Monday, 26 November 2012

United triumph over struggling QPR

Manchester United came from behind to score three times in eight minutes to beat QPR 3-1 leaving their new manager Harry Redknapp in no doubt about the size of the task he faces to save them from relegation. 

QPR, who announced earlier on Saturday that Redknapp was taking over after Mark Hughes had been fired the previous day, took the lead in the driving rain at Old Trafford with a 52nd-minute Jamie Mackie tap-in. 

United improved after a pedestrian opening 45 minutes and left QPR reeling as goals from Jonny Evans - on his 100th league appearance - Darren Fletcher and substitute Javier Hernandez secured their sixth comeback win in the league this season. 

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports he was impressed with the way QPR played but always thought his side would win. 

"As so often happens when there's a change of manager, they were very determined and worked hard and put in some good counter-attacking play and I thought we were too lethargic in the first half, in particular," he said. 

"But when we scored, after Anderson came on, we came to life. Maybe the rain falling so heavily slowed us down a bit, but we are better than that. 

"But Harry being here had an effect on the way they played. It's obvious you change your manager and you get a couple of results, and they came close today, but once we started playing, there was no question about who was going to win." 

Redknapp, who has agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Rangers, will take control for the first time against Sunderland on Tuesday aiming to deny the north-east club a second win in West London in just over a week after they beat Fulham last weekend. 

Chelsea struggle as Benitez takes over

Rafael Benitez was jeered by Chelsea fans before his Stamford Bridge reign began with a dour 0-0 Premier League draw against champions Manchester City yesterday. The former Liverpool manager's arrival in the dugout shortly before kick-off was serenaded by jeers and boos from the home supporters who continued to chant Di Matteo's name throughout the first half. 

The enmity towards Benitez stemmed from the run-ins he had with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho during his time at Liverpool and the popularity of former player Di Matteo who guided the Londoners to Champions League and FA Cup glory in his eight months in charge. 

"I was just concentrating on the game, I was not paying attention to anything else, just the performance of the players on the pitch," Benitez told reporters after a point apiece kept Chelsea fourth and City second in the standings. 

"I can understand [the boos] because of the rivalry in the past but the majority of the fans will understand. I am a professional and I want to do my job, I want to win for the club and I want to win with them." 

Chelsea, now without a win in five league games, improved after a sluggish first half but created few openings to test City keeper Joe Hart. 

It was easy to see why both teams have struggled to make an impression in the Champions League this season. Chelsea's fate is out of their hands going into the final game and City, still unbeaten in the Premier League after 13 games, are condemned to a group-stage exit for the second successive season. 

Both were solid but unspectacular and the stalemate did little to enthrall as the rain fell. 

Striker Fernando Torres, recalled by Benitez after being dropped to the bench by Di Matteo against Juve, wasted the home side's best chance when he fired over in the second half. 

Defender Cesar Azpilicueta did force Hart to tip over his rasping drive late on and City, who had dominated the first half, almost won it at the death but Matija Nastasic directed a free header straight at Petr Cech. 

Roberto Mancini, whose side were knocked off top spot by Manchester United's 3-1 win over Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, said City had "lost two points". 

"Games here are always hard but today we played well while missing the last pass," he said. 

"Last year we lost a good game, this year we took one point. "I am not happy but I prefer this." 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Drogba denied permission for Chelsea move

FIFA have refused Cote d'Ivoire striker Didier Drogba permission to leave China's Shanghai Shenhua on loan before the January transfer window. 

FIFA said they had received a request to be registered outside an open registration period from the former Chelsea forward, whose season in the Chinese Super League is over. 

Austria's Julian Baumgartlinger (R) and Markus Suttner (L) fight for the ball with Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba during their international friendly soccer match in Linz, Nov 14, 2012. The 34-year-old wants to keep himself sharp for the African Nations Cup which begins on Jan 19. 

"Any professional player who is registered with a club that is affiliated to one association shall not be eligible to play for a club affiliated to a different association," FIFA, soccer's world governing body, said in a statement on Thursday, quoting their rules on the status and transfer of players. 

