Southampton Miss Out On League Cup

Southampton were unable to claim their second major trophy in their history as they fell to a late 3-2 defeat to Manchester United. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard put Jose Mourinho’s side two goals up, but a Manolo Gabbiadini brace pulled the Saints level. But it was a late Ibrahimovic header that saw the first silverware of the season head to Manchester.

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Jose Mourinho has now won all four of his League Cup finals (2005, 2007, 2015, and 2017). Image: BBC Sport

It was a frustrating start for Saints, who started the game brightly. Southampton felt aggrieved when Gabbiadini turned in a Cedric Soares cross, only for the goal to be ruled out by the assistant. Replays showed that the Italian was clearly onside, whilst Ryan Bertrand, who was standing yards behind the action, was actually offside.

After that decision it was only a matter of time before United opened the deadlock. It came in the form of an Ibrahimovic free kick. The Swede swept the ball in to the bottom corner from 25 yards to give United an undeserved lead. Jesse Lingard doubled United’s lead seven minutes before half time. Marcus Rojo strode forward, receiving the ball from out wide, before squaring the ball to Lingard, who had acres of space to curl the ball in to the far corner.

The game was looking lost for Saints, but there was a glimmer of hope just before half time. James Ward-Prowse whipped a low ball in to the six yard box just before half time, where Gabbiadini lost his man to guide the ball past David De Gea.

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Manolo Gabbiadini has now hit five (should have been SIX!) goals in his three games for Southampton. Image: Metro

And Saints fans only had to wait three minutes after the break for them to draw level. United thought that they had cleared a corner, but Steven Davis headed the ball back in to the box. Gabbiadini held off Chris Smalling as he turned and swept the ball home with his left foot.

A period of sustained Saints pressure followed. De Gea punched away a fierce Redmond volley, and Oriel Romeu hit the post with a header from a corner. In a rare United attack, an Anthony Martial cross found its way to the far post, where Jesse Lingard blazed over the bar despite being under no pressure. Jack Stephens almost gave Saints the lead with five minutes to go, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed clear his goal-bound header.

And it was Ibrahimovic who was the hero for Mourinho’s side, as he found the space between the Saints’ centre backs to nod home from close range to gift United the trophy in the 87th minute.It was a heartbreaking moment for Saints, who dominated large spells of the final and had the majority of the chances.

Despite not lifting the trophy, it was a final to remember for the Southampton fans. It was the first time that Saints had appeared in a major final since their 2003 FA Cup final appearance, and the fans were much more vocal than their Mancunian counterparts. Without the services of talisman Virgil Van Dijk and top goalscorer Charlie Austin, the players put in an incredible shift, but were ultimately punished by the difference in quality that United’s bank balance allows.

Southampton Player Ratings:

Forster – 6: Would maybe be disappointed with the first goal, but stood no chance for the other two.

Cedric – 7: Looked dangerous on the overlap, should have had an assist in the first half.

Stephens – 7: United felt he could have been sent off, but was unlucky to give away a free kick. Showed experience beyond his years.

Yoshida – 7: Really stepped up to fill the gap left by Fonte’s departure and Van Dijk’s injury.

Bertrand – 7: Strong going forward and kept Juan Mata quiet all game.

Romeu – 7: Picked up an early booking but put in a very solid display. Hit the post at 2-2.

Davis – 7: Classic Steven Davis. Covered every blade of grass and provided the second assist for Gabbiadini.

Tadic – 8: Most of Saints’ attacks came through him, unlucky to be taken off so early.

Ward-Prowse – 7: Picked up an assist and was a constant threat from dead ball situations.

Redmond – 7: Looked dangerous going forward, but was ultimately unable to recapture his finishing from the semi-final first leg against Liverpool.

Gabbiadini – 9: Scored twice and had a goal wrongly ruled offside. Should be very disappointed to be subbed off at 2-2.

Subs:

Boufal (Tadic, 77) – 6: Lacking match fitness and it showed.

