Monthly Archives: March 2013

Game On – Sunderland Sack O’Neil – By Tim Magnus

Sunderland have sacked manager Martin O’Neill after a 1-0 defeat to runaway leaders Manchester United at the Stadium of Light.

A Titus Bramble own goal mid-way through the first half proved to be enough to secure all three points for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and also enough to see the end of O’Neill’s reign as Sunderland manager.

With Sunderland in 16th, and with a difficult run in, they are well in the relegation battle and desperate for a change of fortunes. Conversely, Manchester United are now striding closer to another Premier League title and snatching the trophy back from their local rivals Manchester City.

Southampton pushed themselves further out of the relegation dogfight after they defeated Champions League chasing Chelsea 2-1 at the St Marys Stadium.

With this being Chelsea’s first game out of four in eight days, Rafael Benitez made substantial changes in his team and this proved costly as Jay Rodriguez gave the Saints the lead after a slow Chelsea start to the game.

The Champions of Europe did grab an equaliser through their returning skipper John Terry but a sublime Rickie Lambert free kick gave Mauricio Pochettino’s side a well deserved three points.

Manchester City did all they could to try and put pressure on Manchester United at the top of the Premier League as they beat Newcastle 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

Two goals just before half time put City well on their way, with Carlos Tevez and David Silva getting on the scoresheet. There were two more goals in the second half for City a captain Vincent Kompany marked his club return with a goal and Yaya Touré put the finishing touches on an emphatic City win to keep them fifteen points behind neighbours Manchester United.

Gareth Bale assisted one and scored another as he was once again instrumental in another Tottenham win, this time a 2-1 victory over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. Tottenham’s first goal was sublimely finished by defener Jan Vertonghen after neat work from Bale gave him the opportunity.

Vertonghen returned the favour to Bale moments later as the defender assisted a goal to one of the most in form players in world football, Gareth Bale.

Swansea made a second half fightback and pulled a goal back courtesy of Michu, but Andre Villas Boas’ side held on for a vital three points which sees them take a giant leap towards Champions League football.

Nigel Adkins first game as a Reading manager ended in a comprehensive 4-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal never looked threatened by bottom club Reading and earned all three points thanks to goals from the exceptional Gervinho, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and a Mikel Arteta penalty.

Hal Robson Kanu got Reading’s first goal under Nigel Adkins but that was little consolation for a side who now sit bottom of the Premier League, albeit on goal difference, and with an uphill struggle to survive.

Andy Carroll grabbed a brace as he helped West Ham comfortably dispatch an effortless West Bromwich Albion 3-1 at Upton Park. First half goals from on loan Liverpool forward Carroll and then Gary O’Neill gave the Hammers a deserved two goal advantage at the break.

Carroll grabbed his second of the game, and West Ham’s third, late on as he looks to end his season with a flourish of goals to send a message to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

West Brom pulled a goal back from the penalty spot through Graham Dorrans after Romelu Lukaku was fouled but any joy from that goal was shortlived after Youssuf Mulumbu was sent off for picking a ball up and kicking it at O’Neill after his frustration boiled over.

Wigan moved out of the relegation zone thanks to a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Norwich at the DW Stadium. In an uninspiring game of football it took until the 80th minute for the deadlock to be broken and what an important goal it could prove to be.

Arouna Kone’s finish past Lee Camp secured all three points for Roberto Martinez’s side as they begin to believe they can pull of yet another great escape from relegation. Norwich’s loss drags them into the relegation fight as well as the end of the season draws closer.

Stoke continued their woeful run of form as they lost their sixth straight away game with a 1-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.

Kevin Mirallas scored the only goal of the game as his individual brilliance carved open an otherwise solid Stoke defense after 28 minutes. Stoke now sit just four points ahead of Wigan and Aston Villa and have played a game more so are also starting to worry that their stint in the Premier League could be coming to an end.

Everton, on the other hand, are only two points behind Arsenal as David Moyes’ side sit 6th in the Premier League.

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Pit Stop – Was Vettel Right? – By Lewis Brearley

Your reaction to the team orders incidents at last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix depends on what your attitude to racing is.

