woensdag 15 februari 2012
dinsdag 14 februari 2012
Bayer Leverkusen 1 Barcelona 3
Sanchez and Messi put holders on easy street
Double top: Sanchez beats Leno to fire his second of the game
Barcelona put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with victory over a Leverkusen side who might wonder what would have been had they attacked from the start.
After the German hosts sat deep to frustrate Barca in the first half, Alexis Sanchez's first Champions League goal, scored in the 41st minute, separated the teams at the break.
But Leverkusen came out with a much more positive outlook after the break, levelling through Michal Kadlec and then having several chances before Sanchez's second and a late Lionel Messi strike gave Barca victory.
Leverkusen, hit heavily by injury, set up to defend against a Barcelona side that was missing Xavi Hernandez.
The result was a fairly drab opening, with a Dani Alves free-kick, sent comfortably over the bar, the sum total of the chances in the opening quarter of an hour.
Daniel Schwaab made a fine intervention to prevent Messi nipping in for an easy close-range chance, before Adriano curled a shot well wide from the left channel with openings hard to come by.
Andre Schurrle fluffed Leverkusen's only half-chance of the first 45 minutes, totally miskicking when the ball sat up invitingly on the edge of the area.
Messi was doing his best to wriggle through the Leverkusen defence, but could not get enough power on a shot through Schwaab's legs from a difficult angle.
But the Argentinian was the provider for the opening goal, flicking a pass over the defence that had Alexis and Cesc Fabregas scampering after it.
High point: Sanchez hails his - and Barcelona's - second as the holders sealed an easy win in Germany
Alexis won the debate between the two and slipped it through the legs of Bernd Leno and into the bottom corner.
With their containment strategy undone, Leverkusen looked much more positive to start the second half, with Manuel Friedrich having an early chance when Puyol's header fell for him at the far post, but he could not stretch far enough to turn it goalwards.
They were level in the 52nd minute as Vedran Corluka was allowed the time to cross from a tight position, standing the ball up for Kadlec to head in.
At full stretch: Lionel Messi makes it 3-1
But parity lasted only four minutes before Alexis got his second, latching on to a wonderful threaded ball from Fabregas to round the goalkeeper and finish.
Moments later, a defensive mix-up gave Renato Augusto another chance for the hosts, but his shot was straight at Victor Valdes.
They had another chance to level in the 64th minute when Gonzalo Castro raced onto the ball and powered a low shot at goal, but Valdes used fingertips to push it onto the post.
No chance: Victor Valdes can do nothing but watch Michal Kadlec's thundering header sail into the net
Messi was the next to find the woodwork, racing in from the right wing and then dinking a shot over the onrushing Leno from a tight angle, only to see it come back off the upright.
Leverkusen introduced Stefan Kiessling from the bench and he almost had an immediate impact, stooping to head Castro's curling cross goalwards and forcing Valdes into a good save on the line.
Leno was then called on to make a fine save and deny Alexis a hat-trick as he sent a diving header goalwards.
But Barca got what could be a killer third goal two minutes from time, with Messi the creator and finisher as he slipped Dani Alves through and the Brazilian selflessly squared for the Argentinian to find the net.
Olympique Lyonnais 1-0 APOEL
A second-half strike from Alexandre Lacazette saw Lyon claim a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their last 16 tie with APOEL Nicosia at Stade de Gerland.
Lacazette struck in the 58th minute with a deflected effort to separate the sides as Lyon dominated in what was the first appearance of a Cypriot club in the knockout stage of the Champions League.
The visitors defended doggedly throughout to limit the deficit to a solitary goal, and the French side could be left to rue not building further on their possession as they look ahead to the challenge of defending their slender advantage in the second leg in Nicosia.
Lyon coach Remi Garde sprung a couple of surprises, handing starts to Lacazette and Ederson at the expense of Jimmy Briand and Bafetimbi Gomis, while Cris and Kim Kallstrom returned for Lyon with Lisandro occupying the lone-striking berth.
The hosts were left irate after they were denied a clear penalty in the third minute: Ederson forced his way into the APOEL box, only to be hauled down clumsily by Nuno Morais. Referee Paolo Tagliavento ignored the vociferous appeals for a spot kick.
Lyon piled on the pressure and could have created a goalscoring opportunity in the 20th minute as Lacazette made an incisive run beyond the visitors’ back four, but Ederson crucially dallied and played the through ball too late with his team-mate caught offside.
It was Lacazette’s turn to be profligate on the half-hour mark as he jinked inside two challenges on the edge of the APOEL box, only to blast a wild shot over the crossbar with just a relieved Dionisios Chiotis to beat.
By the end of the first half, Lyon had mustered 13 shots on target while the visitors had yet to draw a save from Hugo Lloris, but the Cypriot side could have made much better use of a dangerous free kick on the edge of the hosts’ box as Ailton blasted over.
APOEL’s defending was unerring and wholehearted and the commitment of the visitors was epitomised by Paulo Jorge, who made a stunning last-ditch challenge to clear off the line as Ederson rounded Chiotis and slid a precise shot towards the corner of the empty net seconds after the break.
But Lyon did manage to break through in the 58th minute as the marauding Cris picked out Lacazette on the left edge of the penalty area, and the midfielder proceeded to fire a low drive which took a vicious deflection off Jorge and beyond a helpless Chiotis.
Lacazette was promptly replaced by Briand as coach Remi Garde shuffled his pack, and the hosts continued to press forward incessantly in search of a second to stamp their authority on the tie.
Yoann Gourcuff replaced Ederson late on as Lyon dictated the play in terms of possession, and within minutes of coming on the playmaker had a free header inside the APOEL box from Michel Bastos’s cross, but he could only direct his effort tamely wide.
Despite their domination of the ball, the French side were unable to muster a second goal as APOEL defended obdurately deep inside their half in the final stages of the match and the visitors were the happier at the full-time whistle.
Lyon had failed to win any of their last five Champions League knockout stage matches, but Garde’s side’s victory ensured that they made a strong start to the tie ahead of an undoubtedly tricky second leg at the GSP-Stadion.
Source: Yahoo Sport
zondag 12 februari 2012
Ronaldo hat-trick and Benzema strike give Whites 10-point cushion in La Liga
Cristiano Ronaldo used all his weaponry tonight against Levante, tallying a hat-trick that, with another Benzema strike, gave Real Madrid a victory that keeps them ten points ahead from Barcelona on the league table.
Granero and Higuain made the starting lineup, but the Whites conceded a Cabral header following a free-kick by Farinos on the 4-minute mark. Mourinho's men had to try to turn the score around and Higuain ended up hitting a post just a few minutes later (11'). Munua was forced to make a solid save by a spectacular Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick and Real Madrid continued having many opportunities to score. Levante's goalkeeper kept them at bay, making impressive saves again in the 25th and 37th minutes.
An aerial play that initially seemed inconsequential became decisive when Iborra concentrated more on pushing Higuain than on clearing the ball and ended up hitting it with his hands in the box. The penalty was taken and converted by Ronaldo just before half-time.
Real looked to finish things off quickly in the second half and Ronaldo scored again by heading in a great Higuain assist. The Portuguese striker wanted more and ended up tallying another with an amazing 23 metre shot, one of his best since he arrived in Spain. This spectacular goal made the crowd go wild and sing his name, while the player went straight to the coaching area to hug Mourinho and celebrate it with the rest of the bench.
Levante never gave up and, despite being down to ten men, tallied a second strike through a Kone header. Benzema pulled rank and enlarged the cushion with an impressive crossed shot from inside the box.
Callejon, Khedira and Kaka came on for Higuain, Granero and Ozil, and Real continued looking for more goals: Ozil hit the post in the 69th minute and Ronaldo came close to netting a free-kick in the final minutes.
... and being a fanatic Real Madrid supporter ... I'm cheering up for the 10 points difference from Barcelona!!!!
¡ HALA MADRID !
NAC 0 - 2 Ajax
AZ Alkmaar 2 - 0 Excelsior
VVV Venlo 2 - 0 FC Groningen
Roda JC 1 - 0 NEC
FC Utrecht 1 - 1 ADO Den Haag
RKC 0 - 1 SC Heerenveen
PSV 4 - 1 De Graafschap
Feyenoord 3 - 1 Vitesse
Inter 0-1 Novara
Caracciolo stunner deals massive blow to Nerazzurri's Champions League hopes
The big striker hit the only goal of the game 11 minutes into the second half, and even Ivan Radovanovic's sending-off wasn't enough to help the Milanese giants back into the game
Inter's chances of qualifying for the Champions League were dealt a huge blow on Sunday as Novara shocked San Siro with a 1-0 victory despite finishing the game with just 10 men.
Former Palermo, Brescia and Genoa striker Andrea Caracciolo struck a wonderful left-footed effort in the 56th minute to give Emiliano Mondonico’s men a shock lead, and they were able to hold on to claim the three points despite the sending-off of Ivan Radovanovic 10 minutes from time.
Inter enjoyed the best of the opening exhanges, and a magnificent early move involving four players nearly resulted in a goal for the returning Wesley Sneijder, but Samir Ujkani got down to hold his side-footed effort.
Novara were dealt the early blow of losing Hernan Paolo Dellafiore inside 15 minutes, with Michel Morganella replacing him in the already overworked visitors’ back line.
The lively Sneijder continued to ask questions of the Azzurri defence, and when he made progress down the left his cross into the middle just beat the advancing Diego Milito in the centre and flashed wide of the far post.
The Nerazzurri then appeared to have won a penalty when Santiago Garcia went right through Andrea Poli as the ex-Sampdoria man shaped up to shoot, but referee Carmine Russo somehow waved play on.
Claudio Ranieri made a change at half time, bringing on Giampaolo Pazzini for Ricardo Alvarez to give them added threat in front of goal, but in the early moments of the second half the home side could do little more to break down Mondonico’s side than they had managed before the break.
Milito got away in the left channel, but when he looked to cut inside to get a shot in he was foiled by Ujkani.
Moments later Lucio slid in to meet a right-wing cross from Sneijder, but it was cleared and Novara broke with a vengeance, freeing Caracciolo 20 yards from goal. The big striker cut in onto his left foot and unleashed a beautiful curling effort past Julio Cesar to stun the San Siro crowd.
Ranieri responded by replacing Poli and Cristian Chivu with Diego Forlan and Yuto Nagatomo as his side chased a vital equaliser, but when Sneijder got into a good position to cross he instead shot into the side netting at the near post.
As Inter got more desperate Novara’s defence seemed to become more stubborn, and Forlan could only find the Curva Nord when cutting onto his left when in a similar position to that from which Caracciolo had scored.
However, the Piedmont side were left hanging on with 10 men when Radovanovic was shown a second yellow card for kicking the ball away after Morganella had brought down Nagatomo just outside the Novara area.
Inter almost grabbed an equaliser three minutes from time when Sneijder unleashed a right-footed shot, but the Dutchman's effort bounced back off the bar, and Lucio couldn't turn home the rebound.
Ujkani then made a miraculous late save from Pazzini to ensure that Novara held on for the surprise victory.
The result leaves Inter six points off the Champions League pace in fifth position, while Novara could celebrate doing the double over their esteemed rivals, moving up to 16 points but remaining four short of Siena, who occupy the all-important 17th spot.
Udinese 1-2 AC Milan
Maxi Lopez and El Shaarawy seal magnificent comeback win as champions go top of Serie A
In a vastly improved second-half performance, two goals ensured that the Rossoneri ended their poor form of late to replace Juventus at the summit of the league
AC Milan came from behind to beat Udinese 2-1 at the Stadio Friuli to take a valuable three points which take them to the top of Serie A.
The Zebrette started well and took a first-half lead through Antonio Di Natale. However, a vastly improved second-half display saw the Rossoneri come back from the dead through late strikes from Maxi Lopez and Stephan El Shaarawy.
Udinese sat fairly deep from the off as they looked to catch Milan on the break, and Mauricio Isla saw his ambitious effort fly narrowly over the bar after just 15 minutes.
In the 19th minute Di Natale picked up the ball in the middle of the Milan half and played a give-and-go with Gelson Fernandes. It cut straight through the heart of Milan’s defence and the prolific striker’s effort deflected off of Thiago Silva and looped over Marco Amelia and into the net.
With Milan being overwhelmed in the midfield, the Zebrette missed a chance to enhance their lead with 10 minutes of the first half remaining. Isla sent in a lovely ball from the left and a confident Di Natale attempted to shoot first time but snatched at it, sending it back across goal and wide.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent due to suspension, the Milan attack lacked a focal point with Robinho and El Shaarawy up front. The Italian striker almost pounced on some lax defending in stoppage time but fired over the bar from close range.
The Rossoneri emerged a different side for the second half, but for all their improved creativity and motivation the equaliser remained elusive. Ignazio Abate and Clarence Seedorf both put in some great deliveries but there was no Milan player to add the finishing touch.
Pablo Armero was having a storming game and should have put Udinese two goals up as they worked their way back into the game. Di Natale’s through ball put the Colombian through one-on-one but Djamel Mesbah showed a great turn of pace to recover and steal the ball off his toe.
After substitute Maxi Lopez threw himself to the ground at the edge of the box, Udinese countered. Armero passed to Maurizio Domizzi who stabbed a tame effort at goal which Amelia turned behind. From the resultant corner Danilo forced the keeper into a great save.
The home side were made to rue their missed chances moments later when Samir Handanovic spilled El Shaarawy’s shot into the path of Maxi Lopez, who slotted into the open net.
Two minutes later El Shaarawy and Robinho were both denied after a defensive mix-up almost handed Milan the lead.
The Rossoneri completed their comeback with five minutes of normal time remaining when Maxi Lopez centred the ball from the right flank and El Shaarawy fired emphatically in at the near post.
The win means that Milan overtake Juventus and sit on top of the league, with the Old Lady out of action this weekend due to the snow-enforced postponement of their trip to Bologna. Udinese remain fourth but could see Inter close the gap between the two sides to just two points tomorrow when they host Novara.
The match Bologna vs Juventus is posponed because of weather conditions!
zaterdag 11 februari 2012
Osasuna 3-2 Barcelona
Pep Guardiola's experimental side lose in Pamplona as La Liga starts to slip away
Despite a valiant effort at a comeback, the Blaugrana suffered their second league defeat in 47 matches and a blow to their title hopes after a first-half flurry from the hosts
A questionable first-team, a frozen pitch, and an inspired opposition contributed to Barcelona's 3-2 defeat at Osasuna at the Estadio Reyna de Navarra on Saturday evening as the Catalans now risk falling 10 points behind leaders Real Madrid by the end of the weekend.
