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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Exclusive - Terry: 'Chelsea won't give up on the title'

John Terry insists Chelsea will not be giving up on the Premier League title.

The Stamford Bridge club are currently 11 points behind leaders Manchester City, but Terry has no intention of throwing in the towel.

The Blues captain told talkSPORT: “I won’t ever give up and I’m sure my team-mates and the management are the same. “I won’t be giving up until the numbers say it’s impossible for us to win it”John Terry

"We realise it’s going to be tough but we’ve still got to go away to Man City, and we’ve got Man United at home, and we fancy we can close the gap. I won’t be giving up until the numbers say it’s impossible for us to win it.”

Terry has also dismissed suggestions the dressing room is unhappy with manager Andre Villas-Boas, with the Portuguese just seven months into his reign in west London.

He added: “It’s not the case that no-one accepted the manager. When he came in it was up to him to impress the lads and he did that in pre-season.

“But when people don’t play the press write that so-and-so is unhappy with the manager. But it’s not being unhappy with the manager, it’s being unhappy at not playing.

“And that desire is what I want to see. I’d rather see that than people picking up their wages and not caring if they’re in the side or not.”

Exclusive - Tevez advisor refuses to rule Italians out of transfer chase

Carlos Tevez’s media advisor has told talkSPORT Inter Milan and AC Milan are not out of the race to sign the Manchester City striker.

Paul McCarthy has confirmed Tevez’s representative Kia Joorabchian will hold talks with Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday over a potential move to the big-spending French club.

But McCarthy does not expect the 27-year-old’s future to be sorted until the last day of the transfer window.

And he believes AC and Inter, who have both had bids for Tevez rejected by City, will make renewed attempts to sign the wantaway Argentine.

“Initial talks are planned today between Kia Joorabchian and PSG," McCarthy told Keys & Gray. "I think it is going to go right down to the wire. I think everybody involved in it now believes it will go right down to the wire of the transfer window.

"PSG are obviously interested. They have made no official bid to Manchester City but there is enough in the background to suggest it would be foolish to say they are not in the pictrue.

"I do believe the two Milan4

Exclusive - Tevez representatives deny PSG meeting

Carlos Tevez's representatives have denied claims they are set to meet Paris St Germain to discuss a £25million deal for the Manchester City striker.

Reports in Wednesday's papers claimed the Argentine's agent had flown to France to hammer out a deal for the former Manchester United star.

But talkSPORT can confirm these reports are wide of the mark and that Inter Milan are still in pole position to sign the striker. 

The Italian club had a £20.7million bid rejected by the Blues earlier in the week but Tevez's advisers are expecting an increased offer.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Exclusive: Jackson: 'Duels will define London Olympics'

Colin Jackson believes great sporting duels will define the London Olympics, with rivalries in the pool and on the track providing the highlights.

The former 110m hurdles world record holder expects the British public to get fully behind the Games, and when they do they’ll be rewarded with some classic Olympic moments.

“I think we have to look at the head-to-heads,” he said. “How will Ian Thorpe do against the great Michael Phelps? How will Usain Bolt do against his training partner Johann Blake in the 100m and 200m? That’s another great competition we need to look out for.”

Jackson also believes the British team have enjoyed the best possible build-up to the summer extravaganza. He continued: “They cannot have had any better preparation. They’ve had lots of support, both financially and physically – they've had everything necessary to deliver.

“Every single sports star in the United Kingdom who will be part of Team GB will have prepared to the best of their ability. We did a great job in Beijing but I’m sure in London we’ll see some sensational performances. I’m just hoping everyone stays fit and healthy because if they do, I know our team can deliver.”

Transport and budget concerns continue to dog preparations for the Games. But Jackson thinks the experience for spectators will far outweight any problems in the build-up to the opening ceremony.

“There is definitely a buzz that’s happening now but it’s both negative and positive,” he added. “Let [the critics] have a little moan because they’ll be so wrong when the Games come about, people start winning medals and the real euphoric feeling you get from British success inspires everyone.

“I’m sure we’ll deliver an amazing Olympic Games, a Games to remember, and if you leave London during it you may live to regret it!”

FA Cup round-up: Birmingham beat Wolves

Wade Elliott was the hero for Birmingham as his goal led them to a 1-0 FA Cup third round replay victory over local rivals Wolves.

The teams played for 164 minutes without a breakthrough before the 33-year-old former Burnley midfielder’s scrappy goal separated the sides.

A goalmouth scramble saw Elliott strike a post before David Murphy nudged the ball back in his direction allowing him to poke home from close range.

Birmingham now travel to face Sheffield United in the fourth round.

Elsewhere Wrexham lost out to Brighton, 5-4 on penalties, after a brave performance saw the non-league outfit take Gus Poyet’s men all the way.

37-year-old player manager Andy Morrell put the Welsh side in front after 23 minutes with a stunning effort which flew into the top corner.

But the Championship outfit fought back and grabbed an equaliser in the 77th minute when Ashley Barnes headed home Matt Sparrow’s left-wing cross at the far post.

After extra-time the sides were still level meaning the tie was decided by spot-kicks. Brighton will now host Premier League Newcastle in the fourth round.

FA Cup round-up: Hughes grabs first win as QPR boss

There were no upsets in the FA Cup third round replays as both QPR and Bolton made it through to the fourth round against lower league opposition.

But QPR were made to work hard for their first win under new boss Mark Hughes, not taking the lead against Mk Dons until Danny Gabbidon’s bullet header in the 72nd minute.

They eventually ran out 1-0 winners and could have won by more if not for the form of Dons’ goalkeeper David Martin who pulled off a string of saves. QPR now face a fourth round tie against west London neighbours Chelsea.

Things were slightly easier for Bolton, who won 2-0 against Macclesfield, with Kevin Davies putting the Premier League side in front after just one minute.

And a 26th minute strike from Martin Petrov was enough to put Owen Coyle’s side through to face Swansea in the next round with a comfortable victory.

Leicester piled the pressure on Steve Cotterill at Nottingham Forest as they ran out easy 4-0 winners.

George Boateng scored an own goal after just seven minutes, setting the tone for the night, before Jermaine Beckford helped himself to a hat-trick, setting up a home game against Swindon.

Millwall made amends for their 6-0 defeat against Birmingham at the weekend by running riot against neighbour Dagenham And Redbridge, winning 5-0, their biggest cup win in 32 years. They now play Championship league leaders Southampton.

Darius Henderson hit a hat-trick for the Lions while on-loan Tottenham youngster Harry Kane bagged a brace.

Inter set to beat Man United and Liverpool in race for Sao Paulo wonderkid

Manchester United and Liverpool are set to miss out on Sao Paulo star Lucas as Inter Milan are close to sealing a deal for the wonderkid, according to reports in Italy.

The Premier League giants have been linked with a deal worth more than £20m for the 19-year-old, who is rated as one of the best prospects in Brazil.

But Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Marco Branca, Inter Milan's sporting director, has flown to Brazil to complete the transfer.

And that is likely to scupper the north-west duo's hopes of signing the Sao Paulo youngster.

Liverpool keen to tie up deal for Portuguese starlet

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has confirmed the club's interest in signing Portuguese prospect Joao Carlos Teixeira.

The Reds have been linked with the 19-year-old, who impressed against them playing for Sporting Lisbon in the NextGen series this season where he scored in front of the Kop, prompting interest from the club’s scouts.

Teixeira is out of contract in the summer and Liverpool are ahead of a number of top European clubs after reportedly making an £850,000 bid

"There might be something about that," Dalglish said.

But the Scot was quick to play down the teenager’s chances of contending for a first-team place adding: "No, he's only a kid."

Teixeira has been likened to former Barcelona and Chelsea star Deco, and would be the latest graduate from Sporting’s academy to make a move to the Premier League following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.

