan Rodgers’ men enjoying a 12-game unbeaten run. They are on the cusp of Champions League football now too.

But as the in-form team to beat in the FA Cup, William Hill are giving odds of 1/1 for the Reds to win the trophy. Liverpool aren’t without their flaws, however, as goals come be hard to come by in front of their own fans, but Rodgers’ side are tough to beat, and have picked up impressive results to the likes of West Ham, Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester city in recent weeks.

Bet: In-form Liverpool to win this season’s FA Cup @ 1/1 with William Hill >>

Mon 9 March, 2015
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