AEK beat Panathinaikos in Athens derby

AEK Athens made up for their UEFA Cup elimination by Cypriot side AC Omonia Nicosia with a 2-1 win over city rivals Panathinaikos on Sunday.

The opening round of matches in the Greek season included a high-profile fixture with AEK hosting Panathinaikos, against whom they hadn’t won in four head-to-head meetings.

Edinho opened the score for AEK in the 20th minute and Blanco converted a penalty kick just before the break.

Karagounis got one back for Panathinaikos in stoppage time but the visitors lacked the time to do anything else.

First leaders this season are AE Larisa, who earned a convincing 3-0 win over newly promoted Thrasivoulos Fylis.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Brilliant start for Robert Lewandowski

Lech Poznan’s rookie forward Robert Lewandowski is the greatest discovery of the start of the new season in Poland.

The 20 year old striker joined Lech this summer from second division side Znicz Pruszkow. It’s his second attempt in the Ekstraklasa. He joined Legia Warsaw three years ago after playing for several local clubs, but never reached the first team in Poland’s capital. After spending a year in the reserve team, he was sold without regret to a small team in Warsaw’s metropolitan area, Znicz.

There the youngster created a very spectacular and effective duo with Bartosz Wisniewski. Lewandowski scored 15 times for Znicz, including a hat-trick in a match that assured Znicz promotion to the second division.

At the higher level he lost nothing of his ability. Despite his companion Wisniewski leaving Znicz in the winter break, he repeated his achievement with 21 goals. Znicz although, despite fighting to the very end, lost the promotion to richer teams like Slask Wroclaw, Lechia Gdansk and Arka Gdynia.

Lewandowski, with his goal-scoring skills, attracted top Polish teams. Media linked him with champions Wisla Krakow, Lech Poznan, Cracovia and, ironically, Legia Warsaw. The player chose Poznan’s “locomotive”, who represent Poland in this season’s UEFA Cup.

A qualifying match in this competition was Lewandowski’s debut in the team. In Kazakhstan he scored the winning goal coming on as a substitute. In his Ekstraklasa debut he also scored, but his team lost a home match. However, Lewandowski doesn’t seem to use up his ammunition – he had his hand, or leg, in Lech’s demolition of Grasshoppers with two goals and has scored three goals in four league games so far.

The youngster’s performance didn’t escape national coach Beenhakker’s notice. Lewandowski is called up for the World Cup qualifying matches against Slovenia and San Marino, which will be held in September.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Radoslaw Matusiak retires from football

Polish international forward Radoslaw Matusiak announced his shocking retirement from professional football at the age of 26.

Radoslaw Matusiak, who won 15 caps and 7 goals for Poland, terminated his contract with Heerenveen in mutual consent. He joined the Dutch club from Palermo a year ago for a fee of about 3 million euros. The last six months he spent at Wisla Krakow on loan.

Heerenveen’s new coach Trond Sollied informed that he wouldn’t consider Matusiak in the squad this season and forced him to find a new club.

Presently Matusiak is recovering from a groin injury in his home city – Lodz. “Radoslaw rules out the return to football and is going to engage in business activity,” stated the player’s father.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Hopeful Feyenoord crash to defeat at Heracles

Feyenoord Rotterdam suffered a painful defeat at Eredivisie minnows Heracles Almelo on Sunday, and start the season in the same way the last two ended.

Feyenoord have been going through a rough phase in their 100-year-old history, having delivered two of the most disappointing seasons ever.

Having attracted new coach Gert Jan Verbeek, and with the return of Danish striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, Feyenoord hoped to make an end to their crisis but their first match of the season showed anything but an improved team.

Bahía did open the score within the minute, giving his side good hope for the remainder of the match, but influential Jonathan De Guzman conceded a red card after elbowing an opponent on the half hour mark.

From here on things went down hill for Feyenoord. The home side levelled through Douglas in the 38th minute and Klavan made it 2-1 in the 60th. Feyenoord kept trying to equalise but Bridji decided the clash with 3-1 in stoppage time.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Rangers beat Celtic in first Old Firm

Glasgow Rangers have won the first Old Firm of the season, beating Celtic 4-2 in an entertaining match on Sunday.

Daniel Cousin’s opener for Rangers in the 37th minute was cancelled out by Samaras two minutes later, but former Celtic player Miller restored the away side’s lead eight minutes into the second half.

