Category: football


RONALDO PLAYS DOWN MESSI TALK

“I’m confident because the team are in good form, the coach (Jose Mourinho) has given us confidence, and we hope to get a good result.”

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has played down talk of Monday’s El Clasico being merely a duel being him and Barcelona ace Lionel Messi.

The duo are widely regarded as the best players on the planet at present and both go into the Nou Camp showdown in phenomenal form.

Ronaldo, 25, has struck 17 times in his last 12 competitive outings for Madrid, while he has netted 51 goals in just 54 appearances for the Spanish giants overall since his record-breaking £80million move from Manchester United in the summer of 2009.

Messi, 23, is proving equally as unstoppable and has 16 goals in his last 11 appearances for the Catalan giants – during which streak he has netted his sixth hat-trick of 2010 for the club and his 150th official goal for Barca.

The duo are also the leading two scorers in La Liga, with Ronaldo having netted 14 goals compared to 13 from Messi.

It is a mouthwatering prospect to see the two superstars go head-to-head in what is one of the most eagerly-awaited Clasicos in recent times, but Ronaldo insists the focus should not solely be on the of them.

When asked his thoughts on the subject, Ronaldo described it as: “silly talk”

“It’s part of the news, of the press, to sell newspapers. It’s normal, but I don’t see the game as a duel between us. We are playing 11 against 11, we have to be concerned about everyone,” the Portugal international said.

“Of course anyone who scores goals is dangerous, but we have to think about everyone.”

Regarding his own role in the Madrid side, Ronaldo said: “I’m one more player in this team. Things are going well, as much for me as the team, but I don’t considered myself to be under more pressure than others.

“We all have responsibilities. I always want more, that’s the way I am, but my team-mates have the same objectives, they all want to do their best, like me.”

The match pits the leading two teams in La Liga against each other, with pacesetters Madrid holding a one-point advantage over Barca, who in turn are seven points clear of third-placed Villarreal as the battle for the Primera Division title already looks to be another two-horse race.

Last season there was a 25-point gap between the two Spanish superpowers and Valencia in third come the end of the campaign, with Barca finishing three points clear of Madrid after winning both meetings with the capital club.

With that in mind, it could be that the two encounters this season will again be crucial.

Ronaldo said: “That could be the case, or it might not be, it’s unknown. We will play to win, it’s a very important game, we want to win. Will it be decisive? We’ll see what happens during the season.

“I hope it’s a completely different story (this season). We haven’t lost this season, and this is important because it gives you confidence, but neither can we be relaxed because we know it will be difficult.

“I’m confident because the team are in good form, the coach (Jose Mourinho) has given us confidence, and we hope to get a good result.”

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Everton manager David Moyes has confirmed he would love to sign David Beckham if the opportunity arises.

Former England captain Beckham, currently with the Los Angeles Galaxy, has had loan spells with AC Milan during the American league off-season over the past two years.

If Beckham decided he fancied a return to the Premier League, where he made his name for Manchester United, Moyes would be keen to see him at Goodison Park.

The Scot knows 35-year-old midfielder Beckham from their time playing together at Preston, where the future Real Madrid star had a loan spell early in his United career.

Moyes said: “I would hope that if David wanted to come he would pick up the phone and call me.

“If he wanted to come back to the Premier League he would only need to phone me or Phil (Neville) and we would be here for him. He knows how to get hold of Phil and he knows how to get hold of me.

“We would have to look into it financially, but if he came and said to me I would like to come and play I would have to go to the chairman and ask if we could do it, if we think we can make it work by selling enough shirts.”

 

Manchester United have completed the signing of Danish goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard from Aalesunds.

United seal keeper deal - Dane signs three-and-a-half year deal

United have been chasing a new keeper for the past few months and were strongly linked with the likes of David De Gea and Gianluigi Buffon, but Sir Alex Ferguson has opted for Lindegaard.

The 26-year-old passed a medical in Manchester earlier this week and has now signed a deal until 2014 after the two clubs agreed an undisclosed fee.

Lindegaard will train with United from now, but he will not be eligible to play until the transfer window re-opens on 1st January.