Although Teixeira has been regularly training with Sporting’s senior squad this season he is yet to make a first-team appearance.

Liverpool set to miss out on Lille striker

Liverpool look set to miss out on long-term target Moussa Sow after Turkish giants Fenerbahce agreed personal terms with the Lille star.

Arsenal and Tottenham were also believed to be tracking the in-demand Lille striker but it appears Sow, who is currently preparing to represent Senegal in the African Nations Cup, has spurned the chance of a move to the Premier League and is set for a transfer to Turkey instead.

The 25-year-old reportedly met with the Turkish club’s officials overnight in Paris to thrash out terms on a deal worth €10m and lasting until 2015.

The news will come as a huge disappointment to Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, who has made signing a striker his priority in the January transfer window. He will now have to readjust his plans after seeing one of his top targets snatched from under his nose.

Sow had previously claimed he would be delighted with the chance to play for Liverpool, saying: 'I want to play in England. Liverpool, well, that is a dream club. Anyone would be happy, scoring goals in front of the Kop can be the highlight of a career.'

Reports in L’Equipe suggest Sow could be set to pocket as much as €2.6m a year from the move, with Lille likely to receive a further €1.5m if he is sold on.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Man City agree sale of Carlos Tevez to PSG - reports

Paris St Germain and Manchester City have reached an agreement over the transfer of Carlos Tevez, according to reports in France.

Tevez has been strongly linked with a move to Italy after Inter Milan tabled a £20.7m bid for his signature on Monday.

But PSG appear to have blown Inter out of the water with their offer for the wantaway Argentina striker.

French agency Agence France Presse claims they have agreed a deal with the Premier League leaders worth an initial €29million, with a further €8million in add-ons.

PSG's Qatari Owners are determined to make the club one of the biggest in Europe and now hope they can persuade the player to join them.

Carlo Ancelotti recently took over the French club and will be hoping that he can build his side around Tevez.

The 27-year-old is desperate to get his career back on track after falling out with Roberto Mancini and could secure his move in the next few days.

Man City deny deal agreed with PSG for Tevez

Manchester City insist they have not reached an agreement with PSG over the transfer of Carlos Tevez.

Reports in France claimed City had accepted an offer from the mega-rich Parisian side worth an initial €29million.

PSG, now managed by former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, were said to have turned their attention to Tevez after failing to land Alexandre Pato from AC Milan.

City, however, have now dismissed the speculation, claiming they have had no contact with the French side over the 27-year-old.

"It's just not true," a City spokesman said. "Manchester City have not received a bid for Carlos Tevez from Paris Saint Germain."

Newcastle close in on shock move for Freiburg striker

Newcastle are reportedly closing in on a shock swoop for Freiburg striker Papiss Demba Cisse.

The Magpies have been linked with a move for a new forward throughout January, and it is understood they

have agreed an undisclosed fee for the Senegal international and that he is currently on Tyneside with a view to tying up the transfer.

Cisse, 26, has previously been linked with Arsenal, Blackburn and Fulham.

If he completes his move to the north-east he will join international team-mate Demba Ba, who left for the African Cup of Nations having scored 15 goals to date this season, at the club.

Newcastle complete signing of Papiss Demba Cisse

Newcastle have completed the signing of Papiss Demba Cisse from Freiburg.

The Premier League club confirmed the 26-year-old Senegalese striker has put pen to paper on a five-and-a-half-year deal for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £10m

Cisse, who is an international teammate of Magpies’ top scorer Demba Ba, will wear the famous number nine shirt on Tyneside.

And although he is currently away on international duty at the African Nations Cup, he is excited to get started with his new club.

"I would like to thank everybody for their welcome, and for inviting me to sign for the club," he told Newcastle's official website.

"It is an honour to play for such a big club and I am looking forward to it. I want to pay back the confidence the club have shown in me, and give the supporters something to be proud of.

"I am aware of the huge importance of the number nine shirt, and when I spoke with the manager he made it very clear how important this shirt is. I will treat it with the respect and I hope to do my very best in this shirt."

Tevez camp to open talks with PSG

Carlos Tevez’s representatives are set for talks with Paris St Germain.

It was reported that talks had begun with the French side earlier in the week, rumours that were immediately refuted by the Argentine’s advisors.

But as one of the longest running transfer sagas in history continues to drag on, it has now been revealed that negotiations with the Qatari-backed Ligue I side will begin on Thursday.

Manchester City turned down an initial offer of £21.7million from Inter Milan at the start of the week, but it is thought PSG will be prepared to match the £25m asking price.

New manager Carlo Ancelotti has spoken of his regard for Tevez and he is keen to sign a world-class striker as he prepares for the second half of the season.

Valencia star quashes rumours of a move to Man United

Manchester United target Jordi Alba has pledged his long-term future to Valencia amid interest from the Premier League champions and Barcelona.

The left-back is one of the hottest properties in Europe and has three seasons of European football under his belt at just 22.

The Spain international has played in 14 of his side's La Liga games this season, helping them to third in the table, and scored his only goal of the campaign so far against Real Zaragoza in October.

"Some people like me, maybe, but there has never been a firm proposal and I do not want to get into anything. It is irrelevant," Alba said, speaking to Radio Valencia.

"I've always said I'm very comfortable here, my intention is to continue for many years and I have never said anything different.

"I've always told the truth. The issue does not bother me but I always answer the same way. People can think what they want, I'm comfortable here.

"I want to renew my contract and that says it all. Everything else is hearsay. I have a contract until 2013 and we'll see how it ends."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Villas-Boas: No deal agreed with QPR for Alex

Andre Villas-Boas says Chelsea and QPR have yet to agree a price for Alex.

The central defender has been given permission to speak to QPR regarding a move to Loftus Road, with new manager Mark Hughes keen on adding him to his defence.

A move for Nedum Onuoha is also in the pipeline but Hughes and QPR need to sort out the Alex situation first.

The Brazilian is discussing terms with QPR but Villas-Boas claims Chelsea have yet to receive a bid they deem acceptable.

"Alex has been authorised to have talks with QPR but there is no agreement between the clubs," the Chelsea manager said.

"We are speaking about a Brazil international of great value. He had a transfer request accepted but it's always difficult to sell a player of this dimension for a price we don't see fair."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Boxer Ryan Rhodes’ girls fight for dance title - Sky1 TV, Sunday, 6pm

SHEFFIELD boxing superstar Ryan Rhodes is hoping for a double knock-out this weekend - from his two daughters, Lissie and Ellie.

They are out to prove they are dancing champions after their troupes qualified for the televised heats of Got to Dance, on Sky1 and Sky1 HD, on Sunday, January 15, at 6pm.

Davina McCall again hosts the TV dance talent show that will push contestants to their limits as they strive to win £250,000.

Ecclesfield sisters Ellie, aged 13, and Lissie, nine, both attend Rotherham’s Nikki Lynam School Of Performing Arts which has three dance acts in Sunday’s show.

Extreme, a street dance crew, features Ellie, while Lissie is in The Future. The school’s other troupe is Project X.

If any of them win, the plan is to spend the prize momey on a new air conditioning system for the dance school.

Judges short-listed around 4,000 acts down to 250, but must now whittle them down to a final 30, to compete across five live semi-final shows next month.

The public will then vote for the eight finalists who will fight for the coveted crown in front of a 6,000-strong audience at Kensington Olympia. It will be available to view on Sky 3D.

Ice, Rotherham’s former Britain’s Got Talent dance troupe semi finalists, also came from the same performing arts school in Doncaster Gate Road.

