Nedved checks out of Juve

Czech veteran Pavel Nedved has announced his departure from Juventus in a statement released by the club on Saturday.

Nedved had said earlier in the season that he would retire from football when this campaign is over but this statement seemed to contradict that.

“After eight seasons with Juventus the time has come to say farewell to the fans, my team-mates and the club and thank them all for the support I’ve received over the years,” said Nedved.

“In Turin I have won four titles (actually two as two were annulled for match-fixing) and a Ballon d’Or.”

Nedved said that he was not leaving for economic reasons but with Juve having signed Brazilian Diego and with young Italian Sebastian Giovinco pushing for a more regular starting berth, he risked being pushed down the pecking order.

Far from clarifying his future he added that from Monday he would start thinking about what to do next, although back in February he had seemingly already made up his mind.

“I’m still enjoying playing but considering my physical and mental condition I understand that the time has come to make way for younger players – they deserve to play,” he said then.

“Maybe you think I’m still young but I’m almost 37. I will quit at the end of the season, no matter how well we do in the Champions League or Serie A.

“The decision is final and I don’t think I will change my mind – I don’t need to. It is the right time to quit.”

The 36-year-old joined Juve in 2001, as a replacement for the Real Madrid bound Zinedine Zidane, after five seasons at Lazio, with whom he also won a scudetto crown in 2000.

In 2003, the same year he won the Ballon d’Or, Juve reached the Champions League final but Nedved was suspended as the Old Lady of Turin lost on penalties to AC Milan.

For his country he earned 91 caps and played in the European Championship final in 1996 in the 2-1 defeat to Germany.

This season he has played in 31 league games, scoring seven goals while also playing nine times in the Champions League.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Cottbus accept coach Pranikar´s resignation

Energie Cottbus, who are all but certain to be relegated from the Bundesliga on Sunday, have accepted the resignation of coach Boja Pranikar, it was announced on Saturday.

Energie lost 3-0 at home to Nuremberg on Thursday in the first leg of the play-off between the sides who finished third from bottom in the Bundesliga against the side third from top of the second division.

With the second leg set for Sunday, Energie are odds-on to be relegated and their board of directors accepted the 56-year-old Slovenian’s resignation on Friday.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Nedved announces Juve departure

Czech veteran Pavel Nedved has announced his departure from Juventus in a statement released by the club on Saturday.

Nedved had said earlier in the season that he would retire when this campaign is over but this statement seemed to contradict that.

“After eight seasons with Juventus the time has come to say farewell to the fans, my team-mates and the club and thank them all for the support I’ve received over the years,” said Nedved.

“In Turin I have won four titles (actually two as two were anulled for match-fixing) and a Ballon d’Or.”

Nedved said that he was not leaving for economic reasons but with Juve having signed Brazilian Diego and with young Italian Sebastian Giovinco pushing for a more regular starting berth, Nedved risked being pushed down the pecking order.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Lampard´s FA Cup winner gives Hiddink the perfect send-off

Chelsea gave Guus Hiddink the perfect farewell present as Frank Lampard’s goal clinched a 2-1 win over Everton in Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

Blues interim boss Hiddink resumes his role as Russia coach on a full-time basis in June but he will always be fondly remembered at Stamford Bridge after leading Chelsea to their first trophy for two years.

Everton had made the perfect start when Louis Saha struck after just 25 seconds to claim the fastest goal in FA Cup final history.

But Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba headed Chelsea level midway through the first half before Lampard’s long-range effort sealed his club’s fifth FA Cup success and ensured Hiddink would leave on a high.

It was also a memorable day for Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, who became the first player for more than 100 years to earn five FA Cup winners’ medals.

Hiddink, who is set to return to the head coaching job for the Russian national side, said that it was the inherent spirit of the side that had seen them prevail.

“We are very demanding on each other but that is a strength,” said the Dutchman.

“They know how to react when they are on the back foot. That is why I like them. It hasn’t just been an in between job for me, it has been more than that. This is one of my biggest adventures, to win at football’s mecca is quite something.”

His Everton counterpart David Moyes conceded that the right team had lifted the trophy.

“Chelsea were the better team,” said the Scotsman, who was named League Manager Association (LMA) manager of the year earlier this week.

“However, we made a semi-final last year and now a final this year and the guys are growing in stature out there.”

For Drogba it meant a welcome high after having been lambasted following his outburst when Chelsea were knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona.

“I am really delighted,” gasped Drogba.

“It took a lot of effort. We needed to win a trophy this season. We just had to believe in our expectations. Guus Hiddink has transformed us.”

Lampard said that his trbute when he scored was for his mother, who died last year.

“We showed a lot of character and dominated the match after half-time,” said Lampard.

“The winning goal tribute was how my father (Frank senior) celebrated when he scored a rare goal. My mother would have appreciated it.”

While Chelsea celebrated their first silverware of the post-Jose Mourinho era, Everton were left with the nagging sense of an opportunity missed.

