Sunday, 16 August 2009

Live text - Premier League

1607: Fernando Torres gets his foot on the ball for the first time and ties Benoit Assou-Ekotto in knots in the right-hand corner. But, after beating the Tottenham defender three times, he then smashes the ball straight out of play. A bit of a waste that.
1605: First shot on goal goes to Tottenham. A corner is cleared as far as Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the edge of the area and his first-time effort is high, wide and, er, not very handsome.
1603: Liverpool have had more of the ball in the first couple of minutes but Tottenham have harried them so effectively that they could not do anything with it. Quite a frenetic start.
1601: Here we go. Tottenham kick off and we are very much under way.
1559: We've just had another, deserved, minute's applause for former England manager Sir Bobby Robson at White Hart Lane.
From Stiive on 606: "Re 1549. Sounds like Benitez is making excuses before the match has even started!"
1556: Here come the Tottenham still do that montage of their glory days on the big screens at White Hart Lane just before kick-off? Guaranteed to get the home fans going from my experience...
From Cornishpsd on 606: "Well, we will see at the end of the game whether Liverpool have a weak team. I do agree that Arsenal and Chelsea look the business and I do not believe Man Utd will challenge this season with Rooney playing up on his own."
1551: Less than 10 minutes to go until kick-off at White Hart Lane. Tottenham have not lost here since November 2008.
1549: Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez on his side's opening match of the new campaign: "It would be interesting to see how the fixtures are done because every year we seem to have a difficult away game. It will be tough against a good team and a manager (Harry Redknapp) with experience. But we will try to get all three points."
1546: Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp on facing Liverpool: "It's a big test on the first day of the season to see what we are made of. We beat them at home last year even though they dominated. We're looking forward to it."
BBC Sport's Phil McNulty tweeting at White Hart Lane: "Surprised Ryan Babel is chosen ahead of Yossi Benayoun for Liverpool. Benayoun was in outstanding form in the closing stages of last season."
1542: It's a bright and sunny day at White Hart Lane by the way - and I don't need much of an excuse to get my new graphics out. While I'm here, do any of you lot remember this fixture from last season? On 1 November, Dirk Kuyt put Liverpool ahead before Tottenham equalised through Jamie Carragher's own goal and Roman Pavlyuchenko's last-gasp winner gave Spurs the points that lifted them off the bottom of the table in one of only two League defeats for Liverpol in the entire campaign. That seems an awfully long time ago now...
1538: Birmingham boss Alex McLeish after his side's 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford: "It was a very difficult game but the players worked their socks off and we could have taken something away from it. I was disappointed that we didn't quite nail one of our chances."
From Ramesh, Liverpool fan, via text on 81111: "How is it that Spurs have a stronger bench than us? Our squad looks so thin, a couple of injuries and we're done."
1536: Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney: "The first game of the season is always difficult - Birmingham have been preparing for this match all summer and we are just pleased to get the three points."
1533: I suppose United fans will be happy with the result, if not the performance, today. Credit to Birmingham, though, they did enough to make things difficult for the champions and that was an encouraging start from the newly-promoted Blues.
1529: TEAM NEWS Tottenham v LiverpoolTottenham start with Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe in attack, so summer signing Peter Crouch has to make do with a place on the bench. But fellow new-boy Sebastien Bassong plays and is partnered in central defence by Ledley King. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is passed fit to play after concerns over a groin injury. Centre-backs Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel have also overcome injury to start at the heart of the Reds defence and right-back Glen Johnson makes his Liverpool debut.
1527: BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at White Hart Lane: Spurs players out for the warm-up at White Hart Lane. Real sense of anticipation and key questions to be answered. Can Liverpool bring the title back to Anfield? Can Spurs threaten the top four? The early evidence will be presented here. Robbie Keane gets the nod ahead of Peter Crouch for Spurs - which will be a big relief for him.
1526: TEAMS Tottenham v LiverpoolTottenham: Gomes, Corluka, King, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Palacios, Huddlestone, Modric, Keane, Defoe. Subs: Cudicini, Hutton, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch, Naughton, O'Hara. Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Kuyt, Mascherano, Lucas, Babel, Gerrard, Torres. Subs: Cavalieri, Voronin, Benayoun, Spearing, Kelly, Dossena, Ayala.
1525: So, three points and job done for Manchester United as they kick-off their title defence with a 1-0 victory over Birmingham but definitely room for improvement from Sir Alex Ferguson's men.