Long (Gabbiadini, 83): Brought on too late to make an impact.

Rodriguez (Davis, 90): Brought on too late to make an impact, but was good to see him on the pitch at Wembley after his injury problems.

Unused: Hassen, Sims, Caceres, Hojbjerg, McQueen.

Manchester United Player Ratings:

De Gea 8; Valencia 6, Bailly 6, Smalling 5, Rojo 6; Herrera 7, Pogba 6; Lingard 7 (Rashford, 77, 6), Mata 6 (Carrick, 45, 8), Martial 6 (Fellaini, 90); Ibrahimovic 10.

Unused: Romero, Blind, Young, Rooney.

Leicester sack Ranieri

It was Leicester winning the title that reminded us why we love football, but it is their sacking of Claudio Ranieri that sums up what we hate about it.

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Image: BBC Sport

When Claudio Ranieri took over at Leicester they were favourites to get relegated. Ranieri had recently failed to win a single game as Greece manager, even losing to the Faroe Islands, whilst Leicester had narrowly avoided the drop under Nigel Pearson. What followed was the most incredible season in Premier League history.

Fast forward nine months, Leicester are again fighting a relegation battle, but crucially sit outside of the drop zone. They reached the last 16 of the FA Cup, and are still very much in their Champions League last 16 tie. By normal standards, Leicester are having a good season. But Ranieri has become the victim of his own success, being judged against an anomaly of a season.

Ranieri was one of the main reasons behind the wealth of goodwill towards Leicester last season. Everyone that wasn’t a Tottenham or an Arsenal fan was willing them to the title, and you would have thought that it had given him at least enough credit with the owners to give him a chance to keep his side in the division. It is a sign of modern football that the man who gave the Foxes their greatest ever success was unceremoniously dispensed of less than a year later.

If you look at Leicester’s season in isolation, then sacking Ranieri was the right decision. The Foxes sit just one point above the drop zone after 25 games, and have not won a Premier League game in 2017. The champions have won just five games all season and seem to be sinking without a trace. The owners may have seen the impact that Marco Silva and Paul Clement have made at Hull and Swansea respectively, and felt that this is what was needed.

But how much of this slump is Ranieri’s fault? Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have simply not turned up this season. Vardy’s goal against Sevilla was his first in 758 minutes of football, and only his seventh of the season. Mahrez has not been the same player since the summer; he looks lethargic and hasn’t shown the same hunger as last year. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have reverted back to the players that they have been for their entire careers: relegation candidates, not title winners. Obviously the loss of N’Golo Kante has had a major effect, and his work-rate has been the thing that Leicester have been missing. Whether or not it was Kante that inspired this relentlessness is up for debate, but players like Danny Drinkwater have not showed the same levels of application since the Frenchman’s departure.

Have the Leicester owners made the correct decision in sacking Ranieri, or is it a sign that modern football has lost its way? Have your say in the comments, or tweet me @MoodyMan147.

Vinales Continues Pre-Season Form

Maverick Vinales is looking in top form ahead of the start of the 2017 MotoGP season. The Spaniard, who replaced Jorge Lorenzo at the factory Yamaha team, has topped the time sheets again after the three day test at Phillip Island.

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Vinales has now topped every test since his move to Yamaha (Valencia, the private test at Sepang, the Official Sepang test, and Phillip Island). Image: crash.net

Vinales was one of only two riders to record a lap time in the 1:28s, with world champion Marc Marquez also breaking the barrier. However it was the former Suzuki man that won out, topping the charts on both the second and third days and finishing 0.294s clear of the Repsol Honda rider.

It was a good test for Honda, as Dani Pedrosa, who missed the majority of day two due to a throat infection, finished third overall, and Cal Crutchlow was fifth. The LCR man was on form throughout the weekend, with a third place on day two and two fifth places.

