Early Doors

Justice for Ronaldo!

Early Doors

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Cristiano Ronaldo will stop at nothing to hog the headlines - even rank
stupidity.

Manchester United's victory at neighbours City might have been remembered
for the football had Ronaldo not been sent off for his two-fisted batting of a
corner.

And Early Doors has photographic evidence, published on the right, that
proves the move was in fact premeditated and he had spent the week perfecting
it in training.

Just what was he thinking? As
ever, we need look no further than United's oracle Sir Alex Ferguson for an
explanation: "He was trying to protect himself from the ball hitting his
face."

It is a fair point. What is a
player supposed to do when he has a ball hurtling towards his head at high
speed? Football, as the name suggests, is meant to be played with the feet.

Wayne Rooney should really be
more careful when he sends in corners at that sort of height - he'll have
someone's eye out.

Ronaldo has survived several
brushes with danger, and in some cases the ball has even bounced off his noggin
into the goal. But sooner or later somebody is going to get hurt.

Rumour has it that in a dim and
distant past known as the 1990s, mysterious creatures named Quinnasaurus and
Duncandisorderly roamed the Premier League, specialising in using the upper
part of their body to redirect the ball, and that the practice even had its
own, quaint, name: the 'header'.

But Early Doors finds such myths
hard to believe. After all, why would anyone risk those lucrative endorsement
deals with cosmetics companies by putting their pretty face in the line of
fire?

It was just a shame that ref
Howard Webb did not realise that Ronaldo has got a high-profile award to
collect this week. Any blemish to his tanned complexion, sparklingly white teeth
or perfectly coiffed hair would be a tragedy - not just for Ronaldo but for the
millions of viewers who will be treated to his rare beauty when he lifts the Ballon
d'Or.

- - -

The magic of the FA Cup was more Tommy Cooper than David Blaine when the third round draw produced 32
ties of stultifying boredom.

Without pausing to adjust its fez, the Cup actually sawed a lady in half before pulling nothing but rabbit droppings out of its hat despite a weekend of second-round upsets.

The cameras were on hand to
record the joy, the excitement and the crushing disappointment at the eight
non-league clubs still in the competition.

In some senses, Barrow secured a plum tie. On the one hand, it was the draw
everyone wants - a Premier League side away. On the other, it was Middlesbrough. It is thought the teams are considering
switching the fixture to Barrow to increase gate receipts.

Blyth Spartans, magnificently, are sponsored by Viz, the magazine that has
spent the best part of 30 years proving that fart jokes never get old.

If they see off Bournemouth in a replay, they will play hapless Blackburn in a game that will see the Premier League side
attempt to pull off a giant-killing.

Histon drew Swansea
City, although they are at home so
will be spared the full force of the South Wales
atmosphere that forces local derbies to kick off at increasingly early times.

If Swansea-Cardiff games are
brought forward any more they will end up being played the previous evening.

Forest Green Rovers get the magic
of Derby and Torquay got Blackpool,
both are games that - Stanley Matthews aside - offer the non-leaguers no
glamour but every chance of a swift exit.

Eastwood of the Northern Premier
League may have been the most deserving of a big tie after ditching Wycombe but
will get no such thing.

They will either travel eight
miles to face Notts County, or take on another non-league outfit in the
shape of Kettering.

But the real hard-luck story belongs to Droylsden, who were putting a
whipping on Chesterfield
when the match was abandoned because of fog.

Funnily enough, the Championship game between Preston and Bristol City
went ahead in no-less-murky conditions. Wonder if it had anything to do with
the fact that it was live on TV?

Droylsden boss Dave Pace said: "We looked comfortable after taking the lead and capable of going on to
win. Now we'll have to do it all again. I think it's an outrageous decision."

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "They are
not God." Paranoid Phil Scolari suspects the almighty might be shirking
his refereeing duties and sending in mortal ringers like Mike Dean.

TACTICAL GENIUS OF THE WEEKEND: Hull striker Dean Windass may no longer be equipped to play
at the highest level but he was arguably Hull's
most influential player against Stoke
City on Saturday. Windass
went on a one-man mission to disrupt Rory Delap's long throws, strategically
'warming up' right in front of Delap as he prepared to run up.

The runner-up award goes to Hull
keeper Boaz Myhill, who became the first man to test the theory that it is better
to give Stoke a corner than let Delap get his hands on the ball. The Welshman
coolly knocked the ball behind when under pressure, rather than whacking it out
for a throw.

INJURY OF THE WEEKEND: The NFL
injury list weekend made interesting reading when it came to the New York Giants'
visit to the Washington Redskins. Kedric Golston (foot), Marcus Washington
(ankle), Fred Robbins (shoulder), Plaxico Burress (self-inflicted gunshot
wound).

Giants wide receiver Burress, who
caught the winning touchdown in last season's Super Bowl, accidentally shot
himself in the leg in a Manhattan
nightclub on Friday.

The incident could land him in
jail as well as hospital as the police ponder charging Burress with a firearms offence.

And before you start thinking
Plaxico Burress is a silly name, remember: it's pronounced 'Plexico'.

FOREIGN VIEW: After another Real
Madrid defeat, Marca has given up speculating if and when Bernd Schuster will
get the push. Instead it is focussing on who they will buy once the German has
gone - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Angel di Maria, apparently.

COMING UP: Brace yourselves for
another blast of false hope on Merseyside - Liverpool
will go top of the Premier League if they avoid a point at home to West Ham
tonight. Follow it live from 20:00 UK time.

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