A first-half brace by Dejan Lekic gave Osasuna a magical start. The second period saw a flurry of goals as Alexis Sanchez reduced the deficit, only for Raul Garcia to restore a two-goal cushion. Cristian Tello made it 3-2, but Barcelona could not complete the comeback.
The Catalan side began the match with a modified starting XI as Sergi Roberto, Pedro and Thiago Alcantara started in place of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas.
The changes hurt the Liga giants early on as Osasuna got off to a dream start. In the fourth minute, Raul Garcia received the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box and it flicked on to find a sprinting Lekic, who buried his strike past Victor Valdes to open scoring.
Pep Guardiola's men attempted to fight back but struggled to establish their quick, one-touch game on the frozen pitch.
The hosts did not sit back and settle for a solitary goal as they were soon two up. After being picked out by Raul Garcia on the right flank, Alvaro Cejudo looped in a cross which found a surging Lekic, who tapped past Valdes for his second of the night to send the home crowd into raptures.
The first half ended with the Blaugrana establishing dominance in possession but not being able to create any goal-mouth opportunities with it.
Guardiola made a few changes at the start of the second half but instead of bringing on Iniesta, Xavi, or Fabregas into the game, he introduced Isaac Cuenca and Tello as Carles Puyol and Pedro made way.
Although the changes may have bemused a few fans, they worked. Cuenca centred the his cross from the right and found an unmarked Alexis, who slid the ball past Fernandez to bring the Catalans back into the game.
But the goal did not faze Los Rojillos and instead, they marched towards their opposition's goal, once again to be rewarded. After a pass from Valdes was intercepted, Nino was picked out on the left. The experienced forward sent in a cross and Raul Garcia managed to tip past Valdes at the near post, punishing the keeper for his straying too far off his line.
The match continued to see-saw back and forth as the Blaugrana reduced the deficit once more. After being picked out on the right, Tello checked past his marker and blasted past Fernandez from close range into the top corner to make it 3-2.
Barcelona looked to have equalised when Alexis found the back of the net after Lionel Messi clipped in a cross, but was adjudged to be offside by the linesman when the ball took a slight touch off Sergi Roberto. The away side continued to pressure their opponents until the final whistle, but they could not find an equaliser as they stumble to their second defeat of the season.
With the loss, Barcelona could find themselves 10 points adrift of top spot if Madrid beat Levante at home on Sunday. Osasuna's fantastic upset victory sees them temporarily move up to seventh place.
Manchester United 2 - 1 Liverpool
'Disgraceful Luis Suarez should never play for Liverpool again' - Sir Alex Ferguson furious after Patrice Evra handshake snub
The Manchester United manager slammed the Uruguayan's behaviour before kick-off, insisting that he 'could have caused a riot' given the tensions between the two clubs
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has slammed Luis Suarez's refusal to shake the hand of Patrice Evra, insisting that the striker should never play for Liverpool again.
Two goals from Wayne Rooney, before a late consolation from Suarez, handed United a 2-1 victory in a match that was overshadowed by the tension between Suarez and Evra.
"I couldn't believe it," Sir Alex told Sky Sports following the match. "I just could not believe it.
"I had a chat with Patrice this morning, and he said 'I'm going to shake his hand. I've got nothing to be ashamed of and I want to keep my dignity.' And then he [Suarez] refuses - he's a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club.
"That certain player should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. With the history that club has got, and he does that in this city today - he could have caused a riot.
"I was really disappointed in that guy. It was terrible, what he did.
"It created a tension - you've seen the referee, he didn't know what to do about it. It caught him off-guard, and it was a terrible start to the game. There was a terrible atmosphere created."
Sir Alex added that the debate over the wisdom of pre-match handshakes should not be allowed to hide the issue of racism in the game that has arisen this season.
"That's a different issue altogether. That started when the Premier League started, of course, and it's never been a problem really until this season, with regards to racism. It's never been a problem," he added.
"So really we better get our house in order in terms of fighting racism - it's an issue, it's absolutely an important issue in this country. Football's come a long way from the days of John Barnes and throwing bananas to where we are today - we can't go back.
"We have to go forward, in a positive way, and ban it altogether."
Moments after the half-time whistle, Suarez appeared to provocatively kick the ball away towards the dugouts, when questioned over the incident Ferguson replied: "Maybe that's the kind of character he is."
The United boss did admit, however, that Evra shouldn't have celebrated in front of Suarez at the end of the match, adding: "He shouldn't have done that."
Everton 2 - 0 Chelsea
Pienaar & Stracqualursi strikes defeat visitors as pressure grows on Andre Villas-Boas
The visitors were dominated from start to finish by a Toffees side who have been rejuvenated by their work in the January transfer window
Everton gained their second 'top-four' scalp in two games at Goodison Park, beating Chelsea 2-0 on Saturday.
The Toffees opened the scoring just five minutes in thanks to the returning Steven Pienaar's wonderfully controlled strike.
They then pinned Chelsea back with some brilliantly incisive attacking and got a deserved second through Denis Stracqualursi to follow up their win over Manchester City with another impressive victory.
The hosts made just one change to the side which was held to a frustrating draw against Wigan, with captain Phil Neville replacing Tony Hibbert at right-back. New signing Nikica Jelavic failed to make his first start for the Toffees after coming down with a virus and Denis Stracqualursi was thus charged with leading the line for the second game in a row.
For the visitors, Gary Cahill was the man to pay for the defensive struggles against Manchester United as the January signing was replaced by Branislav Ivanovic in the middle, with Jose Bosingwa coming in at right-back. Elsewhere, Frank Lampard made his return to central midfield as Florent Malouda dropped to the bench.
Given that Everton had beaten the league leaders at Goodison Park in their last home game, it was unsurprising they started full of confidence and somewhat caught Chelsea on their heels. The visitors looked shaky defensively and paid the biggest price just five minutes in as Everton took the lead.
A coming together between Tim Cahill and Lampard saw the ball loop over the Blues’ defence and fortuitously into the path of Pienaar who controlled brilliantly on his chest and smashed beyond Petr Cech.
Despite the nature of the goal, it was no more than the hosts deserved and they almost added to it just moments later as a Neville cross was met by the head of Stracqualursi, who nodded inches wide of the post.
A Donovan drive from distance, which stung the palms of Cech, gave the hosts further hope of gaining a Premier League surprise, as Andre Villas-Boas’ men appeared rattled.
It took 25 minutes for the Londoners to show any sort of fight, but a chance for a Fernando Torres head at goal was brilliantly denied by Sylvain Distin before Daniel Sturridge saw his shot desperately blocked at the edge of the box.
Lampard then rolled wide from a similar distance to confirm Chelsea’s arrival in the match just early enough for them to perhaps make a go of salvaging a result.
Tim Howard’s flap at a cross from the right almost allowed Lampard in again shortly agter before a Leighton Baines free-kick was equally poorly dealt with by Cech at the other end, the Czech shot stopper being let off with the linesman’s flag indicating Cahill’s offside position.
A wild kick from a frustrated Raul Meireles on the breaking Stracqualursi conveyed Chelsea’s frustrations in the first-half, but the hosts failed to capitalise by wasting the free-kick, taking it short.
A Torres header from close range was then easily collected by Howard as an entertaining first period was brought to a close with Everton leading.