If you prefer your sportsmen to prioritise winning at all costs and expect them to do their utmost to achieve the very best they can then you probably supported Sebastian Vettel’s decision to pursue his own desires while ignoring his employers.

If, on the other hand, you want gentlemanly conduct and honesty from your sportsmen, then you have probably lost a little bit of respect for the triple world champion.

These two camps of opinion will never combine to agree with each other and if anything, this season looks set to provide plenty of firewood to keep each camp’s argument burning.

Formula One seasons don’t normally heat up until the European section of the season, however this year’s has already burst into life at the second round.

No sport thrives on controversy like F1, and in that case, this year’s Malaysian grand prix is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.

When Vettel made his decision to keep his KERS in overtake mode and to pass Mark Webber with a highly risky overtaking manoeuvre he revealed his true attitude hidden deep beneath the famously smiling exterior.

In ignoring his boss and in his willingness to try such a risky pass, Vettel proved that he truly believes the Red Bull F1 operation is his own, personal winning machine.

While his supporters would say that this is only the sort of winning attitude shared by his great rival, Fernando Alonso, who happens to be venerated despite his own belief that he should be treated as his team’s number one driver, this isn’t the point.

Alonso has never ignored an order in his time at Ferrari, and Vettel’s actions show blatant disregard for the team’s bosses and executives, without whom he wouldn’t have become the triple world champion he is today. A blatant disregard for every single engineer and designer back at their Milton Keynes factory who are paid with money not from Vettel’s, but Red Bull’s wallet.

A sharp contrast to this was provided by Nico Rosberg’s decision to follow his boss, Ross Brawn’s, orders despite his clear anger at the situation. This revealed that Brawn is the man in charge of the Mercedes race team and also that his drivers are respectful of this.

Vettel’s post-race apologies and downtrodden demeanour show a sorry racing driver who may have let the red mist of his young mind cloud his sense of perspective. He claims he isn’t happy with his 27th grand prix victory and that if the same situation arises again, he wouldn’t repeat his act of treachery.

Whether this is true or not, time will tell. But one thing is certain, when that time comes, there won’t be a Formula One fan not on the edge of their seat.

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Bowled Over- England hold on – By Luqman Liaqat

A sensational batting display from century-maker Matt Prior helped England save the third test in Auckland and draw the three-match series at 0-0.

Prior had great support from Stuart Broad in the final session of the test match who played out 13 overs as the tourists held their nerve to escape from the jaws of defeat against the Black Caps.

England skipper Alaistair Cook made the same mistake as Brendon McCullum from the last test by winning the toss and putting the opposition into bat on flat opening day pitch.

The New Zealand openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford put on a stand of 79 for the first wicket before England finally had a moment to celebrate just before the lunch break.

Rutherford edged behind to Cook at the slips off Steve Finn for a solid 37, England did ball well at times in the morning session but in vulnerable conditions the situation soon changed.

Fulton’s previous best in his last 17 tests was 75 but he raced past it to reach 124 not out at end of the day during a 171 run stand with Kane Williamson who scored a perfect unbeaten 83. The tall opener hit 14 fours and 3 sixes, including two from two balls off Monty Panesar.

The new ball looked lively, however the England bowlers couldn’t do much damage as the host’s ended day one on a strong 250-1.

England started day two very brightly as James Anderson broke the third wicket stand of 181 dismissing Williamson for 91. Ross Taylor soon followed Williamson back to the pavilion for just 19 and overnight centurion Fulton fell for 136 when he flicked a thin edge to a diving Prior down the leg side leaving the score at 297-4.

Brendon McCullum (38) and Dean Brownlie (36) put on a partnership of 68 to get New Zealand back on track for a high scoring first innings.

Surprisingly for England part-time bowler Jonathon Trott made the breakthrough as McCullum nicked one behind. Brownlie’s wicket gave Anderson his 297th test scalp with the scoreboard on a strong 373-7.

