Thursday, 31 May 2012

Brendan Rogers Appointed New Liverpool Manager

Liverpool appointed Brendan Rogers as their new manager, so said the clubs official website. 

The 39-year old, who enjoyed a brilliant season with Swansea, will sign a 3-year contract. Rogers will replace Kenny Dalglish who was sacked after Liverpool finished a disappointing 8th in the Premier League.

Rodgers had refused a request to meet with Liverpool following Kenny Dalglish's sacking earlier this month, but the Reds made a renewed effort to speak to the former Reading and Watford chief after holding discussions with Wigan's Roberto Martinez last week.

According to reports, the Merseyside giants are ready to pay between 4 million Pound (6.2m Dollar) and 5 million Pound (7.7m Dollar) in compensation to Swansea to secure his services.

Rodgers is regarded as one of the Premier League's brightest young managers after guiding unheralded Swansea to an impressive 11th place finish on a relatively meagre budget just one season after securing promotion from the Championship.

Martinez had been the early favourite after meeting with Liverpool's principal owner John Henry in Miami last week, but the Spaniard was said to be concerned about the Reds' desire to hire a director of football, with former Ajax boss Louis van Gaal reportedly in the running for that role.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan claimed Martinez had been offered the job, but Liverpool never confirmed it

Rodgers, who regards Jose Mourinho as his mentor after working as the Portuguese coach's reserve-team boss at Chelsea, has completely rehabilitated his reputation since he was sacked as Reading boss three years back.

Swansea's eye-catching style of play earned a standing ovation from Liverpool fans after a 0-0 draw at Anfield in November and Rodgers also masterminded a 1-0 win over the Reds on the final day of the season, as well as beating Manchester City and Arsenal at the Liberty Stadium.

He would take over a Liverpool squad at a low ebb after finishing eighth in the Premier League, 17 points away from the Champions League spots that Henry had targeted at the start of the season.

The Reds did win the League Cup under Dalglish, but their season ended with a lacklustre 2-1 defeat in the FA Cup final against Chelsea and the new boss will be charged with a teamlacking self confidence sorely in need of an infusion of creativity and pace. 

FA in Catch 22 Over Lampard Injury

The FA medical staff will have to convince UEFA that Frank Lampard's thigh strain was not a pre-existing condition, if the new England manager is to be given dispensation to replace the injured Chelsea man with Jordan Henderson in his Euro 2012 squad. 

The Football Association has already notified Liverpool and Henderson that the player is likely to be called up when Lampard goes for a scan later today for a strain that he sustained towards the end of yesterday's session. However, because all 16 teams in Euro 2012 had to submit their 23-man squads to UEFA by Tuesday, replacements can only be called up if it can be proved that the injury took place after the deadline.

The FA is confident that UEFA will allow it to make the change on the basis of evidence from today's scan. Lampard has not been named in any of the previous medical bulletins and the governing body called him up in good faith believing him to be fully fit. The Uefa rule that a player with a pre-existing condition cannot be replaced if he is deemed unfit after the squad deadline is in place in order to prevent nations hedging their bets on injured players and then changing them at the last minute.

Hodgson has already lost Gareth Barry to injury - as well as goalkeeper John Ruddy - and Scott Parker has gone into the tournament with a troublesome Achilles problem. Should he struggle for fitness too then the England manager would be left with just Steven Gerrard as his experienced central midfielder. Hodgson has been playing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in central midfield in training over the last few days.

Hodgson has made a point of building a more relaxed atmosphere around the training camp over the last week which has made quite an impression on the players, who had grown accustomed to Fabio Capello's much stricter regime. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Andrea Stramaccioni Recompensed for Efforts

After an impressive stint as interim coach at Inter Milan, Andrea Stramaccioni has been given the permanent deal by President Massimo Moratti for three years until 2015.

36 year-old Italy based former Bologna defender was promoted from the youth team in March to replace the dismissed Claudio Ranieri.

Inter oversaw a mini-revival at the 2010 European Champions but they still missed out on Champions League football by finishing sixth in Serie A.

Inter President Moratti told reporters "Yes, his contract was renewed earlier for three years." 

Andrea Stramaccioni is former Bologna player his career was cut short early by a serious knee injury.

He has no prior top-flight coaching experience and had only been with Inter's youth team for less than year before being promoted into the top job.

He guided Inter for eleven matches and has seven wins, two draws and two losses with the winning rate of 63.64%.

But he was unable to get Inter into next season's Champions League he did guide them to a 4-2 win over city rivals AC Milan in the penultimate game of the season.

President Massimo Moratti hopes Stramaccioni can blood some of the Inter youth squad, who won the Under-21 Next Gen European Championship in March, in the first team. 

EPL: Latest Transfer Dope

Manchester United close in on Kagawa.

Japan and Borussia Dortmund breathtaking midfielder Shinji Kagawa's transfer to Manchester United moves a step further. He is expected to cost 17.6 million Pound.

An opening bid of 18m Euro from Alex Ferguson was discarded last week but Dortmund has now reportedly approved a fee that will be worth 22m Euro with add-ons for a player that cost them 350,000 Euro from the Japanese club Cerezo Osaka.

Sir Alex Ferguson was left disenchanted on Monday night as top target Eden Hazard revealed he had chosen to join Chelsea this summer. But now he is now likely to get some consolation by snapping on Kagawa.

The Japanese winger revealed he had spoken with Ferguson, while Dortmund's sporting director Michael Zorc said talks are going on a deal.

