Wigan through to FA Cup finals, Millwall fans play to type

1 Comment

Whatever thin Cinderella story Millwall carried into today’s FA Cup semifinal became trite with the opening whistle, the beginning of a stretch of one-sided play that left Wigan up one a halftime.

It’s not that the Latics were convincing or mustered many threats. They just didn’t give up the ball. They were never really asked to. As they effortlessly played between midfield and defense, looking up at regular intervals to see if Millwall’s defense had slipped, the gap between a Premier League side and their Championship equivalent became evident.

Unless Wigan screwed up, they weren’t going to lose, and when Callum McManaman’s built on  Sean Maloney’s opener, all that was left was the inevitable. Wigan was moving on to the FA Cup final with a 2-0 win, a result that brought out the worth in Millwall’s fans.

As the matches final minutes passed, announcers began describing in-fighting among the Lions’ supporter, behavior playing to a stereotype that seems unwilling to fade into anachronism.

From a Guardian scribe on site:

Sachin Nakrani had a decent overview of the Millwall problem yesterday, within which you’ll find:

It is impossible to ignore the negativity. This, after all, is a club that had to close their old stadium in Cold Blow Lane due to crowd disturbances as far back as the 1920s, and in practically every decade since their fans have been involved in controversies and flashpoints, none more infamous than the riot at Kenilworth Road 28 years ago that led to 47 injuries and 31 arrests.

In light of today’s events, the words of one prominent supporter seem paradoxical, a defense of fans’ current state one day before today’s embarrassment:

In any case Graeme Smale, secretary of the Millwall Supporters Club, insists these are isolated incidents. “We are not blameless but I remember seeing Clyde Best being abused by West Ham fans in the 70s, and rioting by fans at many other clubs, yet none of them have got Millwall’s reputation,” the 55-year-old says. “Our fans have given up on ever being given a fair chance and that is where the ‘nobody likes us’ chant comes from. It is a siege-mentality created by people who are angry and fed up.”

Today’s incident was unfortunate, particularly since it happened at Wembley. It’s important to add the caveat: This was likely a small portion of the support. Still, if Millwall supporters have a reputation for this, continuously play to that type, and yet it’s still allowed to happen, all those of us sitting on the outside can do is shrug our shoulders, shake our heads, and say “that’s Millwall.”

Oh, small footnote: Wigan have never won a major trophy, and now their in a final, and it’s an amazing achievement for a club that constantly fights for Premier League survival, and Cinderella lives. Yeah, all this deserved to be discussed, too.

EFL Cup Tues. preview: Spurs-Reds, plenty of non-PL participants

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).

Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.

[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]

That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.

That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.

The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.

Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.

— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.

— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.

— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.

FC Dallas gave injured Mauro Diaz a home champagne shower (video)

FRISCO, TX - APRIL 12:  Mauro Diaz #10 of the FC Dallas controls the ball against the Seattle Sounders FC on April 12, 2014 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.

Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]


VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

Leave a comment

There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
Leave a comment

HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]

Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast