FA Cup

Poyet wants to build momentum

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has called on his side to build on their current momentum after a 1-0 FA Cup win over Kidderminster Harriers.

A fifth-minute strike from Greece winger Charis Mavrias, his first goal for the club, was sufficient to overcome the non-league battlers, who acquitted themselves well against their Premier League opponents.

Having made 10 changes from the midweek League Cup semi-final win over Manchester United, Poyet acknowledged that it was far from straightforward against a spirited Kidderminster side.

However, he was pleased with a professional performance.

“It was probably expected, but then we needed to win,” he said. “Of course, a new group of players playing together for the first time – I think they were very brave in the first 20 minutes, very, very good.”

Poyet fielded two debutants in Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini – signed on loan until the end of the season from Uruguayan club Atletico Fenix – and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari – recruited having left Almeria – and Poyet expressed satisfaction at his makeshift side’s display.

“We need to just concentrate on Oscar Ustari, Santiago (Vergini) at the back and a few players that haven’t been playing like (Modibo) Diakite or (Valentin) Roberge or Charis Mavrias – they got 90 minutes, which is great for them.

“That was most important, and of course being in the draw tomorrow.”

The Uruguayan was also quick to turn his attention to his side’s Premier League challenge, with two vital cup wins in a week providing a platform from which he hopes to build.

“If you asked me what is important for us now, it’s just to win games and to feel that we can be strong at home,” he added.

For Kidderminster, the result marked the end of their cup adventure which saw them come into the match as the lowest-ranked team still left in the competition.

Manager Andy Thorn expressed pride in his players’ performance, and is hoping that it will prove to be a boost in their bid to win promotion from the Conference.

“I’m immensely proud of my players,” he said. “I thought they were magnificent. We looked like a league club. If that’s not a springboard for our season, then I’ll be very disappointed.”

“We knew it would be really tough playing a Premier League side and, when we conceded so early, you know you’re in danger of ending up with a cricket score. But, for us to be disappointed with not coming away with a draw and getting another crack at them speaks volumes for the performance.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Palace defender Parr taken to hospital

Crystal Palace’s Jonathan Parr has been sent for a scan after sustaining an injury in the 2-1 FA Cup loss to Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

The defender, who recently returned to action after a five-month spell on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage, was carried off with an apparent neck injury at the end of the first half following a lengthy stoppage.

Palace do not yet know the exact nature of the problem, but manager Tony Pulis confirmed that the Norway international had been taken to hospital for further examination.

“He (Parr) has gone to hospital for a scan,” Pulis said. “We need to look at the incident again, but it looks like the (Watford player) has caught him. It will be interesting to see it again on the cameras.

“We think the injury was caused by the impact. I’m not sure whether it is his jaw or his neck at the moment.”

A late goal from James McClean condemned Palace to defeat in the fourth-round clash, the former Sunderland winger scoring his first goal for Wigan after Palace striker Aaron Wilbraham had cancelled out Ben Watson’s opener.

Pulis was quick to voice his dismay at the result.

“We’re disappointed not to get something out of the game,” he added. “We came to have a go and tried to win the game.

“When you play in cup ties you need certain decisions to go your way. One or two decisions didn’t go our way but that is what happens.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Perez acknowledges Yeovil effort

Southampton assistant manager Jesus Perez conceded that the top-flight side were made to work by Yeovil Town before sealing FA Cup progress.

Landmark goals from Guly do Prado and 18-year-old substitute Sam Gallagher secured a 2-0 win at St Mary’s that booked Southampton’s place in the fifth round.

Guly converted a penalty midway through the first half to score for the first time since January 2012, while Gallagher’s 70th-minute strike represented the young Scot’s first senior goal.

Although the Premier League side hit the woodwork twice and ultimately progressed with a degree of comfort, Championship strugglers Yeovil carved out several opportunities inside the first hour.

Perez acknowledged as much afterwards, saying: “It wasn’t an easy game. The first half was open. They had some chances to score.

“In the second half, we were much better and created lots of chances.”

Perez was also pleased to see Guly and Gallagher on the scoresheet.

Of the Brazilian, he said: “He’s been working hard. He deserved his chance and his goal.”

Gallagher also came in for praise, with Perez adding: “He’s still young and needs time, (but) he’s doing well. He scored a nice goal.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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Liverpool will be ready for derby, says Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his players will be ready for Tuesday’s Merseyside derby, despite having little time to recover.

The Anfield outfit edged into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at Championship side Bournemouth on Saturday, and host local rivals Everton in the Premier League next week.

But Rodgers was not tempted to field a weakened team at Dean Court.

“We have a very thin squad, and along with that we’ve got a number of injuries, but the tradition of the FA Cup for Liverpool is huge,” he said.

“We want to pay respect to the competition because we want to get to the final and win it if we can.

“The players have had enough recovery time and will recover well for Everton. They have everything there to recover.

“We go into Tuesday’s game on the back of a good win against a good Championship side.”

And the Northern Irishman was full of praise for Bournemouth and their manager Eddie Howe.

“Bournemouth are a very good side and we give credit to them first of all,” he continued. “They have a great idea when it comes to playing the game. Eddie is similar to myself in terms of his philosophy.

“They were excellent, we didn’t work hard enough in the first half, but once we re-organised at half-time we were much better.”

Martin Skrtel required treatment for a clash of heads in the second half, but Rodgers reassured fans that he would not face a spell on the sidelines.

“He had staples in his head, so he might need to grow some hair now,” he added. “He’ll be fine.”

Sat 25 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Bournemouth 0 Liverpool 2

Liverpool edged into the FA Cup fifth round with a 2-0 victory over a brave Bournemouth outfit on Saturday.

Bournemouth more than matched their Premier League visitors, particularly in the first half, but Victor Moses handed Liverpool the lead in the 26th minute with their first shot on target.

Brendan Rodgers’ side had to wait until the second half to get another effort on target and it doubled their lead – Daniel Sturridge scoring his 14th goal of the season in all competitions to break Bournemouth’s spirited resolve.

The Championship side have not made it beyond the fourth round since 1988-89, while Liverpool put memories of being dumped out at this stage by Oldham Athletic last season behind them.

Eddie Howe’s men were unchanged from their 1-1 league draw against Watford last weekend, while Rodgers made three alterations from Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, bringing in Brad Jones, Moses and Martin Kelly for Simon Mignolet, Raheem Sterling and the injured Glen Johnson.

