Posts from 2016-01-10

Gareth Bale fires hat-trick to give Zinedine Zidane dream start as Real Madrid boss in rampant win

Karim Benzema got the Zidane era off to an ideal start by scoring after just 15 minutes and then Bale netted either side of the break before scoring a second header to complete his treble.   

Benzema added a fifth in stoppage-time as Real ensured the gap to Barcelona at the top remains at two points, albeit with Los Merengues having played one game more.

Earlier in the week Zidane confirmed reports that Bale was irritated by the sacking of Rafael Benitez, but the Wales international quickly showed he can work just as well under the Frenchman with a dominant performance.

After a stop-start season under Benitez, Madrid looked liberated under Zidane, once the club's record signing and still an idol thanks to his stunning winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final.

The 43-year-old's name was cheered heartily before the game by the same supporters who had booed Benitez just 10 days earlier, and they were also delighted at the sight of Isco, who was given his first start in exactly two months. The Frenchman's only other change to the team that drew 2-2 in Benitez's last game was homegrown defender Dani Carvajal coming in for Danilo, who has been inconsistent since signing from Porto last year for 30 million euros.

Zidane announced in his press briefings that he would stick with the usual front three of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, saving special praise for the Portuguese, who he called "the soul of the team".

Although Ronaldo failed to get on the scoresheet, he was much livelier than at the Mestalla during Benitez's last game in charge, taking nine shots on goal and providing the assist for Bale's second goal.

Madrid made a nervy start to the game, however, with Deportivo's Luis Alberto firing over in the opening minutes and then Faycal Fajr forced Keylor Navas to tip away his shot from wide. The goalkeeper was alert again a couple of minutes later to thwart Lucas Perez in a one-on-one, and the same doubts that pervaded Benitez's side were looking all too evident.

But just a few moments later Benzema struck at the other end to put Madrid on their way to a huge win. Depor failed to clear a corner and Sergio Ramos sent the ball back into the danger area, and Benzema helped it into the net with a flick of the back heel to score his 100th Primera Division goal. The goal angered Depor as Gareth Bale was offside, and although he did not touch the ball, he may have obstructed the view of goalkeeper German Lux.

Bale got the better of the goalkeeper just seven minutes later, heading home a cross from Carvajal from six yards out.

The former Tottenham man got his second of the evening four minutes after the break, tapping in Ronaldo's low cross, and then grabbed his second hat-trick of the season by heading in a Toni Kroos corner, netting his 50th goal for Madrid in 108 games, one more than Zidane managed in 231 games in a white shirt.

Benzema rounded off the victory with a thumping shot that bounced in off the crossbar as Zidane enjoyed a comfortable start to life in the Bernabeu dugout.

Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal says he needs 'creative players' because Juan Mata 'does not fit profile'

Manchester United are in need of creative players, with Juan Mata not the answer on the right wing, according to their manager Louis van Gaal.   

After his side's dour 1-0 FA Cup win over Sheffield United, secured with an injury time penalty from Wayne Rooney, Van Gaal revealed he was not satisfied with his current options.

The Dutchman's comments come despite spending £250m since taking over at the club and having been at the helm for 18 months.

Asked why he had failed to rectify issues within his squad, he said: "Because it is the most difficult situation in the match.

"It is like that and I have said also in the (summer) transfer period that we need creative players with speed and we don’t have that too much.

“Juan Mata is playing the right side and he is doing fantastically well because he always has a big contribution for our team, but he is not a right winger in the profile I have.

“But it is not so easy to purchase players who are better than Mata because even though he is in a different profile, he is a very good right winger in our way of playing.”

Despite acknowledging the need for new faces at Old Trafford, Van Gaal does not expect any arrivals this month.

“I don’t think that we shall do business in January,” he said.

“When there is a chance to make the selection better then we shall do it, but I don’t think we shall do that.”

Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United: Everton striker would prefer Paris Saint Germain switch

Everton striker Romelu Lukaku reportedly prefers the prospect of joining Paris Saint German next summer - rather than Manchester United.    

The 22-year-old Belgium international is the joint Premier League top goalscorer this season and has been linked with a £50m switch to Old Trafford at the end of the campaign.

But, according to the Sun on Sunday, Lukaku would prefer to join the Parisian giants if they follow up their interest with a bid.

Real Madrid have also been suggested as possible suitors should the Everton striker be allowed to leave Goodison Park.

Toffees manager Roberto Martinez has repeatedly quashed speculation about Lukaku’s future but today’s report casts fresh doubt.