Under the rules, Drogba, who spent eight seasons with Chelsea after joining the European champions from French side Marseille, cannot play for another club until Jan 1. 

Drogba teamed up with former Chelsea strike partner Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai in June after agreeing a two-and-a-half-year contract with the big-spending club. 

Drogba scored eight goals in 11 games for the Chinese side but Shenhua finished ninth in the 16-team table, 20 points behind champions Guangzhou Evergrande. 

Europa League Round-Up

Lazio, Napoli and reigning champion Atletico Madrid were among the 13 teams to qualify for the knockout stage of the Europa League this morning.

However, there was a setback for another of the competition's big names as Liverpool was held to a frustrating 2-2 draw at home to Young Boys, leaving the English side's hopes of progressing to the last 32 in the balance. 

Five-time European champions Liverpool, will be eyeing one of the remaining five qualifying spots in the final round of games in two weeks' time but others can take it easy. 

Raul Garcia's early goal earned Atletico a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv, allowing the Spanish side to progress to the last 32 from Group B with Viktoria Plzen. 

A goalless draw at home to Tottenham was enough to put Lazio through in Group J, on a day fans of the Italian club were suspected of involvement in a hooligan attack in Rome that led to seven Spurs fans being hospitalized. 

Napoli won 2-1 at AIK Stockholm to seal a top-two spot in Group F with Dnipro, which beat PSV Eindhoven away by the same scoreline to eliminate the Dutch hosts. 

Athletic Bilbao, last season's finalist, was knocked out without even playing following the cancellation of its match against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona because of the fighting in Israel. Sparta knocked out Bilbao by drawing 1-1 at already-qualified Lyon in Group I. 

The top two teams in each of the 12 groups go through, where they will be joined by the eight third-place finishers in the Champions League groups. 

Liverpool was denied a spot in the knockout stage by two superbly taken second-half goals by Young Boys, with Raul Bobadilla scoring the Swiss team's first goal with an angled volley and Elsad Zverotic clinching a draw in the 88th by smashing home left-footed from the edge of the box. 

Joe Cole, the former England winger and forgotten man at Liverpool, made his mark in a rare appearance by setting up the opener for Jonjo Shelvey in the 33rd and then scoring himself in the 72nd. 

"Conceding a late goal is disappointing," Cole said. "It was just game management at the end, to see the game out, which let us down. 

"It was a great finish from the kid at the end, but we made it hard for ourselves. It's a lesson learned." 

Liverpool plays Udinese away in its last match and will need a win to be certain of qualifying. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Serie A: Cagliari hold Inter

Inter Milan were held to a 2-2 draw at San Siro by a spirited Cagliari. Inter had a chance to close the gap on the Serie A champions-Juventus but they couldn't. 
Despite Rodrigo Palacio giving the hosts an early lead, Marco Sau put the Sardinians in front with a brace and it took an own goal from Davide Astori for Inter to pull level. 

Inter had several chances to score, notably through Diego Milito, in a lively second half. But the Argentine striker missed two clear chances from close range and was denied a third time by alert Cagliari 'keeper Michael Agazzi.

In the closing minutes Inter piled on the pressure and were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when midfielder Walter Gargano was hauled down inside the box. Cagliari held on and in the end were worthy of a share of the points. 

Stramaccioni was also red carded for protesting towards the end of the game, and club president Massimo Moratti hit out at what he said was another questionable refereeing decision. 

"That's three games in a row we've suffered injustice and not got the result we deserved because of a refereeing decision," he told the media. 
"I can't get over it. The penalty was as big as a house!" 

Inter's first draw in 13 matches left them in second place on 28 points. 

Sunderland scrape past 10 man Fulham

Sunderland capitalized on the early sending-off of Brede Hangeland to beat Fulham 3-1, earning only its second Premier League win. 

Steven Fletcher, Carlos Cuellar and Stephane Sessegnon all scored in the second half for the visitors while Fulham was down to 10 men, with Hangeland given a straight red card for a reckless 30th-minute tackle. Substitute Mladen Petric equalized in the 62nd minute for the mid-table home side but it couldn't hang on at Craven Cottage, with a bad day made worse by game-ending hamstring injuries to Sweden winger Alex Kacaniklic and Costa Rica playmaker Bryan Ruiz either side of halftime. 