The hosts started brightly at Dean Court, and Simon Francis almost caught Jones off guard in the 13th minute when a free-kick from the left wing was carried goalwards by a coastal gust, forcing the retreating Liverpool goalkeeper to tip over his crossbar.

Liverpool’s first chance of the match came in the form of a 25th-minute Steven Gerrard free-kick, but the captain drilled his effort high and wide of the target.

However, the top-flight outfit were ahead a minute later, when Moses picked up the ball at the edge of the penalty area and drove a low effort beyond the outstretched right arm of Lee Camp and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The goal was somewhat harsh on Bournemouth, who had equipped themselves more than adequately in the opening stages, but they instantly began to push for an equaliser, with Harry Arter seeing an effort drift just wide of the target on the half-hour mark, before Andrew Surman had a 12-yard strike deflected over by Kolo Toure and Tommy Elphick headed high from the resulting corner.

Sturridge had the ball in the back of the net shortly before the break, but the linesman had flagged for an extremely marginal offside.

Bournemouth continued to press at the beginning of the second period and had cause to feel aggrieved in the 58th minute, when Kelly clearly tugged on the shirt of Francis in the Liverpool penalty area.

And their hopes were dealt a killer blow on the hour mark when Luis Suarez found Sturridge with a sublime through-ball, and the England striker made no mistake in slotting beyond Camp.

Sturridge could have made it three 12 minutes later, but his chipped effort dropped onto the top of the crossbar, and Suarez was also denied from close range late on.

Sat 25 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Sheffield United v Fulham

Sheffield United can heap more misery on Fulham on Sunday as the League One side seek a second consecutive FA Cup giant-killing.

Nigel Clough’s men stunned Premier League side Aston Villa in the third round, earning a 2-1 win at Villa Park thanks to goals from Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn.

That result has done little to boost United’s league form, though, and they sit just outside the relegation places in 20th place after winning just one of their last six.

However, the Yorkshire club face another out-of form side in Fulham, who are just a point above the drop zone in the Premier League following a 4-1 loss to Sunderland a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal.

Rene Meulensteen’s men needed a replay against Norwich last week to secure a place in the fourth round, but the Dutchman will have been pleased with his side’s performance in that clash, which ended in a comfortable 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage.

The London outfit will be expected to replicate that display against their third-tier opposition and seal a first win at Bramall Lane since 1985.

Defender Fernando Amorebieta is Fulham’s only absentee for the game, with the Venezuela international unavailable because of a knee injury.

United, by contrast, have a number of players ineligible as midfielders Elliot Whitehouse and Callum McFadzean, as well as striker Billy Paynter, all miss out.

However, Clough’s squad has been boosted by the arrivals of defender John Brayford and attacking midfielder Stefan Scougall, who joined on Friday from Cardiff City and Livingston respectively.

Former Derby boss Clough believes United can spring a second successive upset, but accepts that the odds are against them.

“There’s no reason why we can’t (cause another upset), but it will be a little more difficult this time,” Clough told the Sheffield Star.

“We’ve got to remember they’re two divisions above us and the quality they have throughout their squad of 25.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Chelsea v Stoke City

Chelsea have already lost to Stoke City this season and Jose Mourinho is braced for another tough test against Mark Hughes’ side on Sunday.

Oussama Assaidi’s late goal gave Stoke a dramatic 3-2 Premier League victory over the title contenders at the Britannia Stadium last month.

Chelsea have the opportunity to gain revenge for that defeat when Stoke visit this weekend for an FA Cup fourth-round tie.

However, Mourinho knows his side will have to be up for the battle if they are to progress to the last 16 of the knockout competition.

When asked what he expects from Stoke, the former Real Madrid coach said: “I say we lost against this team and it was not a long time ago.

“We lost to them one month ago. They are a difficult team. Very physical, very direct.

“They’re very strong in set pieces. I expect a very difficult match (and) that’s why I’m going to play a strong team.

“I’m not going to make big changes in the team because we’re going to try and go as far as possible in the competition.”

One player who will not feature for Chelsea is midfielder Juan Mata, who is on the verge of joining Manchester United.

Chelsea will also be without striker Fernando Torres after he suffered a knee injury in the victory over United last weekend, meaning Demba Ba is in line to start.

Frank Lampard could also return to the starting line-up after being named among the substitutes for the United game following an injury lay-off, but Marco van Ginkel (knee) remains a long-term absentee.

The London club have been in fine form in recent weeks, winning their last six games in all competitions and conceding only two goals in the process.

Stoke’s victory over Chelsea last month was their first against the Stamford Bridge outfit since 1995, when a goal from Paul Peschisolido secured a 1-0 win in the capital.

It would be a major surprise if Stoke won this weekend, as Hughes’ men have claimed just one away victory in the top flight this season, against struggling West Ham in August.

Stoke have also been beaten on each of their visits to Chelsea since gaining promotion to the top flight in 2008, scoring only one goal across five league meetings and one FA Cup tie.

Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could return at the expense of Jack Butland after a month on the sidelines due to a broken finger.

Hughes will check on striker John Guidetti after the on-loan striker reported to training on Friday feeling unwell.

Robert Huth (knee), Matthew Etherington (calf) and Andy Wilkinson (foot) all remain sidelined.

Fri 24 January, 2014
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Begovic could make Chelsea return

Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could make his return in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash at Chelsea.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international has not featured since sustaining a broken finger last month, but he returned to training this week.

Jack Butland has started Stoke’s last three games in the absence of Begovic, but boss Mark Hughes revealed that his first-choice keeper could feature against Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hughes said at Friday’s press conference: “Asmir has been back involved with the group this week which has been a bonus for us, so we will see how he (is) and make a decision on who we feel we should go with.

“We will look at guys who have been out for a little while over the next 24 hours, and obviously Asmir being one of those who falls into that category.”

Stoke have suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats and Hughes admitted he has one eye on their league clash with Sunderland next Wednesday.

However, the Welshman insists there is no danger he will not take the FA Cup seriously.

“I will go into Sunday’s game with the intention of being strong, and seeing where that takes us,” he added.

“We have got to be mindful about the big game on Wednesday, but that said there is sufficient time for players to recover in time for that match too.

