Month: September 2020

Paul Lambert insists Aston Villa will not become embroiled in another relegation struggle if they carry on playing the way they are. Villa are five points above the Barclays Premier League drop zone heading into the home game with Sunderland on Sunday and are the lowest scorers in the division with 11 goals from 18 games. They drew another blank on Boxing Day when losing 1-0 to Swansea but Lambert felt his side deserved at least a point at the Liberty Stadium and believes 13th placed Villa are on the right track to climb the table. Lambert’s two previous seasons in charge at Villa Park have seen the club finish too close to the relegation zone for comfort – five points on each occasion – but the Scot feels they “will be fine” when they start accepting their chances in front of goal. “If we keep doing what we are doing and take the chances then we will win more games than not,” Lambert said. “There will be so many twists and turns throughout the season, but if we keep doing what we’ve been doing we will be fine. “There are good players like Joe Cole still to come back and if we get everybody fit then we will certainly, the way we are playing, be a match for teams.” Christian Benteke has managed two goals in his last five games since returning from injury and suspension but Villa have still struggled to score in an eight-match sequence which has brought only two defeats. They have scored more than once on only two occasions all season and top scorers Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor – who misses the Sunderland game after collecting a fifth booking of the season at Swansea – have a meagre three goals apiece. Sunderland are one point and one place worse off than Villa following their 3-1 home defeat to Hull on Boxing Day and Lambert accepts that the two clubs cannot rely on tradition to remain in the top flight. “History tells you in years gone by you have to earn the right to stay in the league regardless how big your name is or how big the club is,” Lambert said. “Take out that top six big clubs and everybody fights like anything to stay in the league. “Sunderland for some reason have been down there for the past few years but it doesn’t matter how big the club is, it’s earning the right to stay in it. “They say get 40 points and see what happens. We have got 20 and last year it took us until January time to get 20, so that’s an improvement.” Meanwhile, Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has hit out at the Christmas fixture schedule as he attempts to rally his troops after a Boxing Day defeat. The Black Cats headed into Friday’s clash with Hull at the Stadium of Light riding the crest of a wave after their 1-0 derby victory at Newcastle, but succumbed in tepid fashion – despite taking a first-minute lead – to lose 3-1 to a side which had not won in 10 Barclays Premier League fixtures. A stunned Poyet later admitted his team had simply not been good enough, but as he turned his attention to Sunday’s trip to Villa, admitted he could not quite understand why he was having to do so. The Uruguayan said: “One of the good things is that we play again in two days. That’s the only good thing about playing today (Friday). “We shouldn’t be playing on the 28th. I’ve been in England for a long time and I know that Boxing Day games are a tradition and I accept that and think we should maintain it. “But I think that then playing on the 28th is a disgrace. We shouldn’t be playing then, we shouldn’t. “If you want to see the best players performing well, you need to make sure you are not playing every two days. “It is not needed. That is not tradition and anyone who says it is is not telling the truth.” Poyet will welcome back striker Connor Wickham back from a one-match ban, although he was quick to dismiss any suggestion that the 21-year-old’s absence against Hull had been a factor. He said: “I don’t think that was the case. If so and he plays on Sunday, then we will win?” Press Association read more

