Friday, 31 August 2012

Champions League Draws 2012

Defending champions-Chelsea will begin their title defense at home to Serie A Juventus, while Real Madrid will face Manchester City in the tournament's toughest group. 

Madrid has been handed the toughest draw - with three league champions in Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in Group D. The Spanish champion beat Ajax 3-0 both home and away in last season's competition. 

It begins its bid for a record 10th title at home to Premier League champion City. 

"We didn't have much luck but I'm sure our rivals will think the same," Real Madrid director and former playing great Emilio Butragueno said. 
"It's a very tough group, all of the games are going to be very close, very competitive, very tense. 

"We have to prepare. We're Real Madrid and we aspire to reach the end of this competition." 

With all four teams winning their respective leagues last year, it is no surprise Group D has been pinpointed as the toughest group. 

"This group is a fantastic story. It gives you goose bumps, cramps your nerves," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said. "Of course Real and City deal in (financial) sums that we cannot match. But this is not going to inhibit us. 

"We want to be an uncomfortable opponent. We don't want to compete in the sense who is prettier, who is bigger, who is more expensive." 

Juventus should qualify for the knockout stage, along with Chelsea, which knocked the Serie A side out of the competition in 2009. 

"We're happy to be back on this stage," Juventus general director Giuseppe Marotta said. "All in all we're satisfied with this group, although we're full of humility and we've got total respect for our opponents." 

Bayern Munich, last season's runner-up, is in Group F with Valencia - which it beat on penalties in the 2011 final - as well as Lille and BATE Borisov. 

"We were in the final last season, we have to advance from the group stage," Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said. "I see Valencia as our toughest rival but our duty is to advance and to be first in the group." 

Four-time winner Barcelona faces Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Celtic. 

"It looks like a footballing group, with historic teams and teams with different styles," Barcelona sport director Andoni Zubizarreta said. "It might not have the big names like the other groups but it's still interesting." 

Manchester United, which failed to clear the group stage last season, also has a relatively weak group with Braga, Galatasaray and Cluj. 

"We have the experience of playing against Galatasaray in the past and we will always remember the 'Welcome to Hell' banners," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "So it's always a difficult type of match. 

"Obviously, we've never played Cluj before but, after the experience of last year, we don't want to make any stupid errors this time. We will play our strongest team to make sure we get through." 

Group A 

FC Porto (Portugal), Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine), Paris Saint-Germain (France), Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) 

Group B 

Arsenal (England), Schalke (Germany), Olympiakos (Greece), Montpellier (France) 

Group C 

AC Milan (Italy), Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia), Anderlecht (Belgium), Malaga (Spain) 

Group D 

Real Madrid (Spain), Manchester City (England), Ajax (Netherlands), Borussia Dortmund (Germany) 

Group E 

Chelsea (England), Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Juventus (Italy), Nordsjaelland (Denmark) 

Group F 

Bayern Munich (Germany), Valencia (Spain), Lille (France), BATE Borisov (Belarus) 

Group G 

Barcelona (Spain), Benfica (Portugal), Spartak Moscow (Russia), Glasgow Celtic (Scotland) 

Group H 

Manchester United (England), Braga (Portugal), Galatasaray (Turkey), Cluj (Romania) 

UEFA Super Cup Preview

The European showpiece event is upon us, as Champions League winners Chelsea will take on Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in Monaco tomorrow night. 

Chelsea would go into the game as favourites but in a one-off clash between two very good teams, it goes without saying that anything could happen. Chelsea would need to suppress Atletico's wing play and deal with Falcao's brilliance. 

Atletico, on the other hand, would need to deal with the mercurial Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and the in-form Torres. 

Chelsea's experience in big games is likely to come in handy. There is the also added twist of Torres playing against his boyhood club, which will surely add to the much anticipated game. 

However, if Los Rojiblancos manage to pull of an 'upset', it will not be met with the wide eyed stares and open mouths as happened in the last season.

Under di Matteo, Chelsea's formation has pretty much been a 4-2-3-1 and having reaped much success from the same, he is expected to continue with the same line-up against Atletico. From the team that defeated Newcastle, Raul Meireles is expected to make way for Frank Lampard. 

Together he and Mikel will form the double pivot, sitting in front of a back four of Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz and Cole. Fernando Torres will lead the line, supported by Eden Hazard and Juan Mata behind him. Mata has looked a bit tired, due to his exertions over the last season but still is the heart of the team. 

Eden hazard has been an absolute game changer for the west London Club with quite a few assists already. Torres looks himself after a long time, getting the kind of service he thrived on, at Liverpool. One tricky call would be whether to play Ramires or Ryan Bertrand. 

It is abundantly clear that Di Matteo likes his players to track back and defend, and with Eden hazard and Juan Mata roaming around forward, he would surely look to one of these two in helping the team out with the dangerous wing-play of Atletico. 

Like their opponents, Atletico Madrid are competing in the UEFA Super Cup only for the second time in their history. Their first participation and victory came against Internazionale in 2010, when they contested as the winners of UEFA Europa League. 

They entered the competition having seen off Fulham in the Europa League final, courtesy of a brace from Diego Forlan. The final against Inter was won by two goals from Jose Antonio Reyes and Sergio Aguero. 

They come into the competition as winners of UEFA Europa League 2012, defeating their Spanish Compatriots Athletic de Bilbao 3-0, with Falcao being their star performer throughout the campaign. 

Diego Simeone will be expected to field the same line-up that ran out 4-0 winners against Athletic Bilbao over the weekend. Miranda and Godin will look to cut out the threat of Fernando Torres, having kept a successful clean sheet at Vicente Calderon, although they did not have a Fernando Llorente to deal with. 

