Burnley heap pressure on beleaguered Brown

Burnley piled further pressure on under-fire Hull City coach Phil Brown with a 2-0 win on Saturday that leaves the north-east club third from bottom in the Premier League.

Two goals either side of half-time by Graham Alexander gave Burnley the points but Brown was incensed after a stunning free-kick from Geovanni was controversially ruled out with half an hour to play and the score 1-0.

Hull’s fury at referee Mike Jones was compounded minutes later when Geovanni saw red after collecting a second yellow card for a mistimed challenge.

The result capped a forgettable week for Hull, who are embarking upon their second season in the division following their promotion in 2008.

Chairman Paul Duffen resigned from his post on Thursday amid rumours that Brown was set for the sack, while financial auditors Deloitte reported that Hull’s debts mean they could go out of business if they are relegated.

“I expect to be manager of this football club in the Premier League next year,” said a defiant Brown afterwards.

“There’s been a resignation of a chairman about which I have spoken at length. I spoke to the owner (Russell Bartlett) at length on Thursday and Friday and will speak to him at length today and tomorrow and we will find out more on Monday.

“The announcement will be forthwith and hopefully I’ll be standing alongside (new chairman) Adam Pearson on Monday.”

Burnley’s home form has been the key to their successful start to life back in England’s top division and they began the game at Turf Moor with typical vigour.

Owen Coyle’s men took the lead in the 20th minute through Alexander, who placed home a penalty on his 100th league appearance for the club after Stephen Hunt was adjudged to have impeded Tyrone Mears inside the Hull area.

Hull were aggrieved by the penalty decision but Burnley continued to come forward, with Robbie Blake, Andre Bikey and Wade Elliott all going close.

Stand-in Hull goalkeeper Matt Duke then pushed away a long-range effort by Chris Eagles before Stephen Jordan shot wide from 15 yards after Hull failed to clear a corner.

Kamel Ghilas should have drawn the visitors level shortly after half-time when he fired straight at Brian Jensen from Seyi Olofinjana’s lay-off and Elliott almost made Hull pay when he headed wide from a corner.

Substitute Bernard Mendy also forced Jensen into action as Hull upped their hunt for an equaliser before Geovanni’s inch-perfect free-kick into the top corner was contentiously ruled out by Jones for pushing in the wall.

The Brazilian’s protests earned him a booking and moments later he was ordered from the field after appearing to slip as he tackled Steven Fletcher.

Alexander made it 2-0 with 13 minutes remaining when he smashed in his second from outside the area and Hull’s luck was summed up with two minutes remaining when left-back Andy Dawson’s low effort bounced back off the post.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Hunt´s late goal puts Bremen top

Werder Bremen have striker Aaron Hunt to thank for his two second-half goals which salvaged a point at Nuremberg as the 2-2 draw put his side top of the Bundesliga on Saturday.

With second-placed Leverkusen at fourth-placed Schalke 04 on Saturday night, both sides have the chance to take over the lead, but Hunt’s pair of goals lifted Thomas Schaaf’s side into first place on Saturday afternoon.

They are top only by virtue of goal difference with Leverkusen and Hamburg also on 22 points, but Hunt’s second goal in the second minute of injury time meant Schaaf’s side leapt over Hamburg and Leverkusen into top place.

Hamburg were robbed of the chance of going top of the German league for the second consecutive match after mid-table Borussia Moenchengladbach poached a shock 3-2 win in the Hanseatic city.

After Schalke’s Kevin Kuranyi scored a late header last Sunday to seal a 3-3 draw at Hamburg, Borussia again spoiled Hamburg’s party as Canada striker Rob Friend hit a 82nd-minute winner.

Hamburg had forged a 2-1 lead midway through the second half after goals by Germany winger Piotr Trochowski and a free-kick by Brazil midfielder Ze Roberto.

But a header from Brazil defender Dante put them level on 76 minutes with a header before Friend hit the winner with time running out to leave Hamburg third.

Stuttgart coach Marakus Babbel boosted his chances of holding onto his job after his side held German giants Bayern Munich to a 0-0 draw in Stuttgart.

Babbel’s side were dumped out of the German Cup last Tuesday at Greuther Fuerth, their fifth consecutive defeat, but the ex-Bayern Munich midfielder received a vote of confidence from his board on Wednesday.

And having broken his losing streak, Babbel’s fortunes appear to be looking up.

Defending champions Wolfsburg threw away a 2-0 lead after two goals from Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins only for mid-table Mainz produced a spirited comeback and defender Tim Hoogland hit an 86th-minute equaliser to take a point and seal a 3-3 draw.

Cologne are hovering above the relegation zone after their 1-0 defeat at home to midtable Hanover.