first_imgGonzalo Higuain’s brother and agent insists he has not spoken to Liverpool and claims the Argentina striker is happy at Napoli. However, when asked about the Barclays Premier League club’s reported interest, Nicolas Higuain told Italian radio station Crc: “I don’t speak English only Italian, French and Spanish. “First of all, I have not spoken to any club because they have not contacted me and secondly, it would be disrespectful to Napoli. “(Napoli president Aurelio) De Laurentiis is a great person, a man of honour and I couldn’t behave incorrectly. “We’re not thinking about leaving Napoli. “I’m confident that the team can finish third (in Serie A to qualify for the Champions League), then we’ll see about Gonzalo’s future. “I haven’t spoken with any team. “Gonzalo is calm, he has a contract with Napoli and he’s not planning to leave because he’s happy.” Higuain, 27, joined Napoli in the summer of 2013 from Real Madrid and is under contract with the Naples outfit until June 2018. The South American was a member of Argentina’s squad that finished runners-up Germany at the World Cup last year in Brazil. Higuain has scored nine goals and set up three more in 18 league appearances for Napoli this season. The Argentina international has been strongly linked with a move to Anfield in the winter transfer market. The arrival of Italian forward Manolo Gabbiadini to Napoli from Sampdoria last week has increased speculation of Higuain’s possible departure. center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

first_imgNewcastle look almost certain to wait until the summer to appoint a permanent successor to Alan Pardew. Press Association Indeed, there is an acceptance that the fact their major targets are currently out of their grasp is evidence they are doing something right and worth pursuing, and having been encouraged by some of the discussions they have had during the last fortnight or so, the Magpies could be ready to play the long game. Ajax boss Frank de Boer, who has softened his public stance on the vacancy, has guided his side into second place in the Eredivisie table behind PSV Eindhoven, while St Etienne sit just a point outside the top three in Ligue 1 under Christophe Galtier and Derby manager Steve McClaren is currently masterminding the Rams’ bid for promotion to the Barclays Premier League. In addition, former Lyon boss Remi Garde and ex-Mainz counterpart Thomas Tuchel have both enjoyed a measure of success in the recent past, but are unavailable until the summer. Charnley and chief scout Graham Carr drew up their list of potential candidates – the club received around 80 formal applications for the job – taking into consideration a specific set of requirements tailored to the model adopted by the Magpies under owner Mike Ashley. That blueprint was outlined by the managing director this week. He said: “The traditional English manager who would want full control is not what I’m looking for – they don’t fit within our structure or strategy. “He doesn’t have the final say on transfers and doesn’t get involved in every aspect of the business. His job is to coach the players and implement and oversee a philosophy that goes through the first team, the reserves and down through the Academy to improve the players and to ensure we get the best out of them.” In the meantime Pardew’s former assistant John Carver remains at the helm, and could do so for some time if he is asked to hold the fort until the summer. center_img Managing director Lee Charnley indicated earlier this week that the club are prepared to wait until the end of the season in order to get the right person for the job. Press Association Sport understands the men at the very top of their short-list are all either in employment or otherwise unavailable until the end of the current season, and while that could mean a frustrating delay, they are unwilling to settle for a lesser candidate simply because he could start work immediately. last_img read more

first_img Ruby Walsh made all of the running on the 4-6 favourite, trained by Willie Mullins, but he was ridden with a bit more restraint than had been expected. Even so, Un De Sceaux had all his rivals at full stretch coming down the hill. God’s Own (33-1) tried to make a race of it but he could not compete on the run to the line and had to settle for being beaten six lengths in second place. Un De Sceaux lived up to his billing as he duly landed the odds in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. Josses Hill (12-1) stayed on to take third spot, two lengths away. The victory gave Mullins and Walsh a double in the first two races of the meeting after Douvan struck in the opener. Walsh said: “He has got a turn of foot. I wasn’t going that hard and I knew that when I gave him a squeeze he would quicken up and he’s pinged the last. “He didn’t come to the Festival last year, he went to France twice, and you can see it’s made a man of him. “He’s not an easy horse and they have minded and nurtured him. They’ve done a great job. “I rode Master Minded and Azertyiuop so going that speed is nothing new to me.” Mullins said: “It was just fantastic. He was very clever. He jumped the first two nicely and settled into a rhythm in his jumping. “He jumped the water very easy, probably the