As far as his career stats are concerned he has played 198 matches for Cerezo Osaka and Borussia Dortmund and has scored 86 goals with 45 assists. He has also appeared for his national team 30 times and found the net 10 times.

Schalke to bid for Van der Vaart

German club Schalke are planning to to bid for Tottenham's attacking midfielder Rafael van der Vaart. Reportedly ex-Real Madrid star is top of the Bundesliga club's summer wish-list after their star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar stipulated they sign his Dutch comrade.

Schalke are ready to pay Van der Vaart in excess of 100,000 Pound a week.

Real Madrid in race with Chelsea for Hulk

Spanish League champions enter the race to sign Porto star Hulk with Chelsea. But Chelsea is the favorites to sign the 25 year-old winger. The European champions have been inclined to make the 35 million Pound rated hot shot their next signing, after wrapping up a 32m Pound deal for Lille playmaker Eden Hazard.

Tottenham, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs have also shown interest in Hulk, but his agent Fonseca has implied that Chelsea are the 25-year-old's favored destination in England. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Italian Football marred by match-fixing scandal

Italy's Euro preparations have been hindered by another match-fixing scandal that includes number of high profile players under investigation for their role in 'Scommessopoli' scandal. The Italian football federation (FIGC) is investigating 22 clubs, 52 players and 9 others.

A vivid day for Italian football saw the arrest of Stefano Mauri, captain of Lazio, and investigation from Juventus manager Antonio Conte, fresh from winning Serie A in his first season. The investigations do not surround their current positions.

But Juventus's coach Antonio Conte defends himself saying "My football history as a player and coach speaks volumes,"

"You can ask my teammates, my players and my opponents.

"Don't forget that for my honesty and integrity I've had to confront an extreme aggression."

"Last year with Siena we won promotion through sacrifice and effort."

"It was an amazing year and I repeat: I and my players have nothing to do with these facts."

Fifa's former head of security said "The Italian investigation is now the most important investigation into football match-fixing in the world today,"

"It is a truly international investigation and will certainly cut off a few heads of this international monster that is feeding off football. I am not surprised [by its scale] - I am afraid there is more to come."

Zenit St. Petersburg's defender Domenico Criscito is also under investigation as, and was visited by police at Italy's Euro 2012 training camp. He did not feature in Italy's training session afterward, but public prosecutor Stefano Di Martino stressed that his participation at Euro 2012 is not in danger. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has confirmed that Bonucci will remain in the squad taken to Poland and Ukraine.

The FIGC investigation will possibly lead to a immense sports trial this summer just like in 2006 that resulted in Juventus being relegated to Serie B and point-penalties for several other top clubs. Juventus was also exposed of the 2005 and 2006 titles. 

Top Football Updates England

Hazard to join Champions League Winners

Belgian midfield sensation and Lille's Player of the year Eden Hazard revealed on twitter that he will be joining Champions League winners Chelsea next summer. The 21-year-old Lille playmaker, who had long been linked with a move to the English Premier League clubs Manchester United and Manchester City finally reveled his wish.

He wrote: "I'm signing for the champion's league winner."

But there is no official confirmation from either Chelsea or Lille about the deal who had been reportedly signed by Chelsea at 36 million Pound, 200k Pound per week.

Drogba wants to reunite with Mourinho

Chelsea's Champions League triumph hero was brought to Stamford Bridge by Jose Mourinho in 2004 and was on the Portuguese's wish-list last year, only for talks to waver over his transfer estimation.

However, now Drogba is taking into consideration a reunion with former mentor Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid. The 34-year-old Ivory Coast's striker is sought after by the Spanish champions and talks have taken place between representatives of the two parties over a two-year contract.

Joe Cole wants to revive career at Anfield

After an impressive season on loan with French club Lille, Joe Cole would love to have a second fissure at making a success of his Liverpool career. He enjoyed a successful campaign at Lille, scoring nine goals in 42 appearances and helping the French outfit to a third-placed finish.

He said: "I've been a success at West Ham, a success at Chelsea.

"I've moved to another country in France and had a good season.

"It's just that season at Liverpool - I would love to have a chance to put it right, if that's what they wanted."

Tottenham release Saha

Tottenham Hotspurs have released 33 year-old French striker, Louis Saha who joined them back in January from Everton. His accessibility has alerted West Ham boss Sam Allardyce, who wants to add more Premier League familiarity to his squad after promotion via the Championship play-off final. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

EPL: Top Rumors

 Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic wanted by Real Madrid 

Chelsea's defender Ivanovic claims that La Liga winners Real Madrid are chasing him for his sign but he is happy with the newly crowned European Champions for the time being. 

He has been one of the most consistent performers in recent seasons for Chelsea and with Jose Mourinho allegedly looking to strengthen his defensive options this summer, the Serbian emerges to fit the bill. 

Anzhi midfielder wants to be a Gunner 

Anzhi Makhachkala's Uzbekistani midfielder Odil Ahmedov wants to play at the Emirates next season as he was considered by the Gunners twelve months ago. He says that "I would like, if I had the choice, to play for Arsenal." The 24-year old made 43 appearances for Anzhi and scored a goal. He has also appeared for his country 44 times and has found the net seven times. 

Swansea set to smash their transfer record 

Swansea is set to get the sign of on-loan Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson for 7m Pound fee, who scored seven goals in 19 Premier League appearances. Coach Brendon Rodgers says that 'He has been brilliant in his time here and he really enjoys it here. 