When asked if the club have an agreement with Lukaku to sell him eventually, the Spaniard said: "That is not true, I would never do that. I think that would be very negative. If you do that could you imagine the last two months for that player?

"He would never put a leg in or never challenge for the ball. I don't agree with doing that. I know you can do that to keep a player for another 12 months.

"But if you're not going to have a player 12 months down the line you need to start replacing him to have a stronger team."

Diego Costa and Ruben Loftus-Cheek see off dogged League One visitors

Teenage midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek's first senior goal settled a niggly FA Cup third round tie as Chelsea ground past Scunthorpe 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.    

Diego Costa's fourth goal in three games handed Chelsea the perfect start, only for Guus Hiddink's men to drift off and allow League One side Scunthorpe to turn the tie into a scrap.

The 19-year-old Loftus-Cheek's composed finish secured Chelsea safe passage to the fourth round, though, after Scunthorpe were denied a second-half penalty.

Chelsea will hope England Under-21 star Loftus-Cheek's tidy performance points to a coming of age, after limited past opportunities.

And interim Blues boss Hiddink will be heartened by hit man Costa taking another step forward in his fight for top form.

Total first-half control caused Chelsea to switch off and coast to a 1-0 advantage at the break.

Costa sneaked goal-side of the defence to turn home Branislav Ivavonic's cross and hand the hosts the perfect opening.

Oscar curled wide from 16 yards instead of doubling the lead, doing an injustice to his step-over and link return ball from Costa - the pair combining well after their set-to in training this week.

Pedro then spurned another fine Chelsea chance, scuffing his finish after a lose first touch. Willian's smart step-over drew the defence after Fabregas' raking pass set Ivanovic away down the right.

Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta's tangle set Williams tearing away down the right, but Kurt Zouma pulled off the perfect sliding cover tackle to deny the winger a one-on-one.

Suddenly emboldened, Scunthorpe pressed again, only for Kevin Van Neen's cross to evade Neal Bishop.

Hiddink took off Oscar at half-time in favour of youngster Loftus-Cheek, but still the craved impetus failed to arrive.

Chelsea were handed another let-off when referee Craig Pawson denied Scunthorpe a penalty despite Ramires tangling with Van Neen in the box.

Ramires appeared to tread on the Scunthorpe forward's foot, but the appeals went unanswered.

Bishop and Stephen Dawson hounded Costa into losing possesion in his own half, only to be hauled back for a foul on the Spain striker.

Finally Chelsea killed the tie, the long-overdue second goal courtesy of the highly-rated Loftus-Cheek.

Ramires broke up play and fed Willian, who set Azpilicueta free on the overlap. Costa's selfless near-post run drew the defence and Loftus-Cheek swept home.

Van Neen dragged a free-kick just wide in a bid to catch Begovic cold at his near post, before Scunthorpe were lucky not to concede a penalty of their own, Loftus-Cheek's progress in the box seemingly stopped by a stray hand.

Jordan Clarke's pile driver shot then forced Begovic into a first-class reaction save to tip onto the angle of post and bar, but by that stage Chelsea were home and hosed.

Gary Neville still searching for La Liga win after Valencia lose to Real Sociedad

Gary Neville suffered his third defeat in all competitions as Valencia manager as Real Sociedad saw off Los Che 2-0 thanks to two second half strikes from Jonathas de Jesus.   

The Brazilian forward took advantage of an error from Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech to knock in the first goal after 78 minutes, and four minutes later headed home the second, again taking making the most of a good cross from Carlos Martinez.

Although he has impressed onlookers at Valencia since taking charge, Neville's record after five league games does not make for encouraging reading, losing two, drawing three and winning none. His team have also been beaten in the Champions League since he took over, losing 2-0 to Lyon.

His side are 10th in the Primera Division, just three points better off than Real Sociedad, who moved up to 14th as a result of the victory.

Neville was boosted by the return of Shkodran Mustafi at centre-back, while Enzo Perez made his first league start in over a month.

Alvaro Negredo, who had scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 Copa del Rey win over Granada, dropped back to the bench, replaced by 20-year-old Santi Mina.

Both sides hit the woodwork in the first half, Martinez striking the post after a quarter of an hour, then Rodrigo Moreno smashing the crossbar from close range following a flick on from Mustafi.

Real Sociedad were much more dominant after the break and it took a top save from Domenech to keep the game goalless, tipping away a stinging effort from Ruben Pardo.

But the goalkeeper was at fault for the Basque side's opener, failing in his attempt to punch away Martinez's cross, and Jonathas got there first to bundle the ball in.