first time he’d jumped one in his life, then came to the ditch which is a big test for a novice after the water. He pricked his ears and flew it again. “I got a fright when God’s Own came up beside him, but Ruby sat and then he just flew up the hill. “He’s not a typical racehorse and I don’t think he’s any pedigree, either, which is extraordinary. He is what we call a pure freak.” Mullins will now target Punchestown, and added: “He was very good with his jumping, he’s improved so much. He jumped like he was a handicapper the whole way round. Ruby thought he settled better today. He’s getting more mature with each race. He set himself up for the fences rather than getting Ruby to do it. “Some people like to go to Grade One races with a horse when they’re not ready, but I’m not keen on doing that. A jumper’s career is over many years and I don’t want it all at once, you have to let them mature and come round. Today it has paid off. I want them to go up the steps of the ladder one by one.” Tom George was delighted with the effort of God’s Own and thought the better ground had helped his cause. He said: “That isn’t a fluke, he was a Grade One winner last year when he beat Champagne Fever and a few others. “We had a blip in mid-winter but he simply can’t go on soft ground . We won’t even try running him on soft ground next year, good to soft is as bad as he wants it. “We will look at Aintree and Punchestown now, see where the best ground is and looking at that he will get two and a half miles.” Nicky Henderson was satisfied with Josses Hill and felt a sound pace had brought out the best in his runner. He said: “He’s run a great race. Fair play to Barry (Geraghty), he always said he would jump better in a faster run race. The quicker pace just helps his impulsion – when they are going slower he’s too brave. “I don’t know where we will go next, we could go two and a half miles, but I think Ruby should be fined for speeding!” Press Associationlast_img read more

first_imgManchester City captain Vincent Kompany insists it is a good time to play neighbours United, even though the form book suggests otherwise. City’s defeat at Crystal Palace left Manuel Pellegrini’s side fourth in the Barclays Premier League table, a point behind United. They head into the 165th Manchester derby in their worst form of the season, but that does not bother Kompany. Press Associationcenter_img “A derby is a derby,” he told mcfc.co.uk. “It doesn’t matter what place you are in the league, it’s a derby. If anything, it’s a good moment to go into a derby. “I guess the momentum is a little bit with our neighbours at the moment, but it’s the perfect place for us to go and try to rectify what we’ve had.” While many are now writing off City’s chances of defending their title and even speculating about their ability to hold on to a top-four spot, Kompany insists the players do not doubt themselves. “We are demanding with ourselves because we have to win,” he added. “My only concern is we get back to our best form. “I think it’s our general form that we have to improve. “I’ve learnt from the past seasons as well that finishing a season strongly can have an impact on your next season as well.” last_img read more

first_imgJim Dreaper’s challenger Goonyella put in a stirring late charge to finish second in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr. Wayward Prince was almost retired by connections earlier in the season but earned a reprieve with victory at Doncaster in February, and also ran well when third on his only subsequent start at Ascot. Dreaper was delighted with Goonyella’s performance on ground that would have been quick enough for him, and he is hoping his excellent run will help him earn a place in the Crabbie’s Grand National next year after missing out the last twice. “He showed again he’s got great stamina. His lack of pace is just shown up a bit more on that ground, but that was very good,” said the County Meath handler. “The plan is to try to get him into Aintree to beat the ballot. He’s missed out two years in a row and maybe he can do it next year.” Press Associationcenter_img It was a close call at the end of the prestigious marathon contest, but 25-1 chance Wayward Prince rolled back the years to hold on after l eading at the third-last fence. Hilary Parrott’s 11-year-old dug deep for jockey Robbie Dunne to hang on for glory as Johnny Burke, who had been hard at work for a long way on the Midlands National hero, got a sustained run out of the out-and-out stayer to finish just three-quarters of a length in arrears. last_img read more