“It’s the FA Cup at the end of the day and we are all desperate to progress and remain in the competition for as long as possible.”

Recent loan signing John Guidetti is suffering from illness ahead of the clash with Premier League high-fliers Chelsea, but Hughes hopes the striker will be in contention.

“John unfortunately has come in today a little bit under the weather to be honest so we will have to check him tomorrow,” he continued.

“Obviously, we are hoping that he is okay for the game because it is a good opportunity for him to get a little bit of game time, but if he isn’t available then we do have other options.”

Stoke have already beaten Chelsea once this season courtesy of Oussama Assaidi’s late winner in a 3-2 victory at the Britannia Stadium last month.

Fri 24 January, 2014
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Duo set to make Sunderland debuts

Gus Poyet plans to hand debuts to new signings Santiago Vergini and Oscar Ustari in the FA Cup clash with Kidderminster Harriers.

The Argentine duo were on the substitutes bench on Wednesday night when the Wearside club beat Manchester United on penalties to reach the League Cup final.

Defender Vergini and goalkeeper Ustari joined Sunderland earlier in the week and are set to feature against non-League Kidderminster in the fourth round on Saturday.

Poyet told Sunderland’s official website: “They are going to make their debuts if everything goes alright until the game.

“It’s going to be great for them to feel the stadium, the pitch, the football and the speed in a cup tie where we are the favourites and need to win.

“It will be a good opportunity for them and also for the fans to get their first impressions.”

Poyet struggled to sleep after the high of Sunderland shoot-out success at Old Trafford and revealed he has been inundated with messages from across the globe.

He said: “The sleep was not long. It’s interesting when you play a game how many people are watching and supporting you, the club and the players.

“There are so many people behind you and you don’t realise that because you’re concentrating on the game.

“There have been people from Spain, like former team-mates, then of course good friends from Uruguay.

“There have been friends and former players in England, too, so many people really supporting us which is great.

“I have had some time to text all of them back which is the least I could do.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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Bruce to ring the changes

Steve Bruce has vowed to give his fringe players an opportunity to stake their claim when Hull City face Southend United in the FA Cup.

Bruce made nine changes to his side in the third-round victory at Middlesbrough earlier this month and the Hull boss will take the same approach against League Two outfit Southend in the fourth round on Saturday.

Defender James Chester will not feature after sustaining a hamstring injury, while midfielder Tom Huddlestone is suspended.

Recent signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are cup-tied for the clash at Roots Hall after playing in the third round for Everton and West Brom respectively.

Defender Paul McShane is back in contention after recovering from an ankle problem and Bruce plans to reward the patience of players who have not had much action during the Premier League campaign so far.

“It’s an ideal time to give some members of the squad a game.” said the former Sunderland boss.

“There are some players that are desperate for a game and it’s only right that they should play.

“As we saw against Middlesbrough in the last round, the strength-in-depth of our squad is good.

“The players that have been on the fringes of the squad in the last couple of weeks will all get a game.

“Those players are all champing at the bit to play.”

Bruce also revealed that Sone Aluko and Robbie Brady are closing in on returning from Achilles and groin injuries respectively.

He added: “Aluko and Brady aren’t quite right yet, but both are making huge strides.

“I would have thought that, in the next week to 10 days, they will both be joining in with the team and that can only be good for everybody.”

Fri 24 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Stevenage v Everton

Stevenage will “sweat blood” to record the biggest win in their history against Everton in the FA Cup, according to manager Graham Westley.

The League One side, who are bottom, face Everton for the second time this season on Saturday in what is the first meeting between the two clubs at the Lamex Stadium.

When the teams clashed in the League Cup at the end of August, Everton ran out 2-1 winners after extra time at Goodison Park thanks to goals from Gerard Deulofeu and Marouane Fellaini.

Everton manager Roberto Martinez lifted the FA Cup in May with former club Wigan Athletic and will have designs on a prolonged run in the competition this season, providing the Premier League side can sidestep a fourth-round upset this weekend.

Stevenage have lost just three of their last 11 home games in all competitions to give Westley belief that his players can produce a shock.

“We don’t expect victory to come easily,” he said.

“But nobody in football or associated with the FA Cup would want us to go into the game with the mentality of doing anything but win the game.

“We’re under no illusions of the importance of the game and we will sweat blood to win it.

“Our very best chance of winning this tie is at the weekend, it’s a difficult surface out there, it’s not easy and there’s more bad weather forecast, but the pitch will be playable.

“The bonus for us is that we know the surface, we know the pitch and we’re geared for playing on it.”

Stevenage are 61 league places below Everton and Martinez’s side head into the game having only lost once in their last 16 games in all competitions.

That unbeaten run included a 4-0 victory over QPR in the third round and a 1-1 draw at West Brom on Monday.

However, Martinez is without a number of first-team regulars for the Stevenage clash.

“The only difference from the squad on Monday is Seamus Coleman,” Martinez said. “He picked up a minor soft tissue injury, so he’ll miss the weekend and we’ll assess him from there.

“He adds to Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar who are still unavailable, on top of the long-term injuries to Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson and Gerard Deulofeu.

“Antolin Alcaraz is still recovering well but will be missing at the weekend. Apart from tha
t, everyone else is available.”

Thu 23 January, 2014
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Lopes hoping to impress Pellegrini

Manchester City youngster Marcos Lopes hopes to use Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Watford as a chance to shine in front of Manuel Pellegrini.

The 18-year-old became City’s youngest ever goalscorer when he scored against Watford in the same competition last season and, after a handful of League Cup outings recently, he hopes to take advantage of a rare start.

Lopes has had to be patient at the Etihad Stadium with the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure all playing in his preferred position, and he knows he must take the opportunity to impress Pellegrini this weekend.

“Cup games represent a big opportunity for younger the players at the club and I’m looking forward to being involved in more matches,” he told City’s official website.

“It’s a different level playing for the senior team – a high-intensity 90 minutes, but it’s good for me to learn with these players and play these games. I have to do my work and my job and hopefully I’ll get more chances.

“I’m ready and will give 100 per cent because these are the games when you can make an impression and for players like myself and Emyr Huws who have both been in and around the senior team for the past few weeks, it’s a great chance to improve as players and gain vital experience.”

Lopes joined City from Benfica in 2011, and represented Portugal during the UEFA European Under-19 Championships in 2013.