Tim Southee’s quick-fire cameo ended the innings strongly for the hosts as he scored 44 off 33 including two sixes and four boundaries. Finn had Southee and Trent Boult’s wickets to claim figures of 6-125 as the hosts finished on 443.

Boult struck twice before the end of play to put the Black Caps in total control of the test match, firstly Cook tickled a leg-side delivery to wicket-keeper BJ Watling and Trott was trapped on the pads for 27 as England reached 50-2 at stumps.

Resuming day three on 50-2 the tourists were soon in further trouble at 72-5, Southee dismissed Compton and Ian Bell (17) of lbw decisions. Boult sent Johnny Bairstrow packing in the same mode of dismissal before Prior with 73 and Joe Root (45) shared a strong century stand for the fifth wicket.

Prior struck 13 boundaries in his innings before driving Neil Wagner straight to Rutherford at point, his dismissal sparked a collapse as Broad and Finn both fell to Boult who also had Anderson caught behind to claim impressive figures of 6-68.

Southee bowled out Root to polish off the England innings in style for only 204.

New Zealand decided not to enforce the follow-on with a lead of 239, as the hosts lost three wickets for eight runs.

Broad had Rutherford caught at gully and Taylor played across his stumps of a straight one on either side of Williamson’s downfall as he inside edged an Anderson delivery onto his stumps giving England some hope heading into day four as the Kiwis lured to 35-3.

Brownlie was removed cheaply in the morning for 28 by Monty Panesar to leave New Zealand 82-4; however a century from Fulton and McCullum’s knock of 67 saw a stand of 117 put the hosts back in command. Fulton was finally dismissed by Finn as he pulled straight to Root at long-on and Watling was dismissed by Panesar as the declaration came at 241-6 giving England an improbable target of 481 to win.

It took only nine balls for the tourists to lose their first wicket as Compton edged low to Watling off Southee. The New Zealand wicket-keeper missed a sharp chance to dismiss Cook, but he made no mistake to remove Trott off Wagner.

Cook and Bell did well to frustrate the opposition bowling unit as they both looked to see out the day until Williamson struck twice late on to leave England reeling on 90-4 at the close of day four.

New Zealand only needed six wickets to clinch a series victory over England on the final day, with the introduction of the new ball the task looked to have become even easier when Root’s dogged resistance came to an end as he was trapped lbw for 29.

Bairstrow was dropped by Williamson at gully, but he failed to make the most of the lifeline, because he was soon caught by Taylor off Southee for just six.

The most crucial partnership of the day came on the seventh wicket, Prior and Bell frustrated the bowlers by putting on a stand of 78 off 25 overs. Bell’s innings of 75 from 271 balls was finally over at the stroke of tea when Wagner found the edge of his bat and Southee took the catch at third slip.

After tea, Broad dug in deep to see out 77 balls and he took a record 103 minutes to get off the mark as he provided a perfect cameo to Prior. Prior clubbed the ball down the ground to reach his 7th test ton taking 148 deliveries.

McCullum’s bowling unit threw everything at the three lions and finally reaped their reward when Williamson removed Broad with 21 balls still left and Anderson fell two balls later to set up a nail-biting finale and bring back memories of the last wicket miracles against South Africa from 2010 at Centurion and Cape Town.

Prior and Panesar somehow survived the final three overs, however the left-arm spinner was almost run out when passing the strike to Prior.

The draw will definitely boost the English team’s morale ahead of this summer’s back to back Ashes series and on the other hand the Australian’s have plenty to think about after a 4-0 whitewash against India in the sub-continent.

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Easter Special of Sport

The Easter period is traditionally a cracking festival of sport. Whilst religious people celebrate the resurrection, sports fans sit down and watch a magnitude of superb action.

The four day weekend all kicks off tonight with the usual Thursday night Premier League Darts, this week coming from Glasgow, with the highlight game being 16 time world champion Phil Taylor facing four time world champion Raymond Van Barneveld.

Also tonight, Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos face Yorkshire rivals Bradford Bulls in the rugby league clash. tomorrow sees a full schedule of Super League games too, with top of the table Huddersfield Giants away at bottom of the table Salford City Reds.