first_img A subdued Villa Park was expecting to party after they sealed survival last week but ended watching in almost silence as the hosts stuttered. And they were almost stunned again on 26 minutes when Ings should have doubled Burnley’s lead. George Boyd tricked his way to the byline and left Charles N’Zogbia trailing but Ings could only balloon his cross over. The quiet Benteke then saw a volley deflect wide eight minutes before the break, before Heaton saved his downward header two minutes later. It was at least signs of life from Villa who, up until then, played in second gear and allowed Burnley too much time and space. Heaton tipped Westwood’s stinging drive over in first-half injury time and Villa kept pressing after the break. Benteke and Fabian Delph lashed wide but while the hosts improved they lacked the quality to breakthrough. Yet Agbonlahor should have levelled on 63 minutes when he fired straight at Heaton after Benteke had bulldozed his way through. Instantly, though, Burnley broke and Steer needed to block Boyd’s attempted chip after the midfielder broke past Villa’s static defence. It was the Clarets’ only second-half chance as the hosts continued to make the running and Heaton needed to be at his agile best to deny Delph and N’Zogbia in quick succession. First, he turned Delph’s shot away before tipping over N’Zogbia’s rising drive a minute later. But Villa’s threat waned with Burnley having the luxury of substituting Ings to consolidate their lead at the death. But the striker’s first-half winner still meant the Clarets finished second bottom as they made a swift return to the Football League. It was his 11th of the season and possibly last strike for the club with the out-of-contract forward expected to leave Turf Moor in the summer. Press Association Burnley signed off from the Barclays Premier League with a deserved 1-0 win at Aston Villa as Danny Ings gave them a perfect leaving present. Villa, subdued for most of the first half, struggled to make a breakthrough although Tom Heaton saved from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke and Ashley Westwood. Defeat saw Villa finish fourth bottom in the Premier League, ahead of the FA Cup final with Arsenal on Saturday, after another brush with the drop. With one eye on Wembley, Tim Sherwood handed keeper Jed Steer his top-flight debut while Nathan Baker returned from a knee injury and Agbonlahor was also recalled. Michael Keane and Fredrik Ulvestad started for Burnley with the Clarets having already been relegated. But Sean Dyche’s side refused to go without one last fight and hit the winner after just six minutes. Ings cashed in on poor Villa defending when he looped a header over Steer after Ashley Barnes’ clever knock down. It allowed the visitors to open up and they were the more adventurous as Villa struggled to find any momentum. But they still should have levelled after 16 minutes only for Ron Vlaar to blaze wide from 15 yards after Tom Cleverley found him free in the box. last_img read more

first_imgWords over came greenness and a 352-day absence to land the spoils in the Munster Oaks. Alive to the move, Heffernan delivered Words (5-2) to challenge and assert in the final half-furlong and defeat the evens favourite, who was conceding 17lb, by three-quarters of a length. Heffernan said: “I rode her patiently and it was a likeable performance. I was confident she was always going to win from two down. We’ve always liked her but she was a bit delicate. “She’s just coming now and hopefully she will keep coming. It’s good, quick ground and she didn’t mind it.” Aidan O’Brien’s filly was taking Group Three honours on just her second start. Seamie Heffernan had her settled last of four as Roheryn set the pace before Carla Bianca set sail for home two furlongs out. center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

first_img It took a flying save from Krul to keep out Cesc Fabregas’ 38th-minute piledriver and Pedro headed wastefully across goal after climbing high at the far post, but the opening goal eventually came at the other end with three minutes of the half remaining. Perez managed to get himself in between Zouma and Ivanovic and Anita crossed from deep and when the Chelsea pair inexplicably failed to intervene, the striker cushioned the ball before volleying it past the helpless Begovic. Newcastle extended their lead on the hour from a set-piece when Wijnaldum was allowed to meet Perez’s corner unchallenged and head firmly past Begovic’s despairing dive. But Ramires ensured a tense conclusion when he thumped a 25-yard drive into Krul’s top corner with 11 minutes remaining, and after Pedro had wasted a glorious opportunity to