Gerrard blunder hits Reds’ hopes

first_img In a battle between a home side committed to attack and visitors intent only on defending, the latter triumphed, which may not have made for a good spectacle, but Chelsea – and Manchester City – were not complaining. Much has been made of this being the season when Reds captain Steven Gerrard ends his long wait for a championship medal, so it was cruel that his mistake led to Demba’s Ba crucial opening goal in first-half injury time – only added on because of the visitors’ persistent time-wasting. Substitute Willian scored a breakaway second in the final seconds. While victory took Chelsea within two points of their rivals at the top of the table, the ones to really benefit were third-placed City, still with a match in hand on both the teams above them. The Champions League is still the primary objective for Chelsea and to that end they fielded a slightly weakened side. It showed seven changes from the midweek goalless semi-final first-leg draw at Atletico Madrid, but it still boasted more than 500 international caps with an entire squad value of about £200million. Tomas Kalas, with just two minutes’ action in two different competitions this season, made his Barclays Premier League debut at centre-back and surrounded as he was by massed ranks of blue shirts he coped well. In January Mourinho criticised West Ham for playing a game from the “19th century”, but the Portuguese brought to Merseyside his own unique brand of defensive football – and then some – as they slowed the game at every opportunity. Not only were the visitors happy to defend throughout, they almost actively engaged in not wanting to play the ball anywhere on the pitch, with players frequently looking to run into the corners. In time-wasting and breaking up play Chelsea denied their opponents any opportunity to establish the sort of rhythm which has regularly blown away teams in the first half. They even went as far as going to take throw-ins and free-kicks before suddenly changing their minds and getting another team-mate to leisurely wander over to have a go instead. It was a classic Mourinho destruction and frustration ploy and infuriated Liverpool so much Gerrard engaged in a bit of push and shove with the Chelsea boss in trying to get the ball back into play and Luis Suarez stood to applaud goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer’s time-wasting. Press Association Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho got his tactics spot on to punch a huge dent in Liverpool’s title dreams at Anfield and keep alive the Stamford Bridge side’s hopes of an unlikely double. Referee Martin Atkinson made a big show of pointing to his watch, intimating he was adding on time, but he did not take decisive action in actually booking anyone until stoppage time. But Mourinho will argue the ends more than justified the means against a side which had won their last 11 league matches and dropped just five points at Anfield all season. That Ashley Cole had an early shot parried away by goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was almost surprising considering how much possession and territory Chelsea were happy to concede. A rehearsed corner saw Glen Johnson’s shot deflected behind and Philippe Coutinho volleyed Suarez’s cross into the side-netting before Cole cleared off the line from team-mate John Obi Mikel’s deflection and Mamadou Sakho blazed over from the breakdown. Chelsea’s mindset was exemplified when Andre Schurrle found himself one-on-one with Martin Skrtel on the halfway line, but five seconds later the ball had been passed back to Schwarzer. Optimistic shouts for handball against Jon Flanagan were waved away, while, at the other end, Suarez failed to capitalise on Cole’s mistake in giving away possession by curling a shot over. Ba was not as wasteful when Gerrard slipped in possession 10 yards inside his half to present the Senegal international with a free run on goal and he did well, considering how little of the ball he had seen, to finish expertly. If Liverpool were frustrated in the first half they knew they would face much more of the same after the break, but in addition they found Schwarzer in fine form as he produced a great save to keep out Joe Allen’s first-time effort, although Mignolet’s denial of Schurrle was equally as good. Gerrard tried his best to redress the balance, but twice found Schwarzer with shots from outside the area and once from a header inside it. For once, though, even the Reds’ often inspirational captain could not get his side back into the game and even the return of striker Daniel Sturridge from a hamstring injury as a second-half substitute did not puncture a hole in Chelsea’s thick blue line. Suarez had one last chance in added time, but Schwarzer punched over his fierce shot. Instead the match ended with the familiar sight of a jubilant Mourinho running down the touchline to celebrate substitute Willian’s breakaway goal. last_img read more