The victory lifted Sunderland three points clear of the bottom three, with Fletcher grabbing his sixth goal of the season. 

Hangeland's contentious dismissal was a game-changer but was probably justified as the Norway defender leapt in rashly - and studs-first - on midfielder Lee Cattermole, even though his feet were on the floor when contact was made with the ball. 

"I thought the referee was the only person in the ground who thought it was a red card ... (although) by the letter of the law, it was a red," Fulham manager Martin Jol said. 

"A sending-off changes the dynamic of a game," Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill said. "We had to take advantage of that, and I thought we did. I was pleased for us to score some goals, pleased to win away from home." 

O'Neill's team came into the match as the lowest-scoring side in the league but has been kept out of the relegation zone by Fletcher, who opened the scoring in the 50th when he ran on to Adam Johnson's fine through-ball and slipped a low finish past Mark Schwarzer. 

Petric equalized by turning in Damien Duff's cross and Fulham continued to create chances, only for Cuellar to reclaim the lead for Sunderland by heading in Johnson's left-wing corner. That goal was scored Fulham briefly down to nine men while Petric was receiving treatment on a deep gash in his shin. 

Sessegnon made the game safe when the Benin forward smashed in a swerving shot from 25 yards, his first goal of the season - although visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made superb saves from Petric and Steve Sidwell late on. It was Sunderland's first away win this season. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ibra downs England in Stockholm

Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted four goals as Sweden came from behind to claim a 4-2 victory over England in Stockholm. 

Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in Sweden's brand new Friends Arena after 20 minutes. The goal came from a quick counterattack after Sterling was caught in possession just inside the Sweden half. Mathias Ranegi then drove forward and found Martin Olsson on the left who crossed for Ibrahimovic inside the area. Ibrahimovic's initial shot was blocked but the Paris Saint-Germain striker was first to react, poking past Joe Hart and into the roof of the net for the first goal in the new stadium. 

After a lacklustre start the visitors slowly came to life and equalised 10 minutes before the break. Sterling began the move with a great ball out wide to Ashley Young. 

The Manchester United winger's cross into the box was inviting and duly stabbed home first time by Danny Welbeck - the striker's fifth shot on target for his country and, impressively, his fifth goal. 

And just three minutes later the visitors were ahead. Again Sterling was involved, drawing a foul on the edge of the area. 

Up stepped captain Gerrard with another fine delivery, who swung a ball into the far post where Caulker was on hand to side foot home from close range under pressure from two defenders for a debut goal and a half-time lead. 

England continued where they had left off after the break with Young inches away from a third goal and there were even more reason for visiting fans to cheer on the hour mark when Jack Wilshere made his long-awaited return to international football. 

The Arsenal midfielder's arrival was swiftly followed by Carl Jenkinson, Tom Huddlestone and Ryan Shawcross yet the substitutions appeared to have disrupted England with Ibrahimovic equalising within minutes of the trio's arrival. 

A simple pass from substitute Anders Svensson found the striker unmarked in the box and he struck a sweet volley past Hart to level the scores with his 37th international goal. 

Ibrahimovic was not finished there. With just five minutes remaining, Sweden were awarded a free kick some 25 yards out. There was never any question over who was going to take the kick, Ibrahimovic duly stepped up and fired it low, and past Hart into the corner of the goal for his hat trick. 

With 90 minutes on the clock, a weak-clearing header by Hart fell to the striker who grabbed his fourth of the night in unforgettable style with an overhead kick from more than 30 yards.

Columbia hold Brazil in friendly

Neymar conjured up a superb equaliser and a dreadful penalty miss in a pulsating 1-1 draw between 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil and Colombia in their friendly on Wednesday. 

Juan Cuadrado gave Colombia the lead just before halftime, Neymar levelled in the second half but was left red-faced after sending his penalty kick flying several metres over the crossbar in the 80th minute with a complete mis-kick. 

