NAC secure Europa League spot

NAC Breda have secured a spot in the second qualifying round of next year’s UEFA Europa League, beating FC Groningen 3-1 on aggregate in the Dutch play-off final.

The first leg, played in Breda last Thursday, had a 1-1 draw as result. Pressure was on NAC to score at least once in Sunday’s second leg and the team delivered as well as they could.

Matthew Amoah got rid of the away goal disadvantage on 62 minutes and Csaba Feher made it 0-2 with just four minutes to go. After that second goal, Groningen needed to score twice to win the play-offs, which turned out to be an impossible task.

In the semi finals, NAC had already beaten Feyenoord Rotterdam 7-2 on aggregate, including an impressive 0-4 win in the away match.

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Japan win Kirin Cup

Japan beat Belgium 4-0 in the third and final match of its own Kirin Cup, to win the tournament for the third consecutive time.

Nagatomo and Nakamura scored in the first half, for Okazaki and Yano to do so in the second. In the opening game, Japan had already beaten Chile 4-0 and Belgium drew 1-1 with Chile on Friday.

Okazaki, who scored twice versus Chile and once against Belgium, becomes tournament top scorer.

The Kirin Cup was first held in 1978 and admits only national teams since the 1992 edition. Last year, the Japanese hosts finished ahead of Paraguay and Cote d’Ivoire.

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Tamudo hat-trick gives Montjuic the perfect farewell

Espanyol bid farewell to their Montjuic stadium in style with captain Raul Tamudo scoring a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over 10-man Malaga on Sunday.

Tamudo, the club’s all-time top-scorer and an icon after spending his entire career at Espanyol, scored twice in the first half and completed his treble with a 56th minute penalty to give the Montjuic the perfect send-off.

Espanyol fans probably thought they would be struggling to fill their new Cornella-El Prat stadium in the second division but the club produced a sensational late run to beat the drop.

With 26 games gone Espanyol were bottom of the table, seven points from safety, but Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino turned things around and an incredible run saw the club win eight out of the final ten games.

Promoted Malaga, reduced to ten men after the sending off of Weligton on 54 minutes, finish a respectable eighth and can be proud of a season when they knocked on Europe’s door, briefly flirting with the Champions League spots.

In Sunday’s other early match Sevilla defeated relegated Numancia 2-0 in a game with little at stake.

Sevilla already had a Champions League spot wrapped up before the game and coach Manolo Jimenez tested fringe players with next season in mind.

Jimenez was recently rewarded with a contract extension until 2010 after getting Sevilla into the Champions League with third place and now has the task of trying to close the gap on the top two of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Numancia prepare for life in the second division with the highlight of their campaign the memories of beating treble winners Barcelona 1-0 in Soria on the opening day of the season.

Later on Sunday five teams fight to stay in the division in a tense relegation finale.

Numancia and Recreativo Huelva are already down leaving one unwanted spot left to fill.

Osasuna currently occupy third from bottom and must defeat Real Madrid, who have lost their last four games, in Pamplona to guarantee their safety.

Sporting Gijon are level on 40 points with Osasuna and face already relegated Recreativo at home.

Real Betis, a point above the drop, host a freefalling Valladolid in Sevilla with both teams capable of going down.

Getafe, level on points with Betis, are at Racing Santander needing a win to ensure their survival.

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Milan give Maldini perfect send-off

AC Milan booked their place in the Champions League group stages and gave Paolo Maldini a winning send-off as they beat Fiorentina 2-0 on Sunday.

The seven-time European champions risked missing out on a top three finish and having to negotiate two qualifying rounds in Europe next season if they lost but goals from Kaka and Pato were enough to secure a win and third place in Serie A.

Fiorentina finished fourth following the defeat and will play those two qualifying rounds next season while Juventus claimed second spot with a 2-0 home win over Lazio.

But while Maldini was afforded a great reception from both sets of fans in Florence to celebrate his 24 years as a Milan player, coach Carlo Ancelotti made what will likely be a more discreet departure.

He too is likely to leave Milan to join Chelsea next season, despite Milan’s fans chanting for him to stay throughout the game.

Fiorentina, who had to win to take a top three finish, started brightly and former Milan forward Alberto Gilardino got on the end of a left-wing cross on 22-minutes but headed wide under pressure.