Costa scores in Chelsea colours

first_img Torres subsequently chested a simple opportunity over the bar from close range as he met Nathan Ake’s cross. Chelsea’s Barclays Premier League rivals Everton and Leicester were also in action overseas, playing each other in Bangkok with the Foxes winning 1-0. Foxes forward Gary Taylor-Fletcher provided the only goal of the game in the 66th minute, tapping in a centre from the right from Jamie Vardy, who had got to the ball before Toffees goalkeeper Joel Robles. The two clubs meet again at the King Power Stadium on the opening day of the top-flight season. Swansea put in a dominant performance as they triumphed 4-0 at Plymouth, with summer signing Gylfi Sigurdsson netting a brace. The Premier League side were 1-0 up on nine minutes as Rory Donnelly capitalised on a mistake by Pilgrims goalkeeper Luke McCormick. After the break, Jordi Amat doubled the advantage before Sigurdsson – back on a permanent deal at the club he previously played for on loan in 2012 – struck twice, the second being a superb curling free-kick at the death. Later on Sunday, Manchester City claimed an impressive 5-1 victory over AC Milan in a weather-hit friendly at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. After the hosts had taken the lead through Nik Kapun’s 40th-minute strike, striker Costa levelled the match 10 minutes into the second half, converting a through-ball from his fellow Spain international and summer recruit Cesc Fabregas, who was also making his bow for his new club. Eight minutes later, defender Kurt Zouma prodded in the winner, following up a Fernando Torres shot that had been parried. Diego Costa scored on his Chelsea debut as the Blues came from behind to beat Slovenian outfit Olimpija Ljubljana 2-1 away in a friendly on Sunday. Stevan Jovetic handed the Premier League champions the lead after 12 minutes with a low shot that creeped in at the near post and three minutes later Gael Clichy picked out Scott Sinclair in the box and he slotted home the second from close range. The goalfest was not over yet and midway through the first half Jesus Navas’ acrobatic effort from just outside the box took a huge deflection and left goalkeeper Michael Agazzi with no chance. Rampant City added a fourth after 27 minutes as Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who has been training with the club for the past few weeks, picked the ball up on the edge of the box and turned 180 degrees before firing home. Sulley Muntari pulled one back for Milan just before the break as he tapped in with a close-range finish at the home of NFL side the Pittsburgh Steelers. Following a delay due to lightening and heavy rain, former City striker Mario Balotelli took to the field for the second half and had a goal ruled out for offside before Jovetic netted his second to make it 5-1. Press Associationlast_img read more

Barcelona agree Vermaelen deal

first_imgBarcelona have agreed a deal with Arsenal to sign Thomas Vermaelen on a five-year contract. The fee is undisclosed for a player who had been club captain for the Barclays Premier League side for the past two seasons but was frequently on the bench last term, with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny the first-choice pairing at centre-back. He made only 13 starts in all competitions and 21 appearances in total for Arsenal during the campaign, which concluded with him being an unused substitute in the Gunners’ FA Cup final victory over Hull as they collected their first trophy in nine years. Vermaelen was initially an integral part of the London club’s defence after signing from Ajax in 2009, but form and fitness have subsequently put his starting spot in jeopardy. He has played 150 times for Arsenal overall in five seasons, scoring 15 goals. Vermaelen had been linked with Manchester United, but it is understood that Arsenal proposed a swap deal which the Red Devils were not prepared to do. While indicating on Thursday that United were among the clubs to have made an offer for Vermaelen, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger also said he would prefer any sale to be made to an overseas side. Barcelona said Vermaelen will sign his contract on Sunday before having a photograph session with the media on the Nou Camp turf. He will then be officially presented as the Catalan club’s player at a press conference. The news that the 28-year-old Belgium defender is to make the switch was announced by both clubs on Saturday evening. Arsenal confirmed Vermaelen passed his medical in Barcelona earlier that day, adding that his transfer is “subject to the completion of the normal regulatory process”. center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