Ferguson was delighted to get his man, commenting: “Anders is one of the brightest young keepers in the game.

“The challenge at Manchester United is always to look to the future and in Anders, we have signed a goalkeeper of great presence and even more promise.

“Having the time to train with him before he is registered will be an important period for him – almost like a pre-season to get him integrated with the other players.”

Lindegaard added: “Joining Manchester United is a dream come true for me.

“The club is such an institution in Denmark, it’s an honour to come here.

“I’m looking forward to playing and training alongside some of the great players in football today.

“I can’t wait to be part of this team and to make my contribution to keeping the team at the top of the game.”

 

HERNANDEZ - UTD INTEREST MADE ME CRY

Javier Hernandez has revealed he was reduced to tears when he first learnt of Manchester United’s interest.

The Mexico international joined the Red Devils in the summer and has already impressed in the Premier League with three league goals to his name, including a match-winning brace against Stoke.

Hernandez, who has been given a regular run in United’s starting XI of late following Wayne Rooney’s ankle injury, admits he is on cloud nine to be playing at one of Europe’s superpowers.

And the 22-year-old striker has confessed he cried when he discovered that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign him 12 months ago.

He told The Daily Star: “Chief scout Jim Lawlor spoke to me about a year ago.

“He’d been watching me play for Chivas and he told me United were interested, so I was very excited.

“Before that he’d spoken to my father and when my father told me the news I cried because I couldn’t believe it.

“As a kid in Mexico, my dream was to play for the best team in Mexico and then move to Europe.

“But to be told United were interested was unbelievable.

“My whole life has changed. I played a lot of games in Mexico, went to a World Cup and now have this incredible opportunity at United.”

Hernandez, whose father and grandfather were both Mexico internationals, once feared he would never follow in their footsteps.

He added: “I was not getting many chances in the Chivas first team and I questioned whether I was good enough to make it as a footballer.

“But my family said I needed to be patient. When you’re playing it’s about learning to accept the bad times as well as enjoying the good.”

Now he has set his sights on helping United win more silverware.

He said: “The most important thing for all of us is that the team wins – it doesn’t matter who scores the goals.

“Of course, I want to play as much as possible and to help the team win. If I score goals on the way that’s a bonus.”

The last time I played fit? Maybe five years, maybe more, I can't really remember.

The last time I played fit? Maybe five years, maybe more, I can't really remember.

Chelsea captain John Terry has revealed that injury problems have left him short of full fitness for the last five years.

The Stamford Bridge stalwart is currently nursing a nagging nerve problem carried over from last season and is facing up to a prolonged spell on the sidelines.

He has finally been forced to take a break and seek medical assistance after deciding that he could no longer rely on pain-killing injections to get him through games.

Terry hopes a long-term cure for the problem can be found, as he admits it has been a long time since he could consider himself to be in full health.

“The last time I played fit? Maybe five years, maybe more, I can’t really remember,” he told theDaily Mail.

“If you can take an anti-inflammatory and struggle through, you do.

“The pain from this injury is the worst I have had, there is no way I can continue.

“I’m 30 next month and I’ve got to start looking after myself.”

Rethink

Terry once said, ahead of the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, that he was fully prepared to face the consequences of his actions and did not mind if he spent his retirement in a wheelchair if he could look back on a successful career.

He has altered that stance somewhat since then, though, with the England international mindful that his young family must be his priority.

“It’s funny, I was reading what I said about ending up in a wheelchair the other day and I thought to myself, ‘You know mate, that’s probably not your best plan’,” he added.

“I’d rather play with my kids in the garden, thank you very much. I hope people will appreciate that.

“I’d like to rethink the wheelchair idea, please.”

Spotlight

Terry has also confessed to his disappointment at seeing the England armband stripped from him by Fabio Capello in February 2010.

The Three Lions coach took that course of action in the wake of allegaions about Terry’s private life, and the Blues ace admits to feeling slightly aggrieved at the decision.

He said: “I understood the decision at the time.

“Fabio said he wanted to take the spotlight off me, although if I am honest I thought it had the reverse effect. But I would never dislike him for that.”

He added: “I suppose the only time I felt disappointed was during the next game against Egypt, which was a friendly, and the armband got passed around between five or six players.”

