Category Archives: The Mazy Run

Hibs have chance to end 111 year wait (video)

 Hibernian recorded a dramatic 4-3 victory over Scottish First Division side Falkirk at the weekend to book their place in the Scottish Cup Final for a second successive year.

Hibs found themselves 3-0 down after 30 minutes as a young Falkirk side – in their first outing under new manager Gary Holt – took advantage of early Hibernian nerves.

The Hibees last visit to Scotland’s national stadium ended in defeat and humiliation as they succumbed to a 5-1 hammering at the hands fierce Edinburgh rivals Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final last season.

It appeared that last year’s stunning defeat may still have been in the minds of the Hibernian players on Saturday as they fell to a shock 3 goal disadvantage to Falkirk within the first half hour. However, a fiery half-time tirade from manager Pat Fenlon sent the Hibs players onto the Hampden turf with a renewed determination in the second period.

Hibs forced the game into extra time in which they eventually outclassed their lower league opponents with forward Leigh Griffiths’ fabulous strike securing a final date in May.

Hibernian, largely regarded as one of Scotland’s biggest clubs, have not won the country’s premier cup competition since 1902, a tag that has haunted and taunted the Hibees ever more so in recent years after they endured an entire century without lifting the Scottish Cup trophy.

Hibs once more have the opportunity to banish their hoodoo on the 26th May but will go into the final as underdogs as they face Scottish Premier League champions elect Celtic who are strong favourites to secure the double in Scotland this season.

 

Solskjaer’s Molde stutter over starting line (video)

Reigning Norwegian champions Molde find themselves rock bottom of the Tippeligaen after losing their opening four games.

Molde recorded their maiden Norwegian league championship in 2011 under the stewardship of former player and Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was experiencing his first season in management having retired his playing career in 2007.

Solskjaer’s Molde achieved a second successive Tippeligaen victory last season enhancing their manager’s reputation further and fuelling speculation that Solskjaer may be returning to England with Blackburn Rovers believed to be at the head of the line for the Norwegian’s services.

However, Molde’s title defence has begun in disastrous fashion this season as the reigning champions have lost each of their four games by one goal and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the Tippeligaen table.

The omens look bad for Molde should they believe that they still have a shot of retaining the league title once more as no side has ever won the Norwegian League after losing their first three matches of the season.

After defeat to Brann last weekend, manager Solskjaer was keen to alley the fears of Molde supporters by commenting:

I am happy with the squad I have and I’m confident I have the players to turn this around.”

To compare, we had 12 wins by a single goal last year. That’s why we know we can turn matches in our favour. We should be able to do that

Scottish Football re-construction on hold

The Scottish Premier League voted against the re-construction of the national game at Hampden Park this afternoon.

Voting rules ensured that an 11-1 majority was required for any league re-construction motion to be passed, however both St.Mirren and Ross County opted to vote against the proposed re-organisation of the Scottish game today to the dismay of several Scottish Premier League club chairmen.

At present, the Scottish League setup consists of four separate leagues in a 12-10-10-10 team format however declining attendances and widely acknowledged ‘staleness’ within the Scottish game had led to calls for a change in the footballing landscape north of the border.

The proposal on the table was for the reduction in the number of the leagues to three in a 12-12-18 format with the top division splitting into two leagues of 8 after 22 matches have been played. The belief would be that the top 8 teams would play each other home and away once more to compete for the title and European spots with the bottom 8 sides having their points reset before battling it out for 4 places in the top 12 at the start of the following season.

This format had been tried in Switzerland previously but was shortly abandoned after being widely condemned by Swiss clubs and their supporters. Scottish football fans had also voiced their opposition to the new plans with a recent poll revealing that 87% of supporters favoured the expansion of the top division to a minimum of 16 teams as is the case in Sweden, Norway, Greece and Belgium.

Those chairman who voted in favour of the changes today believe that the decision to maintain the ‘Status Quo’ in the Scottish game may lead to the financial oblivion of their clubs as a reduction in television revenue and ticket money has edged several teams closer to administration and potential liquidation.

Partick within touching distance of SPL (video)

Partick Thistle edged ever closer to securing promotion to the Scottish Premier League this weekend after recording a 2-1 victory over Airdrie United on Saturday.

Partick trailed their opponents Airdrie for an entire 89 minutes before producing some late drama with goals from Conrad Balatoni and Christie Elliot snatching all 3 points for the visitors.

With 72 points after 32 games, Thistle’s nearest rivals Greenock Morton trail the leaders by 8 points with only 3 games remaining meaning that Partick only require 1 victory from their last 4 games to lift the Scottish First Division Trophy.

Partick Thistle have been absent from the top flight of Scottish football since relegation from the SPL in 2004. The Glasgow side – affectionately known as The Jags – had aimed to bounce back into the big time at the first attempt, but instead found themselves relegated to the Scottish Second Division. A dramatic penalty shoot-out playoff victory at the end of the 2005/06 season earned them promotion to the First Division where they have remained ever since.

Thistle’s title challenge appeared as if it may be de-railed in January of this year after manager Jackie McNamara opted to depart the club to become the boss of Premier League side Dundee United. Partick veteran Alan Archibald was nominated as McNamara’s replacement and was appointed as the club’s player-manager. Since his introduction The Jags have recorded 9 victories from 12 games and have only been defeated once on their path to promotion.