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Jonas Folger finished the test as top rookie, less than half a second behind Vinales. Image: Motorsport.com

Rookies Jonas Folger and Alex Rins offered up some very promising performances, with Folger managing to shoot up to fourth on the final day. Rins managed to recover from a poor first day to best his Suzuki teammate Andrea Iannone, who struggled after a strong first day. The top rookie from the Sepang test, Johann Zarco, struggled in Australia, only recording a 1:29.67, putting him in fifteenth.

The title this year may be a two horse race between Marquez and Vinales. Valentino Rossi only finished in the middle of the pack, 0.921s behind his teammate. The Ducatis were improving though, as Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo finished seventh and eighth respectively.

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The KTM team unveiled their 2017 livery after the Australian test. Image: crash.net

It was a miserable test for the other Brits, as Bradley Smith, Scott Redding and Sam Lowes occupied three of the bottom four places. Smith and Pol Espargaro both showed signs of improvement on their KTMs, finishing half a second closer to the leader than they did at Sepang. Sam Lowes also improved on his Aprilia, despite not breaking the 1 minute 30 barrier, as he was 0.3 seconds closer to Vinales.

The final MotoGP test will be at Losail, Qatar, from the 10-12 March, with the season kicking off at the same track on 26 March.

All You Need To Know From Sepang Testing

The first official MotoGP testing of the new year has been completed at Sepang. It was the first time that riders have been seen in their new colours for the upcoming year, and has offered a look at who will be going strong this season, as well as showing how well the rookies will adapt.

The Movers

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Image: autosport.com

Maverick Vinales was the most successful of all the riders who have moved teams. The Spaniard seemed to adapt very quickly to his new Yamaha, topping the overall testing times by 0.084 seconds. He finished in the top three on each day, before leading the standings on day three. The man that he replaced, Jorge Lorenzo, is still getting used to his new Ducati. The three time world champion had to settle for tenth, 0.2 seconds behind his team mate, Andrea Dovizioso, and a tenth behind Ducati test rider Casey Stoner.

Andre Iannone enjoyed a strong showing on his Suzuki, after topping the standings on day two and finishing second overall. Alvaro Bautista also had a strong test, including a third place on day 2. Following his step up from Aprilia to the Aspar team, the Spaniard finished seventh overall, above Jorge Lorenzo. Aleix Espargaro, who has replaced Bautista at Aprilia, had a solid test, finishing in thirteenth place, 0.74 seconds off of Vinales’ time. His Brother, Pol Espargaro, and Bradley Smith have moved from the Tech 3 Yamaha team to the new KTM team. They both struggled, but for a new team in MotoGP, you can expect their results to improve as the season goes on.

The Rookies

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Image: Cycle World

The double Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco had the most attention on him, but ended up with an eleventh place. The highlight of his outing on his new Tech 3 Yamaha was a fifth place on day 2. His new team mate will be Jonas Folger, and the German was unable to break the 2 minute barrier, but still recorded top ten finishes on the first two days. After finishing third in Moto2 last season, Alex Rins finished twelfth overall. The Suzuki rider also failed to finish under 2 minutes, but was only outside the top ten by 0.29 seconds. There will be another British rider in the Premier Class this season, with Sam Lowes joining Aprilia. It looks like the bike will need some improvement though, as Lowes was unable to break in the top 20, only finishing above Tito Rabat, excluding test riders.

 

The Challengers

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Image: Crash.net

As previously mentioned, Maverick Vinales is looking like a serious contender for this year’s title. His team mate, Valentino Rossi, will no doubt be trying to prevent that as he searches for a record equalling eighth Premier Class title. Rossi finished sixth overall in testing, but his real strengths lie on a race day.

The reigning world champion, Marc Marquez, is looking strong again this time around. Finishing the Sepang test 0.138 seconds behind Vinales, it is clear that the Repsol Honda rider is well in the hunt for his fourth title in five years. Honda’s chances at a Constructors’ title look good this season, as Dani Pedrosa put in a strong showing throughout testing (fifth place, 0.21 seconds from Vinales) and Cal Crutchlow came ninth, 0.36 seconds from the top.