 

Vidic heads home United's late leveller

 

Manchester United produced a stirring fightback to extend their unbeaten start to the season in a thrilling 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men looked destined to suffer their first defeat in all competitions this season after Ashley Young blasted home the opener from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute with Marc Albrighton adding the second four minutes later following a swift counter-attack.

Substitute Federico Macheda gave the Red Devils hope as he found the top corner of Brad Friedel’s net in the 81st minute before Nemanja Vidic’s diving header five minutes from time extended Villa’s miserable Premier League run against United to just one win in their last 30 meetings.

After a slow start to the game, Dimitar Berbatov missed a glorious opportunity to put United in front in the 16th minute when he scuffed his shot wide following a neat pass from Javier Hernandez, with Villa appealing in vain for offside.

Wes Brown, brought in at right-back in place of the injured Rafael, was then allowed to wander unmarked towards the near post to make contact with Nani’s whipped free-kick on the edge of the six-yard box but could not direct the chance on target.

Ashley Young forced Edwin van der Sar into a sprawling save on the half-hour mark with a strike from the edge of the box after Gabriel Agbonlahor had flicked on by beating Rio Ferdinand in the air.

Sleepy

Nani and Patrice Evra then demonstrated some quick thinking with the winger playing in the left-back with a free-kick from the edge of the area, but the smart move caught out their own team as much as Villa’s sleepy defence with no-one on hand inside the six-yard box to turn home the France international’s dangerous cross.

Stewart Downing then worked space for a shot as half-time approached but saw his curling strike deflected wide with Van der Sar scrambling across his goal, before James Collins headed well wide in added time before the break.

Stephen Warnock and Nani became embroiled in an altercation at the start of the second period, with the Villa full-back seizing possession and playing on despite his rival being in a heap, before Albrighton lashed wide following Vidic’s poor touch in his own area.

The Portugal international was clearly incensed by the earlier challenge and elected to seek his own immediate retribution and was lucky only to be booked after a blatant swing of the arm into his opponents face as they jumped for a ball.

And in the 54th minute Albrighton missed Villa’s best chance of the match as Downing’s delightful cross found him in space at the far post but his cushioned header back across goal also went wide of the post.

Gerard Houllier’s men went even closer in the 67th minute as another splendid ball into the box from Downing was met by Collins’ towering header, which beat Van der Sar all ends up, only to crash back into the play after hitting the face of the crossbar.

Pressure

Seconds later the woodwork was rattling again as Agbonlahor attempted a one-two with Ashley Young before smashing the loose ball against the base of the near post with United’s goalkeeper helpless again.

But Villa’s pressure finally told when a lightning break by Agbonlahor saw the striker burst away from Vidic down the right before crossing for Ashley Young, with the Villa player unceremoniously bundled over by Wes Brown.

Referee Dean had no hesitation in pointing to the spot before Young picked himself up to confidently drive the ball home, sending Van der Sar the wrong way in the process.

And Villa doubled their lead in the 76th minute with another clever counter-attack as Ashley Young fed Downing down the left with the former Middlesbrough man putting the ball on a plate for Albrighton to fire home from six yards out.

The goalscorer was then in the right place to calmly head off his own line after Rio Ferdinand’s driven effort, before substitute Macheda halved the deficit in the 81st minute with a superb finish into Friedel’s top corner after Darren Fletcher’s backheel.

Downing fired a rising shot fractionally over the bar before Nani’s dangerous inswinging cross found the diving Vidic at the far post to spark scenes of jubilation among the travelling United supporters.

Sir Alex Ferguson admits he is struggling to pick a team for the Manchester derby after confirming Owen Hargreaves is out for five weeks.

Manchester United midfielder Hargreaves started his first game in over two years on Saturday when he was surprisingly selected for the 2-1 win over Wolves.

However, the 29-year-old failed to last 10 minutes after suffering a hamstring injury and Ferguson admitted his gamble had back-fired.

The injury is at least not a recurrence of Hargreaves’ long-standing knee troubles and Ferguson expects the former Bayern Munich man to be out until next month.