level, Willian deceived Krul with a curling free-kick to snatch a draw with four minutes remaining. The visitors might have emerged with all three points had Krul not clawed out Ramires’ 89th-minute header, but that would have been cruel. TWEETS OF THE MATCH “@MarioMelchiot: Ramires rocked woke me up. William’s delivery made me smile. Krul spoiled the party with a great safe on Ramires header. #mmlove #CFC” -Blues favourite Mario Melchiot shows some love to his former side after a dramatic fightback “@alanshearer: Gutted at the end! But see what happens when you work hard and put in the effort?! Well done. Keep it up #NUFC” – Toon legend Alan Shearer was pleased to see an improved performance from his side. PLAYER RATINGS Newcastle Tim Krul: 7 (out of 10) Daryl Janmaat: 7 Fabricio Coloccini: 7 Chancel Mbemba: 8 Kevin Mbabu: 7 Jack Colback: 7 Vurnon Anita: 8 Georginio Wijnaldum: 8 Moussa Sissoko: 6 Ayoze Perez: 9 Aleksandar Mitrovic: 6 Subs: Gabriel Obertan (on 53): 5 Ivan Toney (on 84): 5 Siem De Jong (on 90) – Chelsea Asmir Begovic: 7 Branislav Ivanovic: 5 Kurt Zouma: 4 Gary Cahill: 6 Cesar Azpilicueta: 7 Cesc Fabregas: 6 Nemanja Matic: 5 Oscar: 7 Eden Hazard: 7 Pedro: 6 Loic Remy: 6 Subs: Willian (on 60): 7 Radamel Falcao (on 60): 6 Ramires (on 72): 9 STAR PLAYER Ayoze Perez: Despite fading a little in the second half, the Spaniard set the tone for a brave performance by the hosts with his tireless early probing of the Chelsea rearguard. Brought a fine save out of Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic before firing home the opener, and also produced the inch-perfect corner from which Georginio Wijnaldum scored the home side’s second. MOMENT OF THE MATCH Substitute Ramires hauled Chelsea out of a potential crisis after his late introduction, firing an unstoppable shot past Tim Krul to bring his side back into the game, and also playing his part in deceiving the keeper as Willian’s free-kick dribbled in for the equaliser. VIEW FROM THE BENCH Jose Mourinho’s relief was evident after his late substitutions turned the tide of the match but the late success will not match a dreadfully underwhelming first half performance from the champions. Meanwhile Newcastle boss Steve McClaren cut a frustrating figure after seeing his side fail to hang on for the first win he must have felt they so richly deserved. MOAN OF THE MATCH Maybe he was still brooding over the retrospective ban handed to Diego Costa this week. But neither that not his side’s poor start at St James’s Park could really justify the utterly morose figure the Portuguese “Special One” cut during his fleeting appearances on the touchline. WHO’S UP NEXT Manchester City v Newcastle (Premier League, Saturday October 3) FC Porto v Chelsea (Champions League, Tuesday September 29) Newcastle manager Steve McLaren was pleased to see such a dramatic improvement in performance following the midweek loss in the Capital One Cup. In the end, he was pleased with a point despite coming so close to the win. “(We were) so close to a great win, and then you think at 2-2 with five minutes to go you could still lose it as the momentum had swung,” he told Sky Sports. “In the end, the way we played an responded after this week, to a man, their attitudes were excellent and I thought the crowd responded to that. “We looked a team today. That was more like it.” He added: “That’s the benchmark in terms of attitude and what you need to give the crowd. I wish we’d have won as the belief would have really risen but today will help.” His opposite number, Jose Mourinho, criticised his players after making a sluggish start. “I think in the first half, from 0-10, we were -1,” he said. “In the second half we played very well. “Ramires and Willian moved the game and brought more intensity that Newcastle couldn’t cope with. The second half was really good. “I knew after the second goal we wouldn’t get the goal as I know what Newcastle wanted and what kind of referee Mr. Atkinson is. He stops the game, speaks too much and that would be difficult.” He added: “I have to try to understand why one team can play so bad in one half and so well in other. “The first half was really bad in every aspect of the game. Poor in individual performances and as a result of that, impossible for a team to be a good, competitive team.” Substitutes Ramires and Willian got Chelsea out of jail as they fought back from 2-0 down at Newcastle to snatch a point. Nevertheless, Jose Mourinho’s men find themselves nine points adrift of new leaders Manchester United after an uncharacteristically mixed start to the season. Few of the 48,682 who turned up at St James’ Park expected