Turkey: Fenerbahce and Galatasaray win

(GSM) – Turkish Super Lig leaders Fenerbahce earned a comfortable 1-5 win at Sivasspor to defend their top spot, while nearest rivals Galatasaray secured three points from their away match to Denizlispor.

Fenerbahce needed 30 minutes for Semih Senturk to score the opening goal at Sivas’ Eylül stadium, but Mehmet Yildiz equalised just seven minutes later.

In the second half, it was all Fenerbahce however as Senturk restored his team’s lead in the 55th minute, and two goals from Ugur Boral (66th and 70th) left the match practically decided. Gokhan Gönül added a fifth goal in the 84th minute.

Galatasaray, who are just one point behind Fenerbahce, beat Denizlispor 1-2 to remain in their arch rivals’ track.

Arda Turan put ‘Gala’ ahead after 19 minutes, but had his goal cancelled out by Engin Memisler in the 54th. The winning goal came another seven minutes later though, as Brazilian striker Jo beat keeper Ongün for 1-2.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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AEK hold Panathinaikos in Athens derby

(GSM) – Sunday’s Greek top clash between Panathinaikos and AEK ended undecided, while Olympiakos reduced the gap with the top thanks to a narrow win at Panionios.

Leaders Panathinaikos hosted AEK in an Athens derby played at the Spyros Louis Olympic Stadium, but conceded an opening goal from Argentinian Ignacio Scocco after just nine minutes.

But AEK, who had just three Greeks in their starting line-up, could not hold on to that lead as Dimitris Salpingidis levelled the score in minute 27.

The draw allowed defending champions Olympiakos to bring the gap with Panathinaikos back from eight to six points.

A goal from Matt Derbyshire in the seventh minute was enough for Olympiakos to secure the win at Panionios.

The match was temporarily suspended in the second half due to fireworks on the pitch.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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Lazio seal Hitzelsberger deal

(GSM) – Thomas Hitzlsperger has joined Lazio. The Germany midfielder has moved to the Italian club in a bid to boost his hopes of making his nation’s World Cup squad.

The 27-year-old has not featured regularly for Stuttgart this season and his frustration has grown as his World Cup hopes looked slim.

Germany coach Joachim Low had warned the midfielder that he needed to play first-team football in order to book a place in Germany’s World Cup squad.

And Hitzlsperger has now switched clubs to bolster his odds Low’s 23-man list for this summer’s World Cup.

The German side confirmed the move on their official website on Sunday, saying, “With the transfer window ending on Monday, Thomas Hitzlsperger decided to join Lazio.”

Sun 31 January, 2010
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Sanchez under pressure as Atletico crash

Atletico Madrid crashed 2-0 at home against relegation-threatened Malaga on Sunday as the pressure piled up on under-fire coach Quique Sanchez.

Malaga took an early lead with an unmarked Sergio Duda firing home after just three minutes.

They were playing the more composed football and Atletico had keeper David De Gea to thank for not conceding more as Malaga used the wings to get behind the Atletico defence.

In the second half, Atletico came back into the match but despite their quality going forward they struggled to break down the Malaga defence and had to resort to shots from distance.

On the counter-attack Malaga grabbed a second though through Javi Lopez as the visitors moved three points off the relegation zone.

A brace from Carlos Calvo helped bottom side Xerez come from behind to beat high-flying Mallorca 2-1.

Xerez had only one win to their name all season but they took the game to Mallorca from the start.

Although they had the bulk of the possession Pierre Webo scored against the run of play for Mallorca mid-way through the first half.

In the second half, Xerez deservedly drew level with Calvo firing a right-foot rocket home from 30 yards and then completed the turnaround with a second 12 minutes from time.

There was also an upset with Villarreal losing 2-0 to Osasuna with Juanfran Torres scoring both goals while Getafe’s push for a place in Europe suffered a setback as they were held to a goalless draw by Racing Santander.

Zaragoza came from behind to beat Tenerife 3-1 and gain three crucial points in their survival battle.

Juanlu Hens gave the home side the lead after the break but Zaragoza responded in the last 15 minutes with goals from Humberto Suazo, Adrian Colunga and Angel Lafita.

In the other relegation battle Valladolid drew 1-1 against Almeria with Cesar Arzo equalising for the home side after Albert Crusat scored the opener.

On Saturday, Karim Benzema scored a brace as Real Madrid beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-1, their first win at the Riazor in almost 20 years.

Following Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Sporting Gijon earlier in the evening, Real were desperate not to allow their rivals to escape at the top.

Esteban Granero headed Real in front after 13 minutes with the game played out in the home side’s half.