Hertha Berlin remained rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga after they were beaten 2-0 by Borussia Dortmund on Friday night and remain four points adrift of the rest of the league.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Celtic banish home jinx with Kilmarnock win

Celtic ended a run of four matches without a win at Celtic Park as they coasted to a 3-0 win over Kilmarnock to increase their lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Substitute Niall McGinn scored late on to add to first-half goals from Aiden McGeady and Georgios Samaras as the Hoops ended their home hoodoo.

Stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska was the least busy man on the pitch as Celtic dominated proceedings and scored for the first time at Parkhead in three attempts.

With rivals Rangers not playing Dundee United until Sunday the win puts Tony Mowbray’s men three points clear at the top of the table.

Mowbray had selection worries before kick-off with Artur Boruc and Scott Brown ruled out through injury and Stephen McManus’s suspension meaning Glenn Loovens partnered Gary Caldwell in the centre of the defence.

With Kilmarnock’s on-loan keeper Mark Brown prohibited from appearing against his employers Cameron Bell came in for a rare appearance for the Rugby Park side.

Having gone three home games without scoring at home the Celtic players looked on a mission and started the game at an incredible pace.

Within the first 60 seconds Celtic had a penalty claim for handball turned down before Scott McDonald brought a good save from rookie keeper Bell with a neat back-flick at the near post.

Just as it looked like Killie had weathered the early storm McGeady produced a moment of individual skill to give Celtic the lead in the 13th minute.

The Irishman collected a cross at the right of the penalty box before skipping past Craig Bryson and, from an acute angle, arrowing a shot past Bell which ricocheted in off the far post.

Bell was having a busy time in the Kilmarnock goal and was at his best to block a point-blank shot from Socceroos striker McDonald who connected well with a Samaras cross.

However the keeper could do nothing to prevent Celtic doubling their lead in the 32nd minute.

Andreas Hinkel delivered a fine cross from the right to the edge of the six-yard box where Samaras buried it past Bell with a bullet header.

It was not all one-way traffic and on the stroke of half-time Kevin Kyle’s powerful downward header from Gavin Skelton’s cross bounced just wide of the post.

The Scotland international was involved again in the first attack of the second half, this time heading well over from Bryson’s right-wing cross.

With the home side in danger of stagnating McGeady tested Bell with a fierce drive from the edge of the box which the keeper saved low to his left.

There was some more good news for the home support just after the hour mark when Marc-Antoine Fortune made his return from injury to replace Australian McDonald in his first appearance since August, while McGinn came on for McCourt.

And it didn’t take long for McGinn to make an impression as he scored Celtic’s third in the 78th minute.

The Northern Irishman took a touch as he collected a pass at the edge of the box before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Bell.

McGeady forced Bell into a fine save before being replaced by China captain Zheng Zhi, who saw a shot cleared off the line in the final minute.

Elsewhere Hibernian moved up to second with a 2-0 win over Aberdeen, Motherwell defeated Hearts 1-0, St Johnstone thrashed Falkirk 3-1 and St Mirren lost 2-0 at home to Hamilton.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Schalke looking to sell stars, reveals Magath

Schalke 04 coach Felix Magath admitted Saturday the cash-strapped Royal Blues are looking to sell some of their stars as the Bundesliga side try to reduce their wage bill.

Last Thursday, Schalke announced they had trimmed 25.5 million euros off their debts – reported to be in excess of 180 million euros – but their top names could be sold to lower their reported wage bill of 55 million euros.

“Even if we have some breathing space now, we must – and will – considerably reduce our wage bill for next season,” Magath told German tabloid Bild.

“Up to the sale of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, everything is possible.”

Neuer is being groomed as a Germany goalkeeper of the future by national coach Joachim Loew and Schalke are desperate to hold onto the 23-year-old.

But ex-Germany striker Kevin Kuranyi and Brazilian defender Rafinha top a list of eight players Bild claim Magath is keen to move on to ease their wage bill.

The others are strikers Halil Altintop and Gerald Asamoah, plus midfielders Levan Kobiashvili, Ivan Rakitic, Vicente Sanchez and Albert Streit.

Schalke host league leaders Leverkusen at the Veltins Arena on Saturday and are fourth in the table.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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League Cup holders United face Spurs rematch

League Cup holders Manchester United will face last season’s beaten finalists Tottenham in the quarter-finals next month.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side defeated Spurs 4-1 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes at Wembley in March and they will meet the north Londonders again after Saturday’s draw.

Chelsea take on Blackburn at Ewood Park as Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti eyes his first major trophy with the club.

Arsenal, whose young stars saw off Liverpool in midweek, will travel to Manchester City, while Portsmouth host Aston Villa at Fratton Park.

The matches will take place in the week beginning November 30.