Father-of-two Ryan, who fights Sergey Rabchenko on a Hatton Promotions bill for the vacant European light-middleweight title at Ponds Forge Arena, Sheffield, on Saturday, March 24, said:”We’re so proud of our daughters and all the other dancers, who are putting the dance school and our region on the map.

“We want everyone to watch, to find out how they get on this Sunday night. If they get through to the semi-finals we will then be wanting people to vote.”

Davina said: “Last year’s show unearthed some of the most amazing and unique dancing talent in the country and now it’s back for a third series, to discover the country’s most talented dance floor divas, by scouring the nation for Britain’s best crews, troupes and solo dancers of all styles and ages.

“I am literally beside myself with excitement at the return of our third series.

“This year, the talent who have appeared in front of the judges have been of a world class level – from experimental hip hop, to pole dancing and Irish dancers.”

Motorists warned of disruption at 20 roadworks sites

MOTORISTS face disruption at more than 20 locations due to roadworks around Sheffield over the next few days.

Moonshine Lane, Southey, has temporary signals daily until Monday, and there are also temporary lights on Station Road, Holbrook, from 7pm today until Monday.

On Sunday, there will be temporary signals at Bellhouse Road in Shiregreen, Bernard Road on the edge of the city centre, East Bank Road in Arbourthorne, Hollinsend Road in Gleadless, Chesterfield Road in Woodseats and Northumberland Road, Crookesmoor.

The same day, the inner ring road at Shalesmoor has a lane closure and there are also lane closures on Prince of Wales Road, Manor.

Shepcote Lane is temporarily one-way south west bound between Greenland Road and Europa Link with a lane closure on the south west bound carriageway for resurfacing works, from 6.30pm tomorrow to 3.30pm on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, Sicey Avenue, Shiregreen, is closed from North Quadrant to Stubbin Lane.

Bochum Parkway, Norton, has a lane closure on Monday morning. On Monday and Tuesday, Studfield Road, Wisewood, is temporarily closed. Temporary signals operate on Station Road, Mosborough, from Monday to Wednesday. High Street, Mosborough, has temporary lights from Monday to January 31.

From Monday to Friday, there are lane closures on the roundabouts at junction 34 of the M1 for traffic light works, while Robin Lane, Beighton, has temporary lights on Tuesday daytime, and there are temporary signals on Redmires Road, Lodge Moor, from Tuesday for seven days.

Studfield Road and Studfield Crescent, Wisewood, are closed on Wednesday for construction of a raised junction and Herries Road, Southey, has temporary signals on Thursday after 7pm.

Olympic torch chance for pupil

STAFF at a Sheffield school are on the hunt for a bright spark who could be chosen to carry the Olympic torch as it passes through South Yorkshire.

High Storrs School has been asked to select a pupil who will be considered for the prestigious task by the torch relay organisers.

The selection process has now started – but only youngsters who are 12 this summer can qualify.

The teacher in charge, Julia Mackenzie, said the successful candidate would represent the Olympic values of ‘friendship, excellence and respect’.

“Carrying the Olympic torch will be such an honour for the young person selected. High Storrs School is delighted to be associated with such an important event during the Olympic Games,” she added.

Free games for youngsters

FREE computer games sessions have been organised by police to keep children entertained and out of trouble over the winter months.

Officers from Glapwell safer neighbourhood team have set up free gaming evenings to be held in Glapwell and Doe Lea on alternate weeks, where games consoles including a Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii will be available to play.

The sessions will be held every Wednesday, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, starting in Glapwell next week and Doe Lea the week after.

They will be held in Glapwell Community Centre and the Doe Lea Centre.

PC Tony Bagshaw said: “The sessions always prove popular with youngsters as it gives them something interesting to do and a chance to socialise in a safe environment.

The sessions are free and open to anyone under 18.

Free soccer class for kids

FREE football training is on offer to 50 youngsters at a South Yorkshire college.

The classes at Dearne Valley College in Wath will consist of games, ball control, passing and dribbling, shooting and turning techniques.

They are open to girls and boys aged eight to 13 and the first session kicks off on January 24 with an appearance from Barnsley player Bobby Hassell.

There are 50 free places available on a first come, first served basis and the session will last from 4.30pm until 6pm.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Sports News: 'Jackpot' Lewis wins thriller

Reigning world champion Adrian Lewis secured a quite remarkable come-from-behind World Championship semi-final win over James Wade amid farcical scenes at Alexandra Palace.

Lewis won 10 legs in a row to come from 5-1 down to beat Wade 6-5 and book a final meeting with Andy Hamilton, but it had looked for such a long time that it would be his opponent that would be going through.

Wade, known as 'The Machine', had a dart to win the match in the eighth set but broke down, allowing 'Jackpot' Lewis in to checkout on 98, and the Stoke thrower did not lose a leg after that, whitewashing Wade in the final three sets.

As a backdrop to the drama on stage, there was the sideshow of the players leaving the arena for a 20-minute period early in the game, with both complaining about a breeze.

Wade was 2-0 up at the time and, with Lewis clearly angry at both the conditions and the now customary abuse he was taking from the crowd, he could have been forgiven for attempting to carry on. He did not, though, and ultimately paid the price as he melted down to allow Lewis in.

"That was the best win of my career, definitely," Lewis told Sky Sports 1. "Fair play to James, he could have won that 6-0 (had he not gone off). I love him to bits and told him this is the start of a rivalry.

"But that shows why I am world champion."

On his escape from defeat, when Wade slipped wide of double 18, Lewis added: "He had one dart in his hand, he missed double 18 and I knew it was do or die.

"That shows why I am the champion. There's no reason why I will not retain my title. I am the best in the world."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sports News: Ablett loses cancer battle

Former Liverpool and Everton defender Gary Ablett has died at the age of 46 after a long battle against cancer, the League Managers Association said.

Ablett, who had a season as Stockport manager in 2009-10, lost his 16-month fight against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on Sunday night.

"On behalf of Gary Ablett's family the LMA has today confirmed that Gary passed away peacefully last night following a hard fought 16-month battle against non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," said an LMA statement. "Respected throughout the game by players, coaches and managers alike Gary will be sadly missed."

The statement continued: "The LMA's thoughts and condolences are with Gary's wife Jacqueline and children."

Ablett was a Liverpool apprentice before making his debut for the club in 1986 during current boss Kenny Dalglish's first spell in charge.

Having won two league titles and an FA Cup at Anfield he made the switch across Stanley Park to Goodison and became the first player to win the FA Cup with both Merseyside clubs after the Toffees' Wembley win over Manchester United in 1995.

He also played for Birmingham, Wycombe, Blackpool and the American club Long Island Rough Riders before retiring from playing.

His early coaching career saw him start in the Everton youth set-up before replacing Paco Herrera as the coach of Liverpool reserves, where he won both the Premier Reserve League North and also the national title in 2008.

Ablett left Liverpool a year later and was appointed Stockport manager at a difficult time for the club - they were in administration - and left after a change of ownership.

Ablett took up a coaching role with Ipswich in July 2010 but was taken ill while at the club's training ground and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Sports News: AVB: No need for sweeping changes

Andre Villas-Boas insisted there was no need for Chelsea to press the panic button, despite watching his side's season hit a new low with a shock home defeat to Aston Villa.

Saturday's 3-1 Barclays Premier League loss at Stamford Bridge piled the pressure on manager Villas-Boas, with the Blues going into Monday's trip to Wolves outside the top four. It is the first time in a decade Chelsea have been so low in the table at the turn of the year, putting Villas-Boas' project under more scrutiny than ever.

"I don't think so," said Villas-Boas when asked if his defence needed more protection.

The Blues boss was similarly dismissive of the urgency of reaching an agreement with Gary Cahill that would see the Bolton defender become his first January signing.