Just a few minutes later Martinez and Jonathas combined again, the right-back getting the better of Lucas Orban to sail in a cross towards the Brazilian, who powered a header into the far corner.

Liverpool considering Sturridge sale

Premier League giants Liverpool are reportedly willing to listen to offers for injury prone striker Daniel Sturridge, as manager Jurgen Klopp continues to grow frustrated with the Englishman.   

The 26-year-old has made only three Premier League appearances this season and has played only 106 minutes under the former Borussia Dortmund coach. More so, the former Manchester City and Chelsea flop has spent more time on sidelines that on the pitch at Anfield.

It’s being said Jurgen Klopp has become frustrated with the 26-year-old and Liverpool are now willing to pay heed to offers in the region of £25 million for Sturridge.

Sturridge’s injury woes are well known as he has already sustained a total of 3 injuries this season. A mixture of problems such as those of hip, hamstring and knee have meant that Sturridge has failed to get going after Luis Suarez’s exit to Barcelona.

Around a week ago, Klopp claimed that the striker often breaks down in training and struggles to string together the “nine or 10 days” of intensive training he needs to be fit to play.

Kemar raises the Roofe as Oxford dump Swansea out of the FA Cup

Kemar Roofe was Oxford's two-goal hero as Swansea found themselves on the wrong end of the first major upset of the FA Cup third round.    

Former West Brom youngster Roofe scored twice in the second half as the League Two Us came from behind to stun the Premier League side 3-2.

Alan Curtis made 10 changes for his first match since being named Swans manager until the end of the season - then watched in horror from the touchline as the decision backfired spectacularly. 

There was little sign of the drama to come when Swansea took the lead, albeit against the run of play, thanks to a stylish goal by Jefferson Montero.

Oxford deservedly hit back through Liam Sercombe's penalty before half-time, and then Roofe blew the Swans away with his quickfire double after the break.

Bafetimbi Gomis pulled one back but the visitors could not find an equaliser and slipped to a chastening defeat.

United boss Michael Appleton vowed not to change his side's passing style - despite taking on one of the Premier League's pass masters - and at times it was hard to tell which side was 54 league places above the other.

Certainly Oxford carved out the better chances in the opening half an hour, while Swansea seemed to be relying on the scattergun approach to shooting favoured by Jonjo Shelvey, with predictably dire results.

Roofe headed George Baldock's cross narrowly over before Ryan Taylor's header was only kept out by a fingertip save from Swans keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt.

Yet just as Oxford were building up a head of steam, the Swans brought a genuine touch of top-flight class to the proceedings.

A swift counter-attack saw Montero charge into the area, play a neat one-two with Marvin Emnes and impudently back-heel the ball past United goalkeeper Sam Slocombe.

But with half-time approaching Oxford were gifted a way back into the game by stand-in Swans skipper Kyle Bartley.

Nordfelt had pulled off a fine save to keep out Jake Wright's shot, but when the rebound eventually fell to Alex McDonald, Bartley inadvisedly slid into the midfielder.

Contact may have been minimal but it was a ridiculous challenge in the area and referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot, allowing Sercombe to crash home the penalty.  

Then after the break Roofe took over, first when he picked up the ball on the corner of the penalty area.

The 23-year-old skipped inside his marker and took a couple of steps forward before guiding an unstoppable curler across Nordfeldt and into the far corner.

And worse was to follow for the Swans when they conceded a goal from their own corner just before the hour mark, Chris Maguire racing clear before feeding Roofe, whose shot hit Nordfeldt but looped up and bounced into the net.

Gomis pulled one back in the 66th minute with an angled finish after Jack Cork found him in the penalty area, but Swansea went back into their shell and Oxford were able to see out the game without any further drama to register a famous victory.

Jerusalem to replace God Save The Queen? MPs to present bill for new England sports teams anthem

A cross-party group of MPs are to present a new bill proposing that England's sports teams have their own anthem in a similar way to Scotland and Wales, rather than singing God Save The Queen.   

Some MPs have suggested Jerusalem should take the national anthem's place but others have called for a public consultation.

Jerusalem is taken from William Blake's preface to his epic poem, Milton, and was set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.

During sporting events, players and fans from Wales sing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Lands Of Our Fathers) and Scotland sign Flower Of Scotland.

Labour MP Toby Perkins, himself a former rugby player, is leading the group.

He has said it is inappropriate for England to sing God Save The Queen, especially when playing Wales or Scotland.

In the 2016 European Championship group stages, England will face Wales.

