Press Association Rafael Benitez insists Chelsea are working hard to end the poor run of form which has led to questions over whether the Spaniard will complete his spell as interim boss at Stamford Bridge. It is hard to tell whether owner Roman Abramovich is losing patience with Benitez, who replaced Roberto Di Matteo in November, but never in his 10-year tenure has the Russian had three managers in the same campaign. “The main thing is that you can score two goals, and then you are 2-0 up at half-time, then you have to finish the games,” Benitez added. “Against Newcastle we scored two goals, you cannot make these mistakes (to concede three). You have to make sure we control the game. “We could have won all the games we didn’t win. It’s a question of sometimes doing the right things at the right moment, having a little bit of luck, being more clinical, not making mistakes in defence. The team is doing well in terms of the performance and we have to improve the results, especially the games we were winning.” Benitez will be without captain John Terry for the Wigan clash, and Benitez added: “John Terry has an inflammation with his knee. A set-back, but not serious. He will not be available for tomorrow.” David Luiz is fit again and Eden Hazard is available following his three-match ban following his controversial sending-off at Swansea, when clashed with a ball boy. Ashley Cole won his 100th international cap on Wednesday as England beat Brazil 2-1, with Chelsea team-mate Frank Lampard scoring the decisive goal. Benitez was impressed with Lampard but unable to shed any fresh light on the midfielder’s future. Benitez said: “Frank is doing a great job for us, he’s scoring goals, he’s playing well, he’s a good professional, he’s very working hard. That’s all I can say, because I am the coach.” Chelsea have three wins from their last 10 matches and are without a victory in four ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Wigan, with their latest slip coming in a 3-2 defeat against Newcastle last weekend. The Blues would slip to fourth ahead of kick-off against Wigan if Tottenham beat Newcastle in Saturday’s lunchtime match. “We know the problems and we are working on the solutions,” said Benitez, when asked if he expected to see out his short-term deal until the end of the season.
They might not even need 13 given City visit Old Trafford on April 8, and the feeling is Ferguson has already set his sights on eclipsing United’s record 18-point winning margin from 2000. It has given Ferguson some leeway with his selections over the Easter weekend, when United find themselves pitched into two key games in the space of 48 hours. Following Saturday’s lunchtime trip to Sunderland – which could move United 18 points clear given City are not in action until slightly later – the Red Devils must prepare for Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. As one of the players not being troubled by international duty, Rio Ferdinand can expect significant involvement following his controversial trip to Qatar, whilst Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic and Anderson should also be fresh. “Every coach is praying that their players come back fit,” said Ferguson. “They played last Friday and they are playing tonight. Once I know later this evening how many minutes each player has played, I will start to think about my team for Saturday. “I have to make sure I have some freshness in the team because we also have Chelsea on Monday lunchtime. “It is a big ask for our squad and something we need to concentrate on because I need to make sure I pick the right teams.” Following Manchester City’s demise at Everton just before the international break, United require only 13 more points from their remaining nine games to clinch a record 20th championship. “With Manchester City coming on the scene in the last couple of years and Chelsea and Arsenal and Tottenham, you have teams vying for that top-four position,” Ferguson told Sirius XM.”I expected it to be really tight. But I never thought we would be 15 points clear at this stage of the season.” Press Association Sir Alex Ferguson is stunned Manchester United are 15 points clear in the Premier League title race.
Press Association Irish raider Lily’s Angel wrestled the betfred.com Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes from French hope Kendam in a cosmopolitan gathering for the Group Three at Lingfield. Lyons’ brother and assistant Shane said: “Her pure class has got her through. She absolutely hated the ground and she was wheelspinning, but in fairness to Gary, he got her balanced and took his time. “She’s in the Ballycorus at Leopardstown but she wants better ground and the Windsor Forest (now Duke of Cambridge Stakes) is in our minds.” Another Irish challenger enjoying a fruitful passage across the Irish Sea was the Tommy Stack-trained Scream Blue Murder, who got up close home under Wayne Lordan to land the Listed EBF Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Kilvington Fillies’ Stakes at Nottingham. Lily’s Angel (4-1) is a credit to the Ger Lyons’ stable, stepping up from a Kempton Listed win to scramble past Kendam by a short head. “She was really struggling in the ground and it took her a long time to get going but she finished well,” said jockey Gary Carroll.
