Monday, June 1, 2009

Burnley Seal Top-flight Return

Owen Coyle's Burnley secured promotion to the Premier League following a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United in the Championship play-off final.
The Clarets, among the founder members of the Football League, are back in the top flight for the first time since 1976 courtesy of Wade Elliott's 13th-minute strike.
Burnley, who were so close to reaching Wembley in both cup competitions this season, stepped up when it counted most to land the estimated £60million booty for reaching the promised land.
For United, another season in the Championship beckons, two years after they were relegated amid the controversy of the Carlos Tevez affair.
The Blades maintain they, and not a Tevez-inspired West Ham, should have stayed up in 2007.
No little irony, then, in another claret and blue-clad goalscorer condemning them to a third term outside the top flight.
But there could be no argument about Elliott's goal, the 30-year-old midfielder, formerly of Bashley and Bournemouth, conjuring up a strike which would have graced any Premier League ground - and certainly lit up a packed Wembley.
The Blades will point to two penalty shouts turned down by referee Mike Dean, whose appointment was criticised by manager Kevin Blackwell in the build-up to the game.
And they finished with 10 men when Dean sent off young striker Jamie Ward for handball, his second bookable offence.
Victory sees Burnley become the smallest town to boast a Premier League team - and almost half of their 73,000 inhabitants had travelled down to the capital to watch them triumph.
The Clarets were deserved winners in their 61st game of an arduous season, having knocked out top-flight opposition including Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham during their two epic cup runs.
But they were on the back foot in the opening stages with United, who held hopes of automatic promotion until the final day of the season, testing Brian Jensen with awkward shots from Kyle Naughton and Brian Howard.
But against the run of play, Burnley took the lead thanks to a superb piece of play from Elliott.
The midfielder burst forward, skipping past a couple of Blades tackles before playing in Chris McCann.
Matt Kilgallon got a challenge in but the ball fell perfectly for Elliott to curl a stunning first-time effort past Paddy Kenny from 20 yards.
United were claiming a penalty two minutes later when Howard tumbled in the area under a clumsy challenge from Graham Alexander, but referee Dean was not interested.
McCann's afternoon ended prematurely when he limped off to be replaced by Joey Gudjonsson, but the swap did not knock the Clarets out of their stride and Martin Paterson curled an angled drive inches wide of Kenny's right-hand post.
As the clock ticked into first-half stoppage time Thompson headed Elliot's cross narrowly wide.
Burnley almost doubled their lead moments after the restart when Robbie Blake's corner was flicked on by Steven Thompson and Michael Duff, arriving at the far post, just failed to turn the ball home.
And in the 55th minute they were denied a second by a dramatic goal-line clearance from Nick Montgomery.
Thompson's header back across the six-yard box was turned goalwards by Gudjonsson, and Montgomery knew little about it as the ball hit the heel of his standing foot, a yard from the line, and bounced wide.
United had another huge let-off 10 minutes later when Thompson sprang the offside trap again and this time squared the ball across to Blake, only for young defender Kyle Walker to make a goal-saving challenge.
Burnley's missed chances could have come back to haunt them in the 68th minute when Christian Kalvenes knocked Naughton off the ball in the box but Dean again waved away the appeals.
Paterson was next to try his luck, cutting in from the right and surging into the box only for Walker to block his shot.
And the Blades' task became tougher still in the 78th minute when striker Jamie Ward, who had been booked four minutes earlier, was shown a second yellow card by Dean for handball.
United looked a beaten side as Burnley held on, and the claret and blue half of Wembley erupted on Dean's final whistle, bringing the curtain down on a memorable campaign.
Coyle immensely proud
Burnley manager Owen Coyle looked forward to the ''great adventure'' after masterminding his team's promotion to the Premier League.
The Clarets beat Sheffield United 1-0 in the Championship play-off final at Wembley to make sure of top flight football for the first time since 1976.
And Coyle said: ''We've got a great adventure to look forward to. I think you've seen the effort the players gave today, it was great game, end-to-end - and we had chances to put the game to bed.
''We don't have quantity but I believe we have quality - I'm obviously delighted with what we've achieved today. I'm immensely proud and delighted for everyone in the town - but my heart goes out to Sheffield United.''
Goalscorer Wade Elliott added: ''I think it will take a little while for it to sink in - but I'm delighted for all the lads.
Asked whether his goal was the best of his career, the midfielder added on Sky Sports 1: ''In terms of importance - no contest. It's far and away the best goal I'll ever score, probably.
''It fell nicely, I couldn't really strike it because it was turning a bit and it seemed to take a long time to go in. When it did I thought about running up to my mum and dad but they were in the opposite corner and it was so hot!''
Man of the match Clarke Carlisle added on Sky Sports 1: ''I'm privileged to be a member of this magnificent team.
''What a season, words can't describe how brilliant and awesome an achievement this is. I thank God so much, I'm blessed to be a part of this team. It's just unbelievable, what an awesome day.''