Mario Suarez and Gabi would form the midfield pivot and look to snatch control of the midfield from Chelsea. Atletico Madrid have usually come across as a team midway between the giants of La Liga. They combine Real Madrid's more direct style of play with Barcelona's possession football in an efficient manner. 

With wingers such as Jose Antonio Reyes and Simao symbolising Los Rojiblancos' wing play, Arda Turan and Cristian Rodriguez will look to hurt Chelsea from out wide. It is this wing threat that Chelsea would look to neutralise, or else pay a heavy price with one of the world's best finishers in Falcao waiting at the end of crosses. 

Falcao has been nothing short of a revelation in La Liga. 

He will lead Atletico's line and is expected to cause all sorts of problems to the slightly suspect defensive pairing of Gary Cahill and David Luiz, especially on the latter's current run of form. Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, is certain to line-up against his parent club and stake a claim to Chelsea's no.1 position. 

With no injury concerns, Atletico would field their strongest possible line-up.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Iniesta named UEFA's Player of the Year

Andres Iniesta was voted the 2011/12 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo, Monaco ahead of the Champions League draw last night. Iniesta won the award ahead of club team mate Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid. 

The Barcelona playmaker, who helped Spain defend their 2012 UEFA European Championship title this summer in Poland and Ukraine, deservingly got the award for his great performances across the season for club and country. What makes it special is that Andres Iniesta finally won an award ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who normally stand ahead of him in rankings and votings. 

In a live poll of sports journalists representing each of UEFA's 53 member national associations, Andres Iniesta received 19 votes while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both received 17 votes. 

It is interesting to note that no player from 2011/12 UEFA Champions League champions Chelsea FC and beaten finalist FC Bayern Munich made it into the top three with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba coming seventh and his club mate Petr Cech as joint eighth within the top 10. 

Positions four to ten were finalised after each journalist provided a list of their top five players, with the first receiving five points, the second four points and so on: 

4. Andrea Pirlo (Juventus, ITALY) (90 points) 
5. Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona, SPAIN) (57 pts) 
6. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, SPAIN) (53 pts) 
7. Didier Drogba (Chelsea; IVORY COAST) (31 pts) 
8. Petr Cech (Chelsea, CZECH REPUBLIC) / Falcao (Atletico de Madrid, COLOMBIA) (14 pts) 
10. Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid, GERMANY) (10 pts) 

Real overturn deficit to win Super Cup

Real Madrid beat 10-man Barcelona 2-1 last night to win the Spanish Super Cup on away goals after the two-legged match ended 4-4. 

Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo put Madrid in control with goals inside 23 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu to take advantage of Barcelona's poor start. 

Adriano was red carded for tripping up Ronaldo as he was set to race clear on goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the 28th to further thwart the visitors' hopes. 

But Lionel Messi curled home an exquisite free kick before halftime of another thrilling match between the Spanish giants with the league champions hanging on to beat the cup holders for the title. 

Madrid's first victory of the season in all competitions helping it recover from their worst start for nearly 40 years and edging them ahead of Barcelona 88-87 in all-time wins between the "clasico" rivals. 

It also provided coach Jose Mourinho with the last piece of silverware missing from his Spanish trophy cabinet. The Portuguese coach's 20th title means he's won every trophy available in the four leagues where he's coached - Spain, England, Italy and Portugal. 

Barcelona hadn't won a trophy against Madrid at the Bernabeu since 1968 and their flat start certainly made victory look unlikely. 

Madrid took advantage of their rival's worst spell of football since perhaps before Pep Guardiola took charge in 2008 early on as Higuain forced Valdes into a clutch save in the 7th before burying his next chance. 

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano missed Pepe's long ball as it fell to Higuain inside the Barcelona area for the Argentina striker to half-volley between Valdes' legs. 

Mascherano's struggles continued with a booking, and Valdes was incensed with his defense in the 22nd as Higuain burst clear inside the area again to force another goal-saving stop. 

Then Gerard Pique failed to disrupt a long ball to Ronaldo who, while on the run, flicked it high to himself. The Portugal forward gathered his poor touch before blasting a low shot past Valdes from just inside the area to score for the fifth straight game against Barcelona. 

Barcelona, which was without injured defenders Dani Alves and Carles Puyol, looked dazed and confused as Higuain nearly scored again before Barcelona finally gained some momentum when Miguel Montoya replaced Alexis Sanchez after Adriano was red carded. 

Barcelona regained their composure despite being a man down before Messi curled around the outside of the defensive wall past the outstretched Iker Casillas for his 15th goal against Madrid, a club record. 

Casillas made big stops on Pedro Rodriguez in the second half while Valdes stopped Sami Khedira before Song replaced Sergio Busquets in the 75th for his Barcelona debut. 

Still, Madrid had chances to put the game away as Higuain hit the post in the 80th before Modric came on two days after joining from Tottenham in a transfer worth a reported 42 million Dollars. 

Messi's final attempt in injury time flew wide as Madrid hung on to win their ninth Super Cup. 

New signings Alex Song and Luka Modric both debuted for their clubs. 

Mirallas shines as Everton rout Leyton Orient

Kevin Mirallas scored two goals and set up two more in his first start for the club as the Toffees cruised into the Capital One Cup third round with a comprehensive victory over Leyton Orient at Goodison Park. 