The pace did not appear to have slowed as the second half commenced, with both sides continuing to show the attacking intent which had made the first period so good to watch.
A Pienaar-led Everton break, after Torres’ wasteful control at the other end, saw the South African buy a free-kick brilliantly. Unfortunately for the hosts, a rare poor delivery from Baines could not beat the wall but the endeavour to win the set-piece proved they had little to fear from a side who are chasing European football next term.
Stracqualursi’s twist and turn in the box moments later ended in a blocked shot but emphasised Chelsea’s position as the side under the cosh from an Everton whose creativity has improved no end since a productive January.
Another weak Torres header from a deep cross served to underline Chelsea’s lack of attacking thrust and there appeared no way back into the game with Everton counter-punching brilliantly.
And it was to prove so as the Toffees landed the knockout blow with 15 minutes remaining on the clock. A brilliant run in off the right from Donovan found the Blues’ defence backpedalling, and the American’s wonderfully weighted pass allowed striker Stracqualursi to smash beyond Cech, despite the keeper getting a palm to the ball.
Chelsea's game was up with that goal and Villas-Boas appeared to know it, removing Mata - one of their few impressive performers - for youngster Romelu Lukaku.
Everton were then little troubled by their visitors, as they had in truth been throughout the match, and kept the ball patiently in order to see out a deserved win which may mark yet another late-season renaissance.
Sunderland 1-2 Arsenal
Thierry Henry grabs dramatic late winner as Gunners fight back to go joint fourth
Thierry Henry says farewell to the Gunners in true Hollywood style by scoring late on to complete the comeback and seal all three points for the visitors
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry bade farewell to the Premier League in fairytale fashion with a 90th minute winner as the Gunners came from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1.
Substitute Henry, playing in what could be his last ever Premier League game as he prepares to return to Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls, scored from close range to complete an impressive Arsenal fight-back.
Arsenal had seemed to be heading for defeat when James McClean put Sunderland ahead but fellow substitute Aaron Ramsey equalised before Henry struck a dramatic winner.
The Gunners had been quickly into their stride and skipper Robin van Persie wasted a decent early opening following a slip by Michael Turner but he went for precision over power and Simon Mignolet saved comfortably.
The Gunners, who showed one change from the side that crushed Blackburn 7-1 with Bacary Sagna coming in for Francis Coquelin, remained on the front foot as Alex Song and Mikel Arteta dominated the midfield exchanges
Kieran Richardson had to resort to illegal means to halt Arsenal when Alex Song sent Sagna off down the wing and was booked for a poorly timed challenge as the full-back sped goalwards.
Theo Walcott came close to putting his side ahead midway through the first half when he was teed up by Van Persie but his angled shot went skidding past Mignolet’s far post.
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill tried to halt Arsenal in their tracks by ordering his team to defend more deeply and the negative tactics worked because the visitors were unable to find the space necessary to get to Mignolet.
It was clear that Sunderland were ready to rely on counter-attacks and the ploy nearly worked. Indeed Arsenal hearts were in mouths when Black Cats fans called for a penalty after Per Mertesacker slipped and the ball bounced up on to his arm but referee Neil Swarbrick ignored their appeals.
Sunderland continued to invite Arsenal pressure but Wenger’s team lacked the creativity to unpick the defence and they almost paid the price at the other end when John O’Shea set his sights on goal following Craig Gardner’s deflected free-kick but he skied his shot over.
That seemed to invigorate Sunderland and Gardner went close to breaking the deadlock but his raking 25-yarder was pawed away by Wojciech Szczesny.
Thierry Henry was sent on to regain the initiative but the move was to no avail as Sunderland went ahead in bizarre circumstances in the 70th minute.
There seemed little danger when Per Mertesacker picked up possession just outside the box but then he crumpled to the ground and McClean showed no mercy, picking up the loose ball beyond slamming a low shot beyond Szczesny.
Mertesacker was taken off on a stretcher and Arsenal looked doomed but then his replacement, Ramsey, popped up on the edge of the box to equalise five minutes later.
This time Lady Luck smiled on Arsenal as the ball ricocheted off Gardner and fell kindly to the Wales captain who beat Mignolet with a shot from just outside the box that went in off a post.
Henry, who will make the final appearance of his loan spell for Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday, had the final say when he nipped in ahead of Michael Turner to turn in Andrey Arshavin’s cross for his 229th goal in Arsenal colours.
dinsdag 7 februari 2012
Aanstelling Van Gaal en Sturkenboom geschrapt
Het gerechtshof in Amsterdam heeft dinsdag bepaald dat de aanstellingen van Martin Sturkenboom en Louis van Gaal bij Ajax niet rechtsgeldig zijn.
Volgens de rechtbank heeft de Raad van Comissarissen niet juist gehandeld bij de aanstellingen van Van Gaal en Sturkenboom en is er afgeweken van de normale procedures bij deze benoemingen. Hierdoor zijn de aanstellingen volgens de rechter niet rechtsgeldig, meldt Voetbal International.
De uitspraak van het hof luidt als volgt. "Het hof vindt aannemelijk dat in een eventuele bodemprocedure de voorgenomen besluiten van de Raad van Commissarissen (RvC), tot benoeming van Van Gaal en Sturkenboom tot statutair directeur van Ajax, vernietigd worden. Daarom heeft het hof de andere commissarissen verboden, op straffe van een dwangsom, de besluiten verder uit te voeren."
"Cruijff bewust buitenspel gezet"
"Het hof toont begrip voor de moeilijke positie waarin de andere commissarissen door de tegenwerking van Cruijff, onder meer bij de benoeming van Van Basten, waren gekomen. Maar door Cruijff bewust bij de besluitvorming over de benoemingen van Van Gaal en Sturkenboom buitenspel te zetten, hebben de andere commissarissen in de ogen van het hof onaanvaardbaar gehandeld."
"Het hof constateert dat de oproepingstermijn voor de RvC-vergadering van 16 november 2011, zonder goede reden, ontoelaatbaar kort was. Ook constateert het hof dat de agenda geen melding maakte van de voorgenomen benoemingen van Van Gaal en Sturkenboom."
"Afwezigheid Cruijff niet kwalijk genomen"
"Het hof stelt vast dat de besluiten onder meer in Nieuwsuur en Pauw en Witteman meteen als definitief naar buiten zijn gebracht. Volgens het hof was aan de besluiten ook op verschillende manieren al uitvoering gegeven. Onder die omstandigheden diende de voor 25 november 2011 opnieuw over de benoemingen uitgeschreven RvC-vergadering 'geen redelijk doel' meer. Het hof neemt het Cruijff daarom niet kwalijk dat hij op die vergadering niet is verschenen."
Komende vrijdag is de aandeelhoudersvergadering van Ajax, waarbij naar alle waarschijnlijkheid het vertrouwen in de RvC van de club wordt opgezegd. Hierdoor zullen Steven ten Have, Paul Römer, Edgar Davids, Marjan Olfers én Johan Cruijff uit hun functie worden ontheven.
LIVERPOOL 0 - 0 TOTTENHAM
Bright, brash & back in the spotlight - Luis Suarez shows his good, bad and ugly sides on Liverpool return
The Uruguayan made his first appearance in nine matches against Tottenham on Monday night and showed why he has been both a hero and villain in the Premier League this season
There was tangible disappointment around Anfield on Monday night as the news that Luis Suarez would not start against Tottenham disseminated.
