December 14, 2008
Manchester United midfielder Ronaldo and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres have been shortlisted for the Fifa World Player of the Year award.
United and Portugal winger Ronaldo, 23, scored 42 goals for his club last season and collected the European Player of the Year award on Sunday.
Torres scored 33 goals in his debut season for Liverpool and the winner for Spain in the final of Euro 2008.
Kaka of AC Milan and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Xavi are also shortlisted.
Ronaldo finished third in voting last year, while Barcelona’s Messi, who inspired Argentina to Olympic gold, was runner-up to AC Milan playmaker Kaka.
The nominations were made by the coaches and captains of national teams from around the world. The award will be handed out on 12 January at the Zurich Opera House.
December 11, 2008
The Argentine Football Association is to introduce an aerosol spray to stop defenders creeping closer to the ball during a free-kick.
From next year, referees will use the spray in first division matches.
Referees will mark a temporary white line 9.15 metres (10 yards) from the ball, which defenders cannot cross. The spray will disappear 30 seconds later.
Pablo Silva, who invented the spray, got the idea when he failed to score with a free-kick at an amateur match.
“In the 88th minute, we were losing 1-0 and won a free-kick on the edge of the area. When I took the kick, the wall was three metres away,” he told Reuters earlier this year.
“The referee didn’t book anyone and didn’t do anything,” he said.
“We lost the game, and driving home later, with a mixture of anger and bitterness, I thought that we must invent something to stop this.”
The spray has been given a trial in second division matches and a similar spray has been used in some competitions in Brazil.
December 8, 2008
Ashley Young scored an injury-time winner to shatter Everton, who had equalised only seconds earlier.
Steve Sidwell smashed in from 20 yards in the first minute but Joleon Lescott prodded home a deserved equaliser.
Marouane Fellaini had a header cleared off the line and hit the bar with another before Phil Jagielka’s woeful backpass allowed Young to slot home.
Lescott scored with an acrobatic volley to bring Everton level again but Young snatched the points when he curled in.
It was a dramatic end to game that had started in equally thrilling fashion.
Villa went into the match on the back of two consecutive goalless draws in the league but it took only 31 seconds to ensure the run would not stretch to three games.
James Milner received the ball with his back to goal and laid it off to Sidwell, who smashed a ferocious, rising drive into the top corner from 20 yards.
But instead of inspiring Villa to take control of the game, the goal had the opposite effect of stinging Everton into action.
The hosts impressively set about the task of getting back into the game – led by Leon Osman and Fellaini.
Osman set up Tim Cahill for a first time volley that Brad Friedel beat away at the near post before Fellaini tested the American keeper with a header.
And when Everton deservedly equalised it was Osman who nodded Mikel Arteta’s free-kick into the path of Lescott, who prodded the ball in from close range.
Now dominating the game, Everton pressed for a second goal and they came close to getting it when Fellaini’s looping header was cleared off the line by Carlos Cuellar.
Fellaini went even closer after the break when he thumped a header goalwards only to see Friedel somehow deflect it on to the bar.
But then Everton undid all their good work as a horrible lapse of concentration from Jagielka cost them dear.
The centre-back played a bind pass back to Tim Howard, straight into the path of Ashley Young, who raced on to the ball and clipped it into the corner of the net.
Having surrendered their advantage once in the game, Villa looked determined not to do it again as they defended with greater desire and spirit.
There was no longer the same zip about Everton’s play and they were laboured in possession.
And while Villa were happy to camp in their own half, they were finding it easy to keep Everton at bay.
They might even have caught Everton with a sucker punch when Young broke on the counter, but the winger lost control of the ball when he tried to cut inside Joseph Yobo.
Everton piled forward as the clock ticked down, but it seemed they were to be foiled.
But when Jagielka headed back into the box, Osman nodded the ball on and Lescott scored with a flying volley that appeared to have salvaged a draw.
Yet there was time for it all to change again, and it was Lescott who was turned inside out by Young and the Villa man curled in a shot to steal victory.
Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill:
“It was an amazing finish and I could not be more delighted.
“It is a phenomenal victory for us – and the manner in which we did it speaks volumes for the ability and spirit of the team.
“Ashley Young was absolutely world class. He is a magnificent footballer and he put his chances in the net superbly.
“We got a great start but Everton clawed their way into the game and then put us under enormous pressure. We were under the cosh for long periods.
“They got an equaliser and just when you thought the referee was going to blow the whistle, Young comes up with a world class finish to win the match. I am ecstatic.”
Everton boss David Moyes:
“I thought it was the final whistle after our equaliser.
“I don’t know how much the injury time went on but that’s what happens. Their third goal, everybody thought the referee was going to blow for time.
“There were mistakes organisationally, there were mistakes – we got caught on the ball, maybe we should have kicked the ball longer and without taking any risks.
“That wasn’t the reason we lost today. We played well today we had two off the line, one hit the bar. The players played well today.”
Everton: Howard, Neville (Van der Meyde 84), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Osman, Fellaini, Arteta, Pienaar, Cahill, Anichebe (Baines 86).
Subs Not Used: Nash, Castillo, Jutkiewicz, Gosling, Kissock.
Booked: Fellaini, Lescott.
Goals: Lescott 30, 90.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Laursen, Davies, Luke Young, Sidwell, Petrov, Barry, Milner, Agbonlahor, Ashley Young.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Harewood, Delfouneso, Knight, Reo-Coker, Shorey, Gardner.
Booked: Luke Young.
Goals: Sidwell 1, Ashley Young 54, 90.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
December 5, 2008
Aston Villa fell to a shock loss to MSK Zilina but still reached the Uefa Cup’s last 32, thanks to Hamburg’s victory over Slavia Prague.
Zilina took the lead when Vladimir Leitner’s cross went straight in.
They doubled their advantage when Peter Styvar converted Peter Pekarik’s cross after a breakaway.
Nathan Delfouneso, on his full debut for Villa, scored with a superb left-foot volley but Zilina held on despite having Leitner sent off.
Not that the result mattered in terms of Villa’s progress in the competition as Hamburg’s 2-0 win guaranteed Martin O’Neill’s side a top-three finish in the group.
But O’Neill will not be pleased with the way Villa conceded twice to a side who had previously scored only one goal in the whole of the group stages.
Zat Knight, who had earlier seen a header tipped over the bar by Zilina keeper Dusan Pernis, looked a little at fault for Zilina’s first goal.
The defender looked to duck out of heading away Leitner’s floated cross and the ball sailed over him and beyond Brad Guzan’s dive to nestle in the bottom right corner.
But if the Slovaks’ opener owed a little to poor defending and good fortune, their second goal was simply sublime.
A devastating counter-attack saw Adauto carry the ball forward before laying it off to Pekarik to cross for Styvar to finish the move in style.
At that time it was hard to see how an unfamiliar Villa side, which had eight changes from the team that played at the weekend, would claw their way back into the match.
It took a moment of superb skill for 17-year-old striker Delfouneso, who volleyed in superbly after Marlon Harewood had set him up by chesting the ball down at the edge of the box.
Yet the goal did little to improve Villa’s fluency and too many crosses failed to find a player as the hosts struggled to take a grip on the game.
In midfield, Villa looked lightweight, and while that changed when James Milner and Gareth Barry were brought on, chances remained sparse.
Craig Gardner saw his shot on the turn saved and Milner fired over from the rebound.
Then Leitner pulled back Ashley Young, having been booked for the same thing earlier, and was sent off after being cautioned again.
Villa tried to make their numerical advantage tell and Barry went close before Gardner should have done much better with a free header that he directed wide.
In injury time, Gardner came close to making amends but his header cannoned back off the post.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Reo-Coker, Knight, Cuellar, Luke Young, Gardner, Salifou (Barry 68), Osbourne (Milner 65), Ashley Young, Delfouneso (Agbonlahor 76), Harewood.