They raced to a 4-0 lead in the first half with Mirallas - signed from Olympiakos earlier this month - proving the star of the show. The striker netted in the 16th minute, teed up Leon Osman in the 22nd, added his second in the 29th and then squared for Victor Anichebe to finish in the 35th minute. 

Their npower League One opponents could offer little in response and Everton added another goal after the break, Magaye Gueye volleying home in the 67th minute. 

Orient, who had managed to beat npower Championship side Charlton on penalties in round one had lost their opening two league fixtures since then. 

The Toffees, on the other hand, were going into the contest off the back of impressive Barclays Premier League victories over Manchester United and Aston Villa, and while manager David Moyes had reshuffled his pack considerably by making six changes to his first XI for this game, the Merseysiders did not take long to find their rhythm. 

Mirallas was straight into the action with a blocked shot early on and after Gueye had sent a driven effort over and Anichebe headed wide and had a shot pushed away by Orient goalkeeper Jamie Jones, the Belgian opened his Everton goalscoring account with a clinical finish, slotting in from Steven Naismith's through-ball. 

The hosts kept the pressure up and within six minutes they had doubled their advantage, Mirallas this time turning provider by flicking Leighton Baines' cross into the path of Osman, who prodded home. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Fulham, Stoke shown the door in Carling Cup

Aston Villa registered their first win of the new season against League 1 Tranmere Rovers, but a pair of Premier League teams crashed out in the second round of the newly-rebranded Capital One Cup. 
Aston Villa claimed a 3-0 victory over League One side Tranmere at Villa Park, while Swansea beat Championship team Barnsley 3-1 at the Liberty Stadium. 

Premier League clubs Stoke and Fulham have slumped to shock defeats to Swindon and Sheffield Wednesday in League Cup second round matches. 

League One side Swindon upset Stoke with a dramatic 4-3 victory after extra time at the Britannia Stadium, while Fulham were the other top-flight side to bow out, beaten 1-0 by Championship club Sheffield Wednesday. 

Fulham were beaten at Hillsborough after Stephen Kelley conceded a second-half penalty that the Cottagers failed to recover from, and Swindon dispatched Stoke City in a thriller which saw forward James Collins notch a hat-trick -- including a 120th minute winner -- and the hosts come from behind to equalise at 2-0 and then 3-2 down. 

Meanwhile, it was smooth sailing for Sunderland vs Morecambe, West Bromwich Albion vs Yeovil Town, Swansea City vs Barnsley, QPR vs Walsall and West Ham vs Crewe, although Norwich left things a bit closer than they'd have liked against Scunthorpe, and a frenetic first half saw Reading edge Peterborough. 

The European sides enter the fray next round, so this isn't going to get any easier for the lower league sides. But we could also get some giant killings. Those are always fun. 

Preview: Super Cup Second Leg

Real Madrid will host Barcelona at the Bernabeau for the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup later tonight. Madrid trails Barcelona 3-2 from the first leg and needs to win by 1-0 or more to clinch their first trophy of the season. 

Mourinho has had the worst start this season since he started his managerial career. In three games this season, he drew his first league game at home to Valencia followed by back to back losses against Barcelona in the first leg of the Supercup and Getafe during the weekend. 

Madrid and Barcelona now have equal head to head records with both of them having 87 wins. 

Real Madrid is already trailing rivals Barcelona by four points this season and must get its act together starting with a win at the Super Cup. 

The defending Spanish champions have not defeated Barcelona at home in their last seven games and new signing Luka Modric could make his debut for the capital club today while Pepe is still out. 

If Madrid is to overturn the 3-2 deficit from the first leg, Ronaldo and Ozil need to step up their games as the duo have been below par in their last three games. 

New Barca signing Alex Song could also make his debut today. Barca captain Carles Puyol is ruled out of this game because of injury. 

Messi has had his best start to a season by scoring five goals in three games and will be looking to add more to his tally at the Bernabeau. He is set to resume his rivalry with Ronaldo as both players scored in the first leg. 

Both players are regarded as the two best players in the world at the moment and one of them is expected to win the Ballon D'or later this year. A moment of brilliance from either might settle the tie and the Super Cup this year.  

Monday, 27 August 2012

Women's Under 20 World Cup Round Up

In the final round of group matches at the ongoing under 20 World Cup for women, Japan beat Switzerland 4-0 to reach the quarterfinals while Mexico defeated New Zealand by the same score to also advance from Group A. 
Yoko Tanaka scored with free kicks in each half, and Asuka Nishikawa and Hikaru Naomoto added second-half goals as Japan improved to seven points from two wins and a draw in group play. Tanaka opened the scoring at National Stadium with a 20-meter free kick in the 30th minute and doubled the advantage three minutes after the break with another curling free kick from the same distance. 

"We have some momentum going into the next round," said Tanaka, who had four goals in the group stage. "It's Japan against South Korea so you know it will be exciting. We're only thinking of winning it all." 

Nishikawa made it 3-0 in the 52nd minute and Naomoto sealed the win in the 84th minute on a penalty kick after being taken down in front of the goal by Swiss goalkeeper Nadine Boeni. 

Japan will play South Korea in the quarterfinals, which begin on Thursday. 

Four goals in the second half from Sofia Huerta, Natalia Gomez Junco, Yamile Franco and Olivia Jimenez saw Mexico books its place in the next round where it will face Nigeria. 

Elsewhere, Jeoun Eun-ha scored twice late in the second half as South Korea also advanced to the next round with a 2-0 win over Brazil in Group B. 
Francisca Ordega scored a hat trick as Nigeria coasted to a 4-0 win over Italy in Group B's other game to advance. 