That the Uruguayan has been away for just nine games but has been missed so sorely says much about his worth to the club’s fans and the team just a year since his move to Merseyside.
His later cameo as a substitute, however, served to underline so much more than that. There are many sides of the coin with Suarez and, in just a half-hour period, he served to show them all.
The now oft-discussed negative aspects of the South American’s personality and his absence itself came to the forefront this season as a product of two separate bans. The first, a one-match ban collected for a one-fingered gesture towards Fulham fans after a disappointing result, is perhaps easily dismissed as a mild misdemeanour, the actions of a frustrated man.
However, at the time that ban was accepted by the Liverpool hierarchy, they may well not have expected the somewhat lengthier sanction that awaited their star striker.
The now over-analysed Patrice Evra incident was a more unsavoury matter than that which preceded it and the resultant verdict led not only to an eight-match ban, but an irreversible change in the way in which the Liverpool No.7 is perceived in England.
It had been claimed that the Reds’ acceptance of that ban, despite fierce protestations over the reliability of evidence used to charge Suarez, would signal an end to the matter. The ban was supposed to be the line under the incident, one which we may never truly know the exact details of.
However, as Suarez warmed up in front of the Anfield Road end against Tottenham, the predictable reality of the situation reared its head. Chants regarding the Uruguayan’s racial tolerance were inevitably aired by opposing fans whose purview is not one of even-handedness but of exploiting weaknesses in whatever way possible.
Perhaps then it was this that prompted Suarez to kick England’s Scott Parker, quite blatantly, in the midriff moments after his introduction. The ball had fallen in the box and was there to be won, of course, but the problem was Suarez appeared to believe that it would be a challenge involving boots and not heads, as would have been more fitting.
Whatever the reasoning behind that, the striker picked up a yellow card to mark his return and provided more substantiation for those so willing to highlight his less-than-innocent nature.
Yet, if he has been widely considered a pantomime villain by fans of various Premier League clubs in his first year in England, he has always fulfilled his role of hero on Merseyside with aplomb and he showed just why by justifying the rapturous welcome afforded him when replacing Dirk Kuyt on the hour mark.
The striker was instantly involved in a tenacious battle with Benoit Assou-Ekotto for the ball, one which he won, typically. And, though the subsequent quick-passing exchange with Steven Gerrard came to nothing, the creative spark which the former Ajax man personifies, one which the Reds have lacked, was clearly illustrated in a matter of moments.
For a man who provokes so many extremes in emotion, though, the one facet of Suarez’s makeup which could be described as less than ruthless is the one which the Anfield faithful and Kenny Dalglish would most like him to eliminate. A bland streak, a middle-of-the-road indifference, the elephant in the room that is the forward’s occasionally erratic finishing.
Suarez's late header could have given him a dream return
He, of course, exhibited this aspect of his character on Monday night as well, namely when presented with a golden opportunity to seal a dream return and a vital three points. A Gerrard free-kick into the box managed to find Ledley King off-guard in a rare moment of weakness.
Suarez was the man to leap highest, but managed to nod straight at Brad Friedel when any significant deviation would have left the American stranded.
It is this sort of occurrence which indicates that the Reds should not believe all their woes will evaporate upon Suarez’s return. The Uruguayan has in fact featured in seven of the eight home draws for which Dalglish’s men have taken so much criticism this season and it is in this light that his arrival should be considered.
As a creator of chances, an inspiration amongst packed visiting defences, but never as the solution to a wider goalscoring problem.
The improving form of Andy Carroll and what Suarez can do to further facilitate that progression provides much more encouragement in that sense for Liverpool.
zondag 5 februari 2012
Wayne Rooney & Chicharito lead astonishing comeback as visitors recover from three goals down
The Red Devils come from 3-0 down to rescue a point at the Bridge after an Evans own goal, Juan Mata and David Luiz gave AVB's men the lead in a thrilling Premier League clash
Two penalties from Wayne Rooney brought Manchester United back from the dead to draw 3-3 with Chelsea in a pulsating game at Stamford Bridge.
The hosts were riding high on a three-goal lead shortly before the hour mark, with an own goals from Jonny Evans and a David Luiz header either side of a Juan Mata stunner giving the Blues the advantage.
But United unleashed a second-half onslaught to rescue a point at the Bridge, with Rooney and Javier Hernandez the heroes for the Red Devils.
United went into the game having failed to win in their last nine visits to Stamford Bridge in the Premier League, and looked to the returning duo of Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young to spearhead the attack along with Danny Welbeck.
Chelsea, meanwhile, handed a first start to new signing Gary Cahill, with skipper John Terry ruled out through injury.
The game had the feel of a usual heavyweight bout in the opening twenty minutes, with each side attempting to edge their way in to the game without leaving themselves exposed to the counter attack.
United had the lions’ share of possession in the opening exchanges, and looked the more likely to break the deadlock as Rooney and Welbeck began to combine well up top.
The visitors were left to feel aggrieved with referee Howard Webb as they had two strong penalty appeals turned down within the space of ten minutes: first Young went over under a nudge from Jose Bosingwa, then Welbeck was felled by Cahill as he ran through on goal, but neither decision went the way of the Red Devils.
The game remained fairly balanced towards the end of the half, but then out of the blue, the Blues struck the first blow.
Juan Mata and Fernando Torres worked the space to the left of United’s penalty area, and Daniel Sturridge wove his way in behind Patrice Evra before running at the near post. His cut-back took a nick of David De Gea’s outstretched leg before striking Jonny Evans in the chest at nestling in the back of the net.
The goal brought the game to life, as Sturridge then tested De Gea from distance before a United onslaught closed out the first half, with Petr Cech denying Rooney on two occasions and Welbeck from close range.
David Luiz thought he'd won it for Chelsea before United's stunning comeback
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side looked the most likely to grab the next goal, but just forty seconds after the restart, Chelsea doubled their lead in emphatic style.
Torres got the ball in space on the right flank, and picked out Mata with a pin-point cross before the former Valencia man rifled home a sumptuous volley from inside the area.
And just five minutes later, Villas-Boas’ side had a third, after Mata’s free-kick was flicked on by David Luiz and turned home by Rio Ferdinand’s shoulder.
It was further insult to the England international, as he suffered a torrent of abuse from the home fans throughout due to the on-going race row between his brother Anton and John Terry.
Desperate for a way back in to the game, Ferguson threw on Javier Hernandez to bolster the attack, and shortly before the hour mark, United grabbed a lifeline.
Sturridge brought down Evra inside the Chelsea box, and it was third time lucky for the visitors as referee Webb pointed to the spot. Rooney crashed home the ensuing penalty in to the top right-hand corner to keep his side in the game.
With such an open game, chances were coming thick and fast. De Gea had to get down low to save from Malouda, whilst Cech denied Rooney from the edge of the area after good link-up play between the England man and Hernandez.
But it was the Champions who struck next, again from a Rooney penalty, after Welbeck was caught by the outstretched leg of Ivanovic following good work from Hernandez.
The Bridge had gone from rocking to rocky, and it almost got worse for the hosts when substitute Oriol Romeu gave the ball away in his own half, but Hernandez could only fire wide across goal after being played in by Giggs.
Torres was then gifted a golden opportunity as a simple ball bounced over Evans’ head, but the Spaniard dallied on the ball after driving goalwards and was eventually robbed by Valencia.