'Our club is looking to get something in place with Hoffenheim. 

'It will probably run over it until the end of the season but we are very hopeful we can prise him here. He will be a great signing for us.' 

West Brom set to bid for Birmingham chief Hughton 

West Bromwich Albion is set to bid for Birmingham boss Chris Hughton as their new manager. Baggies have held talks with former Internazionale manager Claudio Ranieri and ex-Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder Ray Wilkins as they seek a replacement for the new England boss Roy Hodgson. 

Whereas Birmingham City are unlikely to make life undemanding for West Bromwich and can refuse the permission to speak to Hughton, who is in commission on a one-year progressing contract. 

Switzerland Jolt Germany's Euro Preparations

Germany was stunned by Switzerland in an eight goal thriller in Basel, with Eren Derdiyok scoring a hat-trick against a makeshift German defense.

Germans were missing more than half of their accustomed starting line-up, with eight Bayern Munich players still to join the squad.

Switzerland's first win over Germany in 56 years the one that they will cherish for a long time to come as a hat-trick from Eren Derdiyok and additional goals from Stephan Lichtsteiner and Admir Mehmedi earned them a reverberating 5-3 victory.

Germany was constantly hounding the game with goals from Mats Hummels, Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus slight consolation for one of the favorites for the Euro 2012.

Eren Derdiyok subjugated bizarre frenzy in the German defense to convert assists from the outstanding Tranquillo Barnetta in the 21st, 23rd and 49th minutes.

Defender Stephan Lichtsteiner and midfielder Admir Mehmedi added goals in the 67th and 74th to seal Switzerland's first win over their neighbors since 1956.

The goal feast ended in the 76th when Germany was tricked by a free-kick routine. Granit Xhaka ran wide of the wall and when his shot struck a post, Mehmedi collected the ricochet and poked in a fifth Swiss goal.

German coach Joachim Low said "We made far too many mistakes."

"I told him not to let his head hang now. I was more angry about the defense not moving back fast enough." Low said of Ter Stegen's troubles.

Switzerland's German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said he still believed in his home country's chances in Poland and Ukraine.

"I am convinced the Germans can win the Euro," Hitzfeld said. "We explored some gaps in the German game. I don't think Loew is going to play such attacking football at the Euro." 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Au Revoir to Guardiaola

Barcelona look to cap off a disappointing season with their 14th trophy under outgoing coach Pep Guardiola when it plays Athletic Bilbao in Friday's Copa del Rey final. 
The match at Atletico Madrid's Vicente Calderon Stadium will be Guardiola's last in charge of the team, ending an unprecedented period of success for Barcelona since the former player took charge in 2008.

The 41-year-old Guardiola will be looking to finish the way he started, as a 4-1 cup victory over Athletic three years ago provided the first prize for his trophy cabinet.

Ready to hand over the coaching duties to his assistant and good friend Tito Vilanova, Guardiola will look at the game as an opportunity to cap a season that started well but finished poorly. Barcelona hasn't played a meaningful game in one month after it lost to eventual Champions League winner Chelsea in the semifinals, just days after losing to Real Madrid to surrender its three-year hold on the Spanish league.

"I've got the feeling we are very well prepared for this final," Guardiola said from the Camp Nou on Thursday. "A final is always there to be won."

A record 26th domestic cup will at least send Guardiola out on a high and would deliver a fourth trophy in this campaign after winning the Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup.

He summarized his time in charge with a reference to Abidal's long-running liver illness which forced the France defender to undergo a transplant in March.

"His departure is going to be dramatic for me," defender Gerard Pique said. "He'll leave a void but Tito will continue on and we'll do well. It's normal for eras to end in football."

Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa could also be seeing his term coming to an end.

Bielsa hasn't said whether he will continue next season, and the Argentine coach has refused to budge on the question until after the cup final.

Like Barcelona, Bilbao risks closing the season on a low, having lost 3-0 to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final.

"We don't dwell on favourites," Bielsa said on Thursday. "After coming so close to a title already this is a fantastic opportunity that motivates us, we're fully optimistic on our chances."

"Athletic enjoys one advantage that we don't in that their team hasn't won any titles this season, so there is hunger there," Guardiola said.

"It's going to be a nice final. They will attack and so will we." 

EPL: Top Rumors

Liverpool still in search of King Kenny's Successor

The former England chief, Fabio Capello became the newest high-profile manager to turn down an offer to succeed Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager.

Fabio Capello, who has won league titles with four top European clubs during his managerial career, is still eager on one last challenge, but it will not be at Anfield. He has been spending time in Marbella this week and still hopes that Chelsea will offer him a one-year deal.

Manchester United looking to strengthen the midfield

Manchester United is set to make an enhanced offer of 13m Pounds for Shinji Kagawa. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder has one year left on his contract but Sir Alex Ferguson wants him at Old Trafford.

Ferguson is also confident to sign Lille's sensational midfielder Eden Hazard, who has also been chased by Manchester City and Chelsea. Hazard says 'It will anyway be Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea.

'The decision will depend on the amount of play I would see and the position where I would play.

'Not everyone can say that he can make a choice between the three top clubs.'

Wenger looking to ease goal scoring burden on Robin Van Persie

Arsenal chief Arsene Wenger has opened talks with Montpellier over a move for striker Olivier Giroud. They have made a bid of L6.5mln for Montpellier striker Giroud who scored 21 goals, he has a buyout clause of 12.8mln. Arsenal is also set to sell Squillaci, Denilson, Arshavin, Chamakh and Lansbury.