Thu 23 January, 2014
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FA Cup Preview: Wigan Athletic v Crystal Palace

Wigan Athletic needed a replay to beat MK Dons in the FA Cup third round, so will need to up their game against top-flight Crystal Palace.

The holders were held to a 3-3 home draw against their League One opponents, before scoring two extra-time goals in Milton Keynes to keep the defence of their title alive.

On paper, Saturday’s visit of Palace, who won 2-0 at West Brom in the last round, should provide an even sterner test.

However, with Tony Pulis’ men struggling against relegation in the Premier League, the Welshman may be tempted to make wholesale changes with Hull City set to visit Selhurst Park on Tuesday.

Despite both having played in the top two tiers of English football for the last decade, Wigan and Palace have only met on three previous occasions, garnering one win apiece and a draw.

The only meeting to take place in Wigan ended in a 5-0 victory for the hosts in Nove
mber 2003, with Andy Liddell, Geoff Hosfield and Nathan Ellington finding the net, while a young Leighton Baines came off the bench.

This will be the first clash between these teams in the FA Cup – a competition Palace have never won and which Wigan triumphed in for the first time last season.

Palace have not featured at this stage of the tournament since the 2009-10 season, when a 2-1 victory at Wolves booked a fifth-round tie with Aston Villa, which they subsequently lost.

The men from South London lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with victory over Stoke City last time out in the Premier League, while Wigan have failed to live up to expectations in the Championship.

However, the Lancashire side’s 3-0 defeat to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday was their first loss in seven league matches.

Manager Uwe Rosler will have to make do without Shaun Maloney (hip) and Gary Caldwell (Achilles) for the tie, while Ivan Ramis (groin) is also set to miss out.

However, the German could include new loan signings Nicky Maynard and Tyias Browning, who made their debuts for the club last weekend.

Wigan confirmed the acquisition of Chelsea’s Josh McEachran on loan on Thursday, and the midfielder could go straight into the squad for the clash as he did not feature in the competition during a spell at Watford earlier in the season.

Jack Hunt and Jerome Thomas are nearing a return for Palace, but this weekend’s clash is likely to come too soon for the duo.

Thu 23 January, 2014
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Oyston confirms Ince sacked by text

Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has confirmed Paul Ince learned of his sacking as manager via text message.

The former England international was relieved of his duties, together with assistants Alex Rae and Steve Thompson, on Tuesday after a dismal run that saw Blackpool pick up one point from nine Championship games.

It had been reported that Ince was informed of the club’s decision through a text message and this has now been corroborated by Oyston.

However, Oyston feels he was left with little choice due to Ince being away on a coaching course, which he had not informed the chairman he would be attending.

Oyston told Sky Sports : “Following a meeting on Sunday, I told them (Blackpool’s management team) in no uncertain terms that things had to change. Paul promptly went off on a coaching course and I heard nothing from Alex (Rae) or Steve Thompson.

“We couldn’t get hold of Paul so we relayed the message that we had decided to make a change and obviously informed him in writing.

“It was done by letter but obviously I informed them that we were making changes via text because I couldn’t get hold of them.

“I don’t want to get into mud-slinging. It’s a case of priorities and I’d have liked our management team to have placed player recruitment as their priority. We all agreed that was the only way of arresting our slide.

“I wasn’t made aware by Paul that he was going on a coaching course and would be disappearing off the face of the earth for two days. I was disappointed about that.”

Oyston claims the decision to dismiss Ince was taken with a heavy heart.

“It’s very unpleasant and only the second time I’ve had to make managerial changes in my 15 years at Blackpool. We’ve always majored on stability and trying to keep managers.

“It’s never pleasant to put people out of work. You don’t get into football to do that. On a personal level, I get along with all three of them and I think they’re all good people, but you’ve got to do what’s best for the football club.”

Wed 22 January, 2014
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Quagliarella and Vucinic free to leave Juventus; Rakitic rules out January move

Juventus director general Beppe Marotta has revealed he would allow Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic to leave Turin in the January transfer window.

Juventus director general Beppe Marotta has revealed strike duo Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic would be allowed to leave Turin if they submitted formal transfer requests this month.

Quagliarella and Vucinic have been hovering around the fringes of the first team this season, with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente getting the majority of the playing time up front.

Tottenham have been linked with a move for both strikers in recent times, while Spurs’ bitter North London rivals Arsenal are reportedly considering a move for Vucinic.

“We have always said that the players decide their own fate,” Marotta told Sky Sport Italia. “If one of them were to come to us and say: ‘I want to leave because I’m not getting enough chances,’ we would try to grant their request.

“Obviously that would depend on there being offers for them because, if the offers aren’t there, you can’t grant their wish.”

Despite the aforementioned speculation, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played down the club’s interest in signing Vucinic after the Gunners’ 2-0 win over Fulham at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

“We are looking at potential possibilities for us to get someone in, but we are not especially in for Vucinic,” said Wenger. “Some people have visual capacities that I don’t have.

“We are not on any special case. I would love to announce something that would excite you and me, but I don’t have the possibility to do it.”

Arsenal (16-3-3), currently sitting atop the English Premier League with 51 points, will play host to League One side Coventry City F.C. in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday, 24 January 2014.

The Gunners are priced at 1/10 to defeat the Sky Blues on Friday evening.

Rakitic rules out January move

Sevilla FC ace Ivan Rakitic has insisted he will not leave the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán in January amid reports linking him with a sensational move to Atletico Madrid.

The Croatia international, 25, prevented Atleti from going top of La Liga with a second-half penalty on Sunday and has since ruled out a move away from Nervión.

“I like playing for Sevilla FC, in the present, future and always,” said Rakitic.

“I’m very happy here at this club, and my family are also happy here. I am not available right now.”

Rakitic, whose current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2015, has bagged 11 goals and six assists in 27 appearances (25 starts) in all competitions for Sevilla this season.

Mon 20 January, 2014
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Aguero return to boost City

Manchester City have been boosted ahead of their FA Cup third-round replay against Blackburn Rovers with the news Sergio Aguero is available.

The Argentine striker has been sidelined since mid-December, having limped out of City’s 6-3 win over Arsenal with a calf problem.

However, after missing eight matches in all competitions, the Argentine has resumed full training and could feature on Wednesday.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini said: “Sergio is working normally with the whole squad and he is in the squad list.