Hoddle joins QPR backroom staff

first_img Hoddle has been seeking a return to football and was linked with a second spell at Tottenham when Andre Villas-Boas was axed last season, only to lose out to Tim Sherwood. The 56-year-old former England boss has been working as a pundit during in his absence from the game and in 2008 opened an academy in Spain to improve players released by English clubs. “I’m really pleased to take up Harry’s offer to come in and work with him, Kevin and Joe,” Hoddle said. “I have always loved coaching, and I can’t wait to meet the players, get on the training pitch and get to work.” Hoddle guided England to the last 16 of the 1998 World Cup, losing to Argentina on penalties, but his contract was terminated the following January after he made comments that were offensive to disabled people. Managerial spells at Swindon, Tottenham and Wolves followed before he stepped back from club football. Despite his long absence, Redknapp is backing Hoddle to be a useful addition at Loftus Road. “I’m really pleased to bring Glenn in,” Redknapp said Hoddle is to join coaches Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan in working beneath boss Harry Redknapp in what will be his first tracksuit role since stepping down as Wolves manager in 2006. “After winning promotion last season, the first aim at QPR is to stay in the Premier League and I’m looking forward to helping play my part as we try to achieve that,” Hoddle said. Press Association Glenn Hoddle has been appointed to QPR’s backroom staff, the Barclays Premier League club have announced. “I have been really lucky in the last couple of years to have had Steve Cotterill, Steve McClaren and Wally Downes work with us. They all did a fantastic job here. “I spoke with the chairman about the possibility of bringing Glenn in and he thought it was a great idea. “Glenn will be great. He has a brilliant knowledge of the game and will be fantastic out on the training ground with the players. “He is a hugely-respected coach and, like Steve, has managed his country. “I decided that if I was going to bring somebody in, I was going to go for somebody who was top class and that’s what Glenn is.” last_img read more

Moreno happy to prove a point

first_img The Spaniard was at fault for Manchester City’s opener in the 3-1 defeat last week but he responded with a brilliant 60-yard run to score the Reds’ third in Sunday’s victory at Tottenham. He considers that to be the initial down payment towards him clearing his debt from the loss at the Etihad Stadium. Liverpool defender Alberto Moreno admits he had a point to prove after a less-than-satisfying debut for his new club. “After making my debut and losing against City I had a point to make,” he said. “When I stole the ball from (Andros) Townsend and saw a way through, all I could think about was getting to their goal and scoring. I didn’t care how many metres I had to run. “I hope it isn’t my only one as I hope to dedicate many more to Liverpool’s fans. “If they didn’t know me before, they will from now on thanks to my goal against Tottenham.” Moreno won the Europa League with Sevilla last season before moving to Anfield in a protracted £12million transfer but he is looking forward to making the step up with Liverpool due to reacquaint themselves with the Champions League this month after a four-year absence. “Playing in the Champions League is going to be amazing,” he told liverpoolfc.com. “”It’s all new for me and I’m really looking forward to it. “Plus, we have Real Madrid at Anfield and I’ll be wearing Liverpool’s colours. It’s going to be a unique experience. “I saw the trophy at Melwood and I got goose bumps. Hopefully we can win it this year. Hopefully that day will come.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