"If there is something to correct, we need to regain that confidence in the way we build up from the back," he said. "It's an easy thing to solve with players of this technical ability. With Gary, it's an ongoing situation."

Despite Villas-Boas' protestations, Chelsea's defensive statistics do not make for good reading. The 16 goals they have shipped at home is already more than they conceded during an entire season for 10 years. They have managed only one clean clean sheet at Stamford Bridge in the league.

More importantly, they have lost three times in front of their own fans already, having been beaten on only five occasions at home during the previous seven seasons. It is this which heralded the boos for Villas-Boas and his players at the final whistle on Saturday.

The Portuguese said: "We want to repay the fans their trust. They've been magnificent in December.

"The fans have a right to show their disappointment. Their away support has been magnificent. Their home support is improving. They know they can make a difference and we need them. There is no running away with excuses.

"What we regret more is that, from the last four games, we've lost a big opportunity to shorten the distance to the leaders. Massive opportunities lost. We would have been running for the title if we'd had a better December."

Sports News: Award for Redgrave

Five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave will receive the lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Thursday night.

Already established as the most outstanding rower of all time after his victory in Atlanta in 1996, Redgrave announced the following year that he would carry on competing through to the Games in Sydney in 2000, where he won a fifth consecutive gold.

Since retiring from competitive sport, his Steve Redgrave Fund has raised more than £6million for charity, and he played a key role in helping London win the bid to host the Olympics in 2012.

Sports News: Baltacha progresses in Auckland

Elena Baltacha began 2012 in positive fashion with a 6-2 4-6 6-3 win over New Zealand's Sacha Jones in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland.

The British number one battled tough conditions to overcome the 21-year-old wildcard and set up a second-round tie with fourth seed Flavia Pennetta, who defeated Romania's Sorana Cirstea 6-4 7-6 (7/5).

She said: "First matches are always tricky, especially when you haven't played a match in a long while, so it's a good one to get through. It was very windy out there and she had a lot of support so I'm pleased to get the win and get a good start to 2012."

She added: "Pennetta will be tough but I always enjoy matches against the top players. We had a good match in Indian Wells last year when I played really well against her so that will give me a lot of confidence going in."

Anne Keothavong failed to make it through to the main draw as she lost in the final qualifying round, 6-1 6-4 against Jamie Hampton of the United States.

Italy's Sara Errani, also made it through to the second round with a comprehensive 6-1 6-1 win over Sweden's Johanna Larsson, while there were also victories for Christina McHale of the United States and the Czech Republic's Lucie Hradecka.

Sports News: Bath back on track

Bath claimed their first Aviva Premiership victory for two months after they battered title play-off contenders London Irish 30-3 at a sodden Recreation Ground.

Bath had not won in the league since they edged past Irish 13-12 on October 29, and a fifth successive reversal would have signalled their worst Premiership results sequence for 10 years. But an early try by prop Anthony Perenise set the tone for an impressive heavy-duty performance from the Bath pack that saw Irish outmuscled.

Fly-half Stephen Donald added a conversion and two penalties to put daylight between the teams, before Michael Claassens sealed victory by finishing off a brilliant 80-metre counter-attack. Bath were awarded a penalty try four minutes from time as Donald finished with 15 points. Exiles managed a solitary Tom Homer penalty in reply.

Sports News: Cockerill: Job done

Coach Richard Cockerill hailed Leicester's hard-fought 28-23 win over spirited Sale as "job done" as they moved into the top four of the Premiership for the first time this season.

Leicester led 17-0 after 20 minutes, through a penalty try and a Geordan Murphy score, but they allowed the visitors back into the match and an upset was a real possibility after Fraser McKenzie and Rob Miller had crossed for Sharks at Welford Road.

Cockerill said afterwards: "We were under the cosh, it's a game we could have easily lost but you can see how much it meant to them by the jubilant reaction on the final whistle at securing a bonus point."

He added: "We would have liked to have got a bonus point but it's a job done, nine points in two league matches over the holiday period with a quick turnaround and seven changes to our side."

Sale's performance was admirable considering they lost two players through illness before kick-off and two more during the match.

David Seymour was helped off after a clash of heads within two minutes of the start with team-mate Henry Thomas, who later suffered a leg injury.

Coach Tony Hanks said: "The boys managed so well to deal with two late drop-outs and two early injuries. It will do a lot for their confidence.

"We kept at it and we never gave up, we just ran out of time but we definitely deserved something out of the game."

On the injury victims, he added: "Dave Seymour looked very bad when he came off but he seems okay now. I'm disappointed for the lad as he is the form number seven at the moment and could have displayed his talents on TV.

"Henry Thomas is on crutches, he turned a knee but hopefully it is not as bad as first feared."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sports News: Disaster defeat stuns Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson has branded Manchester United's stunning 3-2 home defeat to Blackburn this afternoon as "a disaster".

United fell two behind to a couple of Ayegbeni Yakubu efforts either side of the interval but quickly replied through Dimitar Berbatov, whose brace took his tally to five in two games. However, Blackburn broke and when David de Gea failed to collect a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner 10 minutes from time, Grant Hanley nodded the winner from close range.

"It is a disaster," said Ferguson, whose side failed in their quest to mark his 70th birthday by claiming top spot in the Barclays Premier League.

"I never expected it. We lost two terrible goals and you can't do that."

After successive clean sheets from Anders Lindegaard, questions will now be asked over De Gea, who appeared to have recovered from his early season worries to reaffirm his status as United's number one.

The Spain Under-21 star's culpability for Blackburn's winner seemed obvious, although Ferguson refused to apportion blame.

"We all could have done better," he said, when asked about De Gea. "It was a bad goal to lose."

For Blackburn boss Steve Kean it represented a stunning change in fortunes less than two weeks after it appeared certain he would be sacked after a terrible home defeat to Bolton.

"To come to a place like this and get a result is up there with our best wins," he said.

"As soon as it went to 2-1, we were thinking it was going to be tough. And at 2-2, it would have been a good point."

Sports News: Flintoff reveals England strain

Andrew Flintoff has revealed the emptiness he felt as captain of the England cricket team after losing the Ashes five years ago.

In an upcoming BBC programme entitled Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side Of Sport, the 34-year-old will investigate the mental health problems suffered by top sportsmen. Flintoff talks about his own struggles during England's tour of Australia in 2006/7, when the tourists suffered an Ashes whitewash and had lost the urn before Christmas.

Quoted on the Daily Mail website, Flintoff said: "I was having a quiet drink with my dad Colin on Christmas Eve 2006 and as we made our way home I started crying my eyes out. I told him I'd tried my best but I couldn't do it any more, I couldn't keep playing. We talked and, of course, I dusted myself down and carried on. But I was never the same player."

In further extracts from the programme, Flintoff said: "I was captain of England and financially successful. Yet instead of walking out confidently to face Australia in one of the world's biggest sporting events, I didn't want to get out of bed, never mind face people."

Flintoff also talked about his problems with alcohol at the 2007 World Cup, during which time he lost the England vice-captaincy because of the infamous incident in which he took a late night trip in the Caribbean Sea in a pedalo.

He said: "The whole time I was on the field and throughout that World Cup all I could think about was that I wanted to retire.

"I didn't understand what was happening to me. I knew when I got back to my room I couldn't shut off, which is why I started having a drink. It got to the stage where I was probably drinking more than I should."

He continued: "All I wanted was for the doctor to tell me what was wrong but no one suggested it was depression."

The careers of a number of high-profile cricketers have been affected by depression in recent years, including England internationals Marcus Trescothick, Michael Yardy and Matthew Hoggard.

Sports News: Flintoff talks of troubles

Former England captain Andrew Flintoff has revealed how feelings of depression left him "at an all-time low" during the 2006/07 Ashes series in Australia.