In doing so, he denied Brazil their seventh successive win in a match played at a breakneck pace. 

Colombia began aggressively, pressing the Brazilian defence in their own half and making it difficult for them to play their way out of the defence. They got into several dangerous positions without creating any clear-cut chances. Brazil had the first opening when Neymar got away to meet Daniel Alves' cross but his effort went straight at goalkeeper David Ospina, who managed to block it from six metres. 

Kaka hit the crossbar and Neymar fired over in a brief period of Brazilian dominance before Colombia went ahead one minute before the break. 
After a long period of possession, James Rodriguez set Cuadrado clear on the right and the Fiorentina player scored with a low shot into the far corner which Diego Alves got a hand to but could not stop. 

Neymar pulled an equaliser out of the hat in the 64th minute as he broke down the left, looking as if he would go outside his marker, but then dragged the ball back and shot between two defenders into the far corner. Falcao nearly got on the score-sheet two minutes later with a diving header which was brilliantly saved by Diego Alves, who also did well to stop a James Rodriguez shortly afterwards. 

Neymar, who has 17 goals in 26 internationals, curled a free-kick centimetres wide before nearly sending the ball out of the stadium with his duffed penalty. 

The miss could be considered poetic justice for Colombia's players who protested long and hard over the penalty, urging the referee to look at the replay on the stadium screen, after Daniel Alves seemingly dived. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

France suspend M'Villa

Former Arsenal player- Yann M'Vila, who has established himself as a star with the France senior national side, has reportedly been suspended from playing for any national team - youth or senior - for partying before a France Under-21 match. 

He was called into the youth side for an Under-21 Euro 2013 qualifying playoff match against Norway, and his reported actions will keep him from aiding in France's World Cup qualifying campaign. 

Under previous France manager Laurent Blanc, M'Vila was an automatic starter and was a massive part of Les Bleus' qualification for Euro 2012. Since Didier Deschamps took over as France manager, he has seen his role reduced, with the new boss preferring Lille's Rio Mavuba and Lyon's Maxime Gonalons. 

France though are well endowed at the defensive midfield position and they shouldn't feel the loss of M'Vila too much. Also, due to the presence of Spain, but no other serious powers in their World Cup qualifying group, they're nearly a lock to finish no higher or lower than second in their group. 

Between their qualifying position and their depth at MVila's position, the FFF was in a position to take an authoritative stance on M'Vila's partying and make an example out of him. 

While this doesn't have a serious affect on the France senior side, it might on M'Vila's career and on his club side, Rennes. 

Anzhi upset Liverpool in Europa

Liverpool's chanes of qualifying for the knockout stages in the Europa League took a hit as they went down 1-0 to Anzhi Makhachkala. 
Guus Hiddink's money-rich Russian outfit took advantage of Brendan Rodgers' largely inexperienced line-up with Ivorian striker Lacina Traore producing a moment of magic on the stroke of half-time. Jordan Henderson spurned Liverpool's best chance at the Stadion Lokomotiv as Rodgers made nine changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Newcastle in the Premier League on Sunday. 

Anzhi lead Group A with seven points from Liverpool on six, while Udinese are third with four despite a 3-2 loss to Young Boys. 

In other games, Alan Pardew's Newcastle fought back from two goals down to salvage a point at Club Brugges with second-half goals from Vurnon Anita and Shola Ameobi. 

The Belgian side went ahead through efforts from Ivan Trickovski and Jesper Jorgensen but nearly dropped all three points when Yohan Cabaye's late free-kick hit the bar. 

Holders Atletico Madrid slumped to their first defeat of this year's tournament, going down 2-0 to Academica courtesy of a pair of strikes from Wilson Eduardo. The La Liga side can qualify with one more win from their remaining two games to join undefeated Czech side Viktoria Plzen in the next phase after they trounced Hapoel Tel Aviv 4-0 in the other Group B clash. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Manchester United go top of the Premier League

Robin Van Persie's early effort and a second-half header from Patrice Evra saw Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-1 at Old Trafford. They thus go a point clear of Chelsea with 24 from 10 games. 