“He is a very important player for us. It doesn’t matter that we are scoring a lot of goals. Sergio will always will be an important player. We are very happy he is coming back.”

Pellegrini will be forced to cope without David Silva and Yaya Toure against Blackburn, although the duo could return for the visit of Cardiff City at the weekend.

“David Silva and Yaya Toure are (out) with small problems,” the Chilean added. “I hope they will be fit for Saturday.

“Yaya has the last two weeks played with a problem with his back, so it is a risk to continue doing that way. It is better for him to rest for two or three days.”

Tue 14 January, 2014
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Alcaraz hails Stones impact

Everton defender Antolin Alcaraz has tipped teenager John Stones for a big future after he impressed again on Saturday.

With Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin sidelined due to hamstring injuries, Alcaraz and Stones have stepped in at the heart of Everton’s defence in the last two matches.

The 19-year-old Stones – who joined from Barnsley in January last year – was the man-of-the-match in the Merseyside club’s 4-0 FA Cup win over QPR on Saturday after impressing in the Premier League draw at Stoke City.

“He (Stones) is a young lad and he has a big future,” Alcaraz told evertontv.

“He is a great player and I think he is going to improve a lot. He had a great game against Stoke and also now (against QPR).

“He has a lot of quality but he is a young guy and he needs more games to improve and learn.

“But if he continues in this way then he has a big future and he will make a big impact in the Premier League.”

Everton travel to Stevenage in the fourth round of the FA Cup later this month and Alcaraz – who won the FA Cup with Everton manager Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic last season – is hopeful of another lengthy cup run.

“We knew how important it was to win and we are through to the next round,” he added.

“We will do everything we can to get to the final at Wembley. It was a good memory last year and I want to repeat that again.”

Tue 7 January, 2014
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Football fan stabbed after Liverpool cup tie

Merseyside Police are investigating after a football fan was stabbed outside Anfield following Liverpool’s clash with Oldham Athletic.

A 35-year-old man, believed by police to be an Oldham supporter, was assaulted just outside Anfield after Liverpool’s 2-0 FA Cup third-round win over the League One side on Sunday.

The victim was transported to the Royal Liverpool Hospital after flagging down an ambulance on Lower Breck Road, but his injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

A Merseyside Police statement read: “Merseyside Police is appealing for information after a man was assaulted in the Anfield area of Liverpool on Sunday 5th January, following the FA Cup third-round tie between Liverpool and Oldham Athletic.

“Officers were on routine patrol on Lower Breck Road, at around 5.15pm, when a 35-year old man, who is believed to be an Oldham supporter, flagged down a passing ambulance following a disturbance.

“He was taken to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital where he is receiving treatment for a stab wound. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

“The area is being forensically examined and inquiries into the incident are being carried out.

“Detective Chief Inspector Andy O’Connor said: “I want to reassure people that we are conducting a thorough investigation to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.

“This was a nasty assault which has left a man in hospital.

“The area was very busy with both football fans and passing motorists when the incident took place and I’m confident some people will have seen what happened.”

Mon 6 January, 2014
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Bournemouth fans cover coach cost for Burton

Fans of Championship club Bournemouth have raised more than £2,000 to aid supporters of FA Cup third-round opponents Burton Albion.

Bournemouth’s home tie against Burton was postponed on Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch at the Goldsands Stadium, with a decision reached just over an hour before the scheduled kick-off time of 3pm.

By that time, many Burton followers had already made the 185-mile journey to Bournemouth.

However, the same fans now look set to benefit from free coach travel should they wish to attend the rearranged fixture on January 14, after a group of Bournemouth supporters set up an online fundraising page.

The south-coast outfit gained promotion to League One at Burton in April 2010, and have fond memories of the treatment they received.

A message on the fundraising page read: “On 24th April 2010 AFC Bournemouth secured promotion to League 1 with a 2-0 victory over Burton Albion.

“The way our fans were treated that day from the pubs, to the stewards to their fans was just brilliant and has left great memories in many of our fans’ minds.

“We were due to meet them for the first time since that joyous day in the FA Cup but the game was postponed just over an hour before kick-off, with most away fans in the Bournemouth area having to face a frustrating day of travelling.

“As a sign of good will, David Whitehead came up with the idea of Cherries fans chipping in to help fund a coach for our friends at Burton Albion so they can experience free travel and enjoy the re-arranged fixture.”

By Sunday, £2,296 had been raised by Bournemouth fans – almost treble the stated target of £800.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Manchester United 1 Swansea City 2

Swansea City celebrated their first win at Old Trafford after dumping Manchester United out of the FA Cup courtesy of a 2-1 success.

Ten-man United, who lost their opening game of 2014 to Tottenham on Wednesday, recovered from going a goal down early on as Javier Hernandez cancelled out Wayne Routledge’s opener, but failed to break down a stern Swansea back line in the third-round clash on Sunday.

And the 11-time FA Cup winners were punished for their lack of cutting edge when Wilfried Bony headed home in the 90th minute to pile the pressure on United manager David Moyes and inflict a fifth home defeat of the season and fourth in the side’s last six Old Trafford outings.

Things began badly for Moyes in his first FA Cup clash as United manager, when Routledge scooped an effort over a helpless Anders Lindegaard 12 minutes in.

However, the visitors’ joy was short-lived as Hernandez restored parity from close range four minutes later.

United had Fabio sent off 10 minutes from time for a rash tackle on Jose Canas and Bony then struck a dramatic winner when he buried Routledge’s cross in the dying stages.

Rio Ferdinand also hobbled off injured during another disappointing afternoon for the Premier League champions, while Swansea can now look forward to a fourth-round tie against either Birmingham City, Crawley Town or Bristol Rovers.

Moyes handed starting spots to goalkeeper Lindegaard and defenders Ferdinand and Alexander Buttner, while Danny Welbeck and Hernandez led the line in the absence of injured pair Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

There were five changes from the Swansea side that lost to Manchester City in the Premier League on Wednesday. Captain Ashley Williams was on the bench with manager Michael Laudrup forced to contend with an injury list featuring the likes of Michu and Michel Vorm.

The hosts began the brighter and should have gone ahead after 11 minutes, but Hernandez failed to connect with an effort from inside the area after good link-up play between Welbeck and Chris Smalling.