Pedro Mendes made it 1-3 in the 62nd minute and Miller added another to his tally in the 79th minute to take away any remaining doubt.

Celtic’s Nakamura got one back in the 90th minute to make it 2-4.

Having recorded three wins and a draw, Rangers now share the lead with Kilmarnock. Celtic are fourth at three points from the leaders.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Bullard surprise in England squad for World Cup matches

Jimmy Bullard has been a surprise call-up to Fabio Capello's England squad for next month's 2010 World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia on September 6 and 10.

Capello has been forced to call-up the previously untried 29-year-old Bullard as cover for the injured Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick as England start on the road to South Africa.

There was no place in Capello's 23-man squad for Michael Owen, who the Italian watched make his first full appearance of the season at Arsenal on Saturday, or Peter Crouch, who was again omitted despite his goal for Portsmouth at Everton, also on Saturday.

Micah Richards, who had originally been picked for the England Under-21s' European Championship qualifier with Portugal on Friday, was also ruled out through injury, leaving Glen Johnson as back-up for Wes Brown at right-back.

Once again, Emile Heskey takes his place in a four-man strike force that also includes Arsenal's Theo Walcott, plus Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe, who started the unconvincing friendly draw with the Czech Republic on August 20.

West Ham keeper Robert Green returns to the England squad, as does Everton's Joleon Lescott, who replaces Jonathan Woodgate.

Capello has also kept faith with David Beckham, despite the former England skipper receiving severe criticism for his performance against the Czechs.

England squad

Keepers: Paul Robinson (Blackburn), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham)

Defenders: Joleon Lescott (Everton), Wayne Bridge (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), John Terry (Chelsea), Wes Brown (Manchester United), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), Matthew Upson (West Ham)

Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Jimmy Bullard (Fulham), David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy/USA), Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), David Bentley (Tottenham), Jermaine Jenas (Tottenham)

Strikers: Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Jermain Defoe (Portsmouth), Emile Heskey (Wigan)

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Nightmare start for Guardiola as Numancia down Barca

Pep Guardiola's first league match in charge of Barcelona did not go as planned with the title hopefuls falling to an embarrassing 1-0 opening day defeat to promoted Numancia on Sunday.

Guardiola, a member of Barca's 1992 European Cup winning team, has the job of wrestling the title from Real Madrid but the omens do not look good after an insipid display.

Barca were poor travellers last season under Frank Rijkaard and the new manager and season failed to bring a change in fortune and Real can turn the screw when they face Deportivo La Coruna in Sunday's late match.

Barcelona handed a league debut to Dani Alves – a 29.5 million euro signing from Sevilla in the summer – with Lionel Messi starting in attack after inspiring Argentina to Olympic gold.

Guardiola set up Barca with a 4-3-3 – the same system as Rijkaard – with Thierry Henry starting on the left wing – a position the Frenchman clearly doesn't like.

Numancia took the lead with Mario rifling home on 12 minutes after Barca's defence failed to deal with a cross from the left.

Samuel Eto'o hit the crossbar four minutes later and Barca had several other openings – with Messi hitting the post in the final minute – but Numancia held on for a historic win.

After just one game the league now goes on international break until September 13/14 but Guardiola will probably be relieved as he bids to solve his team's troubles.

Atletico Madrid followed up their impressive midweek qualification for the Champions League with a crushing 4-0 victory over promoted Malaga on Sunday.

Dutch international Johnny Heitinga scored 26 minutes into his league debut and Diego Forlan grabbed a quick fire brace before the interval to leave Malaga down and out. Florent-Sinama Pongolle completed the rout with a debut goal.

For the first time in their history Atletico fielded a starting XI without any Spanish players – although Argentine Mariano Pernia has dual nationality – but the fans will not care as long as they continue winning.

Last season's runners-up Villarreal were left frustrated as they were pegged back to a 1-1 draw by Osasuna.

Marcos Senna, a revelation for Spain in their Euro 2008 success, netted on 54 minutes to put Villarreal ahead but Osasuna levelled 15 minutes later.

Elsewhere UEFA Cup representatives Sevilla and Racing Santander shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Racing equalising after Luis Fabiano had shot Sevilla into a 70th minute lead.

Champions Real begin their bid for a third successive league title at La Coruna later on Sunday.

Robinho has been left out of the travelling squad and decided to hold his own press conference on Sunday to reiterate his desire to join Chelsea.