Tension

“We were at the stage where we knew Owen’s knee was okay,” said Ferguson.

“His training performances for eight or nine days previously had been terrific. He had done really well, which is why we took the chance.

“But maybe the tension in the build-up for the lad was too much and he suffered because of it.”

Hargreaves’ absence merely adds to the selection problems facing Ferguson for Wednesday’s short trip to City after he was forced to pick an under-strength team for the scrappy win over Wolves.

Ferguson has confirmed veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs will not be fit, while Portuguese winger Nani is doubtful due to a groin injury.

Counting heads

“Ryan is out,” said the United boss. “Nani is doubtful.

“At this stage it doesn’t look as if he will make it. It is not a great position for us to be in. We are counting heads at the moment.”

The likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick sat out the Wolves game, while Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra played despite struggling with illness.

Ferguson, who had also been under the weather prior to the weekend, revealed that the squad had still to fully shake off the effects of a virus.

He added: “We’ve no idea at all (on a side). We’ve still got some players out with ‘flu and we’ve sent some players home.

“We’re not in a good position at the moment, but we have a strong squad. We just carry on.”

Man City slump to Poznan defeat

Manchester City suffered their third straight defeat as they slumped to a 3-1 loss at Lech Poznan in the Europa League.

With talk of rifts in the camp at Eastlands,Roberto Mancini’s men continued their recent drop in form as they went behind in the first half during a disappointing showing in Poland.

After a poor clearing header from Dedryck Boyata, midfielder Dimitrije Injac pounced with a superb half-volley from outside the area that flew into the corner of Shay Given’s goal on the half-hour mark.

Adebayor: Goal not enough

City equalised after the break as in the 51st minute Emmanuel Adebayor sent the ball into the roof of the net after his initial header from a corner was saved, but Poznan went in front again as Boyata’s clearing header rebounded offManuel Arboleda and in with four minutes remaining.

There was still time left for substitute Mateusz Mozdzen to score a fantastic long range effort to leave City needing four points from their remaining two games to be assured of progression from Group A.

It was Jose Maria Bakero’s first match in charge of the Polish side following his appointment on the eve of the game and he immediately followed in the footsteps of Arsene Wenger and Mick McCarthy in outwitting the troubled Mancini.

With both Yaya and Kolo Toure left in Manchester and Carlos Tevez on his way back from Argentina, Mancini was forced to make changes.

He embraced the idea, using the match to give the likes of Shay Given, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Wayne Bridge and Joleon Lescott game time.

First chance

City’s first chance came after four minutes, Adam Johnson surging into the Poznan area before the ball broke for James Milner to poke unsuccessfully at goal.

Lescott netted from an eighth-minute corner but was unsurprised to see the effort chalked off for offside.

Sergei Krivets wasted a chance to create something for Poznan, receiving the ball in space on the left before turning into trouble and delivering a poor cross.

Good work from Artjoms Rudnevs and the lively Semir Stilic almost opened City up after quarter of an hour, but the final pass was just too heavy.

Mancini’s side should have been ahead two minutes later, Patrick Vieira first missing from a tight angle then Adebayor seeing his close-range header nodded back off the line by Bartosz Bosacki.

Seconds later Boyata spurned an even better chance, heading tamely into the ground from a couple of yards.

Poznan used the let-off as a spur to up their game. First Slawomir Peszko sent a free-kick skidding past the post before Stilic bent a first-time effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box.

By half an hour the Poles had a deserved lead. Vieira lost possession to Ivan Djurdjevic deep in the Poznan half, with the ball eventually finding Krivets on the left flank.

His cross was average but two ineffective defensive headers saw the ball fall to Injac, who lashed a low volley into the bottom corner from 25 yards.

Meanwhile, both Bridge and Micah Richards earned bookings before the break as frustration took its toll.

Wright-Phillips paid the price for a poor 45 minutes and was replaced by David Silva at the interval. The Spain forward took up the space behind Adebayor, with Milner moving to the wing.

It was Milner’s corner that created the equaliser after 50 minutes, Adebayor rising above his man to head powerfully at goal.