Who do you think will win the 2017 World Championship? Will there be a surprise package? Have your say in the comments below.

Who Should Be On Puel’s Christmas List?

With the January transfer window approaching, Claude Puel sees his Southampton side sitting in seventh place. The window will be seen as a crucial one by Saints fans, with top scorer Charlie Austin facing several months out with a shoulder injury and the persisting rumours surrounding centre-backs  Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk. If the Saints are serious about securing qualification for European football for a third consecutive season then they may consider signing the following players.

1. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool (Loan)

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Image: Mirror Football

The Liverpool striker has found himself out of Jurgen Klopp’s plans at Anfield, and the Reds are prepared to let him leave. Sturridge has played just 42 minutes in the last 9 games, and he would certainly see that increase at St Mary’s. The England striker has a knack for finding the back of the net, but injuries have reduced his effectiveness over the past two and a half seasons. A run of first team football could be what he needs to re-establish himself as England’s first choice striker, and possibly impress for a better move in the summer. A concern would be whether Sturridge would fit in to the Southampton system with his selfish style of play, whilst another stumbling block could be Liverpool’s desire to see a permanent deal struck instead of any loan deal.

2. Jermain Defoe – Sunderland (Transfer)

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Image: Daily Mail

Having almost single-handedly kept Sunderland up last season, Jermain Defoe has continued his form in to this year, netting 8 times in the league. But with the club’s current financial situation, the Black Cats may have to cash in on one of their few saleable assets. Defoe is your typical poacher, given a chance in the box and he will likely stick it in the back of the net. Their are two real problems with this transfer, though, the first being his age. At 34, this is not a long term transfer. Defoe would probably cost upwards of £10m, meaning Saints will not get any resale value. More importantly, Defoe spent a year playing for Portsmouth in 2008, so he would have some job winning over the St Mary’s faithful.

3. Alassane Plea – Nice (Transfer)

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Image: le10sport

 

One man that could be on Claude Puel’s radar is Nice striker Alassane Plea, who has netted 10 goals in Ligue 1 so far. The Frenchman can be also deployed behind the striker or on the wing, which would give greater depth all across the front line. Plea made 54 appearances for Nice under Puel, and has one cap at Under 21 level. As well as being a player that Puel will know, he also has the advantage of being in the mould of a Southampton signing. At 23, there is plenty of time for him to develop, giving the club the option of making a profit on him in a few seasons time. Outscoring Mario Balotelli this year means that Plea probably wouldn’t come cheap, and he would need an enticing offer to leave the French league leaders.

4. Michael Keane – Burnley (Transfer)

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Image: ITV

Claude Puel will certainly be looking out for a centre back, with rumours surrounding both of his current first choices. Burnley’s Michael Keane will certainly be a player that Southampton are monitoring. The 23 year old has been a mainstay in Burnley’s defence for the last three seasons, and his performances this season have seen him linked with a host of top clubs. Keane certainly seems a strong option in defence, with a wealth of first team experience, including two seasons in the Premier League. If Southampton were to sign him in January, then he would have the rest of the season to settle in to the team, learning under Van Dijk and Fonte, before stepping up to replace them next time around – much like Charlie Austin did this time last year. Keane is reportedly attracting the attention of much bigger clubs than Southampton, and with Burnley keen to hold on to their star defender, this would not be a cheap deal.

5. Fabian Schar – Hoffenheim (Transfer)

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Image: Daily Star

The Swiss centre back has been linked to both Southampton and West Brom recently after impressing at the Euros in the summer. After an inconsistent first season and a half at Hoffenheim, Schar could be open to a move away. At 25, Schar still hasn’t reached his prime, and can only benefit from half a season to adapt to the English game. His strengths fit with the style of defender that Puel seems to prefer, being very good on the ball whilst also being a physical presence in both areas. Although he was one of Switzerland’s stars from the summer, Schar has yet to impress in a top league, perhaps putting off potential suitors.