And with less than ten minutes to go, Torres – and Chelsea – were left to rue that miss, as United's famous comeback was completed.
Valencia and Welbeck combined well down the right. The former’s cross was gathered in by Rooney, whose shot was parried by Cech to Giggs before the Welsh veteran picked out Hernandez with a cross to and the Mexican headed home the equaliser.
Chelsea could have stolen the three points at the death when Mata's free-kick seemed destined for the top corner, but De Gea did brilliantly to turn the ball behind.
In the end, the sides had to settle for a point apiece from a match which will rightly go down in the annals of Premier League classics.
Juventus 0-0 Siena
League leaders dominant but fail to break down resilient visitors
Gianluca Pegolo was in inspired form for the visitors to deny the Old Lady their thirteenth win of the season and earn his side a valuable point in the process
Juventus laboured and could only muster a 0-0 draw at Juventus Arena against a rock-solid Siena side.
It was a stuttering performance from the Old Lady in what was a scrappy game. Juve took 30 minutes to warm up but Gianluca Pegolo was in top form as he denied them on multiple occasions to earn the visitors a valuable and unexpected point.
Juventus were far too sloppy on the ball and they struggled to break down a resilient Siena in the opening stages. Chances were limited in an extremely disjointed game and, though Juve threatened down the wings, the movement of the strikers in the box was poor and they rarely tested Pegolo in the first 45 minutes.
The Siena keeper’s first save came in the 16th minute when he flapped at a swerving effort from distance by Arturo Vidal, but managed to clear the ball away. Siena then took the ball straight up the other end and after Emanuele Calaio found space by cutting inside of Giorgio Chiellini, he screwed his shot into the side netting.
Juventus were becoming ever more dangerous as the half drew on. In the 34th minute Andrea Pirlo spotted Stephan Lichtsteiner’s darting run in the box and clipped a beautiful diagonal ball to the right-back. He helped it on with his first touch but Pegolo made a fantastic save, getting his fingers to it and tipping it over.
Antonio Conte could not have been happy with his side’s first half display. Mirko Vucinic looked extremely rusty and Alessandro Matri was hardly involved in the game at all. Siena sought a goal on the break but were not committing enough players to stretch the hosts.
Siena continued to have an answer for everything that Juve threw at them in the second half, their close pressing and tackling inspired, but they were allowing Pirlo too much time and space.
Pegolo produced a fantastic save on the hour mark when he clawed away Pirlo’s beautifully placed free kick that was destined for the top corner. Just two minutes later he produced another remarkable stop when he got a hand to Matri’s header to keep the scores level.
With 15 minutes remaining Siena enjoyed a decent spell of pressure after a quick break saw Pablo Gonzalez brought down close to the area by Andrea Barzagli. From the resultant free kick Buffon cleared the ball away and the visitors failed to get an effort on target.
The stadium became a cauldron of frustration as the home side still struggled to find a way past their opposition. They had a penalty claim denied in the final moments when Giorgio Chiellini’s cross struck the arm of Simone Vergassola but the referee saw nothing wrong.
Siena almost won it at the death when Buffon spilled Reginaldo’s effort, and Gazzi stormed in to finish it off but he blazed his effort high and wide from the corner of the six-yard box.
Emanuele Giaccherini spurned a great opening in stoppage time to score the winner but his cross-goal effort had too much height and sailed just over Pegolo's bar.
The result means Juve cling to top spot while Siena widen the gap between themselves and the drop zone to four points.
Roma 4-0 Inter
Borini nets clinical brace as Claudio Ranieri endures miserable return to former club
A rampant and pacy home side tore apart the visitors on Ranieri's return to his former club following stellar performances from Fabio Borini and Erik Lamela
The first half was dominated by the home side, who were simply irrepressible for the initial half hour, with the notable exception of a superb solo run from Diego Milito that nearly created a goal out of nothing the opening exchanges.
But Roma’s immense pressure paid with just 13 minutes gone, as Juan rose high to head home Francesco Totti’s corner kick and earn the lead, following two saves from Julio Cesar to keep Erik Lamela and Fernando Gago from opening the scoring.
Inter began to get back into the match after a rough 30 minutes and nearly had a chance of their own but Yuto Nagatomo skied a cross from six yards out.
On the 41st minute mark, however, the home side doubled their lead. Miralem Pjanic added another assist to take his tally to eight for the season as he slipped Borini in towards goal. The youngster forced Walter Samuel into a slide tackle before coolly slotting the ball past Julio Cesar to send Roma into the break with a two-goal advantage.
Despite Ranieri throwing on Andrea Poli for Giampaolo Pazzini to shore up the midfield, Roma continued the second half much as they ended the first. Within five minutes, Borini added a second to his tally and a third on the night after receiving a long ball from Juan. Kept onside by Maicon, the youngster held off Lucio and slotted in past Julio Cesar.
Inter tried to press forward when possible but Luis Enrique's men continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides.
The home side added a fourth to their tally with just a minute left of regulation time to go, when substitute and debutant Giammario Piscitella found Bojan unmarked in the box. The on-loan Barcelona youngster managed to find space between three defenders to find the back of the net.
The result sees sixth-placed Roma cut the gap to Inter to a mere two points with an extra game in hand, to be played on Tuesday against Catania, while the visitors recent revival looks well and truly over.
Getafe 0-1 Real Madrid
Jose Mourinho's men grind out valuable victory courtesy of first-half Sergio Ramos header
The former Sevilla defender scored what was to be the only goal of the game in the 18th minute as Los Blancos extend their lead at the top of La Liga
Real Madrid earned a narrow 1-0 win against local rivals Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez courtesy of Sergio Ramos' solitary strike on Saturday evening, to extend their lead at the top of La Liga to 10 points.
Sergio Ramos scored with a bullet header in the 18th minute in what was to prove the only goal of the game to help his side build up a hefty lead over Barcelona, who entertain Real Sociedad later.
The home side made a bright start to proceedings and could have gained the lead in the third minute. Juan Valera's cross into the box was cushioned into the path of Abdelaziz Barrada by Javier Casquero, with the French-born midfielder blazing the ball over the bar from 10 yards out.
However, Madrid soon began to take control of the encounter and grabbed the lead in the 18th minute. Mesut Ozil's precise corner found the head of an unmarked Sergio Ramos who saw his powerful effort fly into the top corner, leaving Miguel Angel Moya helpless - Ramos' fourth goal of the season and Ozil's 11th Liga assist of the current campaign.
Jose Mourinho's men continued to dominate possession, yet for all of their time on the ball, they struggled to create clear-cut opportunities in the first-half, although Cristiano Ronaldo did sting the palms of the goalkeeper in the 35th minute with a fierce free kick from the edge of the box.
Three minutes later, and it was Getafe's turn to come close to scoring from a set-piece. Casquero's ball found the head of Juan Rodriguez, who saw his effort flicked just wide of goal from Miku as the hosts headed into the break 1-0 down.
Both sides made a slow start to the second period but the visitors should have doubled their lead in the 62nd minute. Ozil slid a delightful through pass to Karim Benzem, however the France international saw his strike well-blocked by Moya to keep his side in the encounter.
Despite not being anywhere near their best, Madrid looked like the only side in the encounter and nearly added an elusive second goal in the 78th minute when Xabi Alonso found substitute Gonzalo Higuain in space. The Argentine cut infield before smashing a powerful effort towards the corner of the goal, yet Moya once more pulled off a terrific stop.