An End of Season Stroll Against Stoke & The Young Guns Clinch Their Double

(by ESPN Arsenal Correspondent David Young)
Arsenal rounded off their season in comfortable style on Sunday with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Stoke City at Ashburton Grove. Though nothing was riding on the match, it was a pleasing way for the team to sign off after a torrid couple of weeks. It was heartening too that the crowd, the manager and players all headed off into the summer on good terms with each other. Throughout the game, Arsene Wenger’s name was sung loudly all round the stadium and any residual friction arising from the annual shareholders’ meeting appeared to be forgotten. The consensus seems to be that Wenger is still the man for the job but with the proviso that a few changes are made in the close-season. To his credit, the manager himself has acknowledged this in the interviews he has given so all we can do is sit back and wait to see what moves he makes before the new season kicks off again in August.
Either side of the victory against Stoke, Arsenal fans were treated to two fabulous performances by the Arsenal under-18s as they beat their Liverpool counterparts both home and away to lift the prestigious FA Youth Cup 6-2 on aggregate. A crowd of over 33,000 turned up at Ashburton Grove to see the first leg last Friday and they were royally entertained with a 4-1 win. The young Arsenal players showed speed, skill and appetite and after going in 2-1 up at half-time blew their visitors away in the second period. Particularly impressive were the midfield pairing of Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin, who, between the two of them, controlled the match and up front Sanchez Watt showed pace and skill and scored the goal of the night.
The return leg at Anfield on Tuesday night might not have been quite as dazzling as the home match but, nonetheless, the boys still did enough to win 2-1 with relative ease. The celebrations that followed the final whistle showed what picking up this trophy meant to the players. They were already champions of the Premier Academy League and taking the FA Youth Cup as well showed what an exceptional group of players the Gunners have on their hands at this age group. Academy Director Liam Brady and his staff have been working with most of these boys for eight years now and though producing top class players is the main objective at this level rather than winning trophies, it must have been a moment of great pride for the Arsenal legend to see the players deliver both the league and the cup.
As wonderful as it was to see such a talented group of young players in action, most of them clearly have a long way to go before they are seen making regular starts either in Arsenal’s first-team or elsewhere in the Premier League. Many of them are still young enough to be eligible for next season’s FA Youth Cup! The feeling is though that in the decade or so that Liam Brady has been at the Academy’s helm this is the strongest crop of players that have ever been brought through. It would be very surprising if several of them did not get onto the first-team scene in the next few years.
So, despite the disappointments that have befallen the club this season, there are a few reasons to be cheerful going into the summer. The now regular first preseason friendly at Barnet is less than two months away. It is not long before we can start dreaming about what next season might hold. Let’s hope that the manager does what he needs to do in the transfer market as early as possible so we can really look forward to the middle of August.

Charleston 2-0 Cleveland City Stars, Battery Outshine Stars to Extend Unbeaten Run

