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  • 29 Aug
    CHICAGO -- Its now or never for the St. Louis Cardinals.This weeks visit to Wrigley Field for a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs may represent their last chance to start closing an imposing gap with the National League Central leaders.Or it may signal a realization that the more practical objective is an NL Wild Card berths.The series opens Thursday as the Cardinals send right-hander Carlos Martinez (10-7, 3.29 ERA) against left-hander Jon Lester (12-4, 2.93 ERA).Martinez is coming off a 13-5 loss Saturday night to Atlanta, giving up seven runs over five innings, including a pair of three-run homers. Lester, who has three wins and two no-decisions in his last five outings, faces St. Louis for the first time this season .Just before the All-Star break the Cubs were mired in a 6-15 slump while the Cardinals had closed to within seven games of the division leaders. And with 10 head-to-head games ahead in the second half, St. Louis was thinking about a potential run.The Cubs have a great team and it would still be a big challenge to catch them if their lead was four games instead of seven, Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter told reporters in mid-July. Its not going to be easy -- but it does at least seem more realistic than it did a few weeks ago.That was then.Three-plus weeks later Chicago owns a 12-game lead on second-place St. Louis. The Cubs have gone 19-6 since a victory just before the All-Star break and now have won nine straight.The Cardinals (60-54) are 4-6 in their last 10 games after Wednesdays 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, but lost first baseman Matt Adams to the disabled list before Thursdays game.The Cardinals come into the series four games behind Los Angeles for the top wild card spot and tied with Miami for the second.Every game for us now is important., said Jhonny Peralta on Wednesday. Today was a big win. Miami lost and we won, so we are good to go. Now we go out there and try to win another game.The Cubs became the first big league team to 70 wins with Tuesdays 5-1 victory over the Angels. They maintain baseballs best record and are on track for 102 wins.Chicago is -- as pitcher Jake Arrieta put it last week -- operating on all cylinders. Among the differences over the last 24 games entering Wednesday was better performances and consistency from Arrieta and other pitchers.Cubs pitchers had a collective 2.37 ERA in that span, including a 2.61 ERA from starters and a 1.76 ERA from relievers. In 24 games prior, the Cubs had a 5.17 ERA.Adams was replaced on the active roster by outfielder Randal Grichuk, who is promoted from Triple-A with a .216 batting average this season and a miserable 1-for-17 five-game stretch at Memphis.Not even a soap opera involving bench player Tommy La Stella and his refusal to report to Triple-A Iowa has distracted the Cubs.The left-handed hitting infielder was sent down to Iowa 12 days ago but was reported to be instead working out at his New Jersey home and Cubs brass put La Stella on the inactive list on Tuesday.Hes a 27-year-old kid and hes working through some stuff and were trying to give him time to work through those things, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week. Weve had a lot of contact with him and well continue to do that. New Orleans Pelicans Jerseys . The incident occurred at 19:56 of the second period of the Kings 4-2 road win over Edmonton on Sunday. Nolan punched Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu in the jaw in front of the Kings goal during a scrum. ETwaun Moore Pelicans Jersey . Carey Price didnt, but he still came out on top against one of his rivals for the No. 1 job at the Sochi Games. The Anahim Lake, B.C., native was stellar in making 39 saves in his home province and Lars Eller got credit for a bizarre short-handed winner as the Canadiens defeated the Canucks 4-1. http://www.shoppelicansonline.com/Authentic-Jrue-Holiday-Pelicans-Jersey/ . Zvonareva, who won the tournament in 2009 and 10, couldnt handle her opponents big groundstrokes in only her third event back after 17 months out with a shoulder injury. Zvonareva made her comeback in January in Shenzhen and played in the Australian Open but lost her first matches at both tournaments. Anthony Davis Pelicans Jersey . Patrice Bergeron and Daniel Paille scored 20 seconds apart a few minutes after Stamkos was taken off the ice on a stretcher with a broken right leg, and the Bruins beat the Lightning 3-0 on Monday afternoon. Anthony Davis Jersey . LOUIS -- Heading into the final stretch of the season, the issues for the Chicago Bears banged-up defence only seem to be getting worse.Ahead of Sundays meeting between the sides, Jon Holmes takes an in-depth look back at Pizzagate - the infamous Manchester United and Arsenal clash from 2004. Football is not a war, insisted Arsene Wenger to the gathered press corps, as he prepared to take his troops north to Old Trafford for the 10th game of the 2004/05 Premier League campaign.Since I have been in the game, its always about war and fights - and football is not about that. After a record 49 league matches without defeat, Wenger could have been forgiven for adopting a