The away team did find the net again in the 89th minute when Ronaldo sweeped the ball home following Jose Callejon's pass, only for the referee to correct rule the strike offside, and the game ended with Madrid holding on to their slender lead, picking up all three points in the process.
Next up for Mourinho's men is a home encounter versus Levante on February 12 while Getafe travel to Rayo Vallecano the same day.
Barcelona 2 - 1 Real Sociedad
The Catalans did enough to beat Real Sociedad but endured a nervy finish to a 2-1 win at a chilly Camp Nou while their rivals reaffirmed their credentials in the capital
On the coldest night in recent memory in the Catalan capital, Barcelona almost froze at Camp Nou on Saturday. With David Villa one of a host of stars sidelined by injury, Lionel Messi misfiring slightly and Xavi rested once again as a precaution ahead of Wednesday's Copa del Rey return against Valencia, Barca's problems were mounting.
All of that, however, was just the tip of the iceberg for Pep Guardiola's charges.
In the end, it wasn't as cold as forecast. Pre-match predictions had claimed that the Arctic conditions would bring sub-zero temperatures in a wave of cold weather spreading across from Siberia. "Bring blankets," Barca president Sandro Rosell had warned fans before the game, amid reports that the temperature would be -4.
But if -4 sounded bad, the reality was actually even more severe: -7. Because Barca began the day seven points adrift of their biggest rivals, Real Madrid, at the league's summit; Jose Mourinho's men had been, as they say in Spain, winter champions, and have since extended their advantage at the top of La Liga. So it may have been snowing all over Catalunya in the build-up to this clash, but the Primera Division title was starting to look white, too.
Barca look low on confidence at the moment
In similarly cool conditions, Madrid travelled to cross-city rivals Getafe on Saturday and turned in one of those performances that owe more to professionalism than prettiness, that are more pragmatic than purist. But they won by a single goal and - more significantly - the result rarely seemed in doubt. Mourinho's men dug deep and did enough; Sergio Ramos' set-piece goal sufficed and Madrid marched home triumphant. On nights like these, perhaps, titles are won.
Straight afterwards, Barca needed to beat Real Sociedad merely to stay within seven points of their rivals. With Xavi rested and Jonathan dos Santos starting in a much-changed midfield, the Catalans created chances in the first half, but had only youngster Cristian Tello's goal to show for themselves at the interval.
Tello had another disallowed in the second half but Messi made it 2-0 and Barca looked calm, as well as cool, in the conditions. But Carlos Vela pulled one back straight away for the Basques and made it a nervous finale as captain Carles Puyol was worryingly withdrawn and replacement Sergio Busquets suffered what looked like a nasty injury as he took a severe gash to the leg.
In the end, the congregated Catalans were happy to hear the whistle - and not only because of the cold. Barca had squandered a two-goal lead away to Real Sociedad in the early rounds of the league and some fans were dreading the worst here. As it transpired, history did not repeat itself, but it was a far-from-convincing display in the end for Guardiola's great side, affected and afflicted by a crisis of confidence which does not bode well for the remainder of the campaign.
Spanish and European champions they may be, but this brilliant Barcelona now face perhaps their greatest test of all. Barca need their confidence to return, and they cannot afford to drop any more points in the run-in, with 11 already conceded away from home this term. The Catalans simply must - as is said here - change the chip; say goodbye to their stuttering self-esteem, or say goodbye to La Liga. And be left out in the cold.
Arsenal 7, Blackburn Rovers 1
Gunners Use Width to Rediscover Scoring Touch
Arsenal finally rediscovered the goalscoring habit and hit seven past lowly Blackburn Rovers. It was the way that the Gunners used their natural width that defined the free-scoring performance.
Wide men Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain led the way. The duo regularly made well-timed runs inside the full-back and central defender and provided a consistent outlet for Arsenal to utilise on the counterattack.
One such run led to a second-minute lead for Arsene Wenger's team. Walcott was picked out by makeshift right back Francis Coquelin and dragged the ball across the box for Robin van Persie to nudge the Gunners in front.
This familiar combination linked up again after Rovers had equalised via a Morten Gamst Pedersen free kick. This time it was Alex Song who spotted Walcott's run and hit him in stride with a decisive through pass. Walcott reversed the ball to Van Persie and the Gunners skipper turned it in to put Arsenal back in front.
Walcott and Van Persie then combined moments later with the England speedster laying the ball off to the cerebral Dutchman who slotted a nice pass into the path of Oxlade-Chamberlain. The 18-year-old rounded Paul Robinson and netted his first Premier League goal for Arsenal.
In the second half, Walcott again got loose and stretched Blackburn's defense with his sprinter's speed. He slid the ball into path of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had the pace to match him on the break and the youngster slammed home his second goal of the day.
This is how Arsenal's front three is supposed to function. Fluid movement and quick interchanges at pace can expose any defense and the Gunners have the natural speed to utilise these tactics against any opposition.
Nobody is going to catch Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain when they are in full flight. Van Persie has the flair, creative instincts and passing range to drop into space and pick out the passes to match their runs.
Playing to the speed of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain allows Arsenal to be more direct and move the ball more quickly. They can bypass the quagmire created by teams who choose to crowd the midfield and close off the space for the short passing game.
Arsenal have struggled this season playing a system based around the talents of Cesc Fabregas, without a player possessing the similar skills. By emphasising the wingers more, the Gunners can reduce the need for and reliance on a central playmaker.
Manchester City 3-0 Fulham
Sergio Aguero leads hosts to comfortable victory as they move three points clear at top of Premier League
Routine win despite extremely snowy conditions at the Etihad Stadium with the majestic Argentine, Edin Dzeko and a Chris Baird own-goal sealing the win for Roberto Mancini's side
Stefan Savic came into the City backline in place of injured captain Vincent Kompany, with Aleksandar Kolarov and Adam Johnson also replacing Gael Clichy and James Milner, respectively.
Martin Jol re-instated Mark Schwarzer to his line-up and opted for Baird rather than John Arne Riise at left-back for the Cottagers, while Clint Dempsey partnered Moussa Dembele in attack.
Roberto Mancini's team started dominantly and had early chances through Dzeko, firing into Schwarzer's arms before flicking over from Gareth Barry's cross under pressure from Brede Hangeland.
The home side had a glorious chance to open the scoring after ten minutes, Adam Johnson jinking his way into the box before going over Baird's outstretched leg. Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Aguero dispatched the penalty with ease.
The Cottagers were struggling to get a foothold in the game with City dominating possession, but they looked to work a way back into the game as Simon Davies' shot low towards goal, but his effort was saved by Hart.
City constantly looked dangerous on the break, with Aguero's play particularly ominous as the Argentine tricked his way into the box and with no Fulham players wanting to make a challenge, cut the ball back to Silva who prodded wide.
Fulham were feeding off scraps, although Duff worried Hart with a searching effort that almost crept in at the far post.
However, City went straight up the other end and doubled their lead. Kolarov's deep cross from the left fell to Johnson who fired the ball back across goal and with Baird unfortunately positioned, the Ulsterman was only able to cannon a deflection past Schwarzer.
The home side had another shout for a penalty moments later as Silva went down under Dickson Etuhu's challenge in the box, with the Nigerian not seeming to contact the ball, but referee Dean declined the hosts' pleas.