Tomorrow night also sees Championship football take stage before the Premier League and full league fixtures take their usual place on the Saturday afternoon.

Centre stage on Sunday goes to the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge University, which in the past has produced some cracking encounters, including the hitting of oars and other objects in the Thames.

The Miami masters also finishes this weekend with Andy Murray looking to claim another title as he looks to prove he is in the form of his life.

Rory McIlroy will also aim to return to world number one over the weekend as he was overtaken by the greatest in Tiger woods last Monday.

Bank Holiday Monday also offers a full schedule of rugby league as well as a mouth watering clash between Chelsea and Manchester United in the FA Cup.

There will be the usual features over the Easter period so you don’t miss any of the major action during this busy period.


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Moto GP is back

Britain’s superstar rider Cal Crutchlow was fastest in the final day of pre-season testing at Jerez.

The Tech 3 Yamaha driver finished ahead of both Yamaha riders, champion Jorge Lorenzo and the greatest driver of them all in Valentino Rossi.

The rider told BBC Sport in an interview after testing that this result sets him up well for the season.

He said: “It is very satisfying to finish with the fastest time. It shows what a really good job I did and what a great job my team did too.

“It is a shame we didn’t get the chance to get in a lot more dry laps, but I have been very fast and consistent and that gives me a lot of confidence for when we return to Jerez.

“The rain meant the track wasn’t in a great condition in the last two hours and I felt I could have definitely gone faster if there was more grip available. But it is the same for everybody and we came out on top, so that’s positive.

“It has been a positive pre-season and I think I have shown I have made another big improvement for this year.

“This result gives me a lot of confidence going to Qatar but my goal will be to finish in the top six and get some early momentum like I did last season.”

Crutchlow appears to be the closest challenger to Rossi and Lorenzo with the riders lining up on April 7th.

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Vettel Admits he was Wrong

Sebastian Vettel won the Malaysian Grand Prix in controversy this morning after he was told by team officials to stay behind teammate Mark Webber.

Vettel disobeyed the orders and took Webber, which lead to a hostile environment after the race between the pair.

In an interview after the race with Sky Sports, Vettel said: “I should have behaved today. I made a big mistake. It’s not a victory I am proud of. It should have been Mark’s.”

Webber was very angry telling Martin Brundle he believed Vettel was clear team number one: “After the last stop the team told me the race was over and we turned the engines down to go to the end.

“I want to race as well, but the team made the decision which we usually do before the race and say that is how it is going to be and look after the tyres and the car and get to the end.

“But Seb made his own decision today and will have protection as usual and that is the way it goes.”

The tension emanated onto the podium as well, with team boss Christain Horner claiming Vettel had been “silly” to react in the way he did.

Elsewhere, there was also controversy as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg agreed to stay behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, so the Brit could finish third. He later admitted: “I can’t say it’s the best feeling being up here today. If I’m honest I really feel Nico should be standing here.”

Hamilton had a good afternoon but did provide the comical moment when he drove into the McLaren pit box instead of his own.

You can catch more reach during the week in out Pit Stop feature as Red Bull look to sort out this mess. One must wonder whether Webber will use his “wings” to fly away from the team.

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England Destroy San Marino

Roy Hodgson’s England recorded their biggest victory in this millennium with an 8-0 destruction of FIFA minnows San Marino last night.

A brace from Tottenham Hotspurs’ Jermaine Defoe and five more from five other players, aided by an opening own goal by Alessandro Della Valle gave the side a comfortable win.

It all went downhill in the twelfth minute for San Marino will Della Valle’s own goal, but they managed to hold out until almost the 30 minute mark before England scored their first goal of their own.

Arsenal youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed good footwork to finish coolly and before half time, there were goals from Defoe, Ashley Young and captain for the day Frank Lampard.

The second half saw Wayne Rooney score a freekick, which although went in, should have been saved, and another goal for Defoe and substitute Daniel Sturridge sealed off the win.