United, who thrashed Arsenal 8-2 in the corresponding fixture last season, could even afford a missed penalty by Wayne Rooney on the stroke of halftime. 

Santi Cazorla's well-taken consolation goal in stoppage time flattered the visitors who had midfielder Jack Wilshere sent off for a second booking after the break. 

All the more galling for Arsenal was the sight of Van Persie scoring against them after eight years of banging in goals for the north London club who are losing touch in the title race. The Dutchman, who joined United from Arsenal in August having scored 37 league goals last season, needed less than three minutes to score after a mistake by Thomas Vermaelen. 

"A special day, in the end it was quite a game," Van Persie, who did not celebrate his eighth league goal since joining United, told the media. 
"It speaks for itself (why I did not celebrate). I played eight years there and had a fantastic time. I wanted to respect the fans, the manager and the whole club." 

Arsenal struggled to make any real impact and only Wilshere, making his second start since returning from a long injury lay-off, showed any bite in the opening period - earning a yellow card for a foul on fellow midfielder Tom Cleverly. 

Antonio Valencia then wasted a great chance to punish Arsenal's defence immediately after the break. But Evra finally gave United breathing space when he headed in from close range after 67 minutes, two minutes before Wilshere was shown a second yellow card for a rash foul on the Frenchman. 

"It was a strange game, and the chances we missed," said Alex Fergusson after the match. "We should have put the game to bed. If you see the scoreline you'd think it was a close game, but it wasn't. 

"It was an unusual Manchester United v Arsenal game. There were a lot of bookings but it never really got anywhere near the Manchester United v Arsenal games of the past." 

Liverpool hold Newcastle at Anfield

A well-taken 67th minute equaliser from Luis Suarez to salvage a point after Newcastle took a first-half lead through Yohan Cabaye's stunning strike at the Kop. 
Gerrard who was plaing his 600th game for the Reds, was presented with a statue of Liverpool's city emblem, the liver bird, by former skipper Gary McAllister before the match. 

Hatem Ben Arfa created Newcastle's opener with a superb run down the right before crossing for Cabaye who lashed the ball into the far corner of the net after 43 minutes. 

Suarez levelled with an excellent goal when he controlled a long ball from Jose Enrique and rounded keeper Tim Krul to score. 

Newcastle were reduced to 10 men when captain Fabricio Coloccini was sent off for a careless lunge at Suarez in the closing stages. 

The result left Newcastle in 10th spot, two places above Liverpool who have now gone five league matches without defeat - although they have only won one home match all season - and Rodgers told the media: "Our possession was good and it was fast, but we just could not finish it off. 

"That was our fifth draw in 10 (league) games but I am sure we will soon turn that into wins because with that type of football we will always create chances." 

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was upset that Coloccini was sent off but did not criticise referee Anthony Taylor, saying match officials had enough problems to deal with at the moment. 

"He said he thought it was serious foul play. The morale of referees must be really low because of constant criticism and the issues around them are unfair. We accept his decision and I thought he had a good performance." 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Pogba strike hands takes Juventus 6 points clear

Paul Pogba struck in injury time to hand Juventus a 2-1 win over Bologna and they have now opened up a six-point gap on Napoli. 

Juventus looked set for a share of the points until Pogba got his head to a superb cross from the left from Sebastian Giovinco to beat Federico Agliardi from close range in the dying seconds. 

Pogba had the ball in the net earlier in the game only to be ruled offside and he then hit the post with an exquisite shot on 16 minutes. 

Juve finally broke the deadlock in the 54th minute through Fabio Quagliarella, but were brought level when French midfielder Saphir Taider latched on to a cross 15 metres out and beat a diving Gianluigi Buffon with a dipping angled drive. 

Their ninth win in 10 games extended their unbeaten run to 49 games and stretched their lead over Napoli to six points after Walter Mazzarri's side suffered a shock 1-0 defeat away to Atalanta. 

"Our secret is that we keep on believing right to the end and today was another example of that," Quagliarella told Sky Italia. 