Subs Not Used: Friedel, Laursen, Petrov, Clarke.
Goals: Delfouneso 28.
MSK Zilina: Pernis, Pekarik, Vomacka, Sourek, Leitner, Strba, Jez (Tesak 90), Pecalka, Piacek, Adauto (Vladavic 70), Styvar (Rilke 86).
Subs Not Used: Seman, Karoglan, Belak, Poliacek.
Sent Off: Leitner (79).
Booked: Leitner, Pecalka.
Goals: Leitner 16, Styvar 19.
Ref: Espen Berntsen (Norway).
December 4, 2008
Liverpool striker Fernando Torres looks set for an increased injury lay-off because of a damaged hamstring.
Torres, 24, had been expected to be out of action for two weeks but has now been told by specialists that he will be out for at least four weeks.
The Spaniard suffered the injury during the Champions League victory against Marseille at Anfield on 26 November.
“We first said two to three weeks but do not want to put a time on it now,” said Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.
“He will come back when he is ready. We will not rush him back.
“We want to resolve this problem once and for all and we will make sure we do that.”
Torres has been plagued by hamstring problems over the past 18 months, suffering the injury five times in that period.
Liverpool are currently analysing his training schedule with both club and country in an attempt to resolve the problem.
Benitez had questioned the Spain training regime and believes it could be the cause of his injury.
“He has been injured now three times while with the national team and it is something we have to analyse,” he stated.
“We knew they were doing something that is maybe not the best for the player.”
It had been hoped he would return by mid December but Torres will now miss Premier League games against Blackburn, Hull, Arsenal and Bolton and Tuesday’s Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven.
He could return for the trip to Newcastle on 28 December.
Liverpool have struggled in recent weeks in the absence of last season’s top scorer, with new signing Robbie Keane still finding his form since his £20m move from Tottenham in the summer.
The Reds currently top the Premier League but have drawn their last two home games without scoring a goal.
Torres himself is committed to returning to the side to boost their title credentials.
He said: “The only thing to do is to get on with the rehabilitation and make sure that I come back when I am ready and not too soon.”
December 3, 2008
Two goals from Burnley midfielder Kevin McDonald sent Arsenal’s young side crashing out of the Carling Cup.
McDonald opened the scoring after just six minutes, tapping home from close range after keeper Lukasz Fabianski had spilled the ball into his path.
The second came shortly into the second half with McDonald curling the ball past Fabianski from a tight angle.
Arsenal had several chances but found Burnley keeper Brian Jensen in fine form on a memorable night at Turf Moor.
Striker Nicklas Bendtner in particular endured a frustrating evening missing several decent chances for the Premier League outfit.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger kept true his promise to again field his youngsters who had been so impressive in their path to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Paul Rodgers, 19, was handed a debut while Arsenal also included 16-year-old Jack Wilshere and 17-year-old Aaron Ramsey.
Despite their lack of experience, Arsenal played with composure and elegance and at times were breathtaking in their play.
But as is so often the case with Arsenal, wastefulness in front of goal cost them dear as they came up against an organised and clinical Burnley side.
It was Arsenal who had the first chance of the game with Bendtner calling Jensen into an early save but the Danish striker fired straight at the legs of the Burnley keeper.
Just 80 seconds later, Burnley had the lead.
Chris Eagles created it, sending in a low cross from the right which keeper Fabianski spilled under pressure from Martin Paterson and McDonald was on hand to tap the ball home from six yards.
Arsenal had chances to equalise, several of them in fact, but Wenger’s side, who had been clinical in front of goal in previous rounds, were in wasteful mood.
Bendtner missed the first opportunity to level, again firing straight at the body of Jensen following a decent flick-on from Carlos Vela.
Despite having the lead Burnley continued to press for the second goal with Paterson and Eagles in particular causing the Arsenal defence problems.
