Posts

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.

Mesut Ozil invites newlyweds to Arsenal game after groom dedicates wedding speech to him

It seems risking the wrath of his bride was worth it for this Arsenal supporter who has bagged a personal invite to the Emirates after dedicating his wedding speech to Mesut Ozil.   

The cheeky groom teased his guests into thinking he was saying some heartfelt words about his new wife before revealing he was actually referring to the World Cup winning German.

The daring speech was tweeted at Ozil, who seemed to appreciate the gracious words, as he responded with his congratulations to the couple and an invite to the Emirates once the newly-weds return from their honeymoon.

Ozil wrote: "Well said! I'll congratulate you both personally after your honeymoon and I'll also invite you to an #AFC game."

In the wedding video posted online the groom said: "I think everyone in this room knows that this person has made me the happiest guy on the planet. I wake up every day and I still can't grasp the fact that this someone is in my life.

"I feel incredibly lucky, and all that I hope is that this special someone knows from the bottom of my heart how much they truly mean to me.

"I know it's difficult to find someone who makes you feel this way and I'm never ever going to take it for granted.

"So can we please raise a toast... to Mesut Ozil - thank you!"

Ozil has been Arsenal's best player this season, with his 15 assists helping put the Gunners at the top of the Premier League table.

Louis van Gaal wonders if Manchester United dressing room is too friendly?

Louis van Gaal has stated the atmosphere between his Manchester United players is too cordial and suggested the squad would benefit from being more critical of one another and of themselves.   

His side welcome Sheffield United to Old Trafford on Saturday in the third round of the FA Cup and the Dutchman has eased the pressure on his position following a goalless draw with Chelsea and last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Swansea City, United’s first victory in nine matches.

Asked if there had been a better mood at the club since the display against Chelsea, Van Gaal said: “I don’t think so. The atmosphere in our dressing room is very good. Maybe too good because they are always protecting the dressing room, their colleagues. That is very good until a certain height.”

The implication of this is that the changing room can be a cosy environment. This is in contrast to the claim made by Gary Neville about United under David Moyes. Following a David de Gea mistake that gifted Tottenham Hotspur a late equaliser at White Hart Lane, the former United captain said: “There is an incredible amount of accountability in that dressing room. It is not a place that is forgiving, it is not a place where you won’t get people who will confront each other when mistakes are made.”

Van Gaal is clear how the lack of accountability in his team can be eradicated. “We have also changed our approach to the players to make it easier to take responsibility,” he said. “We are trying everything to come to a solution but at the end it always comes down to we are better than the opponents but we have to score goals.

“I have stimulated them to think about football. The game is a brain sport and now you can let them think with you and therefore you can change your approach and so the players take the [responsibility], for example for the gameplan and other kinds of decisions and then the [responsibility] is higher and bigger.

“But we have to see how it shall work.”

This week the style played by Van Gaal was criticised by Herbert Hainer, the chief executive of Adidas. The company is paying United a record £750m over the next decade as the kit sponsor. Van Gaal attempted to shrug this off. “He is more interested in revenues and these were very good.”

Adnan Januzaj is back at United after his season’s loan at Borussia Dortmund proved unsuccessful because of a lack of game time and he is unavailable to play in the tie due to lack of fitness. Van Gaal denied that it was make-or-break for the Belgian’s career at the club. “You cannot predict something just because of talent– you have to develop it,” he said. “We have to see that from him. That’s why we put him on loan, because I predicted, already then, that he shall not play too much.

“I cannot predict now if he has changed or that he already has his development, because he didn’t play. I cannot do two things – be here and in Dortmund to watch him training.”

Van Gaal refused to be drawn on whether Januzaj should have been good enough to have stayed at United and played in the first XI. “I cannot judge that, neither can you,” he said. “That you have to ask him, not to me. I have an interest in him, of course, otherwise I would not take him back. But I cannot judge, and you cannot judge me.”

Phil Jones is unavailable for the visit of Sheffield United because of a foot problem but Jesse Lingard has recovered from his hamstring injury and Will Keane may feature after his return from a temporary spell at Preston.

Mauricio Pochettino promises to serenade White Hart Lane with Daniel Levy if Tottenham win FA Cup

Mauricio Pochettino has promised he and Daniel Levy will serenade a packed White Hart Lane if Tottenham Hotspur win the FA Cup after being inspired by a live performance of Ossie's Dream.    

Tottenham head coach Pochettino was taken to dinner with a host of club legends by chairman Levy on Thursday night and Ossie Ardiles treated the room to chorus of his famous 1981 FA Cup final song.

Ahead of Sunday's FA Cup third round tie against Leicester City, Pochettino admitted it is a dream of his to lift a trophy with Spurs and duet with Levy in front of the club's fans.