United were made to pay soon after, when Alejandro Pozuelo played in Routledge, who produced a delightful lob over Lindegaard to put Swansea ahead.

Four minutes later, United were level, Hernandez making amends for his earlier miss to prod home Buttner’s cross inside the six-yard box.

After the early goals, chances dried up for both sides before Jonathan de Guzman and Buttner threatened from set-pieces for either side.

Hernandez wasted another opportunity a minute before the break, volleying Jonny Evans’ lofted ball wide of Gerhard Tremmel’s right-hand post.

The sides cancelled one another out in the early stages of the second half, with Swansea perhaps enjoying greater possession, without causing any problems.

Bony’s swerving effort had Lindegaard worried on the hour before it whistled wide, while Swansea’s resolute defending at the other end stifled United’s forward line.

United’s cause was not helped by the loss of Ferdinand to a suspected knee injury and the dismissal of his replacement Fabio, who was shown a red card for a late challenge on Canas 10 minutes from time.

And Bony compounded Moyes’ misery to secure Laudrup a first win in eight.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Mourinho praises Chelsea reaction

Jose Mourinho praised the second-half reaction from his Chelsea players after they secured a 2-0 FA Cup victory over Derby County.

The Premier League outfit were frustrated in the first half as Derby defended resolutely at Pride Park, but the Portuguese’s words at the break brought added vigour and urgency to his side.

Goals from John Obi Mikel and Oscar duly secured Chelsea’s progress to round four, and Mourinho was pleased with the way his side raised their performance after the interval.

“The game was difficult,” he said. “In the first half we didn’t play bad, we played quite well but it was still 0-0 and 0-0 at half-time is a big risk because in the second half the opponent score and you are in trouble.

“I think the players got the message we needed extra intensity, we needed to put them in more difficult situations.

“I decided to change (Michael) Essien for Eden (Hazard) and bring an extra attacking player, fresh with speed one against one.

“I knew that could make it more difficult for them. The team played seriously, we won, job done against a good Championship team.”

Chelsea’s reward for victory over Steve McClaren’s side is a fourth-round tie against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Liverpool 2 Oldham Athletic 0

Liverpool avenged last year’s shock FA Cup exit at Oldham Athletic with an unconvincing 2-0 win against the same opponents at Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers’ side sealed their place in the fourth round of the famous competition on Sunday thanks to Iago Aspas’ first goal for the club and a late James Tarkowski own goal.

Spanish forward Aspas volleyed home in the 54th minute as Liverpool turned the screw after the break, and the same player headed against the post just after.

Oldham – who beat Liverpool 3-2 in the fourth round last year, but lost 5-1 at Anfield in round three in 2012 – weathered the storm though, and almost snatched an equaliser when Michael Petrasso forced an excellent save from Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones with 16 minutes left.

But Liverpool, who will travel to Burton Albion or AFC Bournemouth in the fourth round, sealed their win when Raheem Sterling’s strike deflected in off Tarkowski in the 82nd minute.

Rodgers rested star striker Luis Suarez, midfielder Philippe Coutinho and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet but recalled captain Steven Gerrard for his first start in almost a month.

Jones deputised in goal for Liverpool, while just two members of the Oldham team that beat Liverpool last year – Jonathan Grounds and James Wesolowski – started for Lee Johnson’s side.

Gerrard, who returned from a hamstring injury against Hull City on Wednesday, was the victim of a crunching tackle from Oldham captain Korey Smith in the first minute and it set the tone in a frustrating first half for Liverpool.

They rarely threatened the Oldham goal, with Luis Alberto going closest in the 14th minute when he shot just wide after a smart lay-off from Victor Moses.

A poor first half saw Rodgers turn to the bench, as Coutinho and Lucas were introduced in place of Alberto and Moses.

Coutinho swung in two testing corners, the second of which was just headed over by Gerrard, before Aspas broke the deadlock nine minutes after the break.

Sterling was the provider, causing panic in the Oldham defence with a jinking run, and his ball across the penalty box was allowed to bounce before Aspas volleyed in.

Aspas almost doubled his account two minutes later, but his glancing header from another Sterling cross hit the post, and Coutinho’s follow-up was denied by the legs of Oldham goalkeeper Mark Oxley.

Sterling then declined to shoot after charging forward, instead opting to cut back, but Coutinho could only blaze over the bar.

After weathering the storm, Oldham fought back, with Philliskirk again going close from distance before Petrasso span away from Agger and forced a great save from an outstretched Jones.

Rodgers was forced to play his trump card, bringing on Suarez, but it was Sterling who helped wrap up the win, with his strike – that was going wide – going in after an unfortunate Tarkowski deflection.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Brown delighted with Hull draw

Southend United manager Phil Brown is relishing the prospect of taking on former club Hull City in the FA Cup fourth round.

Brown led Hull to the Premier League in 2008 and kept the club in the top flight before being placed on gardening leave the following season, which ended in relegation.

An unsuccessful spell at Preston North End followed for Brown before he took charge of League Two Southend in March 2013.

The 54-year-old will now welcome Hull, who are back among England’s elite clubs under Steve Bruce, to Roots Hall on January 25 or 26.

“You couldn’t write the script; it really is what the FA Cup is all about,” Brown told Southend’s official website.

“It’s a great draw for me personally coming up against Hull, but also for the players to test themselves against a Premier League side.

“We’ve beaten two teams from our division (Morecambe and Chesterfield), two good teams, and then convincingly beaten a Championship side (recording a 4-1 triumph over Millwall), so we deserve a crack at Hull.

“One of my ambitions when I arrived at Southend United was to fill the stadium and I think we can do that against Hull.

“I know Steve Bruce very well – we get on – and he’s got a good team together, so it’ll be a cracking FA Cup tie.

“It’s also nice to have the draw at home. If we’re going to try and go further in this competition, I felt it was important we were at home.

“There’s two big games before then (in League Two) which the players need to focus on, but it’s a game we can all look forward to in the near future.”

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Derby County 0 Chelsea 2

Chelsea booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a hard-fought 2-0 victory at in-form Championship side Derby County.

John Obi Mikel marked his 300th appearance for Chelsea with his fourth goal for the club to break the deadlock, rising to meet a Willian free-kick in the 66th minute at Pride Park.