And Fabianski made sure the score stayed at 1-0 saving well with his feet from Paterson’s low shot.
Shortly after, Bendtner’s clever little flick found Mark Randall with just the keeper, but Jensen again came out on top with another fine save.
Again Bendtner turned provider this time playing in Vela with a header that split the Burnley defence but the Mexican striker failed to beat Jensen.
It was the final opportunity Arsenal had to level in what had been a highly entertaining and open first half.
Arsenal started the second period brightly with Fran Merida, who had a quiet first half, jinking his way past three Burnley defenders before curling the ball past the post.
But with Arsenal pressing for an equaliser they were caught with a sucker punch falling further behind after 56 minutes.
And it was McDonald who scored it claiming his second goal of the game with a fine finish.
The striker out-muscled Randall to Eagles’ throw and curled the ball home with the outside of his right foot from 15-yards.
Soon after Paterson almost made it 3-0 but he headed straight at Fabianski from close range.
Jensen again prevented Bendtner from six yards out as Arsenal’s frustration grew.
And late on Bendtner missed from close range with Jensen again using his legs to deny the Arsenal striker.
It was the last real chance Arsenal would have and summed up a frustrating night for the Premier League giants as Championship Burnley celebrated a famous victory and marched into the semi-finals.
Burnley: Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Blake (Elliott 77), McDonald (Gudjonsson 61), McCann, Eagles, Paterson (Akinbiyi 74).
Subs Not Used: Penny, Mahon, Rodriguez, MacDonald.
Goals: McDonald 6, 57.
Arsenal: Fabianski, Hoyte, Silvestre, Ramsey, Gibbs, Rodgers (Lansbury 46), Randall (Bischoff 72), Merida, Wilshere (Simpson 63), Bendtner, Vela.
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Coquelin, Steer, Frimpong.
Booked: Randall, Merida.
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
December 2, 2008
Cristiano Ronaldo has won the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy awarded by France Football magazine.
Ronaldo scored 42 goals as Manchester United won the Champions League and Premier League last season.
“It is one of the most beautiful days of my life, something I dreamed of as a child,” said the 23-year-old winger.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was second and Liverpool’s Fernando Torres was third while Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were also in the running.
Ac Milan’s Brazilian midfielder Kaka won the award last year.
Ronaldo’s defining role in United’s Double-winning season saw 77 of the 96 journalists on the Ballon D’Or panel vote for him as their number one player of the year.
“Great emotion fills me but I cannot really describe it,” Ronaldo continued.
“I was not worried, because I was aware of what I did in the course of the season.
“But to the people who mentioned my name, I say thank you. Thank you also to my team-mates.
“This (trophy) is one that I want to win again because it is so good.
“Therefore, I will wake and I will say to myself ‘I want to be even better’.”
The Portuguese international became only the fifth player to score more than 30 goals in a Premier League season as United pipped Chelsea to the domestic title.
Ronaldo’s tally of 42 goals earned him the Golden Shoe as Europe’s top scorer, making him the first winger to collect that honour.
And his 42nd strike of an astonishing season came in Moscow as United drew 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the Champions League final. He went on to miss his spot-kick in the resulting penalty shoot-out but United still triumphed.
The only real disappointment for Ronaldo came at Euro 2008.
The winger was expected to be one of the stars of the tournament but he struggled to lift his side and Portugal went out in the quarter-finals.
A summer of fevered speculation over Ronaldo’s future followed after he conceded a dream move would be a switch to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
But United dug their heels in and in October Ronaldo pledged his future to the Old Trafford club.
Torres, meanwhile, enjoyed a phenomenal debut season in the Premier League following his big-money move from Atletico Madrid.
The 24-year-old scored 24 goals for Liverpool, the highest by a foreign player in their maiden season, and went on to score the winner for Spain in the Euro 2008 final.