"Ossie sang in front of all of us and it was very funny," said Pochettino. "We had all the legends there and he was singing about 'Tottingham.' It was funny.

"I promised Daniel (Levy) to sing if we win a trophy, but he will be with me to sing. We will sing together. Maybe after we've won a trophy, we will decide what song.

"It is true, I promised I will sing, but he will need to sing with me. In the stadium, in front of our supporters."

The 1981 FA Cup success that involved Ardiles and Ricky Villa, who scored a famous goal in the final replay against Manchester City, helped Pochettino understand the worldwide appeal of the competition.

"It got a lot of attention," said Pochettino. "Always when someone from your country wins the trophy, like they did, it gets a lot of attention at home. I have many dreams but one, why not, is to win trophies.

"First we need to set a strong basis and philosophy, but it's true our dream is to lift trophies and achieve important things for the club. This is one of our motivations."

The legends dinner was the idea of Levy and Pochettino believes Tottenham's current era of players and staff can learn a lot from the past.

"It was a pleasure to meet all the legends," said Pochettino. "It was a fantastic idea from Daniel. A lot of names were there - Ossie was next to me, Micky Hazard, Pat Jennings, Tony Galvin.

"I think it was good that they feel an important part of the history and the present of the club and I think to feel that history is very important for us. It was a lovely night to share with them ideas and experience. Their experience can help us and help the club.

"Tottenham is a big club and, yes, it's for that we need to hear, to listen to the people who had experience of winning trophies. That was very important and we hope that all together we can lift some trophies in the future. It's our dream, it's their dream."

One player Pochettino insists wants to become a Tottenham legend is striker Harry Kane, who is being monitored by Real Madrid.

Pochettino is well aware that Kane will be on the shopping lists of some of the biggest clubs in the world, but is confident the 22-year-old will stay at White Hart Lane. 

Asked about Real's interest in Kane, Pochettino said: "It doesn't surprise me, I think Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in Europe, or in the world.

"It would not surprise me if some big clubs are interested. But when you feel from a player like Harry the passion for the club, for the shirt, I think in football sometimes it is about business, it is about money, but for a lot of players it is about passion, heart, feeling.

"Sometimes a manager or head coach can say a 'player is not for sale', but the player wants to leave. There are a lot of examples of that. But in this case, the good thing is that Tottenham don't want to sell him and Harry Kane wants to stay with us."

Wycombe Wanderers 1-1 Aston Villa: Controversial penalty keeps pressure on Garde

League Two outfit Wycombe Wanderers earned a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round to increase the pressure on manager Remi Garde.   

Micah Richards had given Premier League club Villa a first-half lead at Adams Park on Saturday, but Joe Jacobson levelled with a controversial penalty after the break to earn the fourth-tier side a lucrative replay.

Villa will feel aggrieved by the penalty decision given against them for Ashley Westwood's aerial challenge after being denied a claim of their own from Richards earlier in the match.

But it could have been worse for the visitors after Jores Okore cleared Sam Wood's volley off the goal-line.

The result means Villa's winless run extends to 16 matches in all competitions as their awful season goes on.

The home team made two changes, while Garde switched six of his players, with the ill Jack Grealish missing out and Joleon Lescott dropping to the bench.

Short on confidence, Villa made a nervous start as Garry Thompson stabbed wide from close range when the visitors failed to deal with a corner, before Mark Bunn had to save from Sam Wood, who should have done better with his shot from a decent opening.

But Garde's men took the lead on 22 minutes with a simple goal. Carles Gil dribbled towards the box from the right, finding Richards with his pass and the defender comfortably beat keeper Alex Lynch with a sweeping finish into the far corner for his second goal of the season.

Wood was off-target after combining with Matt Bloomfield in an impressive Wycombe move and Aaron Pierre headed over from a Jacobson corner as the hosts made a decent response to falling behind.

Referee Michael Oliver rejected a Villa penalty claim just prior to half-time, with Richards feeling he had been tugged back by Anthony Stewart as he attempted to get on the end of Leandro Bacuna's flick-on.

That decision became even more significant just three minutes into the second half when Wycombe were awarded a penalty. Westwood was adjudged, perhaps harshly, to have fouled Bloomfield as they contested a high ball and Jacobson confidently sent Bunn the wrong way from the spot.

It was almost two just a few moments later when an impressive goal-bound volley from Wood, who latched on to Thompson's deep cross, was hacked off the line by Okore.

Bacuna's long-range free-kick was unconvincingly saved by Lynch at the other end and substitute Jordan Ayew shot just wide after a good run.

Villa were even closer to a late winner when Rudy Gestede's deflected shot rebounded off the angle between post and crossbar, but Wycombe have held on.