Quarter-final draw:

Blackburn v Chelsea

Manchester United v Tottenham

Portsmouth v Aston Villa

Manchester City v Arsenal

Ties to be played week commencing November 30

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Arsenal put Spurs in their place

Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of gatecrashing the English Premier League’s established elite were put back into perspective on Saturday as they slumped to a chastening 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger’s side maintained their vice-like grip on north London supremacy thanks to two goals in the space of 60 frantic seconds in the first-half from Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas as Spurs missed the chance to leapfrog Arsenal, who started the weekend third in the table.

Van Persie then completed his double in the second period at the Emirates Stadium to ensure Arsenal’s unbeaten run against their near neighbours now stands at 20 league games.

It was a horrible afternoon for Spurs, not least because Arsenal never even approached their best form. The bald truth is that they did not have to, with all three goals stemming from the kind of atrocious defending which used to be Tottenham’s hallmark.

The visitors might now rue their bold words in the build-up to this tussle, which had seen their captain Robbie Keane claim that Spurs boasted the stronger squad and Harry Redknapp suggesting Arsenal lacked the nous to win the title.

Still, at least Tottenham can console themselves in the knowledge that they were not undone by an inferiority complex.

For 43 minutes, at least, Tottenham displayed a rugged attitude.

Deprived of three of his star forwards – Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Luka Modric – through injury and suspension, Redknapp decided to place his side in cautious, rather than cavalier, mode, deploying the sturdier Jermaine Jenas in a robust five-man midfield.

The net effect was to slash space to a premium, disrupting the spectacle but allowing Spurs to cut Arsenal’s incisive attacking thrusts off at source.

What few chances there were came from mistakes or plain bad luck, as in the 21st minute when Andrey Arshavin’s shot deflected to Fabregas and the Spaniard’s low drive was well saved by Gomes.

That, however, was a rare moment of drama and the half appeared to be dwindling to its inevitable goalless conclusion when, with two minutes remaining, Spurs inexplicably imploded.

A routine cross from Bacary Sagna was allowed to worm into the area and van Persie, having muscled in front of Ledley King, poked into the bottom corner.

Arsenal’s players duly wheeled away, in shock as much anything else, but the drama was not over yet.

After a befuddled Wilson Palacios allowed the ball to squirm away from him from the re-start, Fabregas scooped up possession, waltzed between Palacios and Tom Huddlestone, skipped past King and swept regally past a bewildered Gomes.

Redknapp looked crestfallen on the sidelines, his carefully laid plans shredded in the space of less than 60 seconds, and his team still appeared groggy when they re-emerged for the second half.

Arsenal were twice denied by fine blocks, with Sebastien Bassong saving Abou Diaby’s drive on the goal-line after van Persie had made mincemeat of the increasingly hapless King and Gomes smothering bravely at the feet of Eduardo.

That briefly handed Spurs some belief and David Bentley forced a save from Manuel Almunia with a curling free-kick.

But, ultimately, there was no holding back the red tide and, on the hour, Arsenal were gifted a third goal with more abysmal defending.

It was bad enough that Spurs’ players stopped after Benoit Assou-Ekotto fouled Eduardo, rather than heeding referee Mark Clattenburg’s advantage, a gaffe that allowed Sagna to break clear.

Gomes then compounded the error by allowing the defender’s cross to slip through his fingers and van Persie side-footed home.

The game won, Arsenal switched to cruise control. They should have added a fourth when Eduardo sprang the offside trap and confronted Gomes, who had rashly raced out of his goal, only to roll tamely wide of the post, but it hardly mattered.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Mourinho urges UEFA and Ukraine to make decision

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho complained Saturday that a swine flu outbreak in Ukraine is hampering his preparations for the Champions League match away to Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.

Inter play Livorno on Sunday but already Mourinho’s mind has wandered to the crucial European encounter.

A defeat to Dynamo would dent Inter’s hopes of reaching the knock-out stages and Mourinho is worried that the uncertainty over the venue for game — it is possible that it will be moved from Ukraine — will disrupt his preparations.

“I can’t see how it would be possible to put back the match with Dynamo Kiev given that there are no other available dates,” said Mourinho.

“They definitely have to decide before Monday, it wouldn’t be possible for a team to leave for the Ukraine and then to come back without playing.

“The government of Ukraine and UEFA have to decide as soon as possible.”

Inter’s Mario Balotelli is out of Sunday’s showdown due to contracting flu, although not the swine variant.

His will be one of a few changes Mourinho will make to the team that beat Palermo in an eight-goal thriller on Thursday.

“I’m not going to make many changes because I’m thinking about Livorno. I’ll make no more than four,” said Mourinho.