2008 Ballon d’Or voting
1 Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester Utd) 446 points
2 Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 281 pts
3 Fernando Torres (Liverpool) 179 pts
4 Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) 133 pts
5 Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona) 97 pts
6 Andriy Arshavin (Zenit St-Petersburg) 64 pts
7 David Villa (Valencia) 55 pts
8 Kaka (AC Milan) 31 pts
9 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter Milan) 30 pts
10 Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) 28 pts
11 Marcos Senna (Villarreal) 16 pts
12 Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) 12 pts
13 Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) 11 pts
14 Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) 10 pts
15 Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 8 pts
16 Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) 7 pts
17 Samuel Eto’o (Barcelona) 6 pts
18 Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) 5 pts
19 Michael Ballack (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) 4 pts
21 Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) 3 pts
24 Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid), 2 pts
December 1, 2008
Arsenal’s up and down season is in the ascendancy again after Robin van Persie struck twice in three second-half minutes to stun Premier League leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Johan Djourou turned Jose Bosingwa’s cross into his own net after 31 minutes to give Chelsea the lead as Arsenal’s title challenge looked to be in danger of suffering a potentially fatal blow.
And then, with Chelsea the dominant force, Van Persie delivered two crucial blows to earn Arsene Wenger’s side a priceless victory.
He looked well offside when he drilled home the equaliser after 59 minutes, then was on target again on the turn to complete a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
Arsenal are turning into the Premier League’s great enigmas, responding with victories against Manchester United and now Chelsea just when they were being written off as serious title contenders.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are suffering at the place that was once their greatest strength – Stamford Bridge.
After four years of impregnability at home, Chelsea have now lost to Liverpool and Arsenal this season and have won only three out of eight league games at Stamford Bridge.
Arsenal knew they could not afford to slip up if they were to maintain a serious title challenge, and they started with real attacking intent.
Chelsea keeper Petr Cech was in action in the 13th minute, plunging to save from Samir Nasri’s low shot, with William Gallas – taunted mercilessly by the home fans – just failing to apply a crucial touch from the rebound.
Cesc Fabregas then tested Cech again before Chelsea demonstrated their threat, with a slick exchange between Frank Lampard and Deco almost creating an opening for Nicolas Anelka.
Arsenal’s early promise was then undermined when they conceded the sloppiest of goals just after the half hour.
Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia gifted Chelsea possession with a wayward throw, and when Bosingwa drove in a dangerous low cross from the right, Djourou could only slide the ball into his own goal at the near post.
In contrast to his strike partner Adebayor, Van Persie had been industrious and he tested Cech with a shot on the turn as Arsenal looked to fashion a quick response to Chelsea’s goal.
Arsenal’s carelessness at the back almost allowed Lampard to double Chelsea’s advantage six minutes after the break, the England midfield man failing to make a proper connection with an opening on the edge of the box.
Wenger’s side needed a lifeline from somewhere, and they were thrown one by the officials as they equalised in dubious circumstances just before the hour.
Van Persie looked well offside as he was found inside the area by Denilson’s pass, and as Chelsea waited for a flag that never came the Dutch striker flashed an emphatic finish high past Cech.
And a remarkable turnaround was complete three minutes later when Van Persie struck against to put Arsenal in front.
Adebayor rose to head down Fabregas’ free-kick, and Van Persie produced a stunning low finish to beat Cech again.
Chelsea, inevitably, pressed but Arsenal looked just as likely to add a third, with Cech saving well from Denilson deep in injury time.
Arsenal boss Wenger celebrated with his staff at the final whistle, an indication of just how important he feels this victory can be.
Chelsea’s fans, in contrast, greeted the final whistle with jeers.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, A Cole, Mikel (Malouda 69), Deco (Stoch 81), Ballack, Lampard, Kalou, Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Bridge, Ferreira, Mineiro, Alex.
Booked: Terry, Ivanovic.
Goals: Djourou 31 og.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas, Song Billong, Nasri, Adebayor (Bendtner 83), Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere, Gibbs.
Goals: Van Persie 59, 62.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).
November 30, 2008
Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off as Wayne Rooney’s 100th club goal proved enough to give Manchester United a derby win.