Just two minutes later former Arsenal star Mathieu Flamini grazed the bar with a vicious shot from 22 yards as Milan demonstrated their potency.

Fiorentina had a good shout for a penalty on 42 minutes when Giuseppe Favalli appeared to haul down Gilardino but the referee gave a foul the other way.

On 48 minutes the striker went close again as he curled a shot just past the post with the outside of his right boot.

But on 55 minutes Milan took the lead with a simple move as Andrea Pirlo released Gianluca Zambrotta down the right and although his cross was blocked by Alessandro Gamberini, Kaka followed up to slide home the ball.

Filippo Inzaghi should have finished things on 62 minutes but he blazed over the bar with only French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey to beat.

However substitute Pato did seal the victory on 76 minutes as he beat the offside trap and then chipped Frey as the Frenchman went to ground.

Champions Inter Milan came back from 3-2 down to beat Atalanta 4-3 at the San Siro as Portugal veteran Luis Figo also bowed out from the game.

Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimvoic also took the golden boot award after his two goals took his tally to 25 this season.

Czech veteran Pavel Nedved was another player departing as he played his final game for Juventus, with two Vincenzo Iaquinta goals securing their victory.

Torino joined Reggina and Lecce in being relegated to Serie B after they lost 3-2 at AS Roma and Bologna won 3-1 at home to Catania.

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Milan promote Leonardo as Ancelotti exits

AC Milan on Sunday replaced coach Carlo Ancelotti with former player and Brazilian World Cup winner Leonardo, who was the club’s technical director.

Ancelotti told Italian Sky Sport TV of his departure following the 2-0 win at Fiorentina that ensured the seven-time European champions finished third and avoided having to play two qualifying rounds to reach next season’s Champions League group stages.

At the same time, Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani was announcing his replacement on Rai TV.

Ancelotti, who still had a year to run on his contract, confirmed what had become the worst-kept secret in Italian football in announcing his departure, but he refused to confirm that English side Chelsea would be his destination.

“Today my beautiful Milan adventure has come to an end,” said a visibly emotional Ancelotti.

“Our paths are separating. I spoke after the match to Mr Galliani and we decided to terminate the contract.

“We spoke a while back but the decision was taken at the end of the season and it was mutual. London is not certain as a destination.”

Ancelotti won two Champions League titles, one Serie A crown and the Club World Cup during his eight seasons at Milan but has received heavy criticism in the last two years for failing to mount a serious challenge to champions Inter Milan.

But he will remain a legend at the club where he also won two European Cups as a player, thus becoming one of the few people in history to claim Europe’s premier competition as both player and coach.

He also played for Parma and Roma and coached Reggiana, Parma and Juventus before joining Milan in 2001.

Meanwhile Galliani told Rai: “Leonardo will be the new Milan coach. He will be officially presented tomorrow (Monday) at midday.

“With Ancelotti the story is not finished. We will stay friends, we had eight marvellous years together.

“Carlo and I are very good friends and there were a few tears in the changing rooms.”

Leonardo had long been tipped to take over from Ancelotti, with Friday’s Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that it was a done deal.

The 39-year-old former midfielder and left-back played for the club from 1997-2001, winning the league title in 1999.

He was part of the Brazil squad that beat Italy to win the World Cup in 1994, although he disgraced himself earlier in the tournament by getting sent off against hosts the United States for elbowing Tab Ramos, resulting in a four-game suspension that saw him miss the final.

Leonardo has no previous coaching experience but Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola has proved novices can shine after winning an incredible treble in his debut season in charge of the Catalans.

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Ancelotti quits Milan after eight seasons

Carlo Ancelotti announced he was quitting AC Milan following their 2-0 win at Fiorentina on the last day of the Serie A season on Sunday.

A visibly emotional Ancelotti, who is widely tipped to take over at Chelsea, told Italian Sky Sport TV: “Today my beautiful Milan adventure has come to an end.”

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Apologetic Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale again

Ailing English football giants Newcastle were put back on the market by owner Mike Ashley on Sunday at a vastly lower price than he bought them.

The 46-year-old businessman is reported by the BBC to be willing to sell the club for only 80million pounds as opposed to the 135million he paid in 2006.

Ashley, a Londoner who has tried to conjure up favour with the Newcastle fans by wearing Newcastle team shirts and drinking pints of beer among the spectators, confessed to the Sunday Times that he couldn’t wait to leave.

