Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

Leave a comment

The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

Klopp rips Liverpool after another home loss

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool has one win in eight 2017 matches after Wolverhampton came into Anfield and knocked the Reds out of the FA Cup.

Jurgen Klopp‘s weakened lineup will be an excuse for many, but Liverpool lost to a Wolverhampton side which made seven changes itself.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 1-2 Wolves ]

And the Reds were poor.

Calling it a “very bad performance” and claiming “100 percent” responsibility, Klopp spoke out following the 2-1 home cup ouster.

From the BBC:

“We were very bad. We started badly and it didn’t really get better. Everyone saw it. There are not a lot of good things to say about this game. It’s difficult to explain.

“In the second half it was better, but really it was not possible to be worse. I’ve not got a lot more to say.

“I am responsible for the line-up. I am not allowed to blame a single player. Of course you see them and you learn a lot about them in situations like this too, but I am responsible.”

Klopp said the team won’t dwell on this loss, its fourth of 2017 against one win and three draws.

“I am angry but that is not enough,” he said. “We have to ‘collect the bones’, and to recover and strike back 100 percent.”

Again, like the previous round’s struggles against Plymouth Argyle, this was not full strength Liverpool by a long shot. But when measured against the EFL Cup semi defeats and disappointing league form, it matters for something.

Out at home: Wolves oust young Liverpool from FA Cup (video)

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For 45 minutes, Wolverhampton played the role of Liverpool at Anfield.

Wolves took advantage of a weakened Reds side on Saturday to walk away with a 2-1 win and a fifth round berth in the 2016-17 FA Cup.

Richard Stearman scored 51 seconds into the game off a Helder Costa free kick, and Andreas Weimann made it 2-0 before the break.

Divock Origi slotted an 86th minute goal for Liverpool when Daniel Sturridge nodded a corner back across goal. The Reds are 1W-3D-4L since the calendar turned to 2017.

[ MORE: West Ham players not thinking of Payet ]

Stearman flirted with offside to score his goal, one that put the Reds on the back foot almost instantly. Loris Karius is regretting not coming out to snare the orb.

Liverpool started backup keeper Loris Karius to go with lesser-used players Connor Randall, Ovie Ejaria, and Ben Woodburn.

Origi, Roberto Firmino, and Georginio Wijnaldum were in the Starting XI. No surprise that Philippe Coutinho entered the fray for Randall at the break.

The Reds were much better in the second half, but still off by strides. Alberto Moreno‘s promising run ended in a 61st minute goal kick.

Klopp turned to Sturridge, taking off Firmino. The striker helped the Reds pull back within one.

English soccer club Wolves bought by China’s Fosun group

Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Leave a comment

WOLVERHAMPTON, England (AP) English second-tier club Wolverhampton Wanderers has become China’s latest soccer investment.

The Fosun conglomerate that owns Club Med and other businesses in Europe and the United States has bought Wolves from Englishman Steve Morgan. Fosun is chaired by Guo Guangchang, who is one of China’s leading entrepreneurs.

In the last year, Chinese investors have also bought Italian club Inter Milan and 13 percent of Manchester City.

[ MORE: Barca adds EURO winner ]

Fosun representative Jeff Shi says “football is enjoying a huge growth in China … it makes perfect sense to buy a great football club.”

Wolves have an illustrious history, winning the English topflight three times in the 1950s. But the central England club’s last major trophy was the 1980 League Cup and it has not been in the Premier League since 2012.

Bournemouth announces capture of in-demand striker Afobe

Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bournemouth won its FA Cup tie against Birmingham City, then announced big time reinforcements for its Premier League season.

Cherries manager Eddie Howe says the club has reached a deal to sign highly-touted Wolves striker Benik Afobe. The deal is expected to be another club record buy.

[ MORE: FA Cup recap — Four Premier League clubs bounced ]

The 22-year-old Englishman — 23 in February — spent his youth career at Arsenal, going on loan to six sides before being purchased by Wolverhampton in 2015. Since then, he’s scored 22 goals in 43 Championship appearances.

From AFCB.co.uk:

“There are still hurdles for us to overcome but we’re hopeful it will be concluded in time for Tuesday night.
“He’ll bring pace, strength, and hopefully goals. He’s also a good player technically and we’ll be excited to see him in a Bournemouth shirt if the deal gets completed.”
The Cherries host West Ham and Norwich City before a visit to Sunderland, so Afobe could help them pick up some critical points.