Earlier, defending champion Germany was the first team to book its place in the quarterfinals. 

Modric completes move to Real

After months of speculation, Luka Modric has signed a five-year contract with Spanish champion Real Madrid, completing a move from Tottenham in exchange for a fee of 52.2 million Dollars. 

"I chose the Spanish league because it's one of the best leagues in the world. And I chose Madrid because they are the best club in the world. 

They've won so many things, so many titles. It's amazing for me to be here," Modric said in a news conference. 

"This is the best club in the world, with the best coach, the best players. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso - I look forward to playing with them," added Modric, who made 160 appearances for the Spurs, scoring 17 goals. 

Tottenham has lost one of Barclays Premier League's most creative players, who had also been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea during the past year. He joined the Spurs from Dinamo Zagreb in 2008. 

With Modric leading the way, the Spurs secured two top-four finishes in the Barclays Premier League and qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 2010. 

After the Modric deal, Tottenham and Real Madrid also agreed to a new partnership that will see them work together in respect to players, coaches and commercial relationships. 

"Luka has been a terrific player for us and, while we preferred not to part with him, we are pleased that it is to Real Madrid, a club with which we now look forward to sharing a long and productive partnership," Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said. 

"The strong relationship and affinity between our two clubs has resulted in the cementing of a longer-term partnership and the successful transfer of Luka Modric," Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

U-20 women's WC: China rally from behind to hold USA

USA drew with China 1-1 in Group D of 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup to inch closer to a quarter final berth. 

They dominated China PR in almost all aspects during its Group D match of the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup but only came away with one point in a 1-1 draw on Thursday at Hiroshima Big Arch Stadium. 

USA now sits in second place in Group D with four points. Germany defeated Ghana 1-0 in the first match of the evening to take the lead in the group with six points and clinch a quarterfinal berth. China (1 point) sits in third place while Ghana was eliminated after losing its second straight match. 

USA can advance to the quarterfinals with a win or a draw against Germany in their final Group D match on Monday, Aug. 27, at Miyagi Stadium in Rifu, Japan. The match, which features the event's only two-time champions in the USA (2002 U-19 and 2008 U-20 titles) and Germany (2004 U-19 and 2010 U-20 crowns), will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3 starting at 2:50 a.m. ET. Fans can also follow the match on's MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt. 

China PR didn't threaten the U.S. goal for the first 18 minutes of the match, but Shen Lil buried the team's first opportunity to take an early 1-0 lead. Lil received a cross from Han Jiayuan and buried her 19th-minute strike into the upper left corner past a helpless Bryane Heaberlin. 

The US, which outshot China 17-3, created several chances from the left side and finally equalized in the 36th minute when Kealia Ohai got past her defender and from the end line dished to Maya Hayes, who put a right-footed touch on the ball past China PR goalkeeper Shen Li. The goal was Hayes' fourth of the tournament and her 16th international tally. 

USA nearly found the go-ahead goal in the 52nd minute off of Vanessa DiBernardo's corner kick, but captain Julie Johnston's shot hit the right post and China defender Liu Shanshan cleared the ball near the goal line. 

Swansea sign Ki Sung Yeung

Former Celtic midfielder-Ki Sung Yeung has joined Swansea on a three-year contract for a club record 5.5 m Pounds after completing his medical at the Liberty Stadium today, subject to international clearance. 

Ki, 23, is not available for Swansea's game against West Ham United tomorrow but could be included in their squad for the Capital One Cup clash with Barnsley at the Liberty on Tuesday night. 

He said: "When I look at Swansea I see a club that is growing and growing, and the style here is very attractive to me. 

"Last year I watched them a lot in the Premier League and they did things very differently to a lot of the other teams. They wanted to keep the ball and pass it around, which I love to do. When they didn't have the ball they worked so hard to get it back quickly. 

"It was very impressive, and I think I can grow as a player here and help the club move forward. 

"The manager is another big attraction. I remember watching him when I was younger and I was amazed by how good he was. 

"Now I want to learn from him in order to help me become a better player. I learned a lot at Celtic - it helped me become more of an all-round player. 

"This is something I have dreamt about since I was a child - playing in the Premier League against the best players in the world. I can't wait to play my first game." 

Ki's signing surpasses the 3.5 m Pounds Swansea paid for striker Danny Graham last summer and pushes Michael Laudrup's summer spending to 10 m Pounds. 

He becomes Laudrup's sixth signing of the summer following the arrival of Chico Flores, Michu, Jonathan de Guzman, Kyle Bartley and Itay Shechter. 

Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said: "Having lost Joe Allen recently, it was vital that we invested the money wisely by bringing quality young footballers into the club with potential to grow further. 

"Ki fulfils that criteria and everyone in the football club is excited about the prospect of him playing and developing with us. 

"His tactical awareness and quality has been there for everyone to see, especially playing for his country, and he is well suited to our style of football." 

Friday, 24 August 2012


An own goal from Andy Webster in the 78th minute sealed Liverpool's 1-0 victory against Scottish Cup holders Hearts in the first leg of their Europa League play-off tie yesterday. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers selected only four of the players who started the 3-0 loss at West Brom on Saturday for the tie against Hearts, who had not faced the Reds since an Anfield friendly in 1929. 

Andy Carroll sat out the match and in his absence, Fabio Borini led the Liverpool attack. However, both sides spurned first-half chances, with Borini the main culprit. 

The crucial goal arrived as Martin Kelly found sufficient space on the right flank to throw a low cross into dangerous territory, and Webster could only look on in horror as the ball rebounded off him and into the net. 