West Bromwich Albion wants Chris Hughtonas their new boss

Chris Hughton has emerged as Baggies' top choice after a striking day of talks. Former Inter Milan chief Claudio Ranieri was also spotted for a second interview along with two unknown overseas bosses. Wigan's Roberto Martinez was also a candidate until Liverpool made their curiosity in him known. 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Joey Barton Handed 12 Match Ban by FA

QPR Joey Barton has been banned for 12 games after being found guilty of two counts of violent conduct during a game at Manchester City on the last day of the Premier League soccer season. 
Barton, 29, had already been given a four-match ban following his red card for elbowing City's Carlos Tevez, and was suspended for eight more games for violent-conduct charges involving Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany. He was also fined 75,000 pounds ($118,000), the Football Association said.

"There are rules of conduct that should be adhered to, and such behavior tarnishes the image of football in this country, particularly as this match was the pinnacle of the domestic season and watched by millions around the globe," English soccer's governing body said in a statement yesterday.

Barton was red-carded early in the 54th minute of the May 13 game at City, which clinched the league title for the first time in 44 years with a 3-2 win.

After the incident with Tevez, Barton kneed Aguero from behind and clashed with Kompany as he left the field. As Barton had already been dismissed, both incidents fell outside the jurisdiction of the referee.

QPR, which stayed in the elite division as Bolton was held to a draw at Stoke, has previously said it's conducting a "full investigation" of the incidents, and there's been speculation the club may try to transfer Barton during the offseason. He still has three years of a four-year contract left. The ban will take effect at the start of next season. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Drogba Bids Adieu to Chelsea

Didier Drogba has confirmed he will leave Chelsea when his contract expires at the end of June. Drogba leaves the London club on a high after scoring a late equaliser against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final last weekend and then converting the decisive penalty in a dramatic shoot-out after extra-time.

The 34-year-old has been at the Premier League club since 2004, joining from French side Marseille, and has scored 157 goals in 341 appearances, helping the Blues win 10 trophies.

"I wanted to put an end to the speculation and confirm that I am leaving Chelsea," he told Chelsea's website.

"It has been a very difficult decision for me to make and I am very proud of what we have achieved, but the time is right for a new challenge for me."

Drogba is the club's fourth all-time highest scorer and his 34 goals in European competition is a Chelsea record by 10 goals. During his eight seasons he won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Champions League title.

"As a team we have accomplished so much and have won every single trophy possible," said Drogba, who won the Premier League Golden Boot twice.

"Saturday was a very special moment for everyone at the club and for all the fans, and I am very proud to have played my part in bringing many trophies to this club, which has been my home for the last eight years."

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay added: "Didier is undoubtedly a Chelsea legend and will always be part of the Chelsea family. He is certainly leaving on a high after Saturday night but he feels the time is right for a new challenge."

English media have linked the Ivorian target man - scorer of 55 goals in his 84 international appearances - with Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, where his former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka is player-coach. 

Jose Mourinho Extends Contract with Real Madrid

Jose Mourinho has extended his contract that will keep him and his support staff at Real Madrid until 2016. He believes his team has played the best football in the world this year and says they will only get better.

The 49-year-old Portuguese led Madrid to the Copa del Rey crown in his first season in charge and in the campaign just completed and then he guided the club to their first Primera Division title since 2008.

Real Madrid claimed 32nd Primera Division title after a record-breaking 2011-12 season. They became the first Spanish club ever to reach 100 points in a top-flight campaign, finishing nine clear of Barcelona.

Mourinho said "As a manager, I always try to grow and improve. I've loved the professional experience I've had of working for different clubs in different countries and cultures, and to learn from that while giving my best. I've loved that process.

"It's different for me now because I'm thinking about a club long term, and that club is Real Madrid, which has been more demanding and has forced me to do my absolute best due to its difficulties.

"I've had to improve as a coach and a professional. I think it is the perfect challenge for the next four years because you always have to do more when things are hardest.

"I need these great challenges in the maturity of my career; I need things to force me to be better." 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Search for Dalglish's Replacement Continues

Liverpool continue to talk and sort out prospective candidates for the vacant manager's job following the removal of Kenny Dalglish last week. 

Compounding to their problems is the fact that there seems to be a dearth of people who would like to commit themselves to the Kop.

Another name was definitively removed from the list after Ajax coach Frank de Boer turned down the chance to discuss the position, while Marseille coach Didier Deschamps has said he expects to be in charge of the Ligue 1 club for the start of pre-season training.

Principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner opted for a recruitment process which involved sounding out the best possible candidates, irrespective of how numerous that list may have been. Press Association Sport understands by next week they could be in a position to draw up a proper shortlist of possibly up to five contenders.

But the Americans, assisted by managing director Ian Ayre, are determined to thoroughly examine all avenues to ensure they give themselves the best chance of finding the right man to succeed Kenny Dalglish, who was sacked almost a week ago.

De Boer turned down the chance to speak to Liverpool as he feels he has an unfinished job at his current club, despite winning back-to-back league titles having taken over from Martin Jol in 2010.

"I am honoured by the request but I have only just started with Ajax," the 42-year-old former Holland international told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "In Amsterdam, we are on a new path and I, along with Wim Jonk and Dennis Bergkamp - my colleagues on the technical side - want to bring success. That's why I will stay loyal to Ajax in the coming years."