“The problem is that (Real Madrid) did not manage to recruit,” Robinho said. (Bernd) Schuster (Real coach) isn't my father, he's my coach. He can't make me do anything.”

It was not the pre-match preparation that Real wanted as they bid to end their Riazor jinx having failed to win at Depor since the 1991/92 season.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Bordeaux suffer away day blues

Bordeaux, touted as serious contenders to champions Lyon this season, lost ground on the leaders Sunday with a 2-1 loss at Lille for their second away defeat of the campaign.

The day’s other early match resulted in a goalless draw between Toulouse and Rennes ahead of the evening derby between Saint Etienne and Lyon.

Last season’s runners-up Bordeaux travelled north eyeing a welcome three points against a Lille side that had gone three games without a win.

But they left without a point to slip to seventh.

Bordeaux made the early running and went into a 28th minute lead with a fine piece of individual skill from Argentine striker Fernando Cavenaghi who controlled the ball with his chest before shooting past Gregory Malicki in the 28th minute.

Lille were back on level terms four minutes later after defender Adil Rami set up Michel Bastos, and Ludovik Obraniak inflicted the killer blow in the final quarter of an hour.

The result hauled Lille out of the relegation zone.

On Saturday Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda made two crucial saves in the last five minutes to ensure a 2-1 home victory against Sochaux, keeping them top of the French league championship on Saturday.

Marseille were cruising to victory through goals by Karim Ziani and Baky Kone but Mevlud Erding pulled one back on a counter attack and the same player, through and one-on-one with Mandanda with a chance for an equaliser, saw his shot brilliantly saved by the leg of the France international keeper.

Then just before the final whistle, Mandanda made a reflex save low down to his right on the goalline, from an Erding header, to once more keep Marseille’s one-goal advantage.

A modest Mandanda said: “I just tried to play to my very best. At 2-0 we started to play at a lower standard. I think we were a bit scared and could have finished the match better.”

Paris Saint Germain put last week’s stuttering draw with Sochaux behind them with a 1-0 defeat of Caen to place Paul Le Guen’s side in sixth spot.

Le Guen and the capital side’s supporters couldn’t have wished for a better start when Guillaume Hoarau shot home from close range by the near post from Jerome Rothen’s cross from the left in the fifth minute.

PSG jumped from 11th to sixth, two points behind second-placed Le Mans who handed out a 4-1 drubbing to Nantes to make it three wins from three.

Hosts Nantes, who sacked their coach Michel Der Zakarian this week, took the lead in the 21st minute via Guirane Ndaw, but that was cancelled out two minutes later by Norwegian Thorstein Helstad.

From then on it was all plainsailing for the visitors with Modibo Maiga, Mathieu Coutadeur, and Gervinho in injury time making it a night to remember for new manager Yves Bertucci’s side.

Nice, 2-0 victors over Valenciennes, and promoted Grenoble, who beat Monaco with a 19th minute goal from striker Daniel Moreira, are also unbeaten and lying third and fourth on goal difference.

Elsewhere Auxerre came away from their visit to Lorient with a 2-0 win and Nancy came from behind to see off Le Havre 2-1.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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First league win for Klinsmann as Bayern hammer Hertha

Defending champions Bayern Munich got their first league win of the season at the third attempt to give Jurgen Klinsmann his opening Bundesliga victory as Hertha Berlin were humbled 4-1 on Sunday.

After drawing with both Hamburg and Dortmund in their opening games, Bayern coach Klinsmann was under pressure after his star-studded team had failed to fire, but the ex-Germany coach was all smiles after his side’s win.

“The team did all the things we had planned to do from the outset,” said a beaming Klinsmann after the final whistle at Munich’s Allianz Arena.

“We forced the goals and played very well, things are starting to roll now.”

Bayern are now up to seventh in the table having dominated Hertha from the start as Italian World Cup winner Luca Toni scored on 12 minutes with an individual strike after slipping the Berlin defence.

Germany defender Philipp Lahm then added a second with a right-foot thunderbolt on 54 minutes before his Mannschaft colleague Bastian Schweinsteiger converted the penalty he was awarded just two minutes later.

“Things just went well for us,” said Schweinsteiger.

“But we can still play much, much better.”

It was a bad afternoon for Berlin’s Swiss defender Steve von Bergen.

Having tripped Schweinsteiger, he then conceded a second penalty after fouling Bayern midfielder Ze Roberto for striker Miroslav Klose to make it 4-0 on 61 minutes.

