CSKA on song against Besiktas in Moscow

CSKA Moscow bounced back from defeat to Wolfsburg to record a 2-1 win over Turkish champions Besiktas in their second Champions League Group B game here on Wednesday.

Midfielders Alan Dzagoev and Milos Krasic scored for the hosts to secure all three points and take them level with group leaders Manchester United and Wolfsburg prior to the leaders’ meeting in Manchester later on Wednesday.

Ismail Koybasi was on target for the guests, who lost their opening game 1-0 at home to United while CSKA were being beaten 3-0 in Wolfsburg.

CSKA stunned the visitors by taking the lead inside six minutes when the highly-rated Dzagoev fired a 25-yard screamer into the top left-handed corner past the outstretched hands of Besiktas goalkeeper Rustu Recber.

The visitors, who came into the match with a positive record against Russian teams (two wins and one draw), replied with a shot by Slovak winger Filip Holosko but the Red Army side’s ‘keeper Igor Akinfeyev repelled his attempt.

After the interval Besiktas picked up steam and seized the initiative, pinning the hosts back in an attempt to level and they created a clear opportunity in the 57th minute for Nihat Kahveci but the striker spurned the chance by failing to hit the ball.

CSKA replied with a series of threats and made it 2-0 through Krasic, who fired the ball home under Rustu Recber with a 15-yard angled shot after a piece of good individual work in the 61st minute.

Defender Koybasi netted a consolation in injury time but it was not enough to save the day for Besiktas.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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France unveils anti-hooligan police unit

France’s Interior Ministry on Wednesday set up a new police group to tackle hooliganism after a stormy start to the soccer season.

The announcement creating the “national division to fight hooliganism” came a week after the ministry unveiled new measures to try to stamp out violence at football grounds.

The new group was tasked with “improving coordination of intelligence capabilities between security officials on the ground, improving identification of high risk individuals” to help detain and prosecute offenders, the ministry said.

Last week’s measures included increased police surveillance of high-risk groups, stricter ground bans for violent individuals, clubs taking systematic legal action against trouble-makers and points reductions for teams whose supporters were involved in violence at matches.

The crackdown follows trouble at several grounds forcing referees to take players off.

Parliamentary legislation is expected shortly to back up the measures, including a ban on smoke bombs and fireworks inside grounds and an increase in the length of ground exclusions from the current three months to six.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Great footballers don’t always make great managers

Maradona's struggling as Argentina head coachThree famous football names have came under intense speculation in the last few weeks and months. Ipswich boss Roy Keane, Argentina coach Diego Maradona and Tranmere boss John Barnes were all undoubtedly great footballers but all three are struggling with very different managerial challenges.

Different challenges but same struggle

They may be worlds apart in their current positions but in the 1980’s John Barnes and Diego Maradona were footballing superstars. Maradona is also considered as one of the greatest footballers to have ever graced a football field. Barnes was considered one of best footballers of his generation, despite his form for England not being as consistent as his form for Liverpool. Roy Keane was key to Manchester United’s rise to the top English football in the nineties. Yet despite these achievements the three former greats find themselves in exactly the same position. That position is struggling to do their respective jobs.

Barnes struggles after summer of mass exodus

John Barnes has the most difficult job out of the three working on a shoestring budget. His cause wasn’t helped by the fact that he lost lots of key players during the summer. Those players leaving included veteran goalkeeper Danny Coyne who had previously assured the former England boss that he would sign a new contract. Instead he joined Championship side Middlesbrough on a free transfer at the end of his contract.

Things have improved for the enigmatic former Liverpool star in the last two games with his side claiming a 0-0 draw at the weekend and beating fellow strugglers Wycombe 1-0 last night. Even with these results Barnes is still under pressure.

He will have to prove to the fans that he has got what it takes to turned things around. However most Tranmere fans are still sceptical about his ability to manage a football club. There is also the opinion that he only got the job because he is a big name and his presence at the club will attract fans. Unfortunately for the Whites its did the opposite as the team have struggled all season.