Stekelenburg, who has been capped 54 times by Holland, becomes Fulham’s fourth signing of the summer following deals for Sascha Riether, Derek Boateng and Fernando Amorebieta, and is pleased to be linking up with Jol once again. “It’s good that I’ll be joining Martin again,” he told the club’s official website. “He knows my capabilities very well, so I am just looking forward to joining up with the team in pre-season and enjoying some time with them prior to the new season starting. “I am very happy to be joining Fulham and to have everything sorted out so early in the summer, so I can really focus on preparations for playing in the Barclays Premier League next season.” Jol, who guided Fulham to 12th place last season, believes his newest signing will adapt well to English football. “Maarten Stekelenburg is a fine quality goalkeeper who I know well from my time working with him at Ajax and, of course, as the Dutch international goalkeeper I have always had an additional interest in his career,” he said. “I am sure that he will do well here at Fulham in the Premier League. He is a player of great quality and technical ability whose distribution and ability to react quickly and read the game is exceptional; he will be a fantastic addition to the talented team of keepers that we already have. “I am delighted that he was so keen to come to join us and am very happy with the way that the summer is shaping up in terms of our signings, so on the whole I’m ever so pleased.” Press Association Fulham have announced the signing of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg from Roma on a four-year deal. The 30-year-old Holland international has long been linked with a move to the west London club, where he will be reunited with compatriot Martin Jol, who was previously his manager at Ajax. The deal casts further doubt over the future of long-term Fulham number one Mark Schwarzer, who may now look to leave the club before the start of the new season.
Press Association The Oasis Dream colt is out of dual 1000 Guineas heroine Attraction and wasn’t troubled in justifying 1-10 favouritism, dismissing his rivals by four lengths and more. Winning jockey Joseph O’Brien said: “He’s still a bit green and hopefully he’ll improve for racing. He handled the quick ground well.” Weather Watch made great strides from his debut to claim the Follow @TipperaryRaces On Twitter Median Auction Maiden. Sent off at 16-1 after finishing down the field at the Curragh late last month, the Jessie Harrington-trained gelding came with a wet sail to pip Gerdago and Feile Bride. Favourite Hejaz was ahead of the winner at the Curragh but had to wait for a run at the top of the straight and didn’t find as much as expected when a gap eventually appeared. Abstraction (9-2 joint-favourite) looks a sprinter going places, judging by his commanding performance in the Follow Tipperary On Facebook Handicap. The drop in distance proved no problem to Sarah Dawson’s three-year-old, who was fourth in a competitive six-furlong handicap at Naas on his return. Seamie Heffernan had him to the fore from the off and when asked to go about his business in the final furlong and a half, the response was impressive as he showed a smart change of pace to beat Judies Child by two lengths. Abstraction is based at Banbridge in the north, and Dawson said: “He was in the lorry for five hours and in that heat you don’t know what way they will react. He’d never done a trip like that before. He did it well and we’ll see how he is in the morning before we make plans.” Tiger At Heart arrived at the Tipperary Youth Raceday Handicap as a seven-race maiden, but Kevin Manning was very positive on Jim Bolger’s 7-1 chance and he stormed four and a half lengths clear of Cebuano on the run to the line. The Pride Of Tipperary Gathering 27th June Handicap Hurdle was the pick of the jumping action and went the way of Ted Dolly, while 9-1 shot Green Dragon took the TipperaryRaces.ie Maiden Hurdle. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Fountain Of Youth appears to have a bright future after getting off the mark at the second time of asking in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden at Tipperary.
Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group One winner has made the frame behind Nathaniel and Danedream in the last two runnings and was last seen lifting his third Coronation Cup at Epsom, but jockey Joseph O’Brien is praying the rain stays away. He said: “The quicker the ground the better for my horse. On good to firm, quick ground I’d be very happy. If it got much slower than good, I’d have a little worry.” St Nicholas Abbey’s stablemates Chamonix and Ernest Hemingway are also in the reckoning, and Jim Bolger has Irish Derby hero Trading Leather among the 11 confirmations. As expected, Hillstar has been supplemented for the race. Sir Michael Stoute’s three-year-old claimed the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last month and owner Sir Evelyn de Rothschild has stumped up the required £75,000 to add him to the field for the midsummer highlight. Corine Barande-Barbe’s French superstar Cirrus Des Aigles is set to be joined on the trip across the Channel by compatriot Very Nice Name, as well as Andreas Wohler’s German raider Novellist. Roger Varian is anticipating a bold bid from Ektihaam, who won the Buckhounds Stakes over the course and distance before slipping up in the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting. “He’s just had routine exercise, he’s had a couple of canters, and he’ll do stronger work tomorrow. I’m happy with how he is, he’s moving well and he looks great,” the Newmarket trainer told At The Races. “To have a horse going who is a genuine contender is really exciting. It’s a huge race, one of the top races in Europe, and to be involved is massive for me.” The field is completed by Universal and Red Cadeaux. St Nicholas Abbey is set for a third crack at the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. Press Association
Dyke highlighted the Black Cats while expressing his concern over the declining number of English players in the Barclays Premier League and the consequences for the national team. Only one of the 14 players the club signed ahead of last month’s transfer deadline is English, with former Altrincham striker Duncan Watmore the exception. Sunderland have hit back at Football Association chairman Greg Dyke after he criticised their summer recruitment policy. However, Di Canio told the Sunderland Echo: “It is not true that I rang John O’Shea the next day to apologise. “That’s not because I feel that it is wrong to apologise if you do something wrong – if you do something wrong, you should apologise. “But there was nothing for me to apologise for. The way that phone call was interpreted by the media shows that people do not understand my relationship with my players.” However, chief executive Margaret Byrne, writing in her programme notes ahead of today’s home clash with Arsenal, said: “I have to say that I was very disappointed by some comments in Mr Dyke’s speech and in particular his reference to Sunderland AFC. “I am sure that when Mr Dyke has had an opportunity to speak with clubs and to familiarise himself with the rigorous process involved with EPPP [Elite Player Performance Plan], he will become more knowledgeable as to the efforts that we are making. “All Premier League clubs (and indeed, all clubs in England) want to develop players that can play for England. “We are fully committed to developing young English talent and our pledge to this was cemented from the moment we embarked on the Elite Player Performance Plan, and indeed our significant capital investment in our indoor training facility last year. “We hope players such as El-Hadji Ba and David Moberg-Karlsson will help our other younger English players to develop. “We have signed a number of established players with the intention of them being involved at first team level immediately, but the wider picture is that we have committed to the playing squad as a whole, something that we recognised that we needed to do.” Meanwhile, manager Paolo Di Canio has insisted he did not apologise to skipper John O’Shea for publicly criticising his performance at Crystal Palace. The Republic of Ireland defender, who conceded a penalty and was sent off during the 3-1 defeat at Selhurst Park, revealed that he had received a telephone call from the Italian the following day. Press Association
Dejan Lovren’s 54th-minute header was enough to inflict the Reds’ first league defeat in 13 league matches. It was perhaps coincidence the Saints were the last team to do so, back in March, but their win at Anfield contributed to Liverpool losing top spot in the league to Chelsea. Liverpool defender Kolo Toure insists they will learn from their mistakes after defeat against Southampton and produce a reaction versus arch-rivals Manchester United. The performance from Brendan Rodgers’ side may have been the poorest one yet this season but Toure knows there is no time to dwell on the result with a Capital One Cup tie at Old Trafford on Wednesday. “It was a tough game. We didn’t start well and we couldn’t pass the ball and make the ball quick and we conceded a goal on a set-piece,” he said. “It is a setback but the season is long. You are going to have ups and downs, wins, losses and draws. The most important thing is how you react. “We will learn from the mistakes we did and focus on the next game. That is important for us and we need to realise that. “The game against United comes at the right time because after a setback like that the one thing you want to do is come back and win.” Liverpool lacked the creativity of Philippe Coutinho, out until the end of October after shoulder surgery, and injuries in defence saw Rodgers field four centre-halves across his backline with little success. A wonderful save from goalkeeper Artur Boruc kept out a Steven Gerrard free-kick and he also denied Victor Moses after he cut in from the left. Liverpool should also have had a penalty when Daniel Sturridge was tripped by Lovren but aside from that they created little else. Press Association They were once again indebted to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for keeping the goals down, with one triple save from Luke Shaw, the rebound from his own team-mate Mamadou Sakho and follow-up from Steven Davis particularly impressive. Southampton’s England striker Rickie Lambert had a quiet day by his standards but with Lovren’s goal from the excellent Adam Lallana’s corner and an off-day for the Reds his services were not required. Rodgers urged his players to put the result behind them and concentrate on a huge game against United, who they beat in the league at Anfield earlier this month. “It hurts because we haven’t tasted defeat for such a long time but I’m still very optimistic about the season,” said the Reds boss. “Defeat is hard to swallow but optimism is very much intact and we hope to have a very good season. “Initially we have to accept we are not happy and look forward to Wednesday night.”