Jasmin Buric pulled off a fine reaction save but was unfortunate to see his parry bounce to the Togolese striker, who belted home enthusiastically.

Deflated

Poznan were visibly deflated by the goal but picked themselves up enough to give Marcin Kikut a half chance, though Pablo Zabaleta was on hand with a saving tackle.

In Stilic they also had the game’s liveliest player and he created another chance just after the hour mark, laying off for Rudnevs, who drew a smart save from Given at the near post.

Silva came close with 20 minutes left, Adebayor chipping back into the box from the byline and the Spaniard volleying into the turf, only for the ball to loop up and force Buric into action.

Aleksandar Kolarov came on for City, his first appearance since injuring his ankle on his debut in August, but it was not to be a happy return. With five minutes left on the clock a hopeful ball into the away area was met by Boyata, but he only succeeded in heading the ball back off Arboleda.

The defender knew little about it but with Given stranded the ball nestled in the far corner.

Mozdzen, a substitute, scored a goal more fitting of the result in the final minute when he profited from Vincent Kompany’s error to beat Given with a rocket from outside the area.

Hat-trick supersub yet again pulls Liverpool out of the mire

Steven Gerrard once again inspired Liverpool as his late hat-trick gave the Reds a 3-1 victory over Napoli at Anfield.

This important Europa League tie was going all the way of the Italians after Ezequiel Lavezzi gave them a deserved lead in the 27th minute of the first half.

However Gerrard, who came on to the field at the interval as a replacement for MilanJovanovic, had other ideas as he scored three in the final 15 minutes.

Gerrard: Inspired again.

It was an important win for Roy Hodgson’smen, who stuttered and stalled throughout the game to stamp their authority over their quicker and slicker opponents.

But the skipper was to have the final say, demonstrating his immense value to the Merseysiders by dragging them out of the mire to come through to win.

It also made it two wins and two draws in the last four matches and ensured the side’s mini-revival did not come crashing to an end before it had chance to gather momentum.

That Gerrard made such a difference highlighted the deficiencies on the playing staff at Anfield, with the side operating the vast majority of the second half with five central midfielders in a variety of other positions.

The captain put the rest of his team-mates to shame.

Newly-appointed director of football strategy Damien Comolli, watching alongside owner John Henry, must be wondering how he is expected to bring in talent to match that of Gerrard’s, such was the midfielder’s influence on the game.

But both Henry and Comolli would have been disappointed with how quickly Liverpoolwere put on the back foot by the lively visitors in the first half.

Equally worrying was the number of times they gave the ball away, a failing which ultimately cost them as one such occasion led to Napoli’s goal.

Dangerous

Lavezzi looked dangerous from the start and his shot forced a corner off Paul Konchesky, with his next intervention releasing Edinson Cavani through the inside-left channel only for the Uruguayan to blaze over.

The provider was slightly closer himself when he seized on a misplaced pass by Jonjo Shelvey to run at the Liverpool defence and fire a shot just wide of Jose Reina’s left-hand post.

Pressure was starting to build and Glen Johnson, returning from a thigh injury after a four-match absence, was the first player to be booked for hacking at the back of Cavani’s legs before the Reds cracked in the 28th minute.

Christian Poulsen’s aimless back-header in the centre circle was picked up by Cavani on the left and he slipped a pass through to Lavezzi who calmly steered the ball under Reina, sparking wild celebrations for the visiting fans – many of whom had managed to acquire tickets in a corner of the main stand.

The response was for David Ngog to stab wide from Poulsen’s pass and Johnson to force a regulation save out of Morgan de Sanctis.

But manager Roy Hodgson had already seen enough and sent Gerrard out to warm-up 10 minutes before the interval, with the captain reappearing for the second half at the expense of Milan Jovanovic.

It took just 11 seconds for Gerrard to get into the game, winning a tackle with typical aggression before moments later inducing a foul from Andrea Dossena which earned the former Liverpool defender a booking.

Desired effect

The England midfielder’s presence had certainly had the desired effect, even if it did mean the side now had even less width with five central midfielders on the field.

Ngog and Shelvey wasted chances before Meireles missed the target from eight yards after latching on to Ngog’s loose pass.