In an upcoming BBC programme entitled Freddie Flintoff: Hidden Side Of Sport, the 34-year-old will investigate the mental health problems suffered by top sportsmen. Flintoff talks about his own struggles during the whitewash Down Under, when the urn won in 2005 was given up before Christmas.

"On the 2006/07 Ashes trip, I was probably at an all-time low both personally and professionally," Flintoff reveals in the programme. "It was hard for me to speak about it to people, even in the dressing room. I was supposed to be this character who was unflappable."

He added: "I was having a drink with my dad on Christmas Eve 2006 and as we made our way home I started crying my eyes out. I told him I'd tried my best but that I couldn't do it any more, I couldn't keep playing. We talked and I dusted myself down and carried on. But I was never the same player again.

"I was captain of England and financially successful. Yet instead of walking out confidently to face Australia in one of the world's biggest sporting events, I didn't want to get out of bed, never mind face people."

Flintoff also talked about his problems with alcohol at the 2007 World Cup, during which time he lost the England vice-captaincy because of the infamous incident in which he took a late night trip in the Caribbean Sea in a pedalo.

He said: "The whole time I was on the field and throughout that World Cup all I could think about was that I wanted to retire.

"I didn't understand what was happening to me. I knew when I got back to my room I couldn't shut off, which is why I started having a drink. It got to the stage where I was probably drinking more than I should.

"I didn't read any of the press (about the pedalo incident) and I'm glad, because I was feeling so low that if I'd read that at the time it might have tipped me over the edge.

"One of the things that stuck out was the disappointment people had in me, the feeling I'd let people down. That doesn't just mean my team-mates and my coach - your family are reading that, my mum's read it, my nan's read it. (It's) a feeling of embarrassment and shame."

Sports News: Hamilton fightback earns final spot

Andy Hamilton won a thrilling first semi-final against Simon Whitlock to reach the Ladbrokes.com World Championship final.

Hamilton started well but looked to be on his way out of the tournament when he trailed 5-3 in the best-of-11-sets match.

He dug deep, though, and took the match the full distance before battling his way over the line.

Hamilton took the first set in routine fashion with the throw and then produced the match's first 180, dropping his third dart on the floor but refocusing successfully to hit the third treble.

Whitlock missed darts at double top and double 10 and Hamilton was within a whisker of finishing 124 to take the second set, but his final dart narrowly missed the bull and a relieved Whitlock took the leg and the set at the fifth time of asking.

Hamilton took a high-class third leg of the third set and added the next to move 2-1 ahead, and the next two sets were shared.

Hamilton took a 2-0 lead against the throw in the sixth but Whitlock responded well to take the set 3-2 and level the match. That sparked a surge from the Australian, who extended his winning run to nine legs as he took the next two sets 3-0 to move within a set of victory at 5-3.

Hamilton's head had dropped and, needing treble 17 to set up a shot for the next leg, he hit two. Whitlock missed double 10, though, allowing the Stoke thrower to finally get on the scoreboard again. And it proved pivotal as he went on to take the set and took a tense third leg en route to winning the 10th to level at 5-5.

Whitlock trailed 2-1 in the final set but held his nerve for a 68 finish to take the match to 5-5, 2-2 - meaning a two-leg winning margin was needed to finish the match. Hamilton went 3-2 ahead and, though Whitlock responded with an immediate 180, Hamilton took the upper hand and an 82 finish took him into the final.

Hamilton told Sky Sports: "I'm quite emotional, I'm speechless. Simon pushed me so hard, I had to take those checkouts out to win the game. He's an awesome player - and with a broken foot as well! There's one game left now and if I grit my teeth and fight, I could win it."

Sports News: Ji shock for City

Sunderland substitute Ji Dong-won blew the Barclays Premier League title race wide open once again with a last-gasp goal to earn a 1-0 win against leaders Manchester City.

The South Korea international struck in the fourth minute of injury time to condemn City to defeat after the injury-hit Black Cats had staged a determined rearguard action.

Edin Dzeko and substitute Micah Richards had earlier both hit the bar and Sergio Aguero was denied by keeper Simon Mignolet, but Sunderland duo Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon had passed up glorious opportunities at the other end.

Sports News: Kean warning to returning Rovers

Blackburn boss Steve Kean has warned his returning stars not to expect they will immediately stroll back into his line-up for today's Premier League clash with Stoke.

Rovers head into the fixture on the back of an impressive draw at Liverpool and a stunning triumph against Manchester United. It is a remarkable return considering the fixture before had seen Kean condemned to fearful abuse from his own fans during a home defeat to Bolton, and even more surprising because Blackburn had 10 men missing due to injury.

Gael Givet, David Dunn and Junior Hoilett are amongst those fit again and normally, the trio would be automatic members of Kean's side, but Kean said: "Sometimes you get thrown in and you have to deliver. Now we have the added advantage of having players back for the next game but it is going to be hard for them to get back into the side."

One player certain of his place is striker Ayegbeni Yakubu, whose brace against United took his overall tally for the season to 13.

All but one of that haul has come in Premier League combat, meaning Yakubu is just five adrift of Golden Boot favourite Robin van Persie.

Van Persie's importance to the Gunners cannot be understated. But the same is also true of Yakubu, a bargain £1.5million arrival from Everton on transfer deadline day.

"It is fairly obvious," said Kean. "When you see the amount of goals he has got now, we are desperate to keep him fit.

"We look after him. He is in as good a physical condition as he has been in his career and we manage him during the week.

"There are times when we need to give him an extra recovery day because of the amount of mileage he is doing. We don't ask him to run to the channels. We just ask him to play the width of the box.

"We know if we can give him good service, he can get himself some goals."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sports News: Late show delights Lambert

Paul Lambert hailed his "relentless" Norwich team after Simeon Jackson came off the bench to grab a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser and secure a 1-1 draw against Fulham at Carrow Road.

Portugal forward Orlando Sa had netted after just six minutes to put the visitors on course for a rare away win. Norwich, though, continued to press and deep into five minutes of stoppage time, Canada striker Jackson nodded in Elliott Bennett's right wing cross.

"I thought it was no more than we deserved, especially in the second half, when we were relentless at times," the Norwich manager said.

"We played in fits and starts in the first half against a really good side, people underestimate Fulham, but in the second half we were very good. The crowd were a bit flat and expecting us just to win, which I think is wrong, the lads have given everything and the players need the crowd to help them along.

"In the second half, the lads dragged it up by themselves and were excellent. The crowd have to realise we have to manage the expectancy level. The early goal put us on the back foot, but the lads keep going, have got a great desire and it is all credit to them, because their effort was extraordinary."

Lambert revealed he would like to make full-back Kyle Naughton's loan move from Tottenham permanent if possible.

He said: "With the way he has played, we would like it to happen. Hopefully it will be tied up and I will probably speak to [Spurs] manager Harry [Redknapp] really soon."

Fulham boss Martin Jol was disappointed his team could not close the match out during five minutes of stoppage time.

"We were sitting a bit deep and could not get out of our half any more, but we had defended well, and you always hope to keep it like that," Jol said.

"In the first half, we were the better team, but we could have scored the second goal, which is disappointing. You always know they are capable with their style of getting a goal."

Sports News: Lendl and Murray 'best match-up'

Ivan Lendl knows what it takes to move a player's game to the next level and he believes he can help Andy Murray do it.

The career of Lendl, who was named as the British number one's new coach on New Year's Eve, showed certain parallels to that of Murray as the 51-year-old lost his first four grand slam finals. Murray, 24, has lost three but Lendl, who went on to claim eight grand slam titles, believes the Scot can make the same step up as he did under coach Tony Roche.