“In the last few weeks, I have worked hard and this goal is a good indicator for me,” said Klose.

Hertha’s Serbian striker Marko Pantelic managed a consolation goal with time running out, but it capped a bad day for Berlin who drop from third to tenth after the weekend’s results.

Also on Sunday, VfB Stuttgart moved up to fifth in the table after their 2-0 win over Hanover thanks to first-half goals by Germany forward Mario Gomez and a penalty from Mexico midfielder Pavel Pardo.

On Saturday, Schalke 04 went top of the Bundesliga thanks to a superb header from Germany defender Heiko Westermann to seal a 1-0 win over VfL Bochum to knock Hoffenheim from top place.

Having earned their second promotion in two seasons, Hoffenheim had shocked the German league by taking an early lead at the top of the table with wins over Borussia Moenchengladbach and Energie Cottbus.

But two second-half strikes by Germany striker Stefan Kiessling ended Hoffenheim’s hopes on Saturday despite a brief fightback as they went down 5-2 to leave Bayer Leverkusen fourth.

Hamburg are second in the table, and level on seven points with Schalke, after coming from behind in Bielefeld to claim a 4-2 win.

Despite being drawn with Inter Milan in Group B of this season’s Champions League competition, Werder Bremen suffered the humiliation of being humbled 3-2 by newly-promoted Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Also on Saturday, Wolfsburg drew 2-2 with Eintracht Frankfurt while Borussia Dortmund are up to third in the table, also on seven points, with a 1-0 win over Energie Cottbus.

Cologne’s Turkish defender Umit Ozat was given a clean bill of health by doctors and released from hospital on Saturday after collapsing during his side’s 2-0 win at Karlsruhe on Friday night.

Ozat, 31, lost consciousness after 25 minutes of the match for no apparent reason and was stretchered off after teammates signalled to the bench he needed treatment. The match resumed five minutes later and Cologne went on to win 2-0.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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Liverpool suffer Villa stalemate

Rafael Benitez was left in no doubt as to the depth of ill-feeling he has caused at Aston Villa this summer with his failed attempts to lure Gareth Barry to Liverpool as his perfect start to the new campaign ended in a 0-0 stalemate at Villa Park on Sunday.

The Liverpool manager was public enemy number one to the vast majority of the 41,000 crowd and also had to suffer the added anguish of losing key striker Fernando Torres to a hamstring injury that could keep last season's top scorer out of action for two to three weeks.

But Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa were unable to capitalise on the delicious irony of facing Benitez on the eve of the transfer window closing and generate a victory that would have been intensely sweet and end a miserable record against the side from Anfield.

It has now been almost a decade since Villa triumphed in a league game against Liverpool and even the second half introduction of new 12-million-pound signing James Milner was not enough to inspire an end to that depressing sequence.

Barry's relationship with O'Neill and his legion of Aston Villa has been repaired to such an extent that the Ulsterman is willing to offer him a new contract.

There is little prospect that the same will happen between O Neill and Benitez, whose inability to meet Villa's 18-million-pound valuation of Barry caused such conflict within Villa Park for the last three months.

The Spaniard was jeered all the way to his vantage point prior to the game and baited throughout, while O'Neill followed some 100 paces behind, before heading straight to Benitez for a handshake in the technical area. It was formal, but certainly not friendly.

The hostilities rarely transmitted themselves on to the field and the most telling incident of the opening 45 minutes was Liverpool's loss of Fernando Torres with a hamstring injury, which is likely to keep the Spaniard out of international duty next week.

Norwegian John Carew came close to breaking the deadlock, rounding off a flowing Villa move, involving Barry and Ashley Young, with a low shot that was blocked by the feet of Pepe Reina, while the departure of Torres and the absence of Steven Gerrard's driving force, blunted Liverpool's threat.

Xabi Alonso saw a rare Liverpool effort deflect off Nicky Shorey the Aston Villa left-back after he had been set up by Keane and former Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Freidel had to top over Andrew Dossena's cross-shot from under his crossbar.

Benitez was jeered every time he emerged from his dug-out, but he was enraged 15 minutes from full time when referee Martin Atkinson failed to award a penalty against Nigel Reo-Coker for a challenge on Robbie Keane on the edge of the area.

The Republic of Ireland international was sent racing clear by Javier Mascherano, but was unable to punish Villa and give Benitez the last laugh on his tormentors. It would have gone some way to making up for failing to sign Barry this summer.

Sun 31 Aug, 2008
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