It is over 20 years since Everton were last a major force in English football but this season has offered renewed hope that a club often forced to play second fiddle to local rivals Liverpool can finally emerge from the shadows.

Even so, Toffees boss David Moyes knew they needed a victory in a major showpiece to confirm their return as an elite side.

Moyes’ decision to start with Saha instead of midfielder Jack Rodwell underlined his determination to take the game to Chelsea and he was rewarded for his boldness after only 25 seconds.

When Steven Pienaar lofted a cross into the penalty area, John Obi Mikel could only loop a header towards Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian flicked back across to Saha and his superb volley flashed past Petr Cech at his near post.

In the blink of an eye, Saha, who missed out on playing in four FA Cup finals over the last 10 years, had scored the final’s quickest ever goal, beating the previous record of 30 seconds set by Aston Villa’s Bob Chatt in 1895.

Chelsea had been caught cold. It was as if they had been distracted after waking to accusations from former player Claude Makelele about Blues captain John Terry’s role in Mourinho’s departure.

Whatever part Terry played in Mourinho’s exit, Chelsea had rarely been the same until Hiddink arrived in February to breathe new life into a stagnating squad.

Florent Malouda was causing no end of problems for Everton down the left wing and, in the 21st minute, Tony Hibbert granted the winger space to whip over a cross that Drogba, out-jumping Joleon Lescott, headed past Tony Howard for his fifth goal in five FA and League Cup finals.

That was the signal for Everton to retreat into their shell. With Lampard and Michael Essien dominating midfield, Chelsea took control.

Moyes responded by hauling off Hibbert at the interval, with Lars Jacobsen sent on for the right-back.

Despite the sweltering heat, both teams tried to play at a high tempo and Moyes’ men began to rediscover their rhythm.

Tim Cahill, the first Australian to play in two FA Cup finals, was pushed further forward and tested Cech with an ambitious effort.

Then Saha narrowly cleared the crossbar with a bullet header from Leighton Baines’ cross.

But Chelsea can never be counted out when Lampard is in the team. In the 72nd minute, the England midfielder cut inside Phil Neville to work space for a swerving shot that Howard could only help into the net.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Instant impact Novo fires Rangers to double

Super sub Nacho Novo was the hero for Rangers after his sensational strike just seconds after coming on saw them to a 1-0 Scottish Cup Final win over Falkirk that secured a domestic double.

The Spaniard blasted in from 30 yards a mere 36 seconds after coming on as a second-half substitute at a sun-soaked Hampden here on Saturday, as the Gers added the cup to the Scottish Premier League title.

Falkirk, who only narrowly survived relegation from the top flight, came close to forcing extra time when Steve Lovell’s late effort crashed back off the post with the goalkeeper beaten, but it was the Ibrox giants who held on to lift the Cup for the 33rd time.

“If I’m honest, I couldn’t even see it. It passed so quickly,” Novo told BBC Radio Scotland of his decisive goal.

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, added: “It was always going to be a difficult match for us today, the way Falkirk set out their team.”

Bairns boss John Hughes paid tribute to his side for pushing Rangers all the way.

“All credit to them, they gave it a go,” he said. “I think you know that with the fans staying behind. I’m so proud of them, I really am.”

Rangers’ regular central midfield pairing of Pedro Mendes and Maurice Edu failed late fitness tests, allowing Barry Ferguson to make his first start since March 21.

He was partnered by Lee McCulloch, also making a rare appearance, and the former Wigan player was involved in Rangers’ first attempt of the match when he headed well over from a Steven Davis corner.

After a nervy opening spell Falkirk began to reap the benefits of their neat passing game with Burton O’Brien finishing off a free-flowing move with a shot from outside the box that flew over the bar.

Rangers were next to attack when Steven Whittaker’s mazy run ended with a shot through the legs of several Falkirk defenders and Kris Boyd just failed to connect with it at the far post as it sailed wide.

Falkirk’s Neil McCann found some room at the edge of the box in the 14th minute and sent a vicious swerving shot inches over the bar with Neil Alexander rooted to the spot.

The former Rangers player was presented with an even better chance minutes later when Darren Barr found him unmarked in the box with a cross from the right but McCann sliced his volley wide.

Rangers were struggling to create any meaningful chances and in a rare attack Boyd broke into the Bairns’ box, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.

Falkirk were dominating possession, winning the midfield battle but without creating too many opportunities, as Rangers showed signs of a hangover from last Sunday’s league championship clincher against Dundee United.

But it was the Gers’ who could have broken the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when David Weir’s goalbound header from a Davis corner was nodded off the line by Falkirk captain Barr.

Novo replaced Boyd at half-time and made an immediate impact when he fired Rangers into the lead.

The Spaniard allowed a Whittaker throw-in to drop in front of him before letting fly with a 30-yard screamer that flashed past the helpless Dani Mallo in goal.

In the 53rd minute Gerard Aafjes did just enough to stop Kyle Lafferty in the Falkirk box after the Northern Ireland international went on a rampaging run down the left wing.

A minute later Falkirk came close as Thomas Scobbie headed over from a McCann corner.