After the game, Hodgson was in positive mood ahead of the game against Montenegro on Tuesday.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It was nice to come away having won it comfortably, not having had any injuries or yellow cards and going to Podgorica with a lot of confidence because in the last couple of games the way we have played has been very good and we have done it against two teams as diverse as Brazil and San Marino.”

England expect to welcome back Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole for the game on Tuesday, a game that would take England top of the group, ahead of their Montenegro leaders.

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Pit Stop – F1 Season Race 1 Review – By Lewis Brearley

As the cars lined up on Sunday for the first race of the season, everyone was ready for a Red Bull clean sweep; a continuation of the dominance of the past two years. The tension in the race would be the gripping battle for third.

Right at the start however, Red Bull’s number two, the home boy, Mark Webber was back in the lower points positions after a bad start caused by an ECU failure recognised before the lights went out. There was nothing Webber could do as the whole pack of frontrunners swamped past him in the run to the first corner.

Yet at the end of the first lap Red Bull still looked set for an easy victory. Sebastian Vettel led by two seconds after just the first lap with both Ferraris, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus all in a pack further back.

After the third lap, it became clear quite quickly that Vettel was struggling much worse than his rivals with tyre degradation and his lead was reducing noticeably. The Ferraris, led by Felipe Massa, closed right on to the diffuser of the number one Red Bull but were unable to get past.

Lap seven saw Vettel enter the pits with Massa following a lap later and Alonso and Räikkönen two laps further still. The group all rejoined slightly further spead due to Vettel getting an advantageous undercut on fresh rubber. The two Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg however pitted a couple of laps later still, having decided to try a two stop strategy to overcome the lack of pace that had quickly dropped them from contention.

Vettel and the two Ferraris closed in on Adrian Sutil, who had not yet pitted, his Force India taking beautiful care of its precious tyres; an advantage gained from being allowed to start on the medium tyre for qualifying outside the top ten.

Vettel soon found he was unable to pass Sutil, and with Massa unable to overtake Vettel and Alonso stuck behind him, Alonso made the pit on lap 20. This would give him an undercut which, if he used it properly, would allow him to surpass Vettel and Massa but meant a risky long stint on the delicate tyres.

A lap later Red Bull responded by bringing in Vettel whereas Massa was unwilling to risk the longer than optimum stint his team mate had risked. The lap on fresh tyres allowed Alonso past both Vettel and Sutil into the clear air. He used this privilege to close in on leader Raikkonen, who then pitted on lap 34 to rejoin fifth. With everybody but Sutil requiring another stop, suddenly the race became a duel between Alonso and Raikkonen.

After Alonso’s third and final stop on lap 39, the Spaniard closed in rapidly for a couple of laps on the Lotus of Raikkonen. However, he quickly realised his Ferrari was not going to be able to retain this pace to close in on Raikkonen, a theory quickly confirmed when Raikkonen fired in a fastest lap on older tyres than Alonso had.

Raikkonen later crossed the line with his hands aloft, a rare expression of emotion from the laconic Finn. It was a superb performance from the wheel of a superb car. In a year when tyre degradation looks likely to play a huge role, it firmly placed Lotus as realistic championship contenders; however much they and their star driver denied it.

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International Football

This Friday sees all five home nations in international football action, with a cracker at Hampden Park between Scotland and Wales.

The Welsh And Scots sit fifth and sixth respectively in Group A,  with the loser effectively out of the running for qualification.

Wales won their last international friendly against Austria 2-1 and Scotland under new manager Gordon Strachan narrowly overcame Estonia 1-0.

With both teams struggling for goals this year, it could well be a cagey encounter in some freezing conditions.

Elsewhere, England head to the lowest ranked FIFA international team San Marino, looking for another win in their quest to qualify for Rio 2014.

Steven Gerrard could go level on goals (20) with World Cup winner Martin Peters if he nets in Serravalle Stadium.

England won 5-0 in October and the minnows of world football have never won a competitive international match.

Republic of Ireland head to Sweden looking to go above their rivals and into second in their group. Both sides have won two and drew one in their opening three games.

Northern Ireland welcome Russia as they look to get their qualification rolling again in a tricky group.

Full Results will be found on the site next week


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