Oscar then doubled Chelsea’s lead four minutes later with a powerful strike from the edge of the penalty area that Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant was unable to keep out.

Ramires, who was booked for diving in the second half, also clipped the top of the crossbar late on as the seven-time FA Cup winners finished the third-round encounter strongly.

Chances were at a premium throughout with Oscar and Ramires coming closest for the visitors in the first half, while Derby, who contained their top-flight opponents well for the opening hour, rarely threatened Mark Schwarzer.

Victory for Jose Mourinho’s side means Chelsea will face Stoke City at Stamford Bridge in the next round in the only all-Premier League tie.

The hosts were forced into two changes as injuries ruled out Craig Bryson (groin) and Johnny Russell (fractured cheekbone), so Jeff Hendrick and Simon Dawkins came in.

Mourinho made six changes from the Chelsea side that beat Southampton on Wednesday as Schwarzer took over in goal from Petr Cech and Samuel Eto’o replaced Fernando Torres in attack.

Derby created the best chance of the opening exchanges with 13 minutes gone as they attacked down the left, but Jamie Ward was unable to meet Craig Forsyth’s cross and Ashley Cole cleared the danger.

A mistake by Michael Keane in the 22nd minute saw the unmarked Eto’o released into the Derby half. Andre Wisdom and Jake Buxton muscled the Cameroon international off the ball, however, before he could get his shot away.

Chelsea finished the half the stronger, but wasted chances to break the deadlock through Ramires and Oscar.

Clear-cut opportunities after the restart were few and far between before Chelsea took the lead just after the hour.

Mikel rose unmarked at the front post to meet a Willian free-kick from the left and his flicked header beat Grant from five yards.

Oscar finally got his goal in the 70th minute with a well-struck effort from inside the penalty area. The Brazilian created room on the edge of the box and lashed a shot at goal that found a way past Grant.

Substitute Torres, who had replaced Eto’o, had two chances in the closing minutes of the match, but was denied by Grant on both occasions and the woodwork frustrated Ramires as Chelsea went in search of a third.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Sunderland 3 Carlisle United 1

Sunderland saw off a spirited Carlisle United side 3-1 at the Stadium of Light on Sunday to secure an FA Cup fourth-round spot.

Gus Poyet’s side, who sit bottom in England’s top flight, made the most of a break from their league woes to book a home clash with Kidderminster Harriers or Peterborough United, but were made to work hard against the League One outfit.

After dominating the early stages of the first half, the hosts took the lead 34 minutes in through a stunning free-kick from Adam Johnson.

David Amoo fouled Craig Gardner on the edge of the area and Johnson curled the ball home left-footed, but Sunderland’s lead was shortlived.

Matty Robson was the man on the scoresheet for the visitors two minutes before half-time, pouncing on a loose ball to score after the home defence failed to clear Amoo’s cross.

Sunderland restored their lead soon after the restart thanks to a large slice of luck, with the unfortunate Sean O’Hanlon turning Johnson’s effort over goalkeeper Greg Fleming, before a debut goal from substitute El-Hadji Ba finished off Carlisle a minute from time.

Poyet brought Gardner and Wes Brown back into his starting XI, although captain John O’Shea remained absent due to a persistent shoulder problem.

Former Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh made three changes to Carlisle’s team, handing starting berths to Bradley Potts, Lewis Guy and O’Hanlon.

Jozy Altidore found himself one-on-one with Fleming after 16 minutes courtesy of a throughball from Johnson, but Carlisle’s keeper came out on top.

Sunderland maintained the pressure and Gardner was next to threaten from long range following a dangerous corner from the home side.

Vito Mannone was called into action for the first time on 21 minutes when he tipped Prince Buaben’s driven strike round the post after it evaded a clutch of Sunderland defenders.

Altidore then failed to get sufficient contact on a teasing Ondrej Celustka cross before Johnson’s free-kick eventually handed Sunderland the lead their early dominance warranted.

The winger’s third goal of the season, all of which have come at the Stadium of Light, looked set to put Sunderland in front at the interval only for Robson to draw Carlisle level.

Sunderland retook the lead four minutes into the second half when Johnson’s volley was diverted into the Carlisle goal courtesy of a deflection off the covering O’Hanlon.

Having already conceded one lead, Poyet’s men appeared determined to gain a two-goal cushion but struggled to convert their superior possession into clear-cut chances.

Debutant Duncan Watmore showcased his eagerness to impress after being introduced a minute after the hour, the 19-year-old forcing a smart save from Fleming after neat interplay with Altidore.

Carlisle continued to pose a threat on the counter, but Ba completed the scoring following Altidore’s lay-off as Sunderland progressed to the next round of a competition they last won in 1973.

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Pulis disappointed by Cup turnout

Tony Pulis feels more could be done to attract crowds to FA Cup matches after just 12,700 people watched Crystal Palace knock out West Brom.

Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh both found the net at The Hawthorns on Saturday to send Palace into the fourth round for the first time in four seasons.

However, with so few people in the stands, Pulis believes the competition may be in danger of losing some of its magic.

“There’s got to be some way of filling stadiums up, especially for third round and fourth round ties at Premier League grounds,” he said. “That has to be looked at because it is a wonderful competition.

“For all of what is going on, we’ve go to try as a nation to make sure we keep it a great competition by filling stadiums for games – that’s certainly a help.

“It’s difficult because it’s just after new year, people have spent a lot of money, so you understand that.

“But, as I said, there’s got to be a way at this time of year that clubs can attract full houses, how they do it you’d have to ask chief executives.”

With attendances poor at grounds across the country, including a showing of just 6,960 as Wigan Athletic took on MK Dons, West Brom boss Keith Downing insisted the club had made an effort to tempt fans to the stadium.

“The club cut the prices so they tried to get people in,” he said.

“But this area is still a difficult area, it’s still trying to survive economically, and it’s tough for people to keep on producing money to watch football.”

Sun 5 January, 2014
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Prediction: Manchester United vs Swansea

4th January 2014

Manchester United will attempt to banish their Premier League blues with FA Cup triumph over Swansea, although the Red Devils will have to make do without two key forwards. Meanwhile, their opponents are hoping to end a seven-match winless run, and having seen quite a few sides win at Old Trafford this term, the Swans have reason for optimism.