"It was hard coming to a place like this, where the crowd was right up for it," said Rodgers after the match. 

Meanwhile, Javier Zanetti made his 800th appearance for Inter Milan in the Italians' 2-0 win at Romania's Vaslui in their Europa League tie yesterday. 

The 39-year-old began his Inter career 17 years ago in a 1-0 Serie A win over Vicenza on Aug 27, 1995, having joined from Argentine club Banfield. Since then he has won five Serie A titles, four Italian Cups, one Champions League, one UEFA Cup and one Club World championship. 

Zanetti's fellow Argentinians Esteban Cambiasso and Rodrigo Palacio scored the other Inter goals. 

Athletic Bilbao, beaten finalists last season, trounced HJK Helsinki 6-0. Aritz Aduriz and Markel Susaeta scored twice each for Bilbao with Inigo Perez and Andoni Iraola sharing the others. 

Barcelona come from behind to beat Madrid

Barcelona clinched the first Classico of the season as Pedro, Lionel Messi and Xavi scored to beat Real Madrid 3-2 at home in the Spanish Super Cup first leg yesterday. 

La Liga champions Real struck first when Cristiano Ronaldo headed home in the 55th minute, only for Pedro to break away and level a minute later. 

Andres Iniesta was brought down for a penalty, which Messi converted in the 70th minute, and he then went on a mazy run to set up his Spain team mate Xavi for the third in the 78th. 

Angel Di Maria pounced on an error from Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes to grab a second for Real late on that kept them in touch for the return leg. 

"In the end the result is tighter than we would have wanted considering the chances we created," Pedro told Spanish television. "We are pleased and now we have to play a good game there if we want to win the title." 

The game had a muted opening, following the pattern of recent clashes, with Barca dominating possession and Real looking to steal the ball and break quickly. 

Fouls interrupted the flow but, despite the close attentions of the Real's players, it was Messi who looked most likely to break the deadlock. 

He fired just wide of the post twice but it was Pedro who forced the first save with a fierce shot that was tipped over by Iker Casillas in the 32nd. 

The match burst into life when Ronaldo powered in a header from Mesut Ozil's corner. But almost from the restart Javier Mascherano played a ball long ball over the top for Pedro. 

The Spain forward's first touch was magnificent and he fired past Casillas, though replays suggested he had started in an offside position. 

The game opened up and Sergio Ramos brought down Iniesta for penalty, and Messi netted from the spot. 

Iniesta dribbled past three players and threaded a ball through for Xavi to score and soon after Casillas denied Messi a fourth for the hosts. 

Substitute Di Maria chased down Valdes at the end as he controlled the ball in the area, and stole it off him to grab a lifeline for Mourinho's men. 

The return leg is on the 29th of August in Bernabeu. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Under 20 Women's World Cup Round up

Adriana Leon scored a haatrick to lift Canada to a 6-0 win over Argentina in its opening soccer match of the under-20 Women's World Cup on Monday. 

Shelina Zadorsky, Jaclyn Sawicki, and Catherine Charron-Delage also scored for Canada. 

Argentina was reduced to 10 players for most of the game after Agustina Barroso was sent off in the sixth minute. 

North Korea edged Norway 4-2 in the other Group C match Monday. 

Canada's next match is Thursday against Norway. 

In Group D play Monday, the U.S. beat Ghana 4-0 while Germany shut out China 4-0. 

The top two teams from Group D will face the top two teams from Group C in the quarterfinals Aug. 31. 

In Kobe, Kim Un Hwa and Kim Su Gyong scored in the second half to lead North Korea over Norway. 

Yun Hyon Hi scored first, heading in Kim Un Hyang's cross in the 15th minute. Norway levelled eight minutes later through Caroline Hansen's superb finish from just inside the box. 

North Korea made it 2-1 five minutes before the break when Yun was taken down in the area by Ida Aadalen and scored on the resulting spot kick. 
Ada Hegerberg pulled Norway level after the break, but two goals in a span of five minutes by Kim Un Hwa and Kim Su Gyong ensured victory for North Korea. 

Maya Hayes scored a hat trick to lead the American attack in Hiroshima. 

The Americans took a 1-0 lead when Morgan Brian's header hit the crossbar and bounced in after hitting Ghana defender Kinda Addai for an own goal in the 20th minute. 

Hayes doubled the lead five minutes into the second half, heading in a cross from Kealia Ohai, and made it 3-0 in the 74th with a right-footed shot from just outside the box. 

Hayes completed her hat trick two minutes into injury time when she chipped goalkeeper Patricia Mantey to score her 15th goal in international play. 

"It's always exciting to come into an atmosphere like this," Hayes said. "It was great to get three goals, but I couldn't have done it without the help of my teammates. This team brings out the best in me." 

The United States, one of the tournament favourites, is looking to build on the success of its senior women's team that won the gold medal at the London Olympics. 

"We came away with the result we wanted today and I couldn't be happier for Maya," U.S. coach Steve Swanson said. "She has worked very hard and showed the explosiveness she has." 

The Americans, who won this tournament in 2002 and 2008, will next face China on Aug. 23 before wrapping up group play against defending champion Germany on Aug. 27 in Miyagi. 

Germany also made a strong start in Group D. Lena Lotzen scored in the third minute, and Anja Hegenauer doubled the lead in the 45th. An own goal from Lin Yuping and an injury-time strike from Luisa Wensing gave the defending champions a comfortable win. 

Chelsea come from behind to beat Reading

Chelsea spared an early Premier League setback as Torres scored the decisive goal as the European champions came from behind to beat newcomers Reading 4-2. 