Lots of ambition but no substance so far at Ipswich

Roy Keane was Alex Ferguson’s midfield general at Manchester United. The driving force behind some of United’s greatest triumphs during the nineties. It always looked likely that with his superb leadership skills and will to win that he would be a manager after he retired from playing. He did a good job in his first job as a boss with Sunderland, well for the first season anyway. He took the Mackems from the bottom end of the Championship to promotion to the Premier League.

The following season he spent a large amount of money to try and compete in the top flight. By early December his side were 18th in the Premier League and he was heavily criticised. He decided he had enough and resigned on the 4th December. It was reported that his decision was made because of differences with club chairman Niall Quinn and shareholder Ellis Short.

Keane wasn’t out of football for long though as he took over at Ipswich Town on 23rd April 2009. The season was nearly over and Keane started to get to know his players. He hasn’t got the same resources that he had at Sunderland but he is still expected to lead the club to promotion.

He shown great ambition by saying he wants his side to challenge for promotion this season. Unfortunately for the Tractor Boys they are currently bottom of the table and Keane has received the dreaded vote of confidence from Ipswich chief executive Simon Clegg.

The board are completely behind the former United ace but for how long for if they continue to struggle at the bottom end of the league. In my humble opinion Keane will make a good manager in the future and all these situations can only make him stronger as a manager.

The legend who can’t be criticised

Diego Armando Maradona is an Argentinian football legend. In some places he is almost a god to his people. Criticising the former Napoli hero is almost blasphemy in his home country and in Naples. However since taking over as Argentina head coach there has been murmurings of discontent over his performance and ability to manage one of the worlds best footballing nations.

He may have a passion for his country that is hard to match but it seems he lacks the necessary motivational skills to manage his country. His country are struggling in their World Cup qualifying group and could miss the finals next June. He has however reminded journalists that in 1985 they nearly failed to make the tournament and a year later in Mexico they became World Champions. For Argentina and their fans its a difficult situation as the Argentinian FA are unlikely to sack the legend and his pride will not allow him to quit.

If Argentina do qualify and make a big impact at South Africa 2010 then Maradona will be a even bigger figure back in his homeland, if that’s possible of course. If the unlikely happens and they don’t qualify for the World Cup next season then Diego could very well be edged towards the exit door.

These three are cautionary tales that big name players cant just be thrown in to a job just because of their reputations or who they are. In the case of Maradona its a matter of heart ruling the head at the Argentina FA and maybe now some of those officials may regret appointing the little man.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Iraqi and Kuwaiti clubs to face off in landmark tie

A Kuwaiti football club was to square off against an Iraqi side Wednesday in the first sports competition invloving the two countries here since Saddam Hussein invaded his oil-rich neighbour in 1990.

The match, pitting Arbil Club and Kuwait SC, at the 21,000-seat Francois Hariri Stadium in the capital of the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan is the second leg of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) cup quarter-final, following a 1-1 draw earlier this month.

It is a sign both of warmer ties between the two neighbours, which have clashed diplomatically in recent months over war reparations stemming from the 1990 invasion, and of improving security in Iraq.

“Today’s match is a wonderful historic opportunity,” Kuwaiti delegation head Marzoukh al-Ghanem told AFP.

“We are pleased to visit Iraq … (and) we hope that our visit is a prelude to other international matches with Arab teams visiting Iraq.”

The last Kuwaiti team to play in Iraq was the country’s under-21 football team in September 1989.

“We are delighted with the visit of the Kuwaiti team … We hope that the visit is followed by subsequent visits by other teams, and I see this as an important event for Iraqi football,” Kurdish minister for youth and sport Taha Berwari said.

Diplomatic relations between Iraq and Kuwait were cut in 1990 as a result of the invasion, but were restored after Saddam’s regime was overthrown by a US-led coalition in 2003.

Iraq currently pays five percent of its oil revenues in war reparations to a special UN compensation fund for the invasion, though this has become a source of friction between the two countries in recent years.