The Bairns continued to press and Hughes threw caution to the wind by making three attacking substitutions with just under 20 minutes to go.

And it looked to have been an inspired move when Falkirk thought they had scored an equaliser in the 76th minute.

Sub Michael Higdon sent the ball past Alexander from an O’Brien cross but he had already been flagged offside.

Lovell came agonisingly close to firing Falkirk level seven minutes from time but his angled shot from six yards out hit the post with Alexander rooted to the spot.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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No second Socceroo thoughts for Viduka

Striker Mark Viduka will not be joining the Australian squad for next month’s final three FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers, national coach Pim Verbeek said Saturday.

Verbeek said he had reserved a spot for the Newcastle United targetman in his extended 30-player squad for the June qualifiers against Qatar, Bahrain and Japan as Viduka considered his stalled international football career.

But Verbeek said Viduka had contacted him to advise that he would not be available for selection for the three matches.

“He told me that after a difficult season he needed a break from football to consider his future plans,” Verbeek said in a statement.

“Mark is currently out of contract (with Newcastle) and, while he is deciding what to do next, it would be difficult for him to fully concentrate on these important matches for Australia.

“We respect his decision and wish him all the best over the coming weeks as he makes his next important decision.”

Viduka, 33, last played for his country in the quarter-final loss on penalties to Japan at the 2007 Asian Cup in Hanoi and has since been plagued by injuries.

Viduka, who skippered the Socceroos at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, has scored 11 goals in 43 internationals.

Australia needs just one point to progress to next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

The Australians play Qatar in Doha on June 6 with their final two qualifiers at home against Bahrain (June 10) and Japan (June 17).

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Terry denies Makelele´s Mourinho accusation

Chelsea skipper John Terry has denied claims made in former team-mate Claude Makelele’s new autobiography that he had a role in Jose Mourinho’s September 2007 dismissal.

As Chelsea on Saturday attempted to see off Everton in the FA Cup final and win their first trophy since the Portuguese coach left Stamford Bridge, Terry’s lawyers released a statement which read: “It has been claimed that John was in some way involved with the removal of Jose Mourinho as manager.

“This is categorically untrue and there is no foundation in this allegation.

Makelele has alleged in a new autobiography just published in France that Mourinho, whom the Frenchman deemed “untouchable,” and Terry clashed over the latter’s fitness and that Terry then asked for a transfer.

According to Makelele, the club hierarchy, including owner Roman Abramovich, would not countenance Terry leaving with the result that Mourinho had to go instead.

Chelsea reject Makelele’s account.

“This is not a true version of events with regards to the transfer request as there wasn’t one,” a Chelsea spokesman said.

“Nor was the captain responsible for the departure of Jose Mourinho, which was mutually agreed between Jose and the club.”

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Aussie chief throws riches at World Cup bid: report

Billionaire football chief Frank Lowy has taken his luxury yacht to the Bahamas to lobby for support from FIFA’s executive for Australia’s bid to stage the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, reports said Saturday.

The Football Federation Australia (FFA) chairman, listed as the country’s second-richest man, has reportedly dug into his own deep pockets to boost the nation’s chances to host the football showpiece.

England are favourites to win the 2018 hosting rights, but Australia, who successfully staged the 2000 Sydney Olympics, are also seen as strong contenders, along with Russia and the joint Spain/Portugal ticket.

Lowy, a retail property tycoon, is targeting decision-makers from FIFA, world football’s governing body, and along with FFA chief executive Ben Buckley has held a series of one-on-one meetings in the lead-up to next week’s FIFA Congress in Nassau, reports said.

“Not for Australia’s bid team the awkward formality of hotel meeting rooms,” Melbourne’s Age newspaper said.

“Lowy has brought along his alternative — the 74-metre luxury yacht Ilona and worth a reported 110 million dollars (85 million US).

“It is a trip funded out of his own deep pockets and not from the 47 million dollars allocated by the Australian government to fund the bid.”

Australia will officially launch its bid to host the World Cup in Canberra on June 14.

The full Socceroos squad, at home for two Asian World Cup qualifiers, will be on show, and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will also be taking part.

A promotional campaign would be launched encouraging all Australians to support the bid, reports said.

The 24 members of the FIFA executive will vote in December to award the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Chelsea come from behind to win Cup Final

Chelsea beat Everton 2-1 to win the 2009 FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium here on Saturday.

France’s Louis Saha scored the fastest-ever goal in an FA Cup final, in just 25 seconds, to give Everton the lead before Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba equalised for Chelsea in the 21st minute.

The match between the Premier League rivals remained all square until the 72nd minute when Chelsea’s England midfielder Frank Lampard scored his 20th goal of the season despite Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard getting both hands to the ball.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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Chelsea and Everton drawing at half-time

Chelsea and Everton were tied at 1-1 at half-time of the FA Cup final here at Wembley on Saturday.

Louis Saha opened the scoring for Everton inside the first minute but Didier Drogba equalised.

Sat 30 May, 2009
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