Elsewhere, Inter Milan moved into second - four points adrift of Juve - with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Sampdoria while Roma suffered a shock 3-2 defeat away to Parma and Lazio had to settle for a draw at home to Torino.Cagliari celebrated their biggest win of the season when they beat Siena 4-2 to consolidate their mid-table position, while second-from-bottom Chievo grabbed only their third win of the season with a 2-0 defeat of Pescara. 

In another mid-table battle Udinese drew 2-2 with Catania. AC Milan battled to a 2-2 draw away to Palermo on Tuesday. 

Preview: Manchester United vs Arsenal

Manchester United and Arsenal come face to face for the first time this season tomorrow at Old Trafford. The highlight though will Robin van Persie's first appearance against his former club. 

Arsenal are coming off a remarkable 7-5 extra-time win at Reading in the League Cup after trailing 4-0 at one stage in an extraordinary match. Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick and manager Arsene Wenger says he can play as a striker, a sticking point in contract negotiations, but a berth up front at United seems too soon. 

"I always said that he will be a striker, so we are on the same wavelength there," Wenger told reporters having struggled to replace Van Persie. 

"Secondly, I believe he knows where to be in the box on the rebounds. I like that - that's a quality of a striker that you cannot give to anybody. You feel it or you don't." 

The last time United scored as many as seven in a game was August last year when they beat Arsenal 8-2 at home but they have netted consistently this season, losing Wednesday's League Cup last 16 clash 5-4 at Chelsea after extra time. 

Arsenal are currently sixth while United will start tomorrow's Premier League encounter in second after their controversial 3-2 win against leaders Chelsea last Sunday in the first of two back-to-back games between the sides. 

This one sure promises to be a thriller. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Chelsea beat United in League Cup

Chelsea avenged Sunday's controversial defeat to Manchester united by beating them 5-4 at Stamford Bridge to reach the last eight of the Capital One Cup. 

Being 3-2 ahead once again, Manchester United must have sensed another victory with seconds left of normal time. 

Rookie defender Scott Wootton barged Ramires gifting a last-gasp Eden Hazard penalty just before referee Lee Mason could blow the final whistle. 
The extra time turned out to be favorable for the Blues as they took control of the game. 

No matter where this competition stands in the priority list of both the teams, there is always nail-biting and heart-pounding encounters involved when these rivals play against each other. 

In the end, the game simply blossomed into a terrific win of Roberto Di Matteo's team that displayed better defense and attack. 

Petr Cech's stray mispass to Romeu in the 22nd minute, was pushed towards Ryan Giggs who stroked a low curling left footed shot for the 165th goal of his outstanding United career. 

Eight minutes later, Alexander Buttner clumsily tripped Moses inside the area getting the Blues a decision to their liking. David Luiz converted the penalty from the spot, equalizing for the Blues. 

Both the teams were displaying their best of games although the Blues defense looked more susceptible in front of the United attack led by Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Hernandez. 

The scoreline of the match continued to swing as Javier Hernandez got United back in front before half-time. 

This exciting cup rivalry took another turn in the second half when Gary Cahill stroked a swift header from Juan Mata's corner, leveling the score. The ball crossed the line before Rafael headed the ball out, confirmed the replays as well as the match officials. 

The Red Devils did not take much time to hit back; Nani exchanged crisp passes with Anderson inside the area while the keeper Cech raced from his line. An extraordinary goal for the third time restored their advantage.

Just when Chelsea's chances of winning appeared to have gone, Scott Wootton barged into Ramires in the box, awarding Hazard the chance to equalize the scoreline with the second penalty of the match, taking the tie into extra-time. 

Eight minutes later, Chelsea went ahead for the first time, thanks to Wootton's ridiculous attempt at a header that was swiftly gobbled up by Sturridge to fire home the fourth. 

In the dying minutes of extra time, Hazard and Ramires bamboozled Lindegaard with some quick-play with Ramires ultimately sliding the ball into the empty net making it 5-3. 

A foul by Cesar Azpiliceuta on Hernandez in the 119th minute gave Giggs a chance to score the ninth goal of the evening. Yet it was too late as the Blues held on to reach the quarter-finals.