zen-like mentality towards the rough and tumble of domestic conflict. After the elation of his third English title triumph, achieved in a manner of total supremacy, the Frenchman had seen his sharp-shooting Gunners begin the new season looking equally imperious.Top of the table with 29 goals scored, they were 11 points ahead of seventh-placed Manchester United and appeared to be marching already towards another title. A pretender to the crown called Jose Mourinho had also arrived on these shores but at this point in history, there could be little argument that Arsenal ruled the land.Meanwhile, in the north, the Red Devils still carried scars - more wounded pride than physical traces - from the Battle of Old Trafford the previous September. United and Arsenal had slugged out a bitter stalemate, which ended in Martin Keown goading Ruud van Nistelrooy after the latter failed from the penalty spot in the 90th minute, igniting a powderkeg of on-pitch confrontations. Mike Riley tries to keep the peace between Gary Neville and Edu Even though the Gunners had four players banned for a total of nine matches and received a £175,000 fine (the largest ever handed down by the Football Association to a single club), there was no sense of shame. Instead, Wenger was proud of how his players had stood up to United and claimed their five seconds of bad behaviour was a rare character lapse from a team of great entertainers.He had a point; Arsenal still finished top of the Fair Play league that season, despite the rap. Sir Alex Ferguson scowled, said the north Londoners had got off lightly and even accused them of cutting some sort of deal with the FA in advance of their disciplinary hearing. Surprisingly, the Scot was not charged himself for that comment; mind you, there would be more than enough run-ins between him and Soho Square in the years that followed.Of course, Ill be telling my players there can be no repeat of what happened last season, continued Wenger to the media. We have a responsibility to keep things as much within football as possible. They acted as though the rest of the world was meant to sit back and admire their beautiful football. Sorry, count me out. Gary Neville That proved to be wishful thinking. Any inner serenity Wenger may have attained was about to be ended by a United side determined to usurp the upstarts from down south. As Gary Neville noted in his autobiography: They acted as though the rest of the world was meant to sit back and admire their beautiful football. Sorry, count me out. Some of us had a mission to stop them by all legitimate means.Come matchday, the locals were revolting. The proposed takeover of United by Malcolm Glazer was drawing near; the American tycoon having taken his stake in the club to 28.1 per cent by this stage. Over 1,000 fans marched on the United Megastore carrying a Not For $ale banner, but they would not be able to prevent Glazers full ownership being ratified by the following summer. Man Utd fans demonstrate against the proposed Malcolm Glazer takeover Steve Bennett had taken charge of the previous seasons United v Arsenal clash, but it would be Mike Riley - Englands Euro 2004 referee - who got the gig this time. Before the game, Rileys boss Keith Hackett described the Yorkshireman as calm, takes firm action when necessary and doesnt over-react, before adding: You want a referee to be like a good orchestra leader, baton in hand, controlling the tempo. Wenger would be asking for a refund on his concert ticket by the final whistle.At least Riley would have been relieved to note the absence of firebrand Roy Keane from the United team-sheet due to a virus. Rio Ferdinand led out the hosts instead, but was hugely fortunate not to walk back down the tunnel after 19 minutes. Edus excellent through-ball sent Freddie Ljungberg sprinting towards goal and he reached the pass before the United skipper, only to then be taken out. However, Riley - behind the play - chose not to call a foul.Soon afterwards, Gary Neville made a poor, late tackle on Jose Antonio Reyes - but Riley kept his cards in his pocket. Wenger was already shaking his head in disbelief as persistent rain set in. An untidy coming together between Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrick Vieira saw Riley briefly surrounded. Then Van Nistelrooys touch was just a little too heavy after Nevilles throw-in down the right flank, Ashley Cole came back to intercept, and the Dutchman caught the left-back on his knee, sending him down in a crumpled heap. Barely 30 minutes had been played. The game between Man Utd and Arsenal was memorable for its tough tackling Fortunately Cole was soon back on his feet, but frustration got the better of him and a kick out at the escaping Wayne Rooney brought the games first booking. Gary Neville had another snap at the heels of Reyes and his name was taken too, quickly followed by brother Phil for a foul on the same Arsenal player. The visitors had actuallly played fairly adventurously up until this point, but United were determined to unsettle their rhythm.ddddddddddddThe half ended with more handbags as Gabriel Heinze and Thierry Henry got tangled up in the corner.After the break, neither goalkeeper was significantly troubled until Jens Lehmann had to hang onto Heinzes shot, after Edu had been grounded by what he felt was a hand-off. Fed up of getting kicked himself, Reyes had taken to getting some of his own back and went for Ronaldo before being replaced by Robert Pires on 70 minutes.In his previous seven visits to Old Trafford, Riley had awarded United seven penalties. He maintained that ratio as Rooney, celebrating his 19th birthday, exchanged passes with Ryan Giggs on the right before going down in the box as Sol Campbell waved his left leg in the strikers path. Lehmann tried to put Van Nistelrooy off again, just like 13 months before, but the Dutchman stroked the ball home low and ran off roaring with delight, his demons thoroughly exorcised. Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand celebrate in the rain after the final whistle Now there was a tear in Arsenals cloak of invincibility. Vieira and Edu clattered into Giggs and Scholes respectively and were booked. Pires set up Cole for a possible equaliser, but the defenders shot was always rising. The Gunners had to go for broke - and inevitably left themselves open to the decisive blow. In the 90th minute, Ronaldo played the ball forward for subs Louis Saha and Alan Smith to combine and the latters low centre was side-footed home by Rooney. The teenager even gave Lehmann a cheeky slap in the face after the goalkeeper tried to wrestle the ball back from him.After the final whistle, Campbell wouldnt shake Rooneys hand, while Henry harangued United keeper Roy Carroll all the way down the tunnel. But if the Arsenal players had lost their rags, Wenger was even worse. According to Fergusons recent autobiography, the Gunners boss was letting fly with a few choice words at Van Nistelrooy as the two sides headed back to their dressing rooms.He [Wenger] was livid. His fists were clenched, said Ferguson. I was in control, I knew it. There are often boxes of post-match pizza in dressing rooms, with players encouraged to load up quickly on lost carbohydrates. On this occasion, however, with tempers flaring in the tunnel, someone threw a slice in anger. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has a word with match referee Riley This slice of pizza came flying over my head and hit Fergie straight in the mush, wrote Ashley Cole in My Defence in 2006. The slap echoed down the tunnel and everything stopped - the fighting, the yelling, everything. All eyes turned and all mouths gawped to see this pizza slip off that famous puce face and roll down his nice black suit.Ferguson admitted in his own autobiography: The next thing I knew, I had pizza all over me. They say it was Cesc Fabregas who threw the pizza at me but, to this day, I have no idea who the culprit is. The corridor outside the dressing-room turned into a rabble. It seemed to me that losing the game scrambled Arsenes brain.Fabregas, then a seemingly innocent 17-year-old and an unused sub in the game itself, has never admitted to being the phantom pizza thrower - but has always been the prime suspect. In addition, it was claimed Lehmann squirted Ferguson with a water bottle as the tunnel row got out of hand. The United boss had to change out of his suit and into a club tracksuit to conduct his post-match interview. Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates his teams victory Wenger could barely contain his fury, telling reporters: I cant be happy about the penalty, I cant be happy about the incident when Freddie Ljungberg was through on goal and I cant be happy that [Jose Antonio] Reyes was kicked off the park deliberately. The players have a deep sense of injustice.For his part, Van Nistelrooy was later charged with violent conduct by the FA for his first-half challenge on Cole and received a three-match ban.United followed up their victory with a 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth. Although Fergusons side wouldnt lose again in the Premier League until the following April - a run that included a 4-2 triumph at Highbury in early February, when Keane and Vieira had their famous pre-match tunnel bust-up - they failed to overhaul the Gunners in the table. OvertakenTwo weeks after losing to United, Arsenal were overtaken by Mourinhos Chelsea at the summit. The Blues would not let their lead slip, going on to win the title by a margin of 12 points. United were six points further back in third spot.The season ended with Arsenal beating United 5-4 on penalties in the FA Cup final, despite being outplayed for 120 goalless minutes in Cardiff. Lehmann made the crucial save in the shootout from Paul Scholes. Arsenal also won the Premier League Fair Play award for the second season running.The bitter enmity between the Arsenal and United managers continued until 2009, when they finally buried the hatchet in the Frenchmans office after the Champions League semi-final. By that point, the Battle of the Buffet had long since passed into Premier League legend.Watch Manchester United v Arsenal live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 1pm on Sunday. Or watch for £6.99 without a contract, on NOW TV. Also See: Martial most-used U21 forward Same old story for Arsenal? Memphis: Giggs my inspiration Becks: Uts slump was inevitable ' ' '
  • 13 Sep
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