Mancini's men continued on the offensive for the rest of the first half but were unable to breach the Fulham backline another time before half-time.
Aguero fires City on their way to three points with early penalty
The west Londoners started the second half better, keeping the ball well but ultimately unable to break down City's defence, with Savic looking much improved from his previously nervy outings.
The home side were also forced into making an early change, Nasri limping off with just eight minutes gone in the second-half, getting replaced by James Milner.
Snow had fallen throughout much of the game, and the groundstaff were summoned to clear the lines of the pitch that had become obscured under a wintery blanket.
As the snow became stronger, the action failed to warm up, although Stephen Kelly almost troubled an off-balanced Hart with a toe-poked effort, before the England number one dealt comfortably with Baird's rifled free-kick.
City were stunned into action, Aguero turned neatly in the box, but saw his shot blocked by Danny Murphy before Kolarov curled a close-range free-kick over the bar.
Soon after, City had their third. Aguero picked the ball up on the left flank, darted into the box, breezing past Senderos and Davies before squaring to the unmarked Dzeko, who tapped home from eight yards.
With the game all but won for City, Mancini brought off Aguero to a standing ovation and replaced the Argentine with Nigel de Jong to shore up the midfield for the final ten minutes.
Fulham continued to chase a late goal, Riise stinging Hart's palms, but they were unable to find the net and City kept yet another home clean sheet as they move three points clear of Manchester United at the top of the table, with the Champions in action at Chelsea on Sunday.
... to be followed ...
The matches: Chelsea vs Man Utd will be played today and Liverpool vs Tottenham will be played tomorrow.
donderdag 2 februari 2012
An Egyptian club coach has told how he was "beaten with fists and sticks" and saw fans killed during a pitch invasion which left 74 people dead.
Manuel Jose, coach of Cairo club al-Ahly, has returned home to Portugal following the riots which erupted at the end of the game against al-Masry in Port Said on Wednesday.
"I was beaten with fists and kicks to the neck, head and feet," said Jose.
"I saw our fans die before us and we were unable to do anything."
Many fans suffocated after becoming trapped in a narrow corridor as they fled the violence, according to reports.
Some people feel the police and security forces did not do enough to intervene.
Al-Ahly assistant coach Pedro Barny said: "What happened was an unspeakable catastrophe.
"I have to think about my life differently now," said al-Ahly coach Manuel Jose pictured before the game on Wednesday
"From the beginning of the game, the fans of the opposing team were allowed to fire rockets and stones at us without any intervention.
"In the end, it turned into a state of madness without any role for the security in the stands.
"We tried to save the lives of some of the fans, but many died before our eyes."
Jose, 65, has played for and managed Benfica in a long managerial career, but says this experience has changed his life.
He told the al-Ahly club website : "Nothing happened to any of the players but we feel overwhelming sadness and the return flight [home to Portugal] was made in silence, full of respect for the lives of our fans who died.
"I have to think about my life differently now. Although everybody loves me greatly here, this experience has changed my life completely."
The Egyptian Football Federation has suspended all leagues in the country.
A statement read: "The Egyptian federation has decided to stop the football leagues in all four divisions for an indefinite period after the violence that occurred in the game between al-Masry and al-Ahly, which represented a tragic shock to the centre of sport in general and the football family in particular."
Source: BBC Sport Football
woensdag 1 februari 2012
Fan handcuffs himself to goalpost during Premier League match 'because Ryanair axed his daughter in the recession'
A Premier League match was brought to a standstill last night when a supporter handcuffed himself to a goalpost in protest over his air hostess daughter being sacked by Ryanair.
John Foley, 46, halted play at Goodison Park for around five minutes in a one-man demonstration aimed at the airline's boss Michael O'Leary.
Mr O'Leary was apparently in the stands to watch the game between Everton and his favourite team Manchester City.
Liverpool fan Mr Foley emerged from the Goodison Park crowd with just under five minutes remaining until half-time and shackled himself to the frame of City keeper Joe Hart's goal.
Protest: Stewards were too slow to get to John Foley as he handcuffed himself to the post
A message on his T-shirt read: 'Europe's greatest training robbers. Ryanair. Lowest wages guaranteed. Stop. Recruitment scamming our children.'
Everton captain Phil Neville tried to convince Mr Foley to leave the pitch but his request was ignored and police used bolt-cutters to remove the handcuffs.
After a five-minute hold-up he was released and led away by police.
Mr Foley, a jeweller, was released on police bail after spending a night in the cells following his arrest for pitch invasion.
After his release he used his blog to apologise to both sets of fans, and explained that his protest was the latest in a series aimed at Ryanair.
He said: 'Ryanairdontcare Campaign founder John Foley staged a peaceful protest last night at Goodison Park were Michael O'Leary was in attendance, as horse racing and Manchester City is his Passion.
Ryanairdontcare Campaign wish to apologise to Everton F.C , Manchester City, Stewards and all fans Except O'Leary the scammer for any upset caused by this protest.....
'John Foley has many family and friends who support Everton but he himself is a Liverpudlian.
'The issues of young people being recruitment scammed at Ryanair needs to be told...'
It emerged that Mr Foley has staged previous protest against Ryanair over the treatment of his daughter Sarah, who worked for the airline in 2008.
In February 2010, he climbed onto the roof of the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Liverpool John Lennon Aiport brandishing a banner criticising Ryanair's training programme.
Sarah, who was 18 at the time, was allegedly recruited by St James Management, who train cabin crew for Ryanair.
She paid a deposit to the company and trained for six weeks in Bishop Stortford, before being offered a contract from Crewlink, another recruitment company.
Sarah was then required to move to Dublin, but her contract was terminated along with 20 others after seven weeks.
On his blog, Mr Foley described how the cabin crew were told that they were being dismissed due to 'the recession'.
He said: 'They were all terminated and the reason was the recession.
'This was a very hard time for Sarah and she was alone in Dublin by this time and cried for days.'Mr Foley claims Ryanair refused to give Sarah a flight home, and that he had to get a ferry over to Dublin to collect her.
It took a number of officers and a pair of bolt-cutters to remove the handcuffs as fans looked on
Mr Foley blasted the dismissal as a 'scam' by Ryanair to get money out of young people.
He wrote: 'An 18-year-old scouse girl had seen through this scam and after being refused a flight home had told Ryanair supervisors never to forget her name "Foley". How true was these words.'
Ryanair's rejects Mr Foley's claims.
European Communication Manager Daniel de Carvalho has said: 'Ryanair can confirm that this person was never directly employed by Ryanair, she was employed by Crewlink which supply contract cabin crew to Ryanair.
'Crewlink confirm that this woman failed her probation as within the first seven weeks she had a number of occasions of lateness, a large number of uncertified leave days and one occasion where she did not report for duty.
'At Ryanair we maintain very high standards of professionalism among our cabin crew and people who are unwilling to work hard or turn up for work will not continue to be employed either by Ryanair or by any of our contractors.'
Mr Foley was charged under the 1991 Football Offences Act with going on to the playing area at a football match and bailed with conditions to appear before Liverpool Magistrates Court on 17 February 17.
The protest did not affect Everton's play, as they went on to beat the league leaders 1-0 thanks to a Darren Gibson goal.
Police finally managed to escort Mr Foley away after a five-minute break in the game