anything other than a comfortable away win given the quality of the opposition and the demoralising run of four defeats on the back of which McClaren’s men went into the game. The former England boss had warned that the change he is trying to implement would be painful and slow, but he must have been delighted with what he saw during a pulsating contest. Newcastle were simply unrecognisable from the disorganised and toothless rabble which had succumbed in such tame fashion to Watford a week earlier and even more horrendously, to Sheffield Wednesday’s reserves in midweek. They had to defend and defend well with youngster Kevin Mbabu making his league debut in the unaccustomed role of left-back as Chelsea moved the ball confidently and counter-attacked at blistering place. But with Aleksandar Mitrovic, fresh back from his three-game ban, giving the Magpies a focal point, the likes of Vurnon Anita, Perez and Wijnaldum were revitalised. Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma blasted a fourth-minute free-kick wide and striker Loic Remy turned a driven Branislav Ivanovic cross just wide of Tim Krul’s left post. But as they grew in confidence, the home side started to make an impact and Asmir Begovic was forced into saves from Perez and Daryl Janmaat in quick succession. Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum had left the reigning Barclays Premier League champions looking at a fourth successive defeat at St James’ Park, but the Brazilian duo came off the bench to claim a 2-2 draw as Steve McClaren came within four minutes of a first league win of his reign. It was tough on the Magpies, who turned in their best performance of the campaign to date, but even the most one-eyed of home fans could not deny that the visitors deserved something for their efforts after launching a concerted fightback. Press Associationlast_img read more

first_imgPress Association Sport highlights five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend. BRENDAN RODGERS WAS UNDER EVEN MORE PRESSURE THAN MANY THOUGHT Although talk about the heat being on Liverpool boss Rodgers had been rife for some time, the news on Sunday that he had been sacked shortly after the Reds’ 1-1 draw in the Merseyside derby at Everton still came as quite a surprise. Another reminder, if any was needed, that club owners are not shy of taking decisive action when they really feel it is necessary. Press Associationcenter_img THERE SHOULD NEVER BE DOUBTS ABOUT SERGIO AGUERO Manchester City striker Aguero went into Saturday’s home clash against Newcastle with it being noted he had scored only once in the league to date in 2015-16, and not since mid-August. He subsequently netted five times in 20 minutes past the stunned Magpies, becoming only the fifth man ever to hit that tally in a single Premier League game. The 27-year-old Argentina international could hardly have produced a more bold statement about the powers he possesses. THERE REALLY SHOULD BE DOUBTS NOW ABOUT CHELSEA When the Blues beat Arsenal on September 19 it appeared they had finally stopped the rot with regard to their poor start to the season. But a scraped 2-2 draw at Newcastle saw alarm bells ringing again a week later – and Saturday’s 3-1 capitulation at home against Southampton showed Jose Mourinho’s men are far from over their troubles this term. Where their title defence goes from here – and whether Mourinho might be involved for much longer – is anyone’s guess. THE NORTH-EAST CLUBS APPEAR TRULY CURSED Newcastle and Sunderland started Saturday bottom and 19th respectively and without a league win between them this season. Both made very encouraging starts to their fixtures, the Magpies taking a surprise lead at the Etihad Stadium and the Black Cats racing 2-0 ahead at home against West Ham. Each side then spectacularly imploded, Newcastle finishing up on the end of a 6-1 hammering and Sunderland concluding their game with 10 men and having been held to a 2-2 draw. In either case, the fans must feel as if there is some kind of jinx on their club. DICK ADVOCAAT SHOULD PROBABLY HAVE JUST KEPT HIS PROMISE TO HIS WIFE Whether or not he thought anything sinister was going on, Advocaat was left in no doubt his time as Sunderland boss could not go on as he walked away from the club on Sunday. There has been a slight air of inevitability about the situation since the campaign began, and many – certainly now, if they did not already – will feel that after keeping the Wearsiders up last season, the 68-year-old Dutchman really should have stuck to the promise he initially made to his wife that he would retire over the summer. last_img read more