A further option available to Claude Puel is to recall young striker Sam Gallagher from his loan spell at Blackburn. Gallagher has nine goals in his 18 starts this year, which is a fantastic return after suffering a serious injury last season. Although might be beneficial in the immediate future to recall Gallagher, Puel will surely favour keeping him out on loan playing regular football, with Olufela Olamola and the returning Ryan Seager offering back up to Saints’ first choice strikers.

Who do you think Saints should target in the January window? Would you welcome a return for Morgan Schneiderlin? Have your say in the comments or let me know on twitter @MoodyMan147.

Lorenzo takes win on final Yamaha outing

Jorge Lorenzo signed off at Yamaha by claiming victory at the final race of the season in Valencia. The Spaniard, who will move to Ducati for the 2017 season, enjoyed a dominant weekend, leading the race from start to finish. World Champion Marc Marquez finished second, whilst Andrea Iannone, who Lorenzo replaces at Ducati, rounded off the podium.

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Image: crash.net

Having broken the lap record in a blistering qualifying session, it was no surprise that Lorenzo started well. Within a few laps the Yamaha man had escaped the pack, leaving teammate Valentino Rossi to challenge with Maverick Vinales and Iannone for second place.

Marc Marquez suffered from a poor start, getting swallowed up going in to the first corner, but put in a strong display to battle his way back up to second. With Lorenzo struggling in the final laps with his front tyre, it looked as though Marquez would be able to take a remarkable win. But the Repsol Honda rider left himself with too much to do, with Lorenzo taking the win by just over a second.

Rossi got the better of his future teammate Vinales as they finished fourth and fifth respectively, and Pol Espargaro edged out both Andrea Dovizioso and his brother Aleix to finish sixth.

Bradley Smith finished as the top Brit in ninth, on his final ride for the Tech3 Yamaha team. Scott Redding finished fourteenth with Eugene Laverty sixteenth. Cal Crutchlow remained the top independent rider of 2016 despite crashing out.

Having already confirmed his second Moto2 title, Johann Zarco bid farewell to the class with another victory. Sam Lowes, who is also heading to MotoGP next season, came fourth whilst Danny Kent secured a ninth place finish. It was a similar story in Moto3, as the dominant Brad Binder recovered from an early mistake that saw him drop to 22nd to take the chequered flag.


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Crutchlow takes win down under

Cal Crutchlow took his second victory of the season with a dominant victory at Phillip Island. Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales completed the podium, whilst recently crowned champion Marc Marquez crashed out of first place on lap 10.

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Cal Crutchlow’s victory was his second of the season, and his first win in the dry. Image: Crash.net

The Brit had started second on the grid, but found himself being swallowed up off the line. He worked his way forward through the pack to trail Marquez before the Spaniard slid out at Honda corner. Crutchlow extended his lead over Valentino Rossi to over four seconds to take his first premier class victory in the dry.

Rossi coasted to a second place having started down in 15th, keeping well clear of the scrap behind him. Maverick Vinales tussled with his team mate and Andrea Dovizioso for third, a scrap that saw Aleix Espargaro crash out. Pol Espargaro faded after a strong start, and Jorge Lorenzo rounded off the top six.

It was a good day all round for the British riders, as Scott Redding and Bradley Smith, on his second race back from injury, finished seventh and eighth. Home rider Jack Miller finished tenth, having tussled with Nicky Hayden, who was standing in for the injured Dani Pedrosa.

Thomas Luthi took the victory in Moto2, taking him to second place in the championship, 22 points behind Johann Zarco with two rounds to go. Sam Lowes crashed out early on and Danny Kent also failed to finish. Brad Binder continued his domination of the Moto3 class with his sixth win of the season. The race had been red-flagged due to a huge multi-rider accident involving John McPhee.


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