Deschamps, having been considered for the job after Rafael Benitez's departure almost two years ago, was also believed to be one of the people FSG were keen to talk to.

Marseille finished a disappointing 10th in Ligue 1 but the former France international believes his future remains at the Stade Velodrome.

"It is expected that I be there next season," he told French journalists. "When it goes badly, there is need to recharge. I will leave on vacation but it is expected that I be there (Marseille) for July 2."

Former Porto and Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas remains one of the favourites while Wigan's Roberto Martinez has also been given permission to speak with Henry and Werner. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Napoli Lift Coppa Italia

Napoli lifted the Coppa Italia last night when they prevailed over the all conquering Juventus side at the Stadio Olimpico.

An Edinson Cavani penalty put Napoli ahead after 63 minutes, with Marek Hamsik ensuring victory seven minutes from time.

Alessandro Del Piero, restored to the Juve starting XI for the final game in an illustrious career at the club, did not find a fairytale finish and his side's disappointment was completed when Fabio Quagliarella was dismissed late on.

Napoli, who last tasted success with the 1990 league title, started positively, Juan Camilo Zuniga forcing a save from Marco Storari in the first minute and Cavani shooting wide moments later from Zuniga's corner.

Juve were struggling to get a foothold in the match and allowed Ezequiel Lavezzi the chance to strike at goal in the 10th minute only for his shot to squirm wide. Their first opportunity came in the 17th minute, Morgan De Sanctis with a diving save to deny Claudio Marchisio.

Napoli were the real attacking force though, with Cavani just failing to get on the end of Lavezzi's teasing cross and Gokhan Inler shooting high and wide from 30 yards.

Del Piero's first real sight of the target came just before the break, his free-kick kept out by De Sanctis. He tried his luck again five minutes into the second half but was well wide.

Napoli broke the deadlock after 63 minutes, Storari taking down Lavezzi in the area and Cavani converting from the spot.

Juve's best chance of an equaliser fell to Simone Pepe, but once again De Sanctis was up to the task.

Hamsik put the result beyond doubt in the 83rd minute, Goran Pandev providing the assist following a brisk counter.

All that was left was for Quagliarella to see red for an elbow on Salvatore Aronica, leaving Napoli celebrating and 37-year-old Del Piero bowing out on a low note. 

Chelsea crowned Champions of Europe

Chelsea beat Bayern Munich 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out in the final of the Champions League on Saturday in Munich after the match finished 1-1 after extra time. 

Didier Drogba proved to be the match winner for his side as he not only levelled matters in the 88th minute, but he also scored the winning penalty.
Thomas Mueller gave Bayern the lead with just eight minutes to go, but Drogba, who could have played his final game for Chelsea, took his side into extra-time with his equalizer.

Dutch international Arjen Robben had a chance to win the game for the home side, but his poorly-taken penalty in the 95th minute was saved by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

In front of a capacity crowd of 62,500 Bayern had more of the opening spell of the game, without creating any clear-cut chances though, while Chelsea's lone striker Drogba struggled to find a way through the Bayern defence.

Mario Gomez had the first chance of the game in the 19th minute after a corner, but instead of going for goal, the Germany striker attempted to lay on and the chance was wasted.

Just two minutes later Robben found his way through the Chelsea defence and with just Cech to beat, shot straight at the goalkeeper from close range and Cech managed to push the ball against the crossbar.

Gomez rushed onto the rebound and put it back into the area with an acrobatic overhead kick, but the Chelsea defence managed to clear.

Thomas Mueller should have given the German side the lead in the 34th minute when Diego Contendo's cross found the striker, who put his volley wide.

Salomon Kalou finally tested Manuel Neuer shortly afterwards with a powerful shot into the left corner, which the Germany goalkeeper did well to save.

Gomez then had the last chance of the first half when he had a free shot at the Chelsea goal, but blasted the ball well over the crossbar.

Bayern's dominance continued into the second half as Robben and Ribery put the Chelsea defence under pressure.

The Frenchman thought he had given his side the lead nine minutes after the restart when Robben's shot was deflected to Ribery by Ashley Cole, but referee Pedro Proenca correctly ruled the goal offside.

Shortly afterwards the Portuguese referee turned down a Bayern penalty appeal after Cole had deflected the ball away for a corner with his arm.

As Bayern mounted attack after attack, even Drogba fell back to help out in defence.

The Premier League side finally had their first corner of the match - at this stage Bayern was well into double-figures - in the 72nd minute after Neuer saved from Drogba.

Mueller finally broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute with a well-taken header that bounced over Cech after being set up by Toni Kroos.

Chelsea brought on striker Fernando Torres afterwards as they went in search of an equalizer.

Somewhat undeservedly, they leveled matters with just a minute to go as Drogba headed home after a Juan Mata corner, with Neuer not looking at his best.

The goal gave the Blues confidence as they took the game to Bayern in the first half of extra-time, with Torres looking dangerous.

Drogba gave away an unnecessary penalty just four minutes into extra-time, as he kicked Ribery in the ankles from behind. Robben's poorly-placed shot was saved by Cech.

Ribery had to be taken off as a result of Drogba's foul and was replaced by Ivica Olic.

Olic came close a minute after the start of the second-half of extra-time as his shot from a Philipp Lahm cross beat Cech, but trickled just wide. As neither side managed to score, the game had to be decided on penalties, where Drogba turned match-winner.