No guarantees for Given

first_imgRepublic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill is remaining coy over Shay Given’s chances of starting the opening Euro 2016 qualifier in Georgia on Sunday. The 38-year-old, who retired from international football after the Euro 2012 finals, won his 126th senior cap in Wednesday night’s 2-0 friendly victory over Oman after returning to the fold. However, he will have to wait to see if O’Neill will retain him in Tbilisi at the weekend or stick with David Forde, who has been his first-choice goalkeeper to date. “We have changed the side around so many times now just more or less to see what players can do, all with the one thing in mind: to try to get as prepared as possible for Sunday.” Darron Gibson played 70 minutes on his return from a cruciate ligament injury which sidelined him for 10 months, but central midfield partner Stephen Quinn caught the eye with a quietly assured display. O’Neill said: “Stephen has done fine. Apparently, he might have been looking at one stage maybe of leaving Hull, but he has fought back, fought back impressively to try to get a starting place in their team, and he is playing with a bit of confidence.” O’Neill said: “He didn’t have very much to do. Someone asked if he is guaranteed a place in the starting line-up – absolutely not. “He did fine. He didn’t have anything to do, but for the last couple of days he has been excellent around the place. He has been very encouraging to the other goalkeepers and to everyone else. “Actually, he has been very positive in terms of attitude. He’s not expected anything and that’s the way it will be.” Given, who was replaced by Rob Elliot at half-time, did not have a save of note to make as Ireland won without having to be anywhere near their best. Goals from Kevin Doyle and Alex Pearce either side of half-time were enough to secure the victory, although both David Meyler and Aiden McGeady hit the woodwork. The challenge will be significantly stiffer in Georgia, where O’Neill will turn to his big guns once again after fielding an experimental side at the Aviva Stadium and collecting just the second win of his eight games in charge to date, a run which included clashes with World Cup-bound Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal. He said: “If you want, every friendly game, let’s play someone you think you can beat – I’m not in for that. “Listen, we have won the game, we have taken a bit of confidence – there was never lack of confidence even with the games in the summer time. Press Associationlast_img read more

Everton won’t compromise – Coleman

first_img The Toffees’ 3-1 victory over QPR on Monday night was only their third of the season at home and ended a run of four matches without a win. The frustration being felt by Everton’s fans was obvious as the team laboured during the first half an hour against a team that has not picked up a point away from home. The absence of Gareth Barry through suspension and injured trio James McCarthy, Leon Osman and Darron Gibson forced boss Roberto Martinez into playing a young and untested midfield partnership of Barry and Muhamed Besic. It paid off handsomely, with Barkley putting in a mature performance while showing off his huge talent and Besic catching the eye with a series of uncompromising but generally well-timed tackles. The Bosnian was a summer signing from Ferencvaros and has been growing into life in the Premier League. “I’m sure everyone saw him at the World Cup, he’s brilliant at that role,” said Coleman. “He’s a great lad and works very hard so we’re all very happy with how he played.” The result lifted Everton above neighbours Liverpool and into the top 10 ahead of the busy festive period. On Saturday they travel to Southampton before two games in three days against Stoke and Newcastle and then a New Year’s Day trip to Hull. “I love the Christmas period,” said Coleman. “I love games every couple of days. “As footballers, we’re paid to win football matches and hopefully we can do that as much over the Christmas period as possible because I think if you have a good Christmas period it sets you up very nicely. “There’s not much points difference ahead of us so hopefully we can start clawing people back.” QPR find themselves in the bottom three and boss Harry Redknapp is still searching for answers on how to break their away duck. “It’s been difficult but they’re tough away games,” he said. “We’ve come up from the Championship along with Burnley and Leicester and it’s difficult. It’s difficult for six or seven teams that are going to be down there. “But our home form has been good. I wanted to make changes but I’ve got two strikers on my books, Bobby Zamora and (Eduardo) Vargas, who normally plays wide. We’re short in certain areas.” Passes went astray and they struggled to create anything of note until a moment of individual brilliance from Ross Barkley put them ahead. Kevin Mirallas grabbed a second before half-time with a deflected free-kick and Steven Naismith effectively killed off the game with a third in the 53rd minute. But then Everton sat back and allowed QPR to come at them, with Bobby Zamora grabbing a consolation, and the atmosphere around the ground was hardly one of joy. Coleman said: “When the results have been going the way they’ve been going it’s only natural to feel like that but we know what we’re capable of in that changing room and it’ll never change. “We like to keep the ball and play as much football as we can. “It’s been difficult because our home record last season was so impressive but it’s something we’ll be looking to put right. “We go out trying to play the same way we do every week. Sometimes you get the result, sometimes you don’t, but hopefully that result can kick-start us. “When results haven’t been going well you do feel the pressure that little bit more because you need the win but I thought we played freely and Ross was brilliant breaking from midfield.” Seamus Coleman insists Everton’s style will not be compromised by the pressure to get results at Goodison Park. Press Associationlast_img read more