1523: FULL-TIME Manchester United 1-0 Birmingham City
1522: Ah, here is Michael Owen's big chance. No lineman's flag this time as he runs on to Wayne Rooney's flick. He should score but Joe Hart sticks out a leg and just does enough to deflect his shot past the post. Do I have to point out that Owen should have done a lot better there?
1521: Michael Owen runs clear and confidently slots home. Er, just a shame about the linesman's flag signalling offside really. No booking for Owen though, which is a surprise - or is it?
1520: We will have three minutes of added time at Old Trafford.
1518: Birmingham are not exactly piling on the pressure in the closing minutes to be fair. James O'Shea fires in a cross from the right but it is straight at Ben Foster and the Blues will need to do better than that.
BBC Sport's Phil McNulty tweeting at White Hart Lane: "Andriy Voronin and Andrea Dossena are locked in conversation on the Liverpool substitutes' bench. Discussing uncertain futures maybe?"
1516: Five minutes to go at Old Trafford. This one is still in the balance.
1514: Apologies, I've just been told Christian Benitez is Ecuadorian, not Mexican (I've changed that if you give this page a manual refresh). That makes two Ecuadorians on the Old Trafford pitch because Antontio Valencia is still on the right wing for United, not that he has done much recently.
1513: A bit of an early team-news from White Hart Lane. Steven Gerrard will start for Liverpool - more on that later.
1512: Another change for Birmingham. James O'Shea is on for Sebastian Larsson.
1510: At the other end, United's new strike-force of Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen is linking up well but Birmingham are probably having the better of this game at the moment. Let's keep an eye on how the Rooney-Owen partnership works out though...
1508: Blimey, Christian Benitez almost becomes an instant hero on his Birmingham debut. He is in space on the left after a swift counter-attack, and cuts in past Wes Brown before forcing a superb save from Ben Foster. That was very close...
1506: Birmingham's Christian Benitez has his nickname 'Chucho' on the back of his shirt, rather than his surname. 'Chucho' translates as a 'small, pesky dog' so expect him to chase the ball a lot and bark at the referee - and look out for him when he goes near a goalpost.
1505: With 15 minutes to go, changes are afoot for both teams. Birmingham are bringing their new Ecuador striker Christian Benitez on for Lee Carsley and Michael Owen will replace Dimitar Berbatov for United. Owen receives a huge cheer from the crowd as he runs on for his competitive debut. Oh, and Wes Brown has come on for Jonny Evans too.
1504: Almost the second goal that United have been waiting for. A looping right-wing cross by Fabio Da Silva is met by Dimitar Berbatov, whose header is cleared off the line by Lee Carsley.
1503: Michael Owen is warming up for Manchester United. The former Liverpool striker is getting a warm reception from the home fans.
1502: Former Manchester United and Birmingham midfielder Robbie Savage on BBC Radio 5 live: "I think Birmingham have started to believe for the first time that they can get something out of this game."
1500: We've got 20 minutes left and United still lead 1-0. Fair to say that they could and should have killed this one off by now? Instead, Birmingham are battling on and could still sneak a point.
1457: A dangerous James McFadden free-kick from the right is punched clear by Ben Foster and United break with Wayne Rooney on the ball. He's got plenty of support but can only find a Birmingham defender - chance gone.
From Martyn In Burntwood via text on 81111: "I think Fergie needs to swap Michael Owen for Dimitar Berbatov to put the game out of reach for Birmingham!"
1454: Birmingham make their first change of the match. Cameron Jerome is coming off, and Garry Connor will replace him as their lone striker.
1453: Some decent possession by Birmingham ends with a low shot by James McFadden from the edge of the area. He doesn't get hold of it properly, however, and that is an easy save for Ben Foster.
1451: Ryan Giggs sees the resulting free-kick deflected over and, from the corner that follows, Paul Scholes has a fierce volley blocked. United have definitely upped the tempo here.
1450: United respond by coming forward with real intent and a better ball by Wayne Rooney would have sent Dimitar Berbatov clear. Rooney's pass was wayward but he was caught by Gregory Vignal after he played it so United have a free-kick in a dangerous area.
1448: If United needed a wake-up call that this game isn't over with their 1-0 lead the that was it. Keith Fahey picks up the ball 30 yards out and sends in a skidding shot that Ben Foster is grateful to see fly wide. Not sure he would have reached it had it been on target. We've got 30 minutes left at Old Trafford. Still hope for Birmingham.