It was Chelsea's first Champions League victory in their second final, having lost to Manchester United in 2008.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Champions League Final: Preview

Bayern Munich host Chelsea in today's Champions League final with both sides looking to erase painful memories of recent defeat at the last hurdle on Europe's top domestic stage.

Chelsea arrived in the Munich eager to end its long wait to be crowned king of Europe at the sold-out Allianz Arena, four years after its misery in Moscow.
The last time Chelsea reached the Champions League final in 2008,it lost on penalties to Manchester United in the Russian capital with striker Didier Drogba dismissed in extra time for a slap on United defender Nemanja Vidic.

Despite an erratic season which saw Chelsea finishes sixth in the Premier League, the Blues lifted the FA Cup and beat holder Barcelona on the way to the Champions League final.

After Andre Villas-Boas was sacked as manager in March, new boss Roberto di Matteo has breathed new life into the team and Drogba says the Blues have earned the right to be here.

"After Moscow, most of us thought we were going to get into the final the next year. But you can see it's very difficult to reach a final," said Drogba.

"It shows how much we deserve to be there this time because it's been a few years.

"We did a great job to get past Barcelona but we have to do one more. Now it's one more game to win."

Likewise, Bayern wing Franck Ribery knows the pain of missing out: in the 2010 campaign, his red card in the semifinal against Olympique Lyon saw him suspended for the final as the Bavarians lost 2-0 in Madrid to Inter Milan.

The Bavarian giant has now reached two of the last three Champions League finals and Ribery is eager to lift the title after missing out two years ago.

"I didn't think I'd get this second chance so soon," Franck told magazine Kicker. 

West Ham, Blackpool Fight it Out for Final EPL Spot

The Hammers found their way to Wembley following a convincing semi-final two-leg triumph over Cardiff City, while Ian Holloway's side also sailed past Birmingham City to clinch a spot in the final.

After Southampton and Reading, one of these sides would aim to qualify to play in the Premier League next season.

West Ham were on course to earn automatic promotion in the earlier stages of the season but a slump in results meant that the London side would have to do it the hard way, which will make Sam Allardyce's side more determined to return to the Premier League.

The Hammers did the double over the Seasiders in the season courtesy of a 4-0 win at Upton Park and a 4-1 victory at Bloomfield Road, but Blackpool head into Saturday's clash on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run.

There are no fresh injuries for Holloway, which suggests that Barry Ferguson and Angel Martinez will line the midfield with Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Stephen Dobbie likely to start up front.

Meanwhile, West Ham's Jack Collison should be fit to play this weekend, despite being carried off in the second leg against Cardiff with a dislocated shoulder. Allardyce is likely to choose Carlton Cole andRicardo Vaz Te to lead the line for the Hammers. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

Shinji Kagawa on his Way to England?

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa has spoken to Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and would like to move to the English Premier League club, the Japanese international said on Wednesday. 
"It was good to meet and actually talk to him. He had some nice things to say to me," the 23-year-old told reporters.

Kagawa has been widely linked with a seven-million-Pound transfer to the Premier League runners-up by British media, but said he was still

considering his options.

"There's no timetable on my decision. I've been in touch with a number of clubs, and I can't say which one is the best for me yet. But I want to go to a team where it'll be challenging for me. It'd be nice if I end up playing in the Premier League."

Kagawa has enjoyed exceptional two years with the Bundesliga champions, who snapped up the talented youngster from Japanese second division side

Cerezo Osaka in 2010 for only 350,000 Euros. The 23-year-old has one year left on his contract with the two-time Bundesliga champions.

The attacking midfielder's 21 goals in 49 league games over two seasons played a large part in helping Dortmund achieve successive titles.Dortmund had hoped to tie the coveted player to a longer contract, but the Japanese rejected that contract extension offer and is set to move.

"The fans embraced me as if I'd been there for a decade and not just two years," he said of his spell in Germany. "I really felt loved. I was

blessed to have the manager and teammates I did. The coach told me I could come back any time I wanted to."

Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told German daily Bild on Tuesday that he met the player's agent on Monday and Kagawa "will definitely not

be extending his contract with us." Zorc indicated Dortmund were ready to negotiate "should offers arrive for Kagawa now."

Kagawa had said previously that he would decide on his future after Saturday's German Cup final, where he scored the opener and set up another

in Dortmund's 5-2 thumping of rivals Bayern Munich. Ferguson attended that match in Berlin, what may have been Kagawa's last game for the club. 

Spanish Football Giants Barcelona to set up School in India

To expand the coaching network worldwide with the aim of training 10,000 youngsters in the next three years Spanish football giants Barcelona are setting up a football school in India. Aspiring young footballers will now have the prospect to get world-class training.

The first of its kind in India, the school in New Delhi, will be managed by the club's training arm FCBEscola and welcome 300 children aged between six and 14, club officials said.

"This is one of the most ambitious projects for FCBescola worldwide. We hope to train 10,000 young footballers in coming three years and with this initiative we will provide the depth and the quality needed to develop coaches and players from a very young age," said director of FCBEscola,Xevi Marce.

The Delhi school is set to be operational by the end of the year and plans are afoot to expand operations to other cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore,Kolkata, Goa, Pune and Ahmedabad in collaboration with Conscient Football. Anupama Jain, director, Conscient Football, said, "With FCBEscola, we will be able to create a pathway for young footballers to continue their development under the world's most successful training methodology. We believe that this will contribute towards the development of better players and citizens while helping India become a stronger footballing nation."