"To me this is like Groundhog Day, I have been in this movie," Lendl told The Times. "I was that player once, who needed something to help make it work, it was the same as I was before I hired Rochey. What happened then changed my career around."

He continued: "What excites me about this partnership? More than anything, it is simply that this is absolutely the best match-up.

"Our senses of humour are very similar and we have an understanding that we need to bring our best all the time if we want to achieve.

"I didn't get everything I wanted from tennis, not everyone does, but it is about not wasting chances.

"It does not mean that it will work as we want it, but I believe it will."

Murray makes his 2012 bow in the Brisbane International against Mikhail Kukushkin on Tuesday, with Lendl set to arrive in Queensland later in the week.

The first grand slam of the year, the Australian Open, begins on January 16.

Sports News: Lendl honesty appealed to Murray

Andy Murray believes Ivan Lendl will tell it like it is as the British number one looks to break his grand slam duck.

The 51-year-old, a former world number one and eight-time grand slam winner, has been named as Murray's new coach as he cranks up his preparations for the first major of the year, the Australian Open, which begins on January 16.

Murray, 24, told www.atptour.com: "When he played he was a very hard-worker. He is also one of the most successful tennis players ever, so he obviously has a lot of knowledge and information that he can give me and pass on to me. And he was just a very honest guy as well, which is very important because not everybody is like that."

He added: "A lot of people are maybe too nice sometimes, they just don't want to upset you or say the wrong thing. But he was very honest, very open and that was important."

Murray has been criticised in the past for failing to challenge himself in his choice of coaches, while his relationship with Brad Gilbert, his highest-profile appointment to date, was not always an easy one.

But in Czechoslovakia-born Lendl, who lost his first four grand slam finals - Murray has lost three - the Scot feels he has found someone with the right experience to help take his game forward.

"I liked what he said and how he felt about my game," Murray said. "I think he has obviously got a lot of experience.

"I also think he has been through a lot of the same things that I have been through, so I am sure he can help me mentally with certain things."

Murray makes his 2012 bow in the Brisbane International against Mikhail Kukushkin on Tuesday.

Sports News: McCarthy delighted with arrivals

Wolves boss Mick McCarthy believes new loan signing Emmanuel Frimpong will prove a very valuable addition to his squad.

The energetic midfielder completed his move from Arsenal on Saturday on a deal until the end of the season and could make his debut in Monday's Barclays Premier League clash with Chelsea at Molineux.

Wolves will also have another new face in the squad, with Iceland international Eggert Jonsson, who can play in midfield or defence, available for the first time after agreeing a permanent move from Hearts last month. McCarthy told www.wolves.co.uk: "We'll be continuing to try and get players in but I'm delighted with the business we have done so far."

He added: "Eggert is an international who has played a lot of games and has more improvement in him and Manny Frimpong is a really great signing for us.

"He's a terrific young player and an exciting prospect. He is an all-action, tough-tackling midfield player who can get about and pass it. I watched him against Manchester City and he got box to box and his career is blossoming.

"He should be a fabulous signing for us. It's good to get people in here for the first games because if you wait until the end of January it's another four or five games gone."

Frimpong is confident his playing style, which saw him earn a red card on only his second appearance in the Barclays Premier League against Liverpool in August, will see him fit in well to a Wolves team fighting to stay out of the bottom three.

The 19-year-old said: "It's an opportunity for me to get more games. I'm just coming here to add more quality to the team, hopefully, and I can't wait to get started.

"I'm just happy to be here and excited about my new challenge. I'm a player that likes to fight, that likes to do everything for the team to win.

"I've played quite a few games already this season so it's been a quick step up for me and I've learned a lot during the season and hopefully I can bring something different to the squad here."

Sports News: Moyes welcomes Anichebe return

David Moyes hailed the contribution of Everton match-winner Victor Anichebe, who put a four-month injury nightmare behind him to score the only goal in the win over West Brom at the Hawthorns.

Anichebe suffered a groin injury when on international duty with Nigeria in September and then an ankle setback with the Toffees. But he marked his return by coming off the substitutes' bench to net an 87th-minute decider against Roy Hodgson's side.

Everton manager Moyes said: "It was a serious injury. Victor has had no games. Then he had an ankle injury when he came back in training. He is someone we have missed because we can play him in several roles and he is someone who has got a lot of potential if we get the opportunity to unwrap it."

He added: "He is a good all-round forward player, he can play wide, he can play through the middle and has a lot of real good attributes which are important in the Premier League. He has missed a lot of football. At times he lacks a bit of self-confidence but the goal today and the reaction of the supporters will help him."

Moyes admitted he would have been content with a point from a game of few chances before Anichebe found the target.

He said: "The game overall was a draw. I didn't think there were many chances for either of the teams. We tried to make it difficult for West Brom like they make it difficult for teams. It was a bit of a stalemate at times. I don't think you'll buy the DVD of the game!

"But at the end of the day, this has been a hard place for us. We've not won here for a while and the victory gives us a chance to look forward. You need to grind out results and over the years at Everton we've needed to do that at times."

West Brom head coach Roy Hodgson wants to bring in new quality signings but is uncertain whether he will be given the financial backing.

Hodgson, whose current contract runs out this summer, said: "If we are going to have a good season, we need some help. Whether there are players out there who can help is another matter. I'd like to think we have got to the stage where the type of players that would help us would cost money and demand high wages.

"I'm not certain at the moment that is the way we are looking to go forward. I'm not interested in bringing bodies or extra names into the club unless I am sure they are better than what we have got."

Sports News: QPR swoop for Macheda

Manchester United striker Federico Macheda has joined QPR on loan until the end of the season, the London club have announced.

The 20-year-old becomes Neil Warnock's first signing of the January transfer window and will wear the number 33 shirt at Loftus Road. Macheda spent a similar stint with Sampdoria in Serie A last season and hopes to gain valuable first-team experience during his time in west London.

"There is a lot of competition at Manchester United, there are some very good strikers there," Macheda told www.qpr.co.uk. "But I am still young and I need to get more experience in the Premier League. I am here to train hard firstly and then I hope to play a big part in the games."

Macheda is eligible for today's vital Barclays Premier League encounter with Norwich and is looking forward to playing with his new team-mates.

"I was attracted by the challenge and by the players that QPR brought in during the summer," he said. "There are some very big players at the club now and I am really looking forward to training and playing with them.

"I also know the fans are very, very passionate, and this interested me also."

Macheda revealed Rio Ferdinand - brother of Rs defender Anton - advised him to link up with Warnock's side.

"I spoke with Rio and he told me that QPR is a very good club and that if I did come here it would be good for me and would help me to develop as a player," he said. "I am looking forward to this challenge. Now I want to work hard for the team and for the fans."

The former Lazio striker came to the public's attention when he scored an injury-time winner on his Manchester United debut against Aston Villa in April 2009.

Macheda scored a further four goals for United but his first-team chances have been limited, which QPR manager Warnock believes makes the loan deal a "great opportunity for both parties".

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sports News: Quins chief hails Clegg 'bottle'

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea praised Rory Clegg's "bottle" after the fly-half landed a late penalty to earn an 11-9 Aviva Premiership win at Exeter Chiefs.

The England Saxon, who had missed 14 points with the boot during the game, got the Premiership leaders back to winning ways with a late 30-metre kick from out wide.

O'Shea said: "Rory Clegg showed incredible bottle and you have to separate things with a fly-half - his general play bar one or two touch kicks, the way that he marshalled the team and got a pattern going was magnificent."

He added: "He is an 80%-plus goal kicker - he wasn't today, you have those days. His fault will be that he took on two early kicks into a diagonal breeze which he probably shouldn't have but he showed incredible bottle to land a really difficult kick."