The unmarked Torres tapped the ball into the net from Ashley Cole's cross from what appeared to be an offside position in the 81st minute to make it 3-2. 

Eden Hazard later broke free on a counterattack and set up Branislav Ivanovic to score the game's sixth goal. 

Chelsea had led through Frank Lampard's 18th-minute penalty kick, but Pavel Pogrebnyak's header and Danny Guthrie's free kick put Reading into a surprise lead at half time. Defender Gary Cahill sparked the comeback in the 69th when his long-range strike was fumbled into his own net by Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici. 

Torres' goal made it two wins out of two for Roberto Di Matteo's side in their first home match since winning the Champions League for the first time. That victory over Bayern Munich coupled with the FA Cup final win in May glossed over Chelsea's sixth-place finish in the Premier League and secured the manager's job on a full-time basis for Di Matteo. 

Freshening up the squad over the offseason has seen Chelsea burst into life at the start of the new campaign. 

And it is Hazard at the heart of their newfound vigor, helping to set up two goals on Wednesday just as he did in the 2-0 victory at Wigan on Sunday in the opening match of the season. 

Hazard won a penalty for the second successive game when he was brought down by Chris Gunter, and Lampard tucked the spot kick into the bottom left of the net. 

Chelsea was in control, and looked set to coast to the win. 

But against the run of play, Garath McCleary whipped a cross into the penalty area for Pogrebnyak to race onto ahead of Terry and send a low header past Petr Cech in the 25th. 

And Cech was beaten again four minutes later, and this time he was at fault. The goalkeeper blocked Guthrie's free kick with his chest, but allowed the ball to squirm past him into the net. 

It gave Reading the confidence to play with more verve and they found the space to trouble a Chelsea side that became increasingly subdued. 
The visitors could have been further ahead, but Alex Pearce was unable to connect with Ian Harte's free kick. 

Di Matteo rang in the changes during the second half with Oscar replacing Ramires and the arrival of Daniel Sturridge in place of John Obi Mikel giving Chelsea more of an attacking impetus. 

It paid off, with Cahill equalizing before Torres and Ivanovic struck to ensure Chelsea prevailed in the clash of the Champions League and League Championship winners. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Preview: Chelsea vs Reading

As Chelsea prepare for their first home game of the season, manager Roberto Di Matteo has said that he is wary of playing promoted clubs such like Reading early on in the season. 

The Blues got their Premier League campaign off to a strong start, comfortably beating Wigan 2-0, while Reading earned a point against Stoke through a late penalty. 

And Di Matteo has revealed that his side will approach their meeting with Reading at Stamford Bridge with the utmost professionalism. 

"I'm very wary of newly promoted teams like Reading and Southampton," he told the club's official website. 

"It's going to be a very difficult game when you play a newly promoted team early on, full of enthusiasm and spirit. We will try our best to win our first home game. 

"You sometimes look at it and think you don't want to change a winning team but it doesn't always work like that. We will see for tomorrow night, I haven't made my decision yet, we finished training not long ago and I have to think about it." 

Despite Florent Malouda and Yossi Benayoun's absence from the squad against Wigan, Di Matteo remained non-committal on the pair's future at Stamford Bridge. 

"At the moment it's just a selection issue. We have a lot of competition and a lot of players in certain areas. That's what it is at the moment, a fight for places," the Italian said. 

"I tend to speak to all the players. We have conversations and they are Chelsea players and part of the squad at the moment. 

"We will have to see, but until the transfer window closes they are with us and they are part of it." 

Tottenham complete Adebayor signing

Togo striker-Emmanuel Adebayor completed a five-million pound transfer from Premier League champions Manchester City to Tottenham yesterday. 

Tottenham and coach Andre Villas Boas have been seeking to bring last season's loan signing to White Hart Lane on a permanent deal since July. 

But Adebayor's high wage demands along with a dispute with City over a transfer fee put the deal in jeopardy. 

However, Tottenham announced in a statement yesterday that the club had signed the 2008 African Player of the Year on a permanent deal. 

A Spurs statement read: "We are delighted to announce that we have completed the transfer of Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City." 

Adebayor scored 18 goals in 37 appearances during an impressive loan spell for Spurs last season. 

The 28 year-old Togolese striker also expressed his satisfaction at sealing a permanent move. 

"I am pleased to be signing for Spurs on a permanent basis after finally agreeing my departure with Manchester City," he told the club's official website. 

"It may have taken longer than expected but I am delighted to be back at Tottenham Hotspur. 

"I really enjoyed my time here last season and I am hoping we can achieve great things together again." 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Everton down United in season opener

Manchester United lost for the first time in 8 years on the opening day of the Premier league as they crashed to a 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park. 
Marouane Fellaini capped an impressive performance by heading in a corner from former United midfielder Darron Gibson in the 57th minute. 

"I don't think anybody tonight was considering Everton at all," Everton manager David Moyes told Sky Sports television. "A lot of people forgot Everton aren't a bad team, and Goodison is a difficult place to come and win." 

Tom Cleverley came closest to leveling for last season's runners up, but his shot was cleared off the line by Everton defender Phil Jagielka. 

Injuries, though, meant there were just two recognized defenders in United's back four, with winger Antonio Valencia deployed at right back, and midfielder Michael Carrick alongside Nemanja Vidic in the center. 

And a string of fine saves by United goalkeeper David de Gea prevented Everton from being in front by half time. 

Fellaini, playing just behind striker Nikica Jelavic, was the dominant force in United's penalty area. 