The technical director of the school Club official Antonio Claveria, had organised a camp for budding footballers in New Delhi in December last


"It was a great experience for me to start the Barcelona India project," said Claveria. "I am looking forward to working with talented youngsters on a sustained and regular basis." 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

King Kenny Vows Out

Kenny Dalglish was sacked as manager of the Liverpool Football Club last night in a dramatic move by the club's owners following a disappointing Premier League campaign. 

The 61-year-old, who had returned for a second stint as manager at Anfield in January last year, paid the price for a dismal season which saw Liverpool finish 37 points behind champions Manchester City.

The Merseyside club's American owners the Fenway Sports Group had given Dalglish more than 100 million Pound(159 million dollars) to spend in the transfer market since he took over from the sacked Roy Hodgson in 2011.

But expensive signings such as Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam have largely flopped, with Liverpool's eighth place finish their worst season-ending position for nearly two decades.

"Fenway Sports Group and Liverpool Football Club announce that Kenny Dalglish is to leave his post today as manager after having his contract terminated," a joint statement said.

"After a careful and deliberative review of the season the club came to the decision that a change was appropriate.

"It is not a decision that was reached lightly or hastily.

"The search for a new manager will begin immediately." Dalglish said in a statement he was "honoured and privileged" to have been given the opportunity to manage the club for a second time.

"I greatly appreciate the work that Steve (Clarke), Kevin (Keen), the players and all of the staff put in during my time and feel proud that we delivered the club's first trophy in six years, winning the (League) Cup, and came close to a second trophy in the FA Cup final," he said.

"Of course I am disappointed with results in the league but I would not have swapped the League Cup win for anything as I know how much it meant to our fans and the club to be back winning trophies.

"I said when first approached about coming back as manager that I would always be of help if I can at any time and that offer remains the same.

"Finally, I want to put on record my heartfelt gratitude to Liverpool's fans, who have always given me and the club their unwavering support.

"Without them neither the club nor I would have achieved anything." 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Racism Fears Ahead Of EURO

The FA has raised concerns with UEFA over the prospect of England players being racially abused during this summer's European Championship.

David Bernstein, the FA chairman, has discussed the issue with Uefa president Michel Platini and been promised that referees have "increased powers to deal with situations in matches".

Bernstein said yesterday that the FA had been "working on all sorts of contingency plans and preparing for all eventualities" should any England players be the subject of racial abuse at Euro 2012. Last week the UK's senior policeman in charge of footballing matters, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt, warned of the possibility of England players and supporters being racially abused in Ukraine, where England will play their three group games.

In the course of a meeting with Platini two weeks ago, Bernstein raised the subject; yesterday Bernstein told a Parliamentary inquiry into racism in football that Platini had assured him Uefa was taking the issue "very, very seriously".

"They have given referees increased powers to deal with situations in matches," Bernstein told the Culture, Media and Sport committee at Westminster.

When asked about Euro 2012, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, told the same inquiry: "We've got a big worry with the European Championship."

Uefa insists it is taking steps to address the issue ahead of the tournament, which begins on 8 June. More than 80,000 police officers and stewards in Poland and Ukraine will be given "anti-discrimination training to help them identify discriminatory chants, symbols and behaviour," say Uefa.

Europe's governing body says sanctions have been provided to deal with any incidents. Under measures which were actually introduced in 2009, referees have the "power to abandon a match should racist behaviour occur in the stadium". In the extreme, that could result in the "awarding of a match by default, deduction of points or disqualification from the competition". Any player found guilty of abusing an opponent faces a minimum of a five-match ban.

England players have been on the receiving end of racist abuse during previous visits to eastern Europe. Last year the Bulgarian FA was fined 40,000 Euro after Ashley Young, Ashley Cole and Theo Walcott were abused by the home support.

Uefa has been criticised for its response to previous racist incidents. Earlier this season Manchester City were fined 30,000 Euro because their players came out late for the second half against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League. That was 10,000 Euro more than Porto were fined for their fans racially abusing City players in the previous round.

The on-going problem with racism at football grounds in Poland and Ukraine was highlighted this year when the respected campaign group Never Again, which is linked to the Uefa-backed group Football Against Racism in Europe, produced a report detailing 195 incidents of "racist and discriminatory behaviour" between September 2009 and March 2011. 

Fergie, Giggs Bag Premier League Awards

Despite relinquishing the title to Manchester City, the Premier League has provided a timely reminder to Manchester United about its recent dominance in English football.

Last night, Ryan Giggs received the award for the best player in the Premier League's history, and manager Alex Ferguson was announced as the top manager in the past 20 years.

Ferguson sidestepped the London ceremony two days after coming within touching distance of producing United's 13th league title in 20 years.

But Giggs was forced to receive his award next to the Premier League trophy, which was adorned in the blue and white ribbons of fierce rivals City.

United were minutes away from defending its title on Sunday, but City scored two stoppage-time goals to overcome Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and end a 44-year league drought.

"I think you have seen over the last couple of seasons that City have got stronger and stronger," Giggs said at the Premier League ceremony in London on Tuesday. "And it is up to us really to try and win the title back next year."

The 38-year-old Giggs has been part of all of United's Premier League title-winning sides, making 909 appearances for the club to become the most decorated player in British football history.

And he still has the hunger to add to his collection of medals.