“It’s been catastrophic for everybody. I’ve lost my money and made terrible decisions,” he told the Sunday Times.

“Now I want to sell as soon as I can. I am genuinely sorry for everybody for what has happened.”

Ashley, who went through four managers in the past campaign, again issued a fulsome apology to the longsuffering Newcastle fans.

“I never said I was an expert in football clubs,” Ashley added.

“I was just a fan – although a very wealthy fan, but I’m not so wealthy now.

“I put my money into it and I tried my best, but I accept my best was woefully short.

“Seeing Newcastle relegated has been a catastrophe for us all.

“I fully accept that mistakes were made during this and previous seasons, and I am very sorry for that.

“I would like to say sorry to our magnificent supporters who have turned up in their thousands, home and away, up and down the country and who have given the team amazing backing throughout.

“And I would also say sorry to all of the club’s hard-working staff, who have gone about their jobs all year long.”

While Ashley is yet to sell the club one of his last acts might be to sign Newcastle icon Alan Shearer up to a four year contract as manager – though he only managed one win in his eight matches in charge.

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

New deal for Chelsea´s Ballack

Chelsea’s German midfielder Michael Ballack, only a substitute for Saturday’s FA Cup final win over Everton, has agreed a one-year contract extension, the BBC reported on Sunday.

“I haven’t signed yet but I have agreed for another year,” Ballack, 32, said, adding he expected AC Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti to succeed Guus Hiddink as coach next season at Stamford Bridge.

“I haven’t worked under him and I don’t know him very well but you can see from the work he has done at Milan that he is a successful manager,” Ballack told BBC Sport.

“It’s not done yet but it looks like he will be coach.”

Ancelotti is set to reveal if he is to take charge after the Serie A season ends Sunday evening as interim manager Hiddink, who replaced the sacked Luiz Felipe in February, returns to his job as Russia coach following four months in London.

Ballack, signed by Jose Mourinho in 2006, has seen Chelsea win two FA Cups since but insisted that next season he wants to target bigger prizes with Manchester United having dominated the English Premiership since his arrival in England.

“What we need at Chelsea is consistency,” he insisted. “There is not much that we need to change to win the Premier League next season. We have a great team, which is the most important thing, but we have to change the manager again and we will need a bit of time to adapt.

“Every coach works with different methods and the players have to get to know him – hopefully we won’t need too much time because if we do we will be a little bit behind,” said Ballack, who indicated he did not think a new coach would need to go on a spending spree.

“I don’t think we need to buy anybody because we already have a lot of good players on the bench.

“That is for the club to decide but, if you look at the performances over the last couple of years in reaching finals, we have a really good squad and are heading in the right direction.”

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Capello urges United stars to bounce back

England boss Fabio Capello has urged the Manchester United stars to bounce back from their Champions League agony.

Capello says the United players should remember how John Terry bounced back after last year’s final.

Capello said: “That’s what I want from my United players – I hope they will have the same reaction as John Terry.

“I was so impressed with him. I thought even more of him after that. He is such a winner, such a fighter, such a competitor.”

He added: “In Rome, United played 10 minutes like United, then afterwards . . .

“Wayne Rooney was great in the semi-final but in Rome it was incredible, he was nervous and he lost a lot of easy passes.

“But he’s no problem for me. He is a very important player for us and I am sure he will show that again.”

[Source: News of the World]

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed

Perez backs Ronaldo to become Real’s new Beckham

Florentino Perez, who is set to return as Real Madrid president tomorrow, believes Cristiano Ronaldo can be a money machine for the club.

Perez signed David Beckham from United during his previous spell as Real president and made the club the richest in the world.

Perez said: “We have to make up for lost time. When Beckham came we went from earning seven million euros a year to 45 a year through deals with our sponsors.

“We salvaged the situation of the club. If Cristiano Ronaldo comes, even though he is currently sponsored by Nike, he then puts on an adidas shirt every week.

“There are certain players who are very profitable because they have spectacular commercial repercussions that earn the club money.

“We once earned 15million euros for two games in Japan. Now they would not pay that but in that era we had Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo and Beckham.”

“It’ll take time to build a team like that because there are not the immediate resources but we have to bring five or six new players.”

[Source: News of the World]

Sun 31 May, 2009
RSS Feed