Leicester’s Maloney move off

first_imgLeicester manager Nigel Pearson’s hopes of landing Wigan midfielder Shaun Maloney have fallen by the wayside. The Foxes had agreed a fee with Wigan for Maloney, understood to be just over £1million after an initial bid was rejected. But the Scotland international will not be moving to the King Power Stadium after failing to agree personal terms. Press Associationcenter_img Via Wigan’s Twitter feed, manager Malky Mackay said: “We accepted a bid for Shaun Maloney, but the personal terms fell through. He’s our player until the end of the season. “Interest was from Leicester, and there’s still interest from Chicago Fire. Shaun’s our player unless a new offer comes in.” last_img read more

Palace pile pressure on QPR

first_img It was a goal that came at a cost, though, as the winger’s momentum meant he suffered a nasty collision with the post, leading to several minutes of medical attention. A standing ovation greeted Zaha when he gingerly trundled back onto the field and he soon made a further impact, firing a shot at Robert Green, unaware offside had been called. Aside from a Charlie Austin effort, it was one-way traffic as Damien Delaney fizzed an effort wide, Furlong squeezed out Bolasie and Glenn Murray headed over. It seemed just a matter of time until Palace netted again and so it proved. Bolasie was again allowed to send over a cross and this time McArthur got ahead of Yun Suk-young to tap home from close range. The collapse did not stop there, though. Zaha was running riot and, despite being hassled by three QPR players, was still able to cut back for Ward, whose shot under pressure from Sandro snuck into the far corner. Fortunately for QPR, the half-time whistle soon arrived and when the teams returned Clint Hill replaced teenager Furlong. Palace were soon making changes themselves, with Zaha limping off shortly after Jason Puncheon hobbled down the touchline in pain. Julian Speroni dashed off his line to deny Shaun Wright-Phillips on a rare QPR voyage forwards, before Austin saw a tame header saved – QPR’s first effort on target in the 72nd minute. Austin followed up with another shot on target after Steven Caulker’s block denied Murray at the other end, where substitute Dwight Gayle’s free-kick was kept out by Green. Just as the match was petering out, Phillips injected some life into proceedings, hitting a remarkable drive from 40 yards past Speroni. Palace fans could only applaud the audacious effort, although it is doubtful they would have done the same had the winger beaten Speroni with another thumping drive shortly afterwards. The Palace goalkeeper saved that and QPR, try as they might, were unable to do any more damage. QPR’s Premier League status is looking more precarious than ever after Crystal Palace ran amok in the first half at Selhurst Park. For a side staring down the barrel of an immediate return to the Championship, Rangers’ capitulation after a solid start was nothing short of embarrassing. Wilfried Zaha, James McArthur and Joel Ward all struck what proved decisive first-half efforts as Palace won 3-1, with Matt Phillips’ late goal of the season contender a mere consolation as the west Londoners suffered a ninth defeat in 10 top-flight matches. This felt like a potentially season-defining performance, never mind result, as Chris Ramsey’s men downed tools after a bright start, with Zaha’s bravery rewarded with the opening goal. Yannick Bolasie was the architect just as he was for Palace’s second, with McArthur tapping home shortly before Ward netted his first goal for the club. The Premier League’s worst away side managed to stem the tide in the second half and pulled one back through Phillips’ incredible 40-yard drive – little comfort given defeat leaves them three points from safety. QPR now have just five points to show from their last 12 top-flight outings, whereas Alan Pardew’s side now look all-but certain to stay up after this win. Things could have been so much worse had the hosts maintained the dominance they enjoyed after Rangers’ solid start came to an abrupt end. The ever-impressive Bolasie cut in from the left past Darnell Furlong and played a neat ball through to McArthur, only for a timely Sandro interception to thwart him. Scott Dann had two headers of differing quality in quick succession as Pardew’s men upped the ante, with the breakthrough arriving in the 21st minute. Bolasie did the damage, ghosting down the left to send a low, driven cross to the far post, where Zaha turned home under pressure. Press Associationlast_img read more