From faranjiniho on 606: "United are playing as if they are two or three goals ahead, a bit too relaxed for my liking."
From Paul in Gatley via text on 81111: "Expecting a change in tactics by United this half, a few up-and-unders to match the rugby league-style of that awful shirt."
1442: Stephan Carr does not help the Blues' cause when he gives the ball away when it should be hoofed into Row Z. Wayne Rooney picks it up on the edge of the box and dinks in a delicious cross that Franck Queudrue just about manages to head clear with Dimitar Berbatov waiting to pounce.
1439: Birmingham are still working hard, particularly in midfield but, in terms of threatening United, they are relying on James McFadden down the left or getting a set-piece in a dangerous area. They've not managed either yet and Cameron Jerome is looking a tad isolated up front.
From anon on 81111: "Man Utd are looking vulnerable in defence today. To win this game they have to be strong at the back and introduce Michael Owen."
1436: Not sure what Sir Alex Ferguson said to Wayne Rooney at half-time but it seems like it was along the lines of "shoot on sight". The England star latches on to a bouncing ball and lets fly with a dipping shot from 30 yards that Joe Hart does well to tip wide. That would have been some goal.
1434: United get the second half under way. Giggs has played in every single Premier League campaign for United - this is his 18th.
1432: Ryan Giggs is coming off the bench for United for the second-half, replacing Nani on the left wing.
1428: Interesting that two future England goalkeepers in the making are between the sticks at either end today at Old Trafford. Neither have covered themselves in glory so far - Birmingham's Joe Hart has struggled with his handling, while Ben Foster has looked vulnerable from crosses. Maybe both of them still have a bit of improving to do?
From anon on 81111: "Please get this message to Sir Alex: get Michael Owen on, there's a hat trick on for him!"
From Sakaria2 on 606: "That was a very poor miss by Fletcher, and should have put Manchester United out of sight, but when there is only one goal in it, there's still hope for Birmingham to snatch something from this game."
1420: Hmmm, not a vintage performance so far from the champions but they are still on top against Birmingham. If Darren Fletcher had put that last chance away then you might be forgiven for thinking it was game-over for the visitors but, as it stands, at 1-0 they are definitely in with a sniff - they've had their chances against United.
1418: HALF-TIME Manchester United 1-0 Birmingham City
1416: How did he miss that? After a brilliant passing move by United, Patrice Evra plays the ball back for Darren Fletcher, who is unmarked about eight yards out from the goal. The Scottish midfielder tries to pick his spot but his first-time effort sails embarrassingly high and wide - he should have done a lot better there.
1415: Gregory Vignal wins a free-kick for Birmingham on the left and Sebastian Larsson whips it goalwards with his right foot. Ben Foster looks a bit uncertain with those sort of balls but United clear their lines.
1414: Five minutes to go until half-time and Birmingham are still in this, obviously. I think they'd take 1-0 at the break, especially after the way United have dominated.
From A Touch Of Class on 606: "Fantastic Patrice Evra. Amazing clearance off the line"
1409: And, from the resulting corner, an even bigger scare for United. Franck Queudrue is first to the ball at the near post and his powerful header is heading into the net until Patrice Evra somehow manages to nod the ball off the line. Much better from Birmingham this.
1408: How will Birmingham respond? Try this...Cameron Jerome picks up the ball on the edge of the area and creates some space for a stinging shot that hits Paul Scholes and fizzes just wide.
It had been coming folks. Nani finds space on the left and delivers a looping cross that Wayne Rooney heads down against the post before reacting quickly to turn in the rebound. He was involved in the build-up too.
1405: GOAL FLASH Manchester United 1-0 Birmingham City
1404: Great play by Fabio Da Silva who surges forward down the right and gets to the bye-line before sending in a thumping low cross. Joe Hart spills it, into the path of Rooney, but his effort is deflected wide. That could have been far worse for the visitors.
1400: Antonio Valencia hasn't seen that much of the ball on the right recently but he seems to have the beating of Birmingham full-back Gregory Vignal down that flank. Credit to the French defender, he sticks to his task and eventually stops the Ecuadorian winger even if it is at the third attempt.
1357: A quickly-taken Manchester United corner ends with Dimitar Berbarov's first-time shot blocked in a crowded penalty area. The ball is soon back in the box, though, and Joe Hart flaps at a cross before the ball is eventually cleared. It's still all United but no end product from the home side.