While Iraq has called for the payments to be scrapped because it no longer poses a threat to international security, Kuwait insists there should be no change until Baghdad has fully complied with resolutions on reparations.

Wednesday’s tie also comes around two months after Arbil and Baghdad played host to international football friendlies between Iraq and Palestine, the first such matches to be played on Iraqi soil since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Altidore, Howard, Donovan top US award finalists

Five-time winner Landon Donovan, teen star Jozy Altidore and top goalkeeper Tim Howard were named Wednesday as finalists for the US national football team’s Player of the Year Award.

A media panel selected the candidates, with the winner to be announced on October 20, six days after the US squad plays Costa Rica in its final North American qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Donovan, 27, captured the honor the past two years and from 2002 through 2004. The all-time US national team scoring leader has 41 goals in 118 matches for the Americans and plays for the Los Angeles galaxy.

Howard, 30, received the Golden Glove award from this year’s Confederations Cup in South Africa after minding the nets for the runner-up US team. Howard, who has 46 caps, plays for Everton after a past stint with Manchester United.

Altidore, 19, is a first time finalist who has eight goals in 19 caps. He became the youngest US player to record a hat trick last April in a 3-0 qualifier win over Trinidad and Tobago. Altidore plays for England’s Hull City on loan from Spain’s Villarreal.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Gold hoping to continue under Yeung

David Gold, the current chairman and co-owner of Birmingham, is hoping to carry on working for the club once he has completed the sale of his shares to Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung.

Gold’s co-owner David Sullivan has announced he will be leaving once Yeung completes his takeover in early October and chief executive Karren Brady is also looking for a new challenge.

But Gold said he would be happy to continue as chairman if Yeung will have him.

“The reason we have sold is that we believe these people can take this football club to the next level,” he said Wednesday. “I will be selling my shares along with every other shareholder.

“Whether I remain as chairman is yet to be finalised. I have offered my services and I am expecting to hear in due course.

“At the moment I am hopeful of staying at Birmingham City and hopeful of doing a good job for the future. After sixteen years at a football club, 12 as chairman, you become a fan.”

Gold voiced confidence in the ability of Yeung’s Grandtop Holdings to drive Birmingham forward.

He said: “The most important thing that is required of an owner, a principal, is that he has to be primarily a football person with a business head. Time will tell, but all the things I heard were positive and that encourages me.”

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Costa Rica bounce back at Under-20 World Cup

Costa Rica collected their first points at the 2009 World Youth Championship, beating Australia 3-0 in Wednesday’s Group E clash.

The Central Americans were never truly threatened by their Australian opponents, and took the lead through Diego Madrigal in the 35th minute.

An own goal from Luke Devere doubled the gap with eight minutes left in regular time, and David Guzman added a third in the 93rd minute.

Costa Rica move to third place with three points from two games, but do still have a negative goal record as the victory over Australia wasn’t as big as the 5-0 defeat by Brazil in their opening game.

Australia’s chances of making it to the next round are close to zero, after having lost both of their first two games.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Kroenke increases stake in Arsenal

American businessman Stan Kroenke has slightly increased his stake in Arsenal with the purchase of 80 more of the tightly-traded shares in the club.

The move takes Kroenke to 28.7 percent, edging him closer to the 29.9 percent mark that would trigger a formal takeover offer for the remainder of the club.

After more than doubling his stake over the last year, the owner of the Denver Nuggets basketball team bought his latest 80 shares at 8,500 pounds each.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Ban for Bellamy clash fan

A man who was shoved in the face by Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy after running onto the Old Trafford pitch during Manchester United’s 4-3 derby win earlier this month has been banned from attending football matches for three years.

Jake Clarke, 21, from Chorley, Lancashire, admitted entering the playing area after Michael Owen scored United’s injury-time winner.

Bellamy confronted Clarke after the solo pitch invasion, which came at the end of a highly charged game on September 20.

The bricklayer, who had to be restrained by four stewards, told officers he “got overexcited” and “just wanted to celebrate with the players” after Michael Owen scored a last-gasp winner.