Quins had a narrow 8-6 interval lead thanks to a try from scrum-half Danny Care, after he took a quick tap penalty, and a penalty on the stroke of half-time from Clegg, with the Chiefs replying through two penalties from fly-half Ignacio Mieres.

The scores remained unchanged until six minutes from time when replacement fly-half Gareth Steenson looked to have sealed the game for the Chiefs with a 40-metre penalty.

Clegg soaked up the pressure and coolly slotted his crucial kick between the uprights but Exeter kept battling away and Steenson could have snatched victory, only for his 30-metre drop-goal attempt to sail wide.

O'Shea said: "Four days after our last game, I thought we played with incredible ambition, some good line breaks and off-loading, and I thought that we should have won the game quite comfortably.

"But they stayed in the game and we knew they would looking at their record of coming back in the second half - look what they did against Sale and the Dragons - but I thought we played some magnificent rugby.

"But I credit the guys; to give away a penalty to put them into the lead with six minutes to go (and come back), these are the wins. This is a tough place to come; I was not expecting it to be easy and it wasn't."

Sports News: Redknapp rules out January signings

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp admits he is unlikely to dip into the transfer market to keep his side in the race for the Barclays Premier League title.

Third-placed Spurs have lost just once in the league since the end of August, but they passed up a chance to move within four points of the summit, and take advantage of Manchester United's home defeat against Blackburn, after conceding a late equaliser in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Swansea.

"I don't really see us doing anything. I'd be surprised. It's hard to find players, I couldn't say that we have anyone in mind we would want to bring in," said Redknapp.

"It is difficult to see me bringing anybody in really as we have a strong squad. I have Michael Dawson coming back and I have Ledley King so we are not short there.

"The young right-back Kyle Walker has done well, I have an excellent left-back in Benoit Assou-Ekotto and we have cover there with Danny Rose so I am not short anywhere. Tom Huddlestone will come back too so really we are okay, we just need to keep cracking on."

Spurs have been linked with a move for Manchester City's wantaway striker Carlos Tevez, with either a permanent or loan move reportedly on the cards, although AC Milan are favourites to sign the Argentina international. And Redknapp has reiterated that Tevez's wages all but rule Tottenham out of a deal.

"He is a fantastic player but I can't see that I could afford his wages, he is on over £200,000 a week, we don't pay that sort of money, it's way beyond what we can pay," he said.

While Redknapp was disappointed to fail to hang on to the three points at the Liberty Stadium, he remains bullish over their title hopes, particularly after seeing Manchester United and Chelsea suffer damaging home defeats.

"There is a long way to go, it just shows how difficult it is to win football matches," he said. "Who would have thought that Blackburn would win at United or Villa would win at Chelsea, no-one could have seen that.

"You aren't going to win every game and we don't have the divine right to do so. We just have to keep going."

Sports News: Robertson warns of fixing threat

Olympics minister Hugh Robertson has claimed team sports will be an obvious target for anyone attempting to fix an event at the London 2012 Games.

Robertson believes the minutiae of competition is where betting scams are most likely to occur, given the growth in spread betting. Gamblers can now stake money on the smallest detail in an event rather than the overall outcome, making illegal acts of fixing potentially difficult to detect.

"It absolutely is a possibility. The real danger lies in spot-fixing," Robertson told BBC News. "Just consider how easy it is to bet on something like the first short corner in a hockey game - any team sport you can bet on an individual action or occurrence. So you look at the number of team sports that there are in the Olympics and the threat - the real threat - becomes very obvious."

Robertson warned on Sunday that the threat of illegal betting practices and match-fixing to the Olympics is "obvious and enormous".

According to reports, a dedicated police intelligence unit is to be introduced for the London Games, tasked with identifying attempts to fix events.

The unit will reportedly be headed up by the Metropolitan Police and work with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Interpol to track suspicious gambling activity abroad.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have also created a unit to monitor the global betting market for unusually large wagers on particular events or competitors.

When asked how big a problem Games fixing is, Robertson told Sky News: "We don't really know but the threat is obvious and is enormous. If you listen to the president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, he will tell you that this is the single biggest threat facing global sport.

"He's set up a high-level group to tackle it, to look at what causes it, to look at what we might do to educate athletes better and to look at what punishments are necessary to deter athletes from undertaking it.

"I'm part of that group, as are many other sports ministers and representatives from the gambling industry and the international sports federations. But be under no illusion, this is a very real threat, we've seen it in this country with the Pakistan Test cricketers and the scandal at Lord's, and it will be a very real part of the Olympics."

Sports News: Rodgers relieved to get rewards

Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers revealed that he challenged his players not to end up as "heroic losers" at half-time of their 1-1 draw with Barclays Premier League title hopefuls Tottenham at the Liberty Stadium.

Rafael van der Vaart gave in-form Spurs a 44th-minute lead, but Swansea refused to be bowed and an extended period of second-half pressure yielded an equaliser as Scott Sinclair pounced to give the Welsh club the first point they have picked up this season after going behind.

"This will be a really good result for us psychologically. I said to the players at half-time that we don't want to come off the field as heroic losers, to put so much in and end up with nothing to show for it," said Rodgers.

"People would be saying it's alright playing our tippy-tappy football but it's no good if you then lose the game, but it was a fantastic performance.

"It's always good to put on a performance and result against a top team and you can see our growth. When we lost at home against Manchester United we were stand-offish and not ourselves, so you could see we had learned from that."

Spurs arrived in south Wales as arguably the top flight's form side, having lost just once in the league since the end of August, and victory would have seen them capitalise on Manchester United's surprise defeat against Blackburn and close within four points of the league summit.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp was left to rue the "catalogue of errors" that denied his side all three points, but heaped praise on Swansea's attractive passing style.

"It was a sloppy goal," he said. "One or two of them switched off and we didn't pick up Sinclair, we have let him come in unmarked so it was a catalogue of errors, but that's how it goes.

"It was a tight game, they are a good side, I like the way they play. The way they pass is amazing really. The belief Brendan has installed into them to play is top class.

"Anyone coming here and winning will do well, only United have won here and that was a tough game. You are obviously disappointed when you are winning and get pegged back, but the last 20 minutes they came on strong and, in the end, deserved their equaliser."

Sports News: Sarries held by Gloucester

Honours ended even as Saracens and Gloucester drew 15-15 in an Aviva Premiership clash played in shocking weather.

The match at Vicarage Road was never settled until the last goal was kicked by Gloucester's Freddie Burns, who shared the scoring honours with fly-half rival Owen Farrell.

Farrell nudged Saracens 9-6 ahead in the first half, Burns missing a drop-goal attempt just before the interval, and then stretched his side's advantage to six points early in the second. But Burns levelled matters - and repeated the dose three minutes from time after Sarries had again edged ahead in the 67th minute.

Sports News: Sloppy City frustrate Mancini

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has warned his players must not allow themselves to be caught by sucker punches if they are to lift the Barclays Premier League trophy.

The leaders showed were susceptible at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland survived a battering before snatching victory deep into injury time. Substitute Ji Dong-won made the most of a counter-attack as too many men in blue stood and watched, and the chance to establish a gap over rivals Manchester United evaporated.

Asked if that was good enough, Mancini replied: "No, not for a top team. In that situation, we attacked with eight players and the same players who attack need to come back and run quickly."

He added: "I know football and for that reason in the last 15 minutes, I continued to call [central defenders] Vinny [Vincent Kompany] and [Joleon] Lescott to say, 'Stay there, stay there, don't leave the space', because that was dangerous.

"We continued to attack and sometimes we wanted to attack with 10 players. This is impossible. But that's it, it's finished. We have a game in 48 hours and we need to recover now."

There was a suspicion of offside about the goal, although after seeing his side concede a controversial penalty on Boxing Day, Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill was delighted to have received the benefit of the doubt.

