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Phuket Gazette Sports: Champions League and FA Cup results; EPL look ahead

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Nervy Bayern, slick Malaga reach Champions League quarters
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Last season’s beaten finalists Bayern Munich survived a severe case of stage fright to edge into the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals and were joined in the last eight by debutants Malaga last night.

Nervy Bayern were beaten 2-0 at home by Arsenal but progressed thanks to their 3-1 success in London in the first leg.

Arsenal’s task seemed an improbable one but they made a great start when striker Olivier Giroud struck from close range after three minutes. Bayern could never find their stride and Laurent Koscielny’s header from a corner four minutes from time set up a tense finale but the German side held on.

It is the first time since the 1995-96 season, when Blackburn Rovers finished bottom of their group, that there is no English team in the last eight.

Malaga’s fairytale first season among Europe’s elite continued after the Qatari-backed Spaniards overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat by Porto to win the home leg 2-0 at their Rosaleda stadium.

Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz, on-loan from Manchester City, headed home from a corner on 77 minutes soon after coming on a substitute to secure Malaga’s passage.

Playmaker Isco, who won the ‘Golden Boy’ trophy as the best Under-21 player in Europe last season, had levelled the tie with a fine strike two minutes before halftime.

Porto were up against it when Belgian midfielder Steven Defour was sent off for a second yellow four minutes into the second half.

Bayern and Malaga joined Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Paris St Germain, Juventus, Galatasaray and Barcelona in the last eight.

Barca are favourites to win the trophy for the fourth time in eight seasons after World Player of the Year Lionel Messi’s double helped the Catalans overhaul AC Milan’s two-goal first-leg lead with a 4-0 demolition of the Italians in the return on Tuesday.

The draw for the quarter-finals takes place in Nyon on Friday. The final is at Wembley stadium on May 25.

Millwall set up Wigan Cup semi with Blackburn win
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Danny Shittu’s powerful first-half header helped Millwall beat fellow second-tier club Blackburn Rovers 1-0 in an FA Cup quarter-final replay yesterday to set up a last-four clash at Wembley with Premier League team, Wigan Athletic.

Captain Shittu, who opted to miss Nigeria’s African Nations Cup triumph last month so he could stay with Millwall, headed in a corner after 42 minutes to put the 2004 FA Cup finalists in front.

Hosts Blackburn applied pressure in the second half but London side Millwall, who were grateful to a goalline clearance by Shane Lowry after the hour mark, held firm to advance after the championship teams had drawn 0-0 on Sunday.

“We’re through to Wembley. We’re just buzzing for the club and the fans,” Lowry told BBC Radio.

“I cleared one off the line that was going in, but that’s why I’m there. But it was a great all-round performance and to get through to Wembley, I’m just ecstatic.”

Millwall will meet surprise semi-finalists Wigan on the weekend of April 13/14 after the top-flight strugglers stunned seventh-placed Everton 3-0 on Saturday.

“Either side can win when we play Wigan,” defender Shittu told ESPN.

Millwall or Wigan will face either holders Chelsea, 2011 winners, Premier League champions Manchester City or top-flight leaders Manchester United in the final on May 11.

United and Chelsea’s quarter-final replay will be contested on April 1 after the teams drew 2-2 on Sunday.

United look for return to form against Reading
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Eliminated from the Champions League and almost knocked out of the FA Cup, Manchester United return to the relatively calmer waters of the Premier League when they host relegation-threatened and managerless Reading on Saturday.

United, who have won 14 of their last 16 league games, are 12 points clear of second-placed champions Manchester City and can take another step towards an unprecedented 20th title while pushing Reading closer to the drop.

The visitors, who sacked manager Brian McDermott on Monday and are set to be in the hands of youth academy coach Eamonn Dolan on Saturday, have never won at Old Trafford and have only ever beaten Manchester United once – in an FA Cup match in 1927.

Reading have lost twice to United this season, 4-3 at home in the league and 2-1 away in the FA Cup and whoever takes over from McDermott, with ex-Swindon Town boss Paolo Di Canio the favourite, has a huge task on his hands to keep them up.

McDermott, who took Reading up last season and was named manager of the month for January, was sacked after his side lost a fourth successive league game to Aston Villa last weekend.

Di Canio, who was at the match, told British media this week: “I believe I am at a stage now where I am a Premier League or Championship (second tier) manager and want to go to an ambitious club with a winning mentality.”

Reading will certainly need that to stay up as they are four points adrift of safety in 19th place with nine matches to play, level on 23 points with bottom side Queens Park Rangers who have improved their chances of late.

QPR will be looking for a third win in a row when they visit 17th-placed strugglers Villa also on Saturday.

Wigan Athletic, who surprisingly reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time when they won 3-0 at Everton on Saturday, are the other side in the drop zone and need a win at home to Newcastle United on Sunday.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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