The Belgium midfielder had already headed over Leighton Baines' corner before he collected a throw-in and turned into the penalty area, holding off Carrick, to hit the post from a tight angle. 

He turned creator, chesting the ball back for Steven Pienaar to slice a shot wide, and then knocked down a cross that Leon Osman hit on the turn only for De Gea to bat away the shot. 

De Gea also denied Jelavic, tipped over a long-range header from Pienaar, and prevented Baines' deflected free kick sneaking into the top corner. 

United striker Wayne Rooney had a quiet night as he marked 10 years since making his senior debut for Everton, hitting two shots too close to goalkeeper Tim Howard, and seeing a late first-half header punched clear. 

After the break, Fellaini's header across goal was smashed against the crossbar by Leon Osman but his contribution was rewarded with a goal in the 57th minute. 

"Fortunately, the big man (Fellaini) put his head where it hurts and we had something to hang on to," Jagielka said. 

Van Persie's arrival meant Rooney shifted to the left, but it was another new signing, Shinji Kagawa, who made a bigger impression. The Japan playmaker forced Howard to race off his line to block his run and shot. 

Everton held on to record just its fourth home win against United in 21 Premier League games. 

Deportiva off to a winning start in La Liga

Riki and Nelson Oliveira were on target as Deportivo Coruna celebrated their return to La Liga in style with a 2-0 home win over Osasuna in their opening game of the new season. 

Another newly promoted club, Real Valladolid, also started with a victory, winning 1-0 at Real Zaragoza, while Rayo Vallecano beat Granada by the same scoreline thanks to a dramatic 95th-minute freekick from Roberto Trashorras. 

Deportivo's Riki cut in off the right flank and beat Osasuna goalkeeper Andres Fernandez at his near post in the 53rd minute, making up for a penalty miss just before the break when he fired against the post. 

Jose Luis Oltra's side, who had made most of the running at a festive Estadio Riazor after a year in the second division, were penned back in their penalty area in time added on before Portugal forward Oliveira broke away to lob the ball over Fernandez for their second. 

Along with Valencia, Deportivo are one of only two teams to have denied Real Madrid and Barcelona the Spanish league title in the last 16 years, and were regulars in European competition before sliding to relegation in 2011. 

The win put them third in the standings, behind leaders Barca, who thrashed Real Sociedad 5-1. 

Contrasting starts for Barca, Real

Barcelona thrashed Real Sociedad, 5-1, on Sundayas defending champions- Real Madrid could only manage a draw against Valencia, 1-1, in its season opener. 

While Cristiano Ronaldo was lackluster as Real Madrid opened its title defense, Barcelona's Lionel Messi picked up right where he left off after scoring a league-record 50 goals last season. 

With the score tied at 1-1, Messi scored two quick goals to decide the match at Camp Nou. 

"We started on the right foot," Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. "We are lucky to have Messi - for us he is the best player in the world. The win is great, but Villa's news is the most important thing." 

It was Villa's first competitive match since breaking his shin bone in last year's Club World Cup. "This is a big step for me," he told Canal Plus television. "This is a triumph not just for me but for all the people who have helped me through this." 

After scoring, Villa lifted his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the message: "Impossible without all of you." 

Villa, who missed this summer's European Championships while he healed, played limited minutes in Barcelona's preseason matches. 

Earlier Sunday in the Spanish capital, Real Madrid appeared set to carry on its winning ways from last season when Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 10th minute. But Jonas leveled for Valencia in the 42nd to give his manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, a hard-earned draw on his debut. 

Ronaldo, who set a club record with 46 league goals last season, was uncharacteristically subdued and failed to manage a shot on goal. 

Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho played down the result. 

"We didn't play well, but we played well enough to win," Mourinho said. "We had enough occasions to score, but throughout the season, you always draw some games." 

City rally from behind to beat Southampton

It almost seems that its all scripted when it comes to Manchester City playing at home, they were back in action at Eastlands for the first time since they clinched the club's first English title for 44 years with a sensational 3-2 victory over QPR on the final day of last season and produced an equally sparkling display to win the season opener against the newly promoted Southampton. 

Roberto Mancini's side had trailed 2-1 before scoring twice in stoppage-time that day to pip Man United on goal difference and they had to recover from the same deficit to see off newly-promoted Southampton in another enthralling encounter. 

Sergio Aguero was stretchered off within the first 15 minutes following a challenge from Southampton's debutant defender Nathaniel Clyne. To make matters worse for City, they squandered a chance to take the lead in the 19th minute when David Silva's tame penalty was easily saved by Kelvin Davis after Carlos Tevez was tripped by Jos Hooiveld. Tevez did open the scoring in the 40th minute. 

However, Saints striker Rickie Lambert came on to curl in the equaliser in the 59th minute. Southampton were on course for a stunning win when Steven Davis slotted home in the 68th minute. But Edin Dzeko equalised four minutes later and Samir Nasri completed City's latest escape act with a fine finish in the 80th minute. 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Dempsey refuses to play for Cottagers

US international Clint Dempsey who moved to Craven Cottage from US club New England Revolution in 2007, is now looking for a new club amidst the offers from big EPL clubs with his contract due to expire next year. 

Fulham dropped him from pre-season training camp in Switzerland amid speculations about his future and is likely not to feature in EPL opener against Norwich city today.

Fulham's coach Martin Jol described this situation as "Clint was not involved over the last four weeks, so he is not going to be in the squad."

"He is not committed to the club. He wants to leave. I would like to keep him, but I think it's impossible. It's a sad and an almost embarrassing situation."