England has used Jerusalem as a walk-in anthem for Test cricket since 2003 and as a victory anthem at the Commonwealth Games.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports the idea and backs Jerusalem as the English anthem.

Bournemouth complete £9m record signing of Wolves striker Benik Afobe

Bournemouth have completed the signing of Wolves striker Benik Afobe for a club record fee of £9m.   

The 22-year-old has signed a four-and-a-half year contract with the Cherries and will go straight into the squad to face West Ham on Tuesday.

Afobe underwent his medical at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday morning after the striker held talks with the Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on Friday.

Afobe scored 23 goals in 48 appearances for Wolves, after leaving boyhood club Arsenal, where he failed to make a first team appearance.

Bournemouth’s previous record outlay was the £8m they spent on the former Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings, who was cruelly ruled out for the season on his debut at home to Leicester in September.

“It happened to me last season when I signed for Wolves in January and there was just two or three days’ training sessions, and then there was a game and I was lucky enough to score on my debut,” said Afobe.

“I think it’s better sometimes. If you sign in pre-season, you still have six weeks until the league season starts but now I know that I’m ready to play on Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to it and I’m definitely ready because I haven’t missed a game this season.

“I feel fresh, I feel strong, I feel physically fine and I’m mentally strong as well, so I’m ready to go.”

Championship side Wolves agreed a deal to sell their top scorer, who has scored 10 goals this season, to the Cherries prior to the club’s FA Cup defeat at West Ham on Saturday.

The striker signed a three-and-half-year deal at Molineux last January after a fruitful loan spell with MK Dons and his form since has seen him attract Premier League interest.

Afobe becomes Bournemouth’s second signing of the transfer window after the club signed Roma forward Juan Iturbe on a loan deal until the end of the season on 1 January.

“We feel this is a very good deal for the long-term future of the club,” said Howe.

“We are trying to look to the future and have signed a player who we believe will get better with us and, hopefully, stay here for many years.

“You could go through our squad and pick 80 per cent of players who hadn’t done it until they had been with us.

“You need to give players an opportunity and a chance to prove they can or can’t do it.

“We could easily go the other route and sign players who have done it but are potentially past their best. But I don’t think that is the right way for this club to go.”

The former Arsenal striker will bolster the attacking options available to Howe who had until recently relied upon Joshua King, who is currently sidelined with a niggling hamstring injury, to fill the void left by Callum Wilson, who picked up an anterior cruciate knee injury against Stoke City.

Howe said: “I felt we needed a striker. Callum we lost and that was a huge blow to us and we have lost Josh King with hamstring problems. It has left us very light and we need firepower. We need players who can come in and do the job,” Howe said after Bournemouth’s 2-1 FA Cup win at Birmingham.

Arsenal to spend £52m on Rabiot and Xhaka; Man Utd target Yoshinori Muto; Liverpool open to Sturridge offers

Arsenal could spend as much as £52m this month as they try to bring in Adrien Rabiot and Granit Xhaka. The Star is reporting that Arsene Wenger is prepared to make big money moves for the French youngster and the Swiss star.   

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has said he doesn't expect to see any new faces at Old Trafford this month, however his club have been linked with a £12m deal for Yoshinori Muto. Reports suggest the Mainz 05 striker, dubbed the 'Japanese Messi', has caught their eye. The 23-year-old has scored seven goals in 14 Bundesliga appearances.

According to the Express, Barcelona will move for two Premier League players in the summer - Aaron Ramsey and John Stones. Having been barred from making signings last summer due to a transfer ban, the Spanish giants want to show their strength with a couple of blockbuster deals. It's reported they could offer Arsenal as much as £50m for Ramsey whilst they will have to fight off competition for Stones, with Chelsea among those keen on the Everton defender.

Liverpool are ready to offload Daniel Sturridge, with Jurgen Klopp fed up with the striker's injury woes. The England international, prolific when in action, is all too rarely available and it's a situation that has the Liverpool manager ready to listen to offers for the 26-year-old say The Mirror.

Andriy Yarmolenko, who has long been linked with a move to the Premier League, is back amid the back page headlines with Everton ready to spend £21m on the winger. The Daily Mail report that the Toffees are concerned that the Ukraine international's value could rise sharply if he impresses at Euro 2016 so will try to do a deal with Dynamo Kiev sooner rather than later.

It's that Saido Berahino to Tottenham story again. Spurs just won't give up on the out-of-sorts West Brom striker and are readying yet another offer for the 22-year-old. According to the Star, the London club are putting together a package of around £20m that includes Andros Townsend.