Press Association An FA regulatory commission dismissed Fulham’s argument however and imposed the ban. New rules will come into force on November 22 allowing retrospective action in all cases, even where incidents have been partially seen. The findings of the Riether case reveal that Fulham hired former FA compliance officer Graham Bean to argue their case. The report by commission chairman Stuart Ripley states however: “The commission felt that a distinction could and should be made between these two incidents in that the stamp made by Mr Riether on Mr Januzaj was one of a series of ‘comings together’ involving a number of players in a melee as opposed to the isolated ‘coming together’ of Mr Torres with Mr Vertonghen which involved just the two players. “The referee clearly states in his written match report that the act of stamping was ‘unseen by any of the match officials at the time’ and having viewed the DVD footage of the incident the commission had no reason to disbelieve the referee given his position, distance from the melee and the fact that his view was likely to have been obscured.” Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes the FA’s new rules should prevent players thinking they can get away with being a “killer” out of sight of referees. He said: “I am 100 per cent (supportive), because you wouldn’t like to think that somebody could escape dangerous play just because it hasn’t been seen well by the referee and misjudged by the referee. “This sacrosanct rule that once it has been judged by the referee nobody can come back (and be punished) means you could be a killer just because the referee doesn’t have the perfect angle to see what you did. “I completely support that and the players knowing that this can happen will only improve the situation.” The German defender was suspended after accepting a Football Association charge of violent conduct for stamping on the Manchester United player during last Saturday’s Barclays Premier League match at Craven Cottage, which the visitors won 3-1. The Cottagers had challenged the FA’s right to deal with the case retrospectively, arguing it was similar to that involving Chelsea’s Fernando Torres when he escaped action for scratching Jan Vertonghen because an official had seen part of the incident. Fulham’s Sascha Riether was banned for three matches for stamping on Adnan Januzaj because none of the match officials saw the actual stamp, the full findings of the case have revealed.
The Kangaroos beat Ireland 50-0 in Limerick on Saturday night to confirm their inevitable topping of Group A and now move on to a last-eight meeting with the United States. Questions abound as to what side Sheens will select for that clash, with the coach having fielded different line-ups for all three games so far. Tim Sheens’ rotation policy has left him nursing a selection headache as Australia march towards the business end of the World Cup. Variation has been most notable in the playmaking positions of full-back and half-back and Sheens admits he has given himself a problem. “We had some timing issues and I blame myself for that because I have changed the halves, had two full-backs and given the halves a couple of runs. They’re as cranky as hell about that and I know they’re all competitive,” he said after a nine-try win against the Wolfhounds. “But we have led our pool and I think we can play better, we will improve that. We have got here and played well as a team.” On the side which will face America, he added: “It’s hard to say, I didn’t get any injuries so I have to get close to picking our best 17 on the next game. It’s a difficult one to say and it’s real headache for me because we have so many guys playing well. We have a real couple of contentious positions.” The game was heralded as a landmark one for Irish rugby league, seeing as it was held in the heart of rugby union country at Munster’s Thomond Park. A crowd of 5,021 showed up to witness it – a record for the sport in Ireland – but not all were impressed. One Irish reporter put it to Sheens that his side had played a game in which they did not have to try, but the coach was having none of it. “They broke a sweat, don’t you worry,” he said. “The key for us was to get no injuries so we have achieved what we did.” Sheens was unhappy that so many Irish fans opted to take in a union Test in Dublin, though, adding: “It’s a shame everyone went to Dublin. It would have been nice to get a nice night with a few more people.” Aside from allowing them to plant their flag in Limerick, the evening served only for Ireland to conclude a winless campaign. They have been nilled in two of their three games – this clash and against England – and rarely got in Australia’s 20-metre zone. Coach Mark Aston had told them to live the dream on the eve of the game, but in reality it was more of a nightmare. “It was always going to be tough. We were playing high-quality opposition,” he said. “But I’m proud of what we served up. They had double the sets we had and the penalty count played a big part. It’s hard enough playing the best in the world without not getting the bounce of the ball and the rub of the green. “But we stuck in, had a dig and showed character.” Aston has previously voiced his frustrations about a lack of players to select from and with the chance a number of his older charges could now retire from the international game, the pool may get shallower still. The coach is remaining upbeat, though, and insists he will continue to find a solution. “We’d like a level playing field and we only got together three Saturdays ago,” he said. “There are 48 development officers for rugby union in this area alone. How can we get them to play rugby league? But we will be smart and do what we can. “Tonight we needed to make sure we were loud and proud and we were.” Press Association