"We just have to go away now and come back tougher to compete next year," the Welshman said.

So determined is Ferguson to topple City, the 70-year-old manager was back to work first thing on Monday plotting revenge.

"He didn't sleep much on Sunday night. None of us did. He was in the office at 7.30 on Monday morning already thinking about next season," United chief executive David Gill said.

"We have to get on with it now. We can't look back and feel sorry for ourselves. We have started planning for next year. We will come back fresh and I am always confident with this manager."

And confident Ferguson has no plans to relinquish the United hot seat he has held since 1986.

"He has a rolling contract and he delegates, he still has the enthusiasm, and I am sure he will go on for many more years," Gill said.

"He made the decision to retire a few years ago, but in the end he didn't and I think it was the correct decision. Football is his life. Long may he continue."

Transfer targets have already been identified to try to compete with City, although United will resist trying to match its Abu Dhabi-owned neighbour's lavish spending.

"Obviously, the work intensifies now in terms of actually doing deals and we've identified players, so let's see what happens," Gill said. "It's a 365-day-a-year job that talent is always on our radar but the paperwork is done in the close season and transfer window - we can sort out the deals beforehand and get them moving."

Votes for the Premier League awards were cast by a panel of experts. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Nistelrooy Bids Adieu

Ruud Van Nistelrooy, yesterday announced his retirement from professional football, at the age of 35, in Malaga in a tete-e-tete with the media.

He joined Malaga in 2011 from Germany's SV Hamburg but has spent more time on the bench than on the playing field, only managing to score four goals in La Liga during this period.

Malaga on Sunday clinched fourth place by beating Sporting Gijon 1-0, but Van Nistelroy said on Monday that he will not be part of their Champions League campaign.

"My dream was to play in the Champions League with Malaga but the moment for my farewell has arrived," the Dutch veteran said in statement.

"I have to recognize that I have reached my physical limit. I am happy to say goodbye in this way, to have reached this decision

I would like to extend gratitude to my family and to all the fans who have supported me at my different clubs."

Van Nistelrooy scored a league-best 25 goals to lead Manchester United to the Premier League title in 2003. After transferring to Spain, he scored a league-high 25 goals for Real Madrid in 2006-07.

Van Nistelrooy started out as a central defender, at Den Bosch, before being converted into a striker. He played at Heerenveen, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Hamburg and Malaga.

He scored a total of 338 goals in 557 games for his different clubs, and in the process won domestic leagues.

He made 70 appearances for the Netherlands between 1998 and 2011, scoring 35 goals. 

Hodgson Adds Gary Neville To His Coaching Staff

Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville has been appointed as a coach on Roy Hodgson's England staff. Neville, who holds Uefa A and B coaching licences, has signed a four year contract with The FA.

"Roy asking me to be a part of his staff and to work with the national team is not only an honour but a very special moment for me," said Neville.

"I had absolutely no hesitation in accepting this role and I am relishing the opportunity to work alongside Roy and the team at the Euros and through to the next two tournaments."

During a successful playing career he made 85 England appearances, while winning every domestic honour with Manchester United, and the Uefa Champions League. He represented England at Euro 96, Euro 2000, Euro 2004, World Cup 98 and World Cup 2006.

After retiring in 2010-11, he has been widely acclaimed for his football analysis during his first season working for Sky Sports. Neville will join the coach Ray Lewington and the goalkeeping coaches Ray Clemence and Dave Watson in Hodgson's coaching staff at the European Championship.

"Gary has achieved so much in the game as a player with Manchester United and England," said Hodgson. "He has obtained Uefa coaching qualifications and will be tremendously respected by the players because of his vast experience as a player.

"At my first meeting with The FA, I explained that Gary was someone I wanted as part of my staff. I think it is very important we have a younger coach who knows the dressing room and is very experienced at international level. That he has represented England as a player at five major finals tournaments will make him an invaluable member of staff." 

Messi Bags another Award

Barcelona ace Lionel Messi wins the European Golden Shoe award as the continent's top scorer. The Argentine megastar scored an incredible 50 league goals over the campaign, and finished the season four goals clear of nearest rival Cristiano Ronaldo who scored 46 league goals this season in La Liga. 
He took his La Liga goal tally to 50 goals, which sees him surpass Georgescu's (47) record. The goal-scoring machine shattered the record set in 1976 by the Dynamo Bucharest striker of most goals scored in a single season in a European league.

With an average of 1.24 goals per game, Messi has scored 72 goals in 58 matches. He has scored in every competition that he's played in this season; 50 in the Liga, 3 in the Spanish Super Cup, 2 in the King's Cup, 2 in the Club World Cup and 1 in the European Super Cup.

After breaking Muller's record with a domineering hat-trick, Messi continues to augment his legendary numbers at a hurried pace.

Arsenal's and English Premier league top scorer Robin van Persie finished the term on 30 goals, but failed to find the net as Arsenal beat West Brom 3-2 at the Hawthorns to corroborate the Gunners place in the Champions League next season.

Run of five goals in FC Schalke 04's final three Bundesliga matches of the season facilitated Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to raise to fourth place with 29 goals this season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic came fifth became the first person to win the capocannoniere (Serie A's top scorer award) with two different clubs as he finished his campaign with 28 goals for Milan.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney came in strongly at the rear with 27 goals, as he bagged the winner in Manchester United's 1-0 win at Sunderland on Sunday.

Four players joined on 48 points for the season and made up for the rest of the places. 

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