Racism ‘rife in English football’

first_imgRacism is widespread in English football with police having to deal with hundreds of incidents from the top of the game right down to grassroots level, an investigation has revealed. Hertfordshire Police recorded 11 incidents of alleged racist abuse at children’s football games, while Northamptonshire Police said that during a non-league game a man was spat at and racially abused before eventually having his leg broken in a strong challenge. Gavin Sutherland, campaign co-ordinator at Show Racism The Red Card, said: “This data from police forces around the UK shows that although football clubs have taken strong action against people using racist language inside stadiums, racism is a real problem within society. “People who exhibit racist behaviours in 2015 are doing so, in the main, away from football grounds. “Especially worrying are the incidents of racist abuse at youth team football matches. People engaged in racist abuse at these venues know that they are more likely to get away with it, because of facilities, a lack of stewarding and security, but the impact on young people will be considerable. “Primarily, they are being exposed to racism, which in itself is frightening, but also it may influence their own behaviour.” Other incidents included Cleveland Police reporting repeated monkey sounds and gestures during a Middlesbrough v Blackburn game in November last year and Devon and Cornwall Police said a man was headbutted and racially abused during a non-league game. Surrey Police said a referee received racist insults during a kids’ game and Essex police said a footballer refused to shake hands with a player from the opposite team before racially abusing him. Due to the fact that some police forces were unable to provide the information or did not reply to the request, Mr Sutherland said there would certainly be a greater number of cases. “These incidents, although shocking in themselves and how geographically widespread they are, will be just a part of the picture,” he said. “These are the incidents that have been reported. There will certainly be a greater number unreported and under-investigated. “Show Racism The Red Card has always stated that the reason racism manifests in football is that it is a societal problem. “The campaign works with young people and adults not just to educate against racism, but encourage the use and development of critical thinking skills to break down the misinformation that supports racist beliefs.” A club spokesman for Chelsea said of the investigation: “The club’s position on discriminatory behaviour is clear and we work closely with relevant authorities on their investigations.” The information, gathered by the Press Association from 24 police forces across the country, shows there have been over 350 incidents since 2012. But as that only accounts for around half the police forces in the country, the actual figure is likely to be much higher. The charity Show Racism The Red Card said the number of incidents shows that racism is a societal problem and it was particularly shocked by the number of incidents of racist abuse at children’s matches. The British Transport Police said since 2012 it had dealt with 15 incidents of alleged racism involving Chelsea fans, the most of any club in the country. Manchester United were second with 10 incidents, followed by Leeds with 10, West Ham with eight, Arsenal with four and Portsmouth with four. A club spokesman for Chelsea said of the investigation: “The club’s position on discriminatory behaviour is clear and we work closely with relevant authorities on their investigations.” Greater Manchester Police reported 46 incidents, which included a man cleaning a toilet in a stadium being told “that’s a f****** black man’s job, you f****** n*****” and a manager at a children’s game being told “I’ll do you, I’m gonna wait for you outside, I’m going to do you, you f****** n*****”. The force also said that on two occasions a letter was written to a specific footballer containing racist abuse and during a game someone shouted “what is this the United Nations, how many chinks and w*** do you need?”. It also revealed that Chelsea supporters have been involved in the highest number of reported racist incidents as they travelled to and from matches on trains. It follows the high-profile case of a black man who was prevented from boarding a train in Paris by Chelsea fans as they sang a racist song, with five of them due in court this week. Press Associationlast_img read more