This season is clearly not going according to plan for Manchester United, and it is clear David Moyes will have to invest heavily in the January transfer window in order to save the current campaign. We can safely say the Red Devils are out of the title race in the Premiership following the home defeat to Tottenham, so domestic cups are clearly their best chance of lifting some silverware. And while David Moyes’ side have already reached Capital One Cup semi-finals where they will face struggling Sunderland, their FA Cup campaign is likely to prove much more difficult. The time has come for Manchester United to fear home games against mid table sides and it is hardly surprising they won’t be too many punters backing the Red Devils to win at 9/20. Injury problems continue to mount for David Moyes, with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young joining Robin van Persie, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini in the infirmary. And even if Danny Welbeck appears to be in pretty good form at the moment, the absence of Wayne Rooney is going to seriously affect the creative department, meaning we could see another difficult home game for United.

Swansea City were always going to find it hard to repeat the season like last when they enjoyed plenty of success on all fronts and won the Capital One Cup title, with their European campaign adding an extra strain on the somewhat thin squad. The Swans did well to make it to Europa League knockout stages, but they were then pitted against star-studded Napoli side, and they don’t look capable of upsetting the odds in that encounter. Meanwhile, their league performances have left a lot to be desired, although injuries to key players Michu, Vorm and Dyer certainly played a part. Swansea have slipped in the danger zone following a six-match winless run, and no wonder Michael Laudrup is looking to ring changes for the FA Cup tie against Manchester United, with their Premier League campaign clearly a priority. That, however, does not mean that the Swans will roll over for their more illustrious opponents, but they will rather try and frustrate the hosts with a defence-minded approach. Michu, Nathan Dyer, Michel Vorm and Pablo Hernandez are out injured, whereas Leon Britton is doubtful through illness.


Manchester United will be struggling up front without Rooney and Van Persie and they could need quite a while to penetrate Swansea’s defence. The Red Devils remain the favourites to go through and will probably secure their place in the next round, but I believe we can pretty much rule out a big win.

Verdict: Under 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 23/20

Bookmaker: William Hill

Sat 4 January, 2014
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McDermott calls for Leeds investment after career low

Leeds United manager Brian McDermott described his side’s FA Cup exit to Rochdale on Saturday as his “worst moment in football”.

Scott Hogan and Ian Henderson scored the goals that saw the League Two club spring an upset at Spotland as Rochdale reached the fourth round for the first time in 11 years.

The 2-0 defeat extended Leeds’ winless run to five matches in all competitions and McDermott called for investment in the Championship team after what he stated was a low point in his career.

“I would probably say that is my worst moment in football,” he told BBC Radio Leeds.

“This will be a driver for me in the coming weeks. We need to invest in this team, it needs help. We seem to have run out of steam.

“We have to do it for those who travelled today and (we are) desperately, desperately sorry we put on a performance like today. Rochdale played well and it is their day.”

While McDermott had no complaints about the result, Rochdale counterpart Keith Hill also felt his players deserved their moment in the spotlight.

“It’s a tremendous win. We had a gameplan and the players executed it superbly,” he said.

“The players trusted me and each other. No-one can argue we didn’t deserve that win.”

Sat 4 January, 2014
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Downing downhearted after West Brom exit

Keith Downing bemoaned an opportunity missed as an under-strength West Brom side lost 2-0 to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup third round.

Caretaker manager Downing made eight changes from his side’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle United on New Year’s Day, and West Brom struggled to break Palace down, despite having the better chances in the second half.

Dwight Gayle put the visitors ahead midway through the first half at the Hawthorns, before substitute Marouane Chamakh sealed Palace’s progress in stoppage time.

“It’s a competition we wanted to progress in and today was disappointing,” said Downing. “We were a little short of how we have been in the last four games

“We conceded a poor goal. Tony Pulis’ sides are always difficult to break down and giving them a goal meant that our task was doubly tough.

“We kept going but without creating too much.

“Credit to Palace, they were resolute in their defending.”

Sat 4 January, 2014
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FA Cup: Blackburn Rovers 1 Manchester City 1

A below-par Manchester City were held 1-1 by Championship side Blackburn Rovers in their FA Cup third-round tie at Ewood Park on Saturday.

Last year’s beaten finalists will need to continue their impeccable home form when the two replay at the Etihad Stadium after Scott Dann cancelled out Alvaro Negredo’s first-half opener.

Towards the end of what was a mostly low-key 45 minutes, Negredo handed City a half-time advantage, with a simple finish from close range following a dangerous David Silva corner.

Any hopes of a simple progression were halted five minutes before the hour however, when captain Dann made the most of a Costel Pantilimon error to equalise, with Rovers able to frustrate and threaten 10-man City in equal measure during the remainder of the tie.

Manuel Pellegrini stated on Friday that he would look play a strong side in the competition and he kept to his word, with regulars such as Fernandinho, Silva and Negredo all handed starting spots, while the Chilean named Joleon Lescott captain after dismissing reports the defender could leave City in January.

For the hosts, Paul Robinson made his first start since December 2012 having suffered a blood clot on his lung while Rudy Gestede was preferred to leading scorer Jordan Rhodes up front.

City enjoyed much of the ball in the opening exchanges but were let down by their final ball while Rovers’ first effort on target came courtesy of Dann’s header, which was easily saved with by Pantilimon.

It sparked the hosts’ first spell of pressure as Tom Cairney’s free-kick delivery and another Dann header caused problems for City’s back line.

Negredo and Silva both came close midway through the half before City eventually went ahead through the former on the stroke of half time.

The former Sevilla man latched on to Dzeko’s header from Silva’s set-piece, calmly converting at the far post amid disagreements and shouts of offside from the Blackburn defence.

Dann had Blackburn level 10 minutes after the interval however, with Pantilimon largely culpable, as he flapped at a routine header from Gestede, allowing the home skipper in for a simple finish.

City had not lost or conceded a goal in their previous five FA Cup ties against lower division opposition and quickly set about scoring a second.

Negredo acrobatically headed wide with an open goal gaping, after Robinson saved from Dzeko, before the hosts’ goalkeeper was alert to deny substitute Jesus Navas’ long-range strike.

City piled on the pressure late in the game but to no avail, and Pellegrini’s men were not helped by the dismissal of Dedryck Boyata late on after receiving a second yellow card for a poorly-timed challenge on DJ Campbell.

Sat 4 January, 2014
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