Gerrard curled a free-kick just wide from the edge of the penalty area but it was his sheer determination which brought the equaliser in the 75th minute.

Shelvey’s run appeared to be petering out when Dossena did his former club – where he endured a miserable time – a huge favour by diverting the ball towards

De Sanctis. Gerrard sensed an opportunity and charged in with his lunge enough to divert the ball past the goalkeeper.

Salvatore Aronica’s 88th-minute trip on Johnson presented the captain with a penalty to double his tally and he duly obliged.

In the directors’ box Henry punched the air but he had barely sat down before Gerrard completed his hat-trick and sealed the victory, cleverly dinking the ball over De Sanctis from substitute Lucas Leiva’s through-ball.

Chelsea and Arsenal leave it late as Man City slip up

Chelsea had to come from behind to defeat Blackburn, Arsenal also left it late to beat West Ham and Manchester United beat Tottenham Hotspur but Manchester City lost to Wolves.

Fulham returned to winning ways by overcoming Wigan, while Everton continued their fine form with a narrow victory over Stoke.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea looked in trouble early on at Ewood Park but hit back to prevail 2-1 and maintain their five-point advantage at the top of the table.

Blackburn were rewarded for an enterprising start with the opening goal of the game after 21 minutes, Benjani winning an aerial duel against John Terry to get on the end of an El-Hadji Diouf cross.

But Ancelotti had warned on the eve of the clash that there was still more to come from his Chelsea side and their equaliser before half-time was skilfully constructed, with Didier Drogba heading a Florent Malouda pass down for Nicolas Anelka to provide the finish.

It appeared as though the winning goal might never arrive but the Blues finally broke through six minutes from time when Branislav Ivanovic nodded home following good work by Yuri Zhirkov.

Pressure

Arsenal kept the pressure on Chelsea courtesy of a 1-0 triumph over bottom club West Ham, although again the outcome was in doubt right until final whistle.

It was a familiar tale for Arsenal supporters in the first half at Emirates Stadium as their team played with panache but lacked end product against a Hammers side showing resilience in defence and an occasional threat of their own in attack.

Samir Nasri then struck the crossbar with a ferocious free-kick after the break, while Theo Walcott was also denied by the foot of the post moments after coming on as a substitute and Andrey Arshavin’s appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears following a seemingly innocuous brush with Manuel Da Costa.

Robert Green also played his part with a series of saves before Alex Song popped up at the far post to bundle in a Gael Clichy cross with only two minutes remaining.

Manchester United maintained their pursuit of the leaders with a 2-0 victory overTottenham, but were aided by a controversial second goal at Old Trafford.

The hosts made the breakthrough just past the half-hour mark when Nani whipped in a free-kick from the right and Nemanja Vidic’s run was not tracked as the Red Devils captain guided a header inside the far post.

The second goal came five minutes from the end when Nani side-footed the ball into the net, but before Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes had restarted play from a free-kick.

Manchester City were unable to bounce back from their defeat at home to Arsenal last weekend as they slipped to a 2-1 loss against Wolves at Molineux.

Emmanuel Adebayor, starting up front alongside summer signing Mario Balotelli in the absence of Carlos Tevez, put City ahead from the penalty spot following a foul by Richard Stearman on David Silva.

Wolves drew level on the half-hour mark thanks to a fine strike by Nenad Milijas and then took the lead early in the second half when Dave Edwards scored on the rebound after Kevin Doyle’s initial effort had been blocked.

City battled in vain to find a way back into the match but Wolves held firm for their first win since the opening day of the campaign.

 

Inspired

A Clint Dempsey double inspired Fulham to only their second Premier League victory of the season as Wigan’s recent revival came to a halt with a 2-0 reverse at Craven Cottage.

Dempsey headed in Carlos Salcido’s left-wing delivery to give Fulham a well-earned advantage in the 30th minute, before finding the net with a neat shot from Chris Baird’s cross just prior to the interval.

Stoke slipped to their third straight defeat as Everton extended their unbeaten run to five games with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Goodison Park.

There was nothing to separate the sides until Yakubu Aiyegbeni smashed home from a tight angle midway through the second half after Tim Cahill had hit the post.