O'Neill said: "They tell me it was marginally offside - marginally, marginally - and we ended up winning the game. It's been an incredible weekend for teams and we are delighted with three points."

Mancini, who headed down the tunnel before the final whistle, admitted his side had been made to pay for missed chances.

He said: "It's frustrating because we can't lose a game like today's. In the second half, we had I don't know how many chances to score. But football is this. Sometimes you can't win. Sometimes you score three or four goals in a game, sometimes you can't score even if you have 10 chances to score.

"I am disappointed that we conceded a goal because a strong team cannot concede a goal like this."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sports News: United and Rooney quiet on sanction

Wayne Rooney and Manchester United are at one in their desire not to inflame the striker's disciplinary issues with Sir Alex Ferguson any further.

Press Association Sport understands Ferguson did fine Rooney, and Republic of Ireland international Darron Gibson, and force the pair to train on their day off last week after ill-advised conduct on Boxing Day night.

Neither the club nor the player's representative wished to elaborate on the matter, nor even to confirm Rooney was axed from the 3-2 defeat to Blackburn. And now it has been dealt with, it seems the matter is now closed, realising United need to regain focus on the Barclays Premier League title after being granted a reprieve as Sunderland defeated leaders Manchester City.

It at least provided an upbeat ending to an eventful 70th birthday weekend for Ferguson - who, prior to the Blackburn game, confirmed his intention to remain at Old Trafford for another three years.

He will need Rooney, and to a lesser extent Gibson, on Tyneside against Newcastle as his team look to bounce back from a rudderless performance at the weekend that was condemned by 19-year-old Phil Jones.

"Too slow, too laboured," he said. "Our downfall was coming back too soon. We thought we had won it and we eased off. They punished us. On the manager's birthday as well."

The chances are Ferguson was not as measured in the dressing room afterwards.

Griping at referee Mike Dean over the penalty that allowed Ayegbeni Yakubu to put Blackburn ahead, Ferguson then branded the Nigerian's second and Grant Hanley's winner as "bad goals".

He pointedly avoided any criticism of David de Gea directly but after putting together a string of decent performances, the young keeper's failure to cope with the high ball was a throwback to his shaky early displays.

On Friday, Ferguson said De Gea would be in goal for the matches against Blackburn and Newcastle.

Sports News: Villas-Boas avoids talk over future

Andre Villas-Boas sidestepped fresh talk about his Chelsea future on Saturday after seeing his side crash to a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa and slip out of the Barclays Premier League top four.

Villas-Boas has reportedly been assured his job as manager is safe should he fail to win the title but the Blues are now in danger of not qualifying for the Champions League, something that could test billionaire owner Roman Abramovich's patience to the limit.

Quizzed on what the defeat might mean for his job security, Villas-Boas said: "You'll have to ask that question to the owner, but I have no other information on the contract."

Pressed further on whether a top four finish was a minimum requirement, he replied: "I think the minimum requirement for a club like this is first place."

He added ahead of Monday's game at Wolves: "Now we are fifth, below the top four. But we have to wait and see. It can change within 48 hours, though. That's a good thing. We have a chance to produce something."

Villa manager Alex McLeish hailed the victory as his finest moment since taking charge.

"It's my most satisfying day so far, but I'm hoping there are many more to come," said the former Birmingham boss, who has struggled to win over the Villa fans.

"I'm a guy who perseveres, who gets back up after being knocked down pretty regularly.

"The players can enjoy this tonight - I don't mean going out on the town, but in terms of confidence levels."

He added after what was only Villa's second win in eight games: "The players were outstanding. They never gave up, went to the final whistle."

Sports News: Wenger expecting tough Fulham clash

Arsene Wenger expects another tough match when Arsenal travel to Fulham in the Barclays Premier League today.

The Gunners head into the game fourth in the table after defeating QPR 1-0 on New Year's Eve as Robin van Persie netted the all-important goal that propelled them up to the Champions League spots and above both Chelsea and Liverpool. Wenger now leads his side across London to Fulham and expects a difficult match by the Thames.

"I am expecting a tough game," he said. "You can see that everybody finds a good motivation against Arsenal. Everybody organises well, stops us from playing and that will happen again at Fulham."

He added: "Of course we have three points and will be very focused to get the win there. For us it is always a difficult game at Fulham."

Wenger's task was made all the more difficult by Thomas Vermaelen limping off against QPR.

The Belgium international was forced off in the 54th minute with a calf strain, leaving defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin to fill in at left-back.

Vermaelen's injuries severely weakens Wenger's options with Kieran Gibbs (stomach) and Andre Santos (ankle) both sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Asked whether Vermaelen's injury heightens the need for defensive reinforcements, Wenger said: "Straight after the game I don't know because I need to analyse it all.

"Gibbs is three weeks away but it would be stupid to lose points because we don't have a left-back."

The aforementioned trio all miss the match at Craven Cottage and will be joined on the sidelines by Jack Wilshere, Carl Jenkinson and Bacary Sagna.

Sports News: Wenger: Gunners never lost belief

Arsene Wenger may be pleased Arsenal start 2012 in the top four of the Barclays Premier League but he insists the team never lost their self-belief as they prepare for Monday's game against Fulham.

The Gunners secured a 1-0 victory over fellow London outfit QPR on New Year's Eve with Robin van Persie scoring the all-important goal. The three points propelled Arsenal to fourth in the table, usurping Chelsea and Liverpool in the standings.

Few would have predicted such a rise after their poor start to the campaign and Wenger said: "When we were in a difficult situation I always said 'look, we have to take the critics and focus on performing better and improving'."

He added: "I give credit to my players because we have been 17th or 18th in the league. Nobody focused on that and we improved as a team.

"For me, the spirit in the side got us to where we are today. We still have some room for improvement but there is a good base there because the attitude and the spirit are really great."

An area Wenger may look to strengthen now the transfer window has reopened is at left-back. Kieran Gibbs is not expected to return until the end of January with a stomach injury, while summer signing Andre Santos is expected to be sidelined until March with an ankle complaint.

Arsenal's defensive woes deepened further on Saturday when Thomas Vermaelen was forced off in the 54th minute with a calf strain. Defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin filled the void for the remainder of the game against QPR, but some suggest a new signing could be in the offing.

Out-of-favour Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge has been linked with a loan move, which Wenger has previously refused to rule out

Asked whether Vermaelen's injury heightens the need for defensive reinforcements, Wenger said: "Straight after the game I don't know because I need to analyse it all.

"Gibbs is three weeks away but it would be stupid to lose points because we don't have a left-back."

Sports News: Yakubu form gives Kean hope

Blackburn manager Steve Kean believes the goal threat of veteran striker Ayegbeni Yakubu can help steer his side to Barclays Premier League safety.

Despite being forced to play a lone attacking role for a team that has been battling against relegation for most of the season, the Nigerian has still managed to notch an impressive 13 goals this season, 12 of them in the league. Yakubu added another two during Blackburn's stunning win at Manchester United on Saturday.

"It is fairly obvious. When you see the amount of goals he has got now, we are desperate to keep him fit," said Kean.

"We look after him. He is in as good a physical condition as he has been in his career and we manage him during the week.

"There are times when we need to give him an extra recovery day because of the amount of mileage he is doing.

"We don't ask him to run to the channels. We just ask him to play the width of the box. We know if we can give him good service, he can get himself some goals."

And history suggests that could give Blackburn a valuable edge in their battle for survival. For the clubs who end up sliding into the npower Championship are usually the ones who struggle to score.

"We don't have a problem scoring goals," said Kean.

"We always score. We have scored in every single away game this season.

"The problem we have is the amount of defenders we have injured. We have never had a settled back four and we have still to get a clean sheet."

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