From Lee in Wigan on 81111: "Supposed to be at Old Trafford cheering on the Reds but am too ill to go. Please cheer me up guys."
1354: Whenever Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster gets the ball, he looks to feed Nani on the left flank. United are still keen to use their wingers as much as possible, and are still enjoying plenty of possession, but so far they cannot find a decisive final ball.
1352: Former Manchester United and Birmingham midfielder Robbie Savage on BBC Radio 5 live: "When Birmingham have believed they can go forward and get something they look a different team. That's what they've got to do - if you sit back at Old Trafford you will get taken to the cleaners."
1350: Birmingham have to be careful they don't commit too many men forward themselves though. United can break forward even faster and Dimitar Berbatov is having an outstanding game up front for the champions so far - he's a delight to watch.
1349: The first 15 minutes at Old Trafford have been all about United but Birmingham have looked dangerous on the break. They've just threatened again in the same fashion - James McFadden bending in an enticing cross from the left and Ben Foster doing well to come out and collect it off the toe of Blues midfielder Sebastien Larsson.
From dublinmanc on 606: "While Birmingham have a decent enough midfield five, their back line looks suspect. A few goals to be had from Rooney/Berbatov today."
1346: Phew. Another United chance - Wayne Rooney lets fly with a curling effort that Joe Hart brilliantly tips over the bar.
1344: Crikey, United could have scored three goals there! Dimitar Berbatov breaks clear but fails to make the most of a clear scoring chance - then the ball breaks to Wayne Rooney with Joe Hart stranded but Rooney is crowded out of it before feeding Nani, whose shot is cleared off the line.
1342: Birmingham are still looking lively mind. United feel Stephen Carr fouls Dimitar Berbatov on the edge of the area but the referee waves play on and up the other end James McFadden cuts inside and lets fly with a low shot that flies just wide.
1341: Patrice Evra tests Joe Hart with a low shot after latching on to a lovely pass by Darren Fletcher. Looks like Mr Hart will be a busy boy today...
1338: It is United who are enjoying most of the possession in the early stages though. Plenty of dangerous balls being fired into the Blues box and the visitors' goalkeeper Joe Hart has just had his first touch, easily catching a looping Wayne Rooney header.
1336: As James McFadden told us beforehand, he is very much playing out wide on the left. The Scot has just had some useful possession too, and had space to bend a ball into the box, but it was too high for Cameron Jerome who was the only Birmingham player in there.
1334: It's all been a bit scrappy so far - both sides have got their share of injury problems to be fair - but United have showed their intentions by getting the ball out wide to Nani or Antonio Valencia whenever possible.
1333: Ooof. The game is less than a minute old when Dimitar Berbatov is on the wrong end of a clattering challenge by Birmingham's Keith Fahay. The Bulgarian rubs his head painfully but is up on his feet and seems to be all right.
1332: Here we go. Birmingham get the game under way.
1330: We're going to have a minute's applause for the late great Sir Bobby Robson at Old Trafford before play starts today.
From Vee at Old Trafford (I travelled all the way from India to see this!) on 81111: "Loving the new popcorn! The Birmingham fans have been flexing their vocal cords during the warm up. I also noticed three balls sitting in the Birmingham that a sign of things to come?"
1326: The groundsmen are making the final adjustments to the Old Trafford pitch - hope they remember to turn the sprinklers off - and here come the players. What do you think of United's new kit this season?..more rugby league than football as far as I'm concerned.
1323: An update on Rio Ferdinand for you: he apparently sustained his calf injury in training on Friday morning and will go for a scan on Monday morning. Until that happens, Manchester United don't know how long he will be out of action for.
From comedian Mark Watson on 81111: "Re 1240. I was at the Bristol City game. It should be noted that we, City, also had a perfectly good goal chalked off for offside. I admit Neil Warnock is right to be angry, but it's actually no different from our disallowed goal or any of the many other wrong offside decisions every week."
1315: Apologies for claiming Daniel Jerome will start up front for Birmingham (now changed if you give this page a manual update). I'm going to blame that one on one of my colleagues. Cameron Jerome will be the Blues' lone striker today...
1312: Birmingham manager Alex McLeish on his side's daunting trip to Old Trafford: "In terms of the squad I am still looking to enhance it but I know these fellas will give everything they have got. There is no reason why every player should be going there feeling nothing but belief in themselves and dreaming they can cause an upset against all odds."