Although missing Balotelli, who scored twice against Palermo, Inter have Diego Milito back to full fitness having played most of the second half — and scored — against Palermo.

And Mourinho is confident that Samuel Eto’o — who also bagged a brace on Thursday — will not be kept out by his foot problem.

“Eto’o is not 100 percent fit, his foot isn’t right, but there are many players who go through an entire season with a small problem,” added the coach.

Mourinho was involved in an argument with a journalist during Saturday’s pre-match press conference after he accused the Gazzetta dello Sport of lying.

He has dropped teenage full-back Davide Santon from Sunday’s squad after he was caught out of position several times during the second half on Thursday.

But he got involved in a slagging match with a Gazzetta journalist after accusing him of lying on the newspaper’s front page. The paper claimed Mourinho had telephoned the player on Thursday night.

“He’s not going through a good period, for example today on the front page of the newspapers there was a lie about him,” said Mourinho.

“I didn’t call Santon after the game, I spoke with him for an hour yesterday (Friday) in training with my assistants.

“This kind of thing of course doesn’t help a young lad.”

Inter are four points clear at the top of Serie A although Juventus could close that gap for 24 hours at least as they play a day before Inter.

Livorno were rock bottom 10 days ago but replaced Gennaro Ruotolo with Serse Cosmi as coach and have won two on the trot since then.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Van Persie shatters Spurs to send Arsenal second

Arsenal swept aside Tottenham on Saturday as two goals from Robin van Persie inspired a 3-0 victory over their north London rivals at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger’s side moved second in the Premier League table thanks to their first win against Spurs since December 2007, although they will be passed by Manchester United if the champions avoid defeat against Blackburn later on Saturday.

The Gunners had been frustrated for much of the first half but shattered Spurs with two goals in a minute just before the break.

Dutch striker van Persie opened the scoring in the 42nd minute when he turned in Bacary Sagna’s cross at the near-post.

Tottenham were still recovering from that blow when Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas stole possession from the re-start and surged through the visitors’ defence before sliding his shot past Heurelho Gomes.

Van Persie piled on the misery for Harry Redknapp’s team in the 60th minute.

Referee Mark Clattenburg waved play on after Benoit Assou-Ekotto fouled Eduardo and, as Tottenham’s defenders stood and watched, Sagna crossed for Van Persie to deflect the ball home from close-range.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Bagayako expects tough test

Nice striker Mamadou Bagayako is expecting “a fight” when his team face Le Mans on Sunday evening.

With both clubs struggling towards the bottom end of the table, points will be the priority – no matter how they are won.

Nice got a major confidence boost by beating Lyon last weekend, but Bagayako expects an even tougher match against Le Mans.

“I’m expecting a more difficult game,” he told his club’s website.

“Le Mans are in need of points, so they will give 200%. This will be a big fight, and we will need to be as ready as we were last Saturday.”

Bagayako also believes it would be a mistake to assume the win over Lyon shows the club’s early-season problems are behind them.

“I think they are still there,” he said.

“We still need to improve further. Lyon showed us at our best, and we must continue on this path.”

Le Mans’ situation is less encouraging than Nice’s. While Sunday’s hosts have moved up to 14th place after last week’s win, Le Mans are two places off the foot of the table – with only eight points from 10 games.

That has led to increasing pressure on coach Paulo Duarte, but club president Henri Legarda this week insisted he will be given time to turn things around.

“It’s not true he is in danger,” Legarda told Ouest-France.

“I told him he would have time. It’s up to him to make the best choices in his double role as coach and selector.

“Let us have a bit of time. If necessary, I will speak to the players. I am convinced our place in the table at the moment does not correspond with our quality.”

Sat 31 October, 2009
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Javier Mascherano optimistic about Liverpool’s title race

Liverpool did not have a great start with four defeats in just ten rounds of Premier League action, but their dramatic victory over bitter rivals Manchester United was definitely a great boost to the Reds.

Midfielder Javier Mascherano is very optimistic about the team’s title race and agreed that it is essential that they don’t drop any further points.

“The league is still possible. If we start to win and keep winning, anything’s possible, but we cannot afford to drop more points. We have to start winning and then not stop.”

“In football, you never know. If you start to win games, then it can happen. We have to forget about the past and just think about the future. And do it for us, for the team, and most of all, for the supporters.”

Fulham plays host to Liverpool, with both teams ranked lower in the league than last season. Fulham manager Roy Hodgson believes the gap between the big four and the rest of the Premier League is narrowing. Just eight points separate the top eight teams in what is shaping up to be the most competitive title race in years.

And lately with lower team proving to be a tough nut to crack, the Reds should be taking full advantage of the North London derby to get back into the top four, if not for anything else but at least for their pride and bragging rights.

Sat 31 October, 2009
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