REDS KEEP SILVERWARE MARCH ALIVE!!
Liverpool may have been under full strength but even in defeat it was a test emphatically passed by Steve Cooper’s burgeoning Nottingham Forest side. The hosts displayed impressive defensive discipline and shape to keep Liverpool out for 78 minutes, They almost certainly would have been awarded a spot-kick had Ryan Yates altered his direction slightly and aimed to draw more significant contact from Alisson, the kind of trick pulled so often by Premier League forwards for the benefit of the video assistant referee. The VAR decision to rule Diogo Jota onside for the winner was also very tight. Forest caused Jürgen Klopp’s men problems and had the chances to win the match outright but a lack of ruthlessness with the opportunities they created left Cooper’s side to ponder a couple of marginal decisions that could easily have gone the other way. As Joe Worrall said, Forest went “toe to toe with one of the best teams in the world”.
VIERA FIRES HIS PALACE SIDE INTO WEMBLEY…
Eberechi Eze’s fine first season at Crystal Palace was soundtracked by the fond, paternal shouts of Ray Lewington, who seemed in some games to be present purely for the purpose of in-game coaching Palace’s left-sided attacker. Hopefully Lewington had a Sunday off to shout fondly at his television screen as Eze produced a fine, bold, effective display in the 4-0 FA Cup defeat of Everton. This was significant: Eze’s second start against Premier League opponents since May 2021; an assertive showing after a season struggling with the aftershocks of an achilles injury; and more simply a reminder of what an excellent player he is, so easy on the ball, so progressive in his movement and passing. Palace have a core of high-grade attacking players. Eze against Everton was a reminder that he might just end up the best of that group. Mainly he is just a rare pleasure to watch.
ARSENAL AND ARTETA BAG 3 CRUCIAL POINTS, STRENGHTEN BID FOR TOP 4..
Bukayo Saka made a point of telling the referee Robert Madley he needed more protection after feeling he had received rough treatment during Arsenal’s win at Aston Villa, but he was given short shrift by Steven Gerrard when his concerns were fed through. “It’s part of the game,” Gerrard said. “The last time I checked, it wasn’t a no-contact sport. I think tackles are allowed, physicality is allowed. He’s a good player, an outstanding talent. I love him. But he can’t complain about that side of it, that’s football. I’m sitting here now with screws in my hips. I’ve had about 16 operations. I’m struggling to go to the gym at the moment. That’s all on the back of earning a living in English football. He’ll learn and he’ll learn quick.” In fairness to Saka, he routinely gets up, dusts himself down and carries on; Gerrard was right that Villa had done little wrong, despite rancour over a fair tackle by Tyrone Mings, and the sense was that the England forward was expressing a longer-term frustration.
WOLVES LOOK TROUBLED..
Whatever madness ensued at Molineux, Wolves allowed themselves to wobble, self-destructing in the wake of Raúl Jiménez’s controversial sending-off. It was a decision that stung Bruno Lage but more so his players. Wolves were chasing a third goal that would surely have put the game to bed but Leeds exposed their frailty to devastating effect and Lage was critical of his team’s mentality, accusing his players of being too concerned about the injured Stuart Dallas; they wilted under pressure. Friday night was the first time they have conceded three goals this season. “We created a lot of chances to score more goals and this is how we need to grow up, we need to kill the game,” said the Wolves head coach. “It happened against Manchester United at home [when they conceded a late winner in August] and it’s happened again. These are the little things and we need to grow up as a team.
CHELSEA INTO ANOTHER WEMBLEY SHOWDOWN..
At times it may have looked simple for Chelsea but Thomas Tuchel begged to disagree. According to the visiting manager, beating Middlesbrough 2-0 to reach the FA Cup semi finals took a “huge effort” from his players. It involved Tuchel adjusting his formation to 4-1-4-1 in order to combat Chris Wilder’s clever pressing game and, as Boro’s manager pointed out, the Championship side were never overrun by opponents who could afford to lose £900,000 a week under Roman Abramovich’s outgoing ownership. If such losses explain why Chelsea’s sale may not be that straightforward they also highlight the excellence of the job Wilder has done on an infinitely tighter budget since succeeding Neil Warnock in November. After beating Manchester United and Tottenham in earlier rounds Boro can now concentrate on securing a play-off place. They and Wilder would grace the Premier League.
PEP’S MANCHESTER TO TAKE ON KLOPP’S LIVERPOOL IN AN EPIC WEMBLEY SHOWDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!
It was a surprise to see Jan Bednarek omitted from the Southampton lineup for the FA Cup visit of Manchester City – and indeed the match-day squad. Had the first-choice centre-back picked up an injury? It turned out it was something else, as Ralph Hassenhüttl would explain after the 4-1 loss. “Bednarek has a big game for Poland next week and it seemed to me he is not 100% with his mind for us here today,” the manager said. “I didn’t want to take the risk that he doesn’t make the last step to hurt himself.” It is certainly a big game for Poland. Bednarek’s team will face either Sweden or the Czech Republic on Tuesday week in a play-off for the World Cup finals. Hasenhüttl did not sound overly pleased with Bednarek and maybe it was because his replacement, Jack Stephens, had an uncomfortable afternoon, making errors, including a bad one for Raheem Sterling’s opening goal.
With that win Manchester City are set to take on Liverpool in a mouth watering semi-final clash against Liverpool.
SPURS KEEP GUNNERS IN CHECK AS THE HAMMERS MESS UP..
You would never see West Ham being a top-four side,” said David Moyes after his team’s attempt at Champions League qualification suffered probably a terminal blow in Sunday’s 3-1 loss against Spurs. “I am a bit annoyed that I am getting asked it, but also I’m quite pleased because it’s telling me we were seen as a side that was getting seen for top four. It should be put as – how well have West Ham done to stay in the race until the last part of season.” Defeatism or realism from Moyes? Surely it was the latter: he is correct that West Ham have been punching above their weight, and his attempt to manage expectation is entirely understandable. It was also predictable that there would be a hangover from Thursday’s win against Sevilla. Happily for the Hammers, they would get the best of both worlds if they can win the Europa League, booking themselves a place in next season’s Champions League via a different route.