Clarke, who has previous convictions for cannabis possession and common assault, told Trafford Magistrates’ Court that he “deeply regrets” his behaviour.

He said: “I’m gutted about what I have done. I know it was a stupid action. I just wanted to celebrate.”

The court heard Clarke was leaving the ground when Owen scored deep into injury time, and the fan was pushed towards the pitch before he decided to enter it.

Steve Woodman, prosecuting, showed CCTV footage of the incident, and said that Manchester United are considering imposing their own ban on the football fan.

Their rivals, Manchester City, could have equalised if it had not been for Clarke, Mr Woodman suggested.

“The defendant’s actions could well have caused a full scale pitch invasion. It will have been viewed by millions across the world,” he said.

“It was a very tense, very high profile match. The game went right down to the wire.

“The City players were trying to get back to the centre circle to respond to the late goal.

“City may well have been able to push on and score the equaliser.”

Police are not investigating Bellamy over the incident but he is thought to have received a warning from the Football Association, Mr Woodman said.

Ian Huggan, defending, said that football is a large part of Clarke’s life and he attends around 40 games a season.

“This was a foolish mistake by Mr Clarke. It has caused a lot of concern and anxiety for the people involved,” he admitted.

But he asked the court not to impose a ban on his client, saying: “Is it right that this defendant is made subject to a banning order when the player who took the action is just given a warning?”

If Bellamy had not got involved the incident would have been dealt with “very quietly” and would have “gone away”, Mr Huggan said.

He pointed out that other football fans who have invaded pitches have been given cautions rather than bans.

But Anne Marie Evans, chair of the Magistrate’s bench, decided to ban Clarke from all football matches for three years, and imposed a fine of £305.

She said: “Your explanation was that you wanted to celebrate. This does not give you any right to run onto the pitch. Your actions could have resulted in disorder and possible violence.”

Speaking outside court, Mr Huggan said Clarke is “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

“He is now going to take the time to give consideration to that decision and the options available to him,” he said.

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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Liverpool will bounce back against Chelsea: Rafa

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insisted his team will bounce back in Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash against Chelsea following their Champions League defeat to Fiorentina.

Liverpool were virtual spectators in a mesmerising first 45 minutes from their hosts here on Wednesday in which the Merseysiders were fortunate to head into the dressing rooms at half-time with just a two-goal deficit.

Fiorentina’s fluid passing and busy movement had left the Reds chasing shadows as two-goal hero Stevan Jovetic proved unplayable.

But if the English team improved after the break, it was partly because they could not have got any worse than a first half in which their midfield of Fabio Aurelio and Lucas were overrun and star striker Fernando Torres barely got a touch.

It was more like the Liverpool of old in the second period with Steven Gerrard starting to dictate play, Dirk Kyut getting more involved and Torres becoming a threat.

And that is the football Benitez wants to see at the weekend in a match Liverpool really can’t afford to lose.

“I think it will be totally different, hopefully we will see the Liverpool Football Club of the second half, we will be better,” he claimed before insisting that his team are as strong as ever.

“At half-time we talked about the mistakes we made and how to improve. We tried to find solutions with our mentality and channelling it in the right way.

“It could have been different for us, we knew if we scored an early goal (in the second half) it would put us back in the game but we couldn’t. We had two chances but this was difference.

“We were playing the same players in second half as in the first and it was different because the attitude in first half wasn’t good enough.”

Benitez also complained about the offside rule that deems a player in an offside position but not interfering with play not to be offside.

Former Chelsea forward Mutu was in an offside position on the first goal when Jovetic ran onto Cristiano Zanetti’s through ball to beat Pepe Reina with the Liverpool defence hesitating.

“Clearly this new offside rule changes everything, it’s the best rule in football this offside rule because you don’t know if the player is having an influence or not,” Benitez said bitterly.

“When he’s in front of goal you don’t know if he’s involved, it’s very difficult for everyone. We made a mistake, Jovetic was in a good position but this was another mistake we made.”

Wed 30 Sep, 2009
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