EPL Daily 2.12: Gerrard speaks; Agogo on the move?; Friedel takes on Arsenal alone

JUNIOR AGOGO: It looks like Portsmouth are going to be the first EPL club to table a bid for Ghanaian African Nations Cup and former MLS player Junior Agogo. I understand he had a good tournament and has been playing decently for Nottingham Forest, but is he an EPL caliber striker – especially for the likes of Portsmouth? I don’t think so, maybe. John Utaka was there for Nigeria, but did he have any sort of an impact? Nope. You could say the same about Kanu. Anyways, the bid could be for as much as $5 million.

RAFAEL VAN DER VAART: It’s a race for the Hamburg midfielder’s signature and it starts now, long before the summer transfer window even opens. Valued at $30 million, there’s a good chance you could see Van der Vaart in a Chelsea or another Big Four uniform. Italy seems a more likely destination for the former Ajax star.

STEVEN GERRARD: Has urged Liverpool faithful to forget about the EPL title. The Reds, according to Gerrard, need to concentrate on fourth and not getting trumped by Everton or Manchester City. The biggest tidbit to come out of a mass interrogation on Liverpool’s prospects came from former Liverpool midfielder who said to SkySports,

‘I don’t think Liverpool can win it under Rafa Benitez. I think they are further away than they have ever been before. They have got no chance. For Rafa Benitez, the kudos is winning the Champions League. That’s his priority, everything is geared to that. Liverpool under Rafa can beat anyone on their day. But over the course of a league season they struggle.’

Tell us what you really think. The rotation policy seems to not be working though – 1 win in the past 7 EPL games, a raw talent-disgruntled midfielder sent off to Juventus (Sissoko), and several on-the-edge members of the squad (Babel, Crouch) isn’t going to win you a title.

ARSENAL 2, Blackburn 0

Arsenal moved five points clear of second place Manchester United. Philippe Senderos started the scoring in the 4th minute by nodding an Eduardo corner past a sprawling Brad Friedel. The American keeper – who just recently signed a contract extension until 2010 – was the only reason Blackburn kept in this game for so long. It wasn’t until the waning minutes that Emmanuel Adebayor (you had to figure that was coming sooner or later) struck for his 20th EPL goal of the season, 23rd overall. Standings now look like this.

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African Cup of Nations: Agogo strikes again, puts Ghana in the semis

Today’s games: Egypt vs. Angola, Tunisia vs. Cameroon 

Ghana 2, Nigeria 1

Yakubu put the Nigerians up after a harsh Eric Addo tackle at the 35 minute mark. The starpower of Ghana took over after that – starting with Michael Essien’s equalizer at the stroke of half-time. Then in the 60th minute, Ghana’s captain John Mensah gave Nigeria exactly what they needed, a stroke of good fortune. The big Rennes defender was ejected after a last-man foul on Peter Odemwingie. The fortune wasn’t about to last as former MLS player Junior Agogo took over, tapping in a Sulley Muntari effort to push Ghana through to the semis.

Ivory Coast 5, Guinea 0

It was a reality check for the Guineans as Didier Drogba, Kader Keita, and Solomon Kalou took turns knifing through the Guinean defense. All three combined for 4 of the 5 goals. Bakary Kone added the fifth. It was clearly a disappointing end to a decent tournament for the Guineans but ultimately Ivory Coast proved they deserve the finals.

African Cup of Nations: THE Junior Agogo wins one for Ghana

Today’s Games: Nigeria vs. Mali, Ivory Coast vs. Benin

Ghana 1, Namibia 0

It was a hard fought game for the Ghanaians, but they were rescued from disappointment by former Colorado and San Jose striker Junior Agogo. Agogo is now plying his trade with League One side Nottingham Forest after capitalizing on a decent couple seasons with League Two side (and recent Fulham destroyer) Bristol Rovers. More importantly, Agogo saved fellow teammate Asamoah Gyan from a very disappointing night after Gyan missed a wide open chance to put the Ghanaians in front. Agogo did it with class, backheeling a Sulley Muntari free kick into the side netting and demoralizing the tough Namibian defense.

Guinea 3, Morocco 2

The Guineans continue to surprise the hell out of every pundit, coach, and player at the tournament. What many don’t understand is that their underdog status is a bit questionable with the likes of Ismael Bangoura (Dynamo Kiev), Pascal Feinduono (Saint Etienne), Souleymane Youla (Lille), and Bobo Balde (Celtic – soon to be somewhere else) on their squad. Feinduono started the show with a left footed blast in the 11th minute putting Morocco on the back pedal. That result stuck until 10 minutes after the break when Guinea’s other star Bangoura knocked one home, leaving the Moroccans at a crossroads. Morocco fought back, however, less than 60 seconds later – making it 2-1, but Feinduono countered the goal with one of his own, 3-1 Guinea. Then, the Saint Etienne star made the biggest mistake of the young tournament – lashing out at Elamin Erbate with a kick and getting a straight red. It will be interesting to see what Guinea can do against Ghana without him, but my guess is that it’ll be an uphill climb.

Standings