Dempsey was linked to Liverpool last month after new Reds coach Brendan Rodgers confessed during a pre-season tour of the U.S. and Canada that the Merseyside club had inquired about him.

The problems trail an outstanding 2011-12 season for the 29-year-old midfielder, who had 23 goals in 46 games to become Fulham's top scorer. He joined the west London club in 2007 and is the highest scoring American in the Premier League with 50 goals.

Dempsey has been training away from the rest of the squad after missing Fulham's preseason training camp in Switzerland.

Move to Liverpool had seemed in the cards after Rodgers' comments in Boston during the three-match tour.

Rodger said "Clint is a player that we have inquired about, it is as simple as that."

"Ian Ayre, our managing director, has spoken with the club just to see what the position is and that is where it is at. He is obviously a very talented player but we don't like to speak about other clubs' players." 

Nigerian team lands in Japan for U-20 Women's World Cup

Nigeria's national U-20 women's team, more commonly known as the Falconets arrived in Tokyo, Japan, to begin their World Cup campaign which starts on Sunday and will end on Sept 8. 

The team's Media Officer, Ejiro Femi-Babafemi, said today in a statement to the Press that the Falconets led by its Secretary, Mrs Faith Ben-Anuge, were received by top officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Japan and the world football governing body, FIFA. The statement said the team comprising 21 players and 11 officials were later lodged at the Royal Pines Hotel in Saitama. 

It also said that fellow Group B opponents, Italy, Brazil and Korea Republic, were lodged in the same hotel. 

He went on to inform us that the Chief Coach, Edwin Okon, had instructed that they resumed training in the afternoon and training would be stepped up given the fact that their opening match against Korea Republic was just two days away. 

"We cannot afford to take any chances this time that we are in Japan," the statement quoted Okon as saying. 

The team had been in Korea for over two weeks for closed camping. 

Match Preview: Arsenal vs Sunderland

Arsenal begins their campaign with a home game against Martin O'Neill's Sunderland. In the corresponding fixture last season, Arsenal emerged 2-1 victors with Robin van Persie goals winning the day for Arsenal either side of a Seba Larsson free kick. 

Arsenal are without Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Frimpong and Jack Wilshere for the foreseeable future, though all are back running in training. 

Laurent Koscielny and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are out with calf and ankle problems respectively. Wenger suggests that both should be ok for the visit to Stoke next week. 

Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla will be assessed. Cazorla played 90 minutes in Puerto Rica on Wednesday whilst Walcott pulled out of the England squad as a precautionary measure owing to a bruised thigh. 

Cryptically, Arsene says Alex Song, who is expected to move to Barcelona next week has 'a little knock.' Mikel Arteta is fit. 
Arsene Wenger has choices to make with the impact of midweek international friendlies: 

"We have to assess some players this morning because some have been away, like Cazorla in Puerto Rica. Some others are out like Koscielny, because he had to pull out of the national team with a calf strain, and Chamberlain, for an ankle problem." 

"We have to assess Walcott, who pulled out of the England squad. He has a test but I believe he will be fit. With everybody else, apart from the long-term injuries, it will just be a selection problem." 

Before adding, 'Sunderland is always a challenge.' 

Meanwhile, Martin O'Neill said he was looking forward to a challenging opening fixture, "Training has been good this week and we will look to do a few things better than we have done so far in pre-season. 

"It's going to be a difficult game but playing Arsenal is always a difficult game. 

"I don`t think the departure of Robin van Persie puts any more pressure on Arsenal but that`s not my concern anyway, there is enough pressure on us without worrying about the position. 

"I am just keen to get on with it now and look to start getting points on the board." 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

US does a first in Mexico

The United States men's national team finally won a match in Mexico in 75 years. The Americans beat the Mexicans 1-0 thanks to Michael Orozco Fiscal's goal in the 80th minute and Tim Howard's late sprawling saves. 

"The goal was for the U.S. fans and the whole U.S. We made history," said Orozco Fiscal, a 26-year-old defender from Orange, Calif., whose parents were born in Mexico. 

Fiscal, who plays in Mexico for San Luis, was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team but hasn't established himself with the varsity. He entered in the 77th minute for his fifth international appearance and first since October. Shea, back with the team for the first time since February following a season of turmoil in Major League Soccer, came on a minute later. Boyd, a German-American who made his U.S. debut in February, had entered to start the second half. 

"Just happy we won and made history," Shea said. "It's something we haven't done in a long time. Just to be on the roster is cool." 

Howard, in a snazzy gray-on-white uniform, twice preserved the lead. He moved to his right on a Javier Hernandez shot in the 85th, then sprawled to his left when it deflected off Maurice Edu. Four minutes later, he extended left to paw away a 4-yard downward header by Chicharito. 

"I think it's huge. It's huge for I think all American fans, it's huge for the team, and it's historic," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. " We were very well aware that we've never won here at the Azteca Stadium. This is an amazing experience for the all the players. We told them before the game: This moment is for you, go and grab it. We are all aware that it was a lot, a lot of work." 

The U.S. had been 0-23-1 against El Tri in 75 years of games at Mexico, including 0-19-1 in the thin air at altitude in Mexico City - where they had been outscored 81-14. 

"You can shrivel up or you can accept it," Howard said. "We deserved a little bit of luck, and we got it tonight." 

Mexico outshot the U.S. 15-6 and had a 10-0 advantage in corner kicks. 

"Tim Howard kept us in the game I don't know how many times," said Klinsmann, who has been trying to change the defensive mindset the American had at times under Bob Bradley. "It's a mental aspect of it."