United were dominant early on but Manchester City came closest to scoring when Stephen Ireland grazed a post.
Rooney followed up Michael Carrick’s shot to break the deadlock before Ronaldo was sent off for a second booking after inexplicably handling.
Richard Dunne almost levelled but saw his shot cleared off the line before Joe Hart kept out a late Rooney lob.
Hart, who had joined City’s attack for an injury-time corner, ran the length of the pitch as United broke and got back to his goal just in time to deny Rooney his second goal of the game.
The home side had come close to equalising seconds earlier when Patrice Evra did brilliantly to block Dunne’s effort but United were still convincing winners.
Although they were against 10 men for the last 20 minutes following Ronaldo’s dismissal, Dunne’s shot was the only time City came close to breaking down a well-organised United defence in that period.
And Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had been just as impressive going forward for the majority of the match.
The only blemish on an otherwise perfect day for Ferguson was Ronaldo’s red card, which came after an inexplicable handball by the Portuguese winger.
Ronaldo had already been booked for bringing down Shaun Wright-Phillips and, when he almost caught Rooney’s corner at the near post less than 10 minutes later, referee Howard Webb had no choice but to dismiss him.
It was a bizarre incident but did not take the shine off an impressive display by the visitors.
While City began nervously, United were into their stride from the start and could have been out of sight by the end of a one-sided first half.
Dimitar Berbatov, operating behind the marauding Rooney, tormented the City defence in the early stages, while Evra and Rafael da Silva were constant threats on either flank.
But, for all their possession, a goal continued to elude United.
Ronaldo nodded over from a corner, Hart brilliantly pushed a Berbatov header round the post and Evra blazed over when his own cross was cleared back to him in the box.
It took City over half an hour to create any sort of opening but, when it came, they should really have taken the lead.
Ireland’s shot bounced towards Micah Richards, who was stood in front of the net, but instead of turning it home the defender left the ball and it hit the outside of the post.
That sparked City’s best spell of the first-half, with Robinho inches away from collecting Didi Hamann’s slide-rule pass in front of goal, but United remained dangerous and it was no surprise when they scored after 42 minutes.
The home side had plenty of opportunities to clear the ball but instead it fell for Carrick to fire in a low shot that Hart could only parry into the path of Rooney, who converted with glee for his 100th club goal.
Understandably, City boss Mark Hughes made changes at the break and, after moving Vincent Kompany into midfield, his side were instantly more competitive.
City were seeing more of the ball too but they still had to be alert to United’s threat on the counter-attack and Ji-Sung Park was twice denied by last-ditch tackles by Wright-Phillips and Dunne.
Ferguson’s side continued to get plenty of men behind the ball and even Ronaldo’s dismissal did not help the home side, who looked to have run out of ideas before Dunne’s late chance came and went.
The scoreline would have reflected the game far better had Rooney scored with his audacious injury-time lob and, in truth, the match perfectly illustrated the gulf in class between the two sides that City’s wealthy new owners Abu Dhabi United are hoping to narrow.
November 27, 2008
A missile-throwing incident involving Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard and Marseille fans at Anfield on Wednesday evening is to be investigated by Uefa.
Gerrard was hit by an object – believed to be a cigarette lighter – as he waited to take a corner in the first half of their 1-0 Champions League win.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez confirmed his captain was unhurt and praised him for not retaliating.
“He is a good professional. Steven did well not to react,” said Benitez.
A Liverpool spokesman added: “Uefa’s delegate is aware of what happened and it is now in his hands.”
Gerrard headed the winner – his 30th European goal and fifth in this season’s competition – in the first half to send his team through to the final 16 of the Champions League.
Uefa’s spokesman at the game added: “The incident will be included in both the match delegate’s report and the referee’s report.”
Earlier this month, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was given a three-match domestic ban by the Football Association for throwing a coin back into the crowd when the Premier League leaders lost in the Carling Cup to Burnley.