1310: BBC Radio 5 live have just spoken to Birmingham forward James McFadden, who tells them that Blues will line up in a 4-5-1 formation, with Cameron Jerome as a lone striker and himself out wide on the left.
1305: TEAM NEWS Manchester United v Birmingham CityNew £16m signing Antonio Valencia will attempt to fill the sizeable hole left by Cristiano Ronaldo on the right side of midfield for Manchester United, while Portugal international Nani gets an early opportunity to impress the home fans. In the absence of Rio Ferdinand, the champions' defence is (r-l) Fabio Da Silva, John O'Shea, Jonathan Evans and Patrice Evra.Promoted Birmingham will give goalkeeper Joe Hart, on loan from United's neighbours Manchester City, his debut, while £8m club record signing striker Christian Benitez starts on the bench.
From enigmaticenigma on 606: "Good to see Michael Owen on the bench. He's best as an impact substitute. Nani and Antonio Valencia should be effective with Dimitar Berbatov."
From anon at Old Trafford on 81111: "Big changes at Old Trafford for the new season. Popcorn is on offer, and also giant chocolate buttons. "
1257: I don't need to tell Arsenal or Everton fans who the big winners and losers were on Saturday but one statistic that stood out was the number of away wins - out of eight games, Chelsea and Stoke were the only home teams to collect three points. Can you see Birmingham and Liverpool winning on their travels today too? It's a big ask for both of them...
1255: TEAMS Manchester United v Birmingham City Man Utd: Foster, Fabio Da Silva, O'Shea, Jonathan Evans, Evra, Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Nani, Berbatov, Rooney. Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Owen, Anderson, Giggs, Gibson, De Laet. Birmingham: Hart, Carr, Roger Johnson, Queudrue, Vignal, Larsson, Ferguson, Carsley, Fahey, McFadden, Jerome. Subs: Maik Taylor, O'Connor, Phillips, Benitez, McSheffrey, Parnaby, O'Shea.
From Sukh at Old Trafford on 81111: "Good atmosphere here in the stands - everyone looking forward to the first game of the season in the Premier League. My prediction - 3-0 to Utd!"
From Webby on 606: "Newcastle and Reading both drew with Man Utd at Old Trafford on the opening day in previous seasons... needless to say we all know what happened then to those clubs...Birmingham beware the draw."
1249: Some early team news from Old Trafford - Rio Ferdinand, who was already doubtful because of a back injury, has been ruled out by a calf injury sustained in training. John O'Shea will captain Manchester United in his absence and partner Jonny Evans in the centre of defence. Full line-ups to follow.
1246 I'm expecting plenty of chat from you lot too of course. Get involved on 606, via text on 81111 or, if you're feeling adventurous, give me a tweet on Twitter. Basically, you've got no excuse for not getting in touch.
1243: Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson on his side's bid to become the first side to win the Premier League four years on the trot: "We have more experience because of winning the titles but it doesn't make that much difference in terms of the competition we are going to get into. To win four in a row would be fantastic. But this is a difficult league to win and, rather than look to May, I am looking at Sunday."
1240: By the way, if you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you check out 'the goal that wasn't' in Crystal Palace's defeat by Bristol City on Saturday. If you're in the UK and have got access to iPlayer then you can watch it now. If you have seen it, you can kind of see why Eagles boss Neil Warnock is a teeny bit aggrieved, can't you?
BBC Sport's Phil McNulty: "Off to White Hart Lane soon. Will Liverpool justify my prediction that they will be Premier League champions? Tough start."
1236: If you're a Birmingham fan then your confidence ahead of the new campaign is hardly likely to have been boosted by the comments of your manager Alex McLeish this week. Bemoaning the lack of funds to strengthen his squad, the Scot said: "We are not equipped for the Premier League as things stand now. If this team is to stay up, we need more quality. We still need at least three more players."
From We all agree, Manchester United are Magic! on 606: "The Champions are finally here. Now witness the magic that is Manchester United."
1234: Reigning champions Manchester United join the party today, kicking off the defence of their title against newly-promoted Birmingham at 1330 BST. That match is followed by a humdinger at White Hart Lane between Tottenham and Liverpool at 1600 BST - not a bad way to test the Reds' title credentials that...
1232 BST: Blimey, yesterday was a bit of a cracker wasn't it? And I've got good news - the opening weekend of the 2009/10 Premier League is not over yet...

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