April has proved to be a crucial month for Thistle. Two weeks ago Partick finished as runners up in Scottish League Challenge Cup after being defeated in a penalty shootout by Queen of the South, who have recently secured the Scottish Second Division title. Four days later, Thistle recorded a vital League victory over Morton, effectively banishing their challenger’s title hopes.

Higuain finds form at the right time (video)

Gonzalo Higuain has hit a hot streak at a crucial point in the season for Real Madrid, having notched 6 goals in his last 5 appearances.

The 25 year old Argentine striker, who has fallen in and out of manager Jose Mourinho’s favour at the Bernabeau this season has argued his case for more regular first team starts with a series of impressive performances recently.

Higuain’s return to goalscoring form began with 2 goals in a 5-2 victory for Real Madrid over Mallorca last month. Higuain began the game in the starting eleven for his club before traveling South America to participate in his country’s World Cup Qualification match against Venezuela where he also hit a double in a 3-0 Argentine victory. Higuain was unable to find the target in La Liga the following week however was on hand to nod home a terrific and crucial header which secured a 3-0 quarter final victory for Real Madrid against Galatasaray in the Champions League. High on confidence, Higuain further added to his tally last weekend with a stunning acrobatic volley in Real’s 5-1 demolition of Levante at the Bernabeau.

With crucial games fast approaching for Real Madrid, particularly in the Champions League, boss Jose Mourinho will be delighted that Higuain has been able to find form at this time of the season and perhaps the in-form Argentine will be able to lighten the load on team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo who has weighed in with the majority of goals for Los Galacticos this term.

Heynckes postpones Ribery’s birthday bash (video)

Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes was keen to warn his side against complacency ahead of the Champions League quarter final second leg against Juventus after the Bavarians secured the Bundesliga title at the weekend.

The Bayern team had planned to celebrate their title victory by throwing a surprise birthday party for 30 year old French winger Frank Ribery on Sunday evening. Bayern became the fastest team to win the Bundesliga in the competition’s 50 year history at the weekend however in spite of Bayern’s achievement boss Jupp Heynckes opted to postpone the title festivities until after the Champions League trip to Italy.

Bayern head to Turin with a 2-0 first leg advantage over Juventus and appear to be odds on favourites to proceed to the semi-finals after a limp Juve performance in Germany last week. However, with progression to the next round all but certain for Bayern, Heycknes – who is hoping to secure the treble before his retirement this summer – was quick to stamp his authority on the team by reminding his players that their quarter final tie with Juventus is far from over.

Heynckes commented “Postponing any celebrations also characterizes a champion. It’s a pleasure, but we cannot afford to get ahead of ourselves.”

The Bayern head coach then went on to have a perhaps inadvertent pop at their Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund and their Champions League success of 1997 by saying “Juventus won the Serie A title in 1997 and then celebrated their success. Borussia Dortmund would not have won the Champions League otherwise.”

Bayern Munich supporters will be hoping that Jupp Heynckes comments and intervention will be a swift and important reminder to the Bayern Munich players that in spite of the Bundesliga success, there is still plenty to play for this season.

Celtic within 1 point of SPL success (video)

Celtic require just 1 point to clinch their second successive Scottish Premier League title after a 3-0 victory over Hibernian at the weekend and the failure of closest challengers Motherwell to pick up all 3 points against St.Mirren.

With the post-split fixtures still to be determined, it remains to be seen whether Celtic will get the opportunity to guarantee the SPL championship on home turf this weekend.

With 5 games remaining Celtic are 15 points clear of second placed Motherwell having recorded 21 wins from their first 33 matches this term. After a turbulent 12 months in Scottish football which has seen the liquidation of Celtic’s fierce rivals Glasgow Rangers and their demotion to the Scottish Third Division, it appeared to be a question of “when” rather than “if” Celtic would win the SPL this season.

The lack of serious competition to Celtic’s throne helped in the Bhoys progression to the last 16 of the Champions League where they were ultimately defeated 5-0 on aggregate by Italian giants Juventus.

Neil Lennon – in his second full season in charge at Celtic Park – will be hopeful that his team can achieve the double this season as Celtic face Dundee United this month in the Scottish Cup.

Chelsea target Schurrle signing (video)

Chelsea are believed to be preparing a summer transfer bid for Bayer Leverkusen and Germany striker Andre Schurrle.

The Daily Express this morning reported Chelsea’s interest in the 22-year-old international who has scored 11 Bundesliga goals for Leverkusen this term.

Leverkusen have enjoyed a successful season under the stewardship of former Liverpool captain Sami Hyppia and look set to clinch a highly lucrative Champions League spot with a third place finish in the Bundesliga. However, a spot in Europe’s premier club competition next year may not be enough to convince Schurrle to stay in Germany as the forward has several admirers across Europe’s major leagues including the English Premier League.

Schurrle’s impressive performances for Bundesliga side Mainz earned him a call up to the senior German national team just days after his 20th birthday as well as a transfer to Leverkusen the following summer. At just 22 years of age, Schurrle has already won 22 caps for the Nationalmannschaft including 2 appearances at Euro 2012.

Much admired for his proficient technical ability, Chelsea were also rumoured to have an interest in the player last summer, however Leverkusen were reluctant to lose their star man. However, the German club’s patience is believed to be tested further at the end of this season, with Chelsea allegedly pondering whether to meet the £28.5 million release clause for the German.