The Charleston Battery pushed its season-long unbeaten streak to nine games Saturday night blanking the Cleveland City Stars 2-0 at Blackbaud Stadium. Chris Williams and Kenji Treschuk each contributed their first goals of the season in the win. “Not a bad night all around,” said Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser. “We didn’t create a lot of chances, but the chances we did create were quality. Once again we were strong in the back. I have no complaints.”The Battery (5-0-4, 19 points) remains the only unbeaten team in USL-1, and firmly positions the club in second place with one game in hand in the league table behind the Carolina RailHawks.Battery goalkeeper Dusty Hudock earned his league-leading seventh shutout on the season and fourth consecutive clean sheet, extending his shutout streak to 377 minutes. Despite falling to Carolina 1-0 less than 24 hours earlier, Cleveland (1-5-1, four points) did enter the match in a defensive shell as teams are wont to do at Blackbaud this year, pressing the Battery, and earning the first corner kick of the match, managing five shots on goal, none of which tested Hudock.After a conservative first 20 minutes, the Battery stepped up the pressure, forcing City goalkeeper Evan Bush to make a series of saves, keeping the pressing Battery at bay until the 38th minute when William opened scoring.Williams goal, his first of the season after re-entering the starting lineup in place of the injured Tsuyoshi Yoshitake, was the result of a long throw-in by Treschuk deep into the heart of a crowded six-yard box. Ian Fuller’s strong challenge forced a defender to misplay the ball off the back of his head toward the far post. All the unmarked Williams had to do was nod the Battery into the lead.“Growing up you always hear ‘Go to the back post, go to the back post.’ That’s what I did,” Williams said. “It was probably going in but I made sure.”Three minutes later it looked like the Battery had a second, this time off the head of Darren Spicer. Spicer started the series with a wicked 35-yard drive Bush did well to save but could not hold. Cleveland’s failure to fully clear the resulting corner kick allowed Fuller space just inside the penalty area. His dipping shot smacked off the woodwork and into the path of Spicer. The goal, however, was disallowed, the assistant referee flagging Spicer for coming into the play from an offside position.Treschuk tallied his first goal in a Battery uniform in the 77th minute to ensure the victory, winning the ball from a defender 30 yards from goal and driving a low right-footed shot that snuck just inside the far post. The Battery faces the Austin Aztex for a pair of matches, Friday, June 5 and Sunday, June 7, and return to Blackbaud Tuesday June 9 to open Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play versus Atlanta FC.

Charleston 2-0, Battery Defeats Rhinos to move into First Place

Charleston Battery topped the Rochester Rhinos 2-0 Saturday night at a soggy Blackbaud Stadium in front of 3,874; Charleston remains unbeaten on the season and moves into first place in the USL-1 table. Randi Patterson and Frankie Sanfilippo each provided second half goals in the victory. The win puts the Battery (4-0-4, 16 points) level with the Carolina RailHawks on points but into first place courtesy of the head-to-head tiebreaker.Battery goalkeeper Dusty Hudock only faced one shot to earn his league-leading fifth clean sheet on the season. The Battery has now gone 283 minutes without conceding a goal. Already suffering the loss of Dan Antoniuk to injury in the Battery’s mid-week 1-0 win over Miami, the Battery were further handicapped when midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake had to be substituted in the fifth minute due to a hamstring injury.After a tightly played first half by both teams, the Battery took advantage of a halftime deluge, using the slick playing surface to open up play. “They came in to make it a physical battle,” said Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser. “The first half was a little chippy, but I think we wore them down over time. The goals are going to come. If teams will come in here and open up with us, then we will get more goals. But right now teams are coming in here and playing us defensively. We’re responding the right way.”The Battery’s persistence paid off in the 56th minute when Patterson ran onto a flick from Wednesday’s hero Darren Spicer and found himself with space 25 yards from goal. After a settling touch he blasted a low right-footed drive just inside Rhino goalkeeper Scott Vallow’s near post.The goal was Patterson’s first on the season.“It’s been a while since I scored,” Patterson said. “The pressure for that first goal is off my back and now I can just concentrate on scoring more goals.”Seven minutes later the Battery were given a man advantage when Rochester’s Tai Atieno was shown a straight red card after a midfield scuffle, the result of a hard collision between the Battery’s Ian Fuller and Rochester’s Kenny Bertz. Both Fuller and Bertz had to be treated but returned to the field.The Rhinos struggled to adjust to the playing a man down, resulting in Sanfilippo’s highlight-reel goal. Sanfilippo the ball at his feet and time to set up a blast from the right flank, 35-yards out as the statuesque Vallow could only watch it sneak just inside the far corner. “I had the space, and in the rain, I thought why not just hit it,” Sanfilippo said. “I looked and saw it go in the upper corner.”The bomb was Sanfilippo’s second on the season. Both have been from distance. “That’s the second quality goal Frankie’s scored from long range this season,” Anhaeuser said. “It’s great when you can get goals like that from your right back.”The Battery will look to remain unbeaten and at the top of the USL-1 table next Saturday, capping off a three-match home stand versus the 1-4-1 Cleveland City Stars at Blackbaud Stadium.