March 2, 2015

Chelsea’s first Cup of many

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

The way that this season is going, Chelsea might look back at Sunday’s Capital One Cup win over Tottenham as practice – a rehearsal of how to celebrate after winning a title.

With the league leaders taking it to their London rivals at Wembley, this could’ve been an opportunity for chasers Manchester City to gain some ground in the standings – even if the Blues would have that game in hand.

But Manchester City found out the hard way that trips to Anfield in 2015 are no joking matter.

Liverpool has certainly found its game and are now undefeated in 11 games. This run has helped them jump right into the race for the Champions League as it now sits just two points behind Manchester United in fourth.

This win was all thanks to another Philippe Coutinho rocket. His past three goals have been great shots from outside the box and all three have been game-winners as well – even if his goal against Southampton was in the third minute.

Even the Reds’ defence is playing better, something that has dogged them since Brendan Rodgers took over the team.

But this game wasn’t about Liverpool’s win, it was more about City’s loss.

Even settling for a draw would have been a bad result, but now it’s that much worse.

While having a game in hand is nice and all, Chelsea still has to get a result in it. But with so much room for error, I think we’re getting closer by the day to putting a bow on this season and handing Chelsea another piece of silverware.

FANTASY CORNER

Thanks to the Cup final, we now get our first fantastic double gameweek of the season.

It’s time to stock up on Spurs and maybe Charlie Austin if you fancy QPR’s fixtures – which I wouldn’t.

This is the time in the fantasy season where your moves matter the most. Captaining a guy like Harry Kane for a double gameweek and perhaps getting a goal or two can boost your score big time. Of course, you likely won’t be the only one doing so.

The big debate I think is whether you go with either Kane or Christian Eriksen as your captain, do you take a shot with Austin or do you take Sergio Aguero at home against bottom-of-the-table Leicester City. That’s a decision that should be mulled over carefully.

CHANGING THE LAWS

FIFA met this week to talk about something that didn’t end with the world rolling its collective eyes. Shocking, I know.

But with a committee talking about some rule changes that actually make sense, well there is some hope from the rulers of the world’s game.

Probably the best idea would be the elimination of so-called triple punishment. Really, it made no sense from the start that a player could be send off, suspended for the next game and the other team gets a penalty all for one foul that wasn’t even egregious.

By removing the ban, that takes at least some of the bite out of it.

Another proposal was adding an extra substitution if a game goes into extra time. While I’m all for protecting players’ health, playing an extra two 15-minute halves isn’t enough to necessitate an extra change.

Really, soccer doesn’t need to change to become more like North American sports, either.

Changing the clock to stop when the ball goes out of play is completely unnecessary.

And thank God that the idea of a penalty box has been quickly struck down.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Europe hasn’t treated England well so far this season. Both Liverpool and Tottenham went out in Europa League and things aren’t looking great for Arsenal and Manchester City right now. Even Chelsea isn’t on the most surest of fitting after its 1-1 draw against PSG. The weird thing is Italy’s solid record in Europe, with six teams still alive. You don’t see that everyday … Saido Berahino is doing his best to force his way into England’s plans. He scored a stunner of a volley to give West Brom its win on Saturday … Peter Crouch tied Alan Shearer’s record of 46 headed goals this week. While I’m not surprised that the lanky striker tied the record, I am that they actually keep track of that sort of thing. Although, they do have numbers for everything these days … Wayne Rooney also set a record this week, hitting the 10-goal mark for the 11th straight season. He’s the first player to do so and considering the type of transfer movement we see from top players these days, it might not happen again.

THE LAST WORD

We laughed when Arsenal’s Keiran Gibbs was sent off instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a case of mistaken identity last year, but this time was just sad.

The ref got it completely wrong when Sunderland’s Wes Brown was given his marching orders after a foul in the box on Radamel Falcao gave United a penalty.

The problem is that it was John O’Shea that committed the foul.

Even after pleading with the ref that he should be the one sent off Sunderland’s captain O’Shea remained on the pitch.

After the game, the referee association backed the official and gave the reasoning that he saw Brown foul Falcao and that it was the right call.

I wonder how this will all hold up after an appeal that will surely come.

My take on the whole thing: I don’t think it should’ve been a red card to begin with. Nobody would’ve complained if it was simply a penalty and a yellow for O’Shea.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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