Early Doors

  • The joy of dross

    If you'd turned the telly to Channel 5 last night, perhaps
    hoping to see such prime time gems as Cowboy Builders, Ice Road Truckers
    or the genre-defining Stansted: The Inside Story, you might have caught the end
    of Liverpool's Europa League tie against Sparta Prague.

    The first leg in the Czech Republic was, by most accounts,
    one of the five or six worst games ever played. Last night was better, although
    not by a great deal.

    After 175 minutes of goalless tedium, Dirk Kuyt headed
    in a corner - and Anfield went mad. It was a development that took Early Doors
    by surprise. Not the goal (although

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  • What is the point of football?

    Gerard Houllier has rightly been pilloried for his bizarre
    team selection for Aston Villa's FA Cup tie at Manchester City last night.

    Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Marc Albrighton, Kyle Walker,
    Robert Pires and Nigel Reo-Coker were all left out as Villa slumped to a
    pathetic 3-0 defeat at Eastlands.

    It seems Houllier would rather concentrate on the battle for
    12th place in the Premier League than take a shot at FA Cup glory.

    It really makes ED wonder what the point of football is, if
    not to win trophies. Maybe Villa, who recently published details of an
    eye-watering wage bill, felt they

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  • What if?

    "The sending-off cost us the game, if it had stayed at 11-11 we would have won this tie tonight."

    Whether you agree with Arsene Wenger's assessment or not, Arsenal left the Camp Nou last night with a serious case of 'WHAT IF?'

    Three minutes after levelling on the night and taking a 3-2 aggregate lead, Robin van Persie was shown a second yellow card by Swiss referee Massimo Busacca when he took a shot after being flagged for offside.

    It was a crazy decision and one that will leave Busacca hogging the headlines in the same way Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was the talk of the town when

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  • United silence speaks volumes

    "Bad result today no excuses."

    "...very deep gash."

    These eight words are the sum total of post-match reaction coming out of the Manchester United camp as a result of the club's media blackout following the league leaders' abject 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.

    The first line came from the Twitter feed of Rio Ferdinand (who obviously didn't get the memo), while the second is a club spokeswoman's description of the state of Nani's left shin following the battering it took from Jamie Carragher's studs.

    There was nothing else said via official channels for the club's global fan base, thought

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  • A great night for Arsenal

    So, not such a bad week for Arsenal after all.

    Three days after suffering a devastating Carling Cup final
    defeat, their title hopes have been given a massive boost by Manchester
    United's defeat at Chelsea.

    A pretty good way to help shake off the psychological damage
    of Sunday's loss, the effects of which should not be underestimated.

    ED snuck into Wembley in a laundry basket, and has rarely
    seen fans as crushed as Arsenal's. Not because they really wanted to win the Carling
    Cup, but because the longer you go without a trophy, the more you doubt whether
    you can ever win one.

    As one sage put it,

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  • He’s just not that into you

    Poor old Dimitar Berbatov.

    There he was, having by far his best season as a Manchester
    United player, rattling in goals at a rate of nearly one a game, finally
    fulfilling his lavish talent and drawing Player of the Year nominations.

    Life was good - then something odd happened. Fergie stopped
    picking him.

    Since United's first Premier League defeat of the season at
    Wolves, he has started just two out of eight games, compared with seven for
    Wayne Rooney and five for Javier Hernandez.

    Last night he was again given a watching brief while
    Hernandez fired United into the Champions League

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  • Canny Spurs outdo Gunners

    If last night's performance was anything to go by, Harry Redknapp should have no problem with his defence in an upcoming court case for alleged tax irregularities.

    North London rivals Arsenal, however, continue to pay the price for a philosophical stubbornness that is unlikely to depart until Arsene Wenger joins Johan Cruyff in the purists' knackers yard, which one assumes would comprise a five-a-side pitch with strict rules regarding slide tackling and the ball travelling above head height.

    There is little doubt that Barcelona are a superior team to Milan, but the Rossoneri are Italy's best

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  • Another new England captain

    The weekend was certainly a tumultuous one both in and out of sport, what with protestors rampaging through central London the day after the England cricket team's 10-wicket defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka in their World Cup quarter-final.

    Still, at least England's football team won to give the country reason to cheer. The Three Lions triumphed 2-0 in Cardiff, are back where they belong at the top of Group G and Fabio Capello has been hailed for transforming the game as we know it with his revolutionary 4-3-3 formation.

    With the performances of Jack Wilshere, Ashley Young and Scott Parker

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  • How we get through an international break

    Day two of the spring international week, and already the cracks are beginning to show.

    With no prospect of any actual matches until England and Scotland's U21 sides play their matches on Thursday, it could be a long week.

    Northern Ireland are then in action on Friday night in one of a clutch of Euro 2012 qualifiers involving the likes of France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. All easily more worthwhile viewing than the double-header of 'Supersize vs Superskinny Kids' and 'Embarrassing Bodies', at any rate.

    When it comes to the senior England side, however, we have to wait until Saturday

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