Swansea stifles Chelsea to reach League Cup final

Updated 24 January 2013
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Swansea stifles Chelsea to reach League Cup final

LONDON: Swansea City reached their first major English final after holding Chelsea at bay in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final to win 2-0 on aggregate on Wednesday.
After securing a shock 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago, the Welsh club put in a resilient rearguard display to draw 0-0 in front of their jubilant fans.
Chelsea probed throughout but struggled to create clear-cut chances while Swansea had a great opportunity to put the tie to bed early in the first half when Michu raced through on goal but could not beat Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
Chelsea’s unhappy evening was compounded late on when playmaker Eden Hazard was sent off for trying to kick the ball away from a ballboy who was lying on top of it.
Swansea will face fourth tier Bradford City in the final at Wembley Stadium on Feb. 24.
Meantime, Oliver Giroud netted a double, Lukas Podolski scored and set up three more as rampant Arsenal closed the gap on the Champions League positions by thumping West Ham United 5-1 in their rearranged Premier League match on Wednesday.
Arsenal, finding a spark and much-needed self belief after successive league defeats by title-chasing Manchester City and Chelsea, ran riot with four goals in 12 mad minutes after the break having fallen behind in the first half to Jack Collison’s goal.
Podolski, recalled after illness, quickly levelled with a superb strike from 25 meters. Giroud’s volley made it 2-1 soon after the restart before German international Podolski, causing mayhem on the left flank, set up Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Giroud to leave shellshocked West Ham 5-1 down before the hour.

West Ham were forced to play with 10 men for the final 18 minutes after substitute Daniel Potts was carried off on a stretcher with a serious-looking leg injury following lengthy treatment on the pitch.
Arsenal stay sixth but are now one point behind Everton and four behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur after 23 games.
West Ham, with one league win in their last eight, remain 12th.


Liverpool and Alan Kennedy look to rerun history against Real Madrid in Kiev

Updated 23 min 6 sec ago
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Liverpool and Alan Kennedy look to rerun history against Real Madrid in Kiev

LIVERPOOL: With eight minutes of the 1981 European Cup final remaining, Liverpool left-back Alan Kennedy made one of his trademark bursts forward, broke into the Real Madrid penalty area and drove home a left-footed finish to settle a tense, tactical battle.
Unlikely, unforgettable, he had the historic distinction of being the matchwinner in two finals, having also netted the decisive penalty in the shoot-out victory over AS Roma three years later.
“So proud,” reflected Kennedy. “It was a wonderful time to be a Liverpool player.”
On Saturday, the Reds meet Real again in Kiev to contest European club football’s most prized trophy.And the memories of that Paris triumph will never fade for the 63-year-old, nor will being part of a lauded Liverpool team.
“That was their mentality and Liverpool were rightly the top team in Europe,” Kennedy, who also lifted five League titles for the Reds during his eight-year stay at Anfield, said. “It was a great era, great times, but the be-all and end-all for any footballer, should be about winning trophies.”
Liverpool’s strength and focus was emphasized in that Parc des Princes showpiece. Before kick-off they had to cover up sponsor’s logos on their shirts to appease UEFA and TV broadcasters. They had concerns about the fitness of influential striker Kenny Dalglish and Kennedy himself after a broken wrist had sidelined him six weeks earlier.
“I think when you put obstacles in the way of that Liverpool team, the better they played,” he told Arab News. “We had issues with TV rights, about the state of the pitch, issues about the fitness of players, me included, but we went out to play the game and win.”
Formidable foes, Bob Paisley’s side dominated Europe in much the same way Zinedine Zidane’s side are doing at the moment. On Saturday they will seek to become the first side to win three European Cups on the bounce since Bayern Munich in 1976.
“Real Madrid are the champions and fantastic in the competition with their history,” said Kennedy. “You have to respect what they have done.
“Everyone expected Liverpool to be in contention for all the trophies too and that’s what we wanted, to push ourselves to as many finals. We wanted to win everything. Maybe we were a bit greedy, but we felt we could do it.
“I don’t think we were arrogant, although our play suggested we were good at what we did. We played a system that was attack all the time no matter if we were under the cosh or defending.
“It was a great team, everyone knew their jobs, we didn’t change for anyone. We were single-minded about winning. We had set the standards and were under pressure to win every game.”
As favorites, Real will be under similar pressure as they seek a 13th title. And Kennedy believes that his former club can claim a sixth European Cup and their first since the famous 2005 triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul when they came back from 3-0 down.
“I know it will be a great game, difficult to call,” he said.
“But I would be saying to the Liverpool players that you can win it, you are good enough to win it. Go out and play the same way you
have all season. If they do, I think they will win it.
“They may concede, but they should not change their style.”
And nor should they, as attack has been the best form of defense for Liverpool this season. In Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, there is a frontline blessed with pace, panache and potency.
Salah, rightly, has received accolades — including the PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year awards — after a stunning debut season following his £36.9 million ($49 million) arrival from Roma.
A landmark 42 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League — and ability to create chances have seen the Egyptian ranked alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
But, for Kennedy, there can be no comparison to Dalglish, arguably the greatest Kop king.
“Kenny was special, a different type of player, always on the shoulder of the defender,” he added. “Salah comes in from the wing and scores spectacular goals. Liverpool play to his strengths as he is forever getting into the box and the right position.
“For me, Kenny, over 10 seasons, was Liverpool’s top player at that time, fantastic, and it’s difficult to put them side by side. Salah’s been wonderful, but never had a season like this before.”
Madrid’s talisman Ronaldo has. Another 43 goals for the five-time Ballon D’Or winner shows he remains a force at 33.
“I’ve always had utmost admiration for Ronaldo,” said Kennedy. “He has this ability to score in finals and show how good he is. One chance, he takes it.
“But that’s been the same with Salah too. The goals he has scored, he seems to see what comes ahead. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.”