Raul Gonzalez had the chance to add to the lead with a close-range volley before a moment of real quality from Jose Maria Guti.

Through on goal, instead of shooting on his weaker right foot, he back-heeled the ball into the path of Benzema to slot home.

In a late rally Ivan Riki scored from the penalty spot for Deportivo but Benzema had the last word with a goal in injury-time.

Barcelona saw Pedro Rodriguez score the only goal at home to Sporting Gijon when he latched on to a through ball by Andres Iniesta.

Valencia are well placed to qualify for the Champions League but they face a crucial game later Sunday against fellow European hopefuls Sevilla who have dropped off the pace since Christmas after losing three of their last four matches.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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West Ham set to sign Brazilian striker

(GSM) – West Ham are closing in on the signing of Brazilian striker Ilan according to reports. St Etienne’s Ilan could make a January move to Upton Park.

Ilan is out of contract in the summer and St Etienne are believed to be willing to cash in on him for a nominal fee.

Having missed out on Eidur Gudjohnsen -who opted to join Tottenham- West Ham have moved for the 29-year-old as they look to bolster their attacking options.

Ilan is expected to fly into London on Monday to tie up the move to Upton Park.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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Agent: Celtic keen to sign Ramis

(GSM) – Celtic boss Tony Mowbray is in talks with Real Mallorca over signing defender Ivan Ramis, according to the player’s agent.

The Spanish center back has been linked with a move to Parkhead, as the Hoops look like missing out on Preston North End’s Sean St Ledger after failing to meet his club’s valuation.

Ramis’ representative, Javier Diaz, claims Celtic and Mallorca are in talks, though it is not certain a deal would be concluded before the transfer window closes.

“I don’t know if an agreement will be reached by Monday night, but the clubs are talking and trying to reach an agreement,” Diaz told BBC Scotland.

Reports claim Mallorca are seeking around £3million for the 25-year-old, who would be a direct replacement for Stephen McManus following the Scotland defender’s loan move to Middlesbrough.

Mowbray also sold Gary Caldwell this month, drafting in Jos Hooiveld from AIK Stockholm and Thomas Rogne from Stabaek.

Ramis was not in the Mallorca squad for their game against Xerez on Sunday as a result of an arm injury.

The former youth player has helped his club emerge as genuine contenders for a place in next season’s Champions League, and he has represented Spain at Under-19, Under-21 and Under-23 level.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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Leverkusen blitz Freiburg to reclaim league lead

Leverkusen on Sunday took over from Bayern Munich as Bundesliga leaders for the second week running after blitzing Freiburg with three goals in four minutes on their way to a 3-1 win.

Leverkusen remain the only unbeaten Bundesliga side this season and stunned Freiburg with first-half goals by Germany striker Steffan Kiessling, Swiss forward Eren Derdiyok and ex-Liverpool defender Sammi Hyypia.

Although Bayern picked up their seventh consecutive league win with a 3-0 victory over Mainz on Saturday, Leverkusen went back to the top of the German league and two-points clear after Sunday’s win.

Germany squad member Kiessling remains the league’s top scorer after he bagged his 13th of the season on 36 minutes with a well-taken header.

Then Derdiyok bagged his eighth of the season when he capitalised on a mistake in the Freiburg defence just 60 seconds later for his eighth league goal of the season.

And Hyypia made sure of the win with his second goal in two games when his header beat Freiburg goalkeeper Simon Pouplin five minutes before the half-time whistle.

Defender Felix Bastians then pulled a consolation goal back for Freiburg, but the defeat leaves them 15th in the table, just one off the relegation zone.

Earlier, Stuttgart coach Christian Gross picked up his fourth-straight win and remains undefeated after seven games in charge as his Bundesliga side enjoyed a 4-1 win over Borussia Dortmund.

Goals by Russia forward Pavel Pogrebnyak and Serbian striker Zdravko Kuzmanovic put Stuttgart in charge before Romanian striker Ciprian Marica and Christian Traesch scored late goals to put the result beyond doubt.

The result means the home side have now claimed 12 points from their last four league games with Spanish giants Barcelona beckoning in the Champions League last 16 clash on February 23.

Schalke 04 are third after their 2-0 win over Hoffenheim on Saturday with goals by striker Kevin Kuranyi and midfielder Lukas Schmitz while the defeat leaves Hoffenheim ninth in the table.

Dutch winger Arjen Robben, Germany striker Mario Gomez and defender Daniel van Buyten all scored in Bayern’s win over Mainz in snowy conditions which leaves Bayern second.

Elsewhere, Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf is in a precarious position as his side have now gone seven German league games without a win after they went down 4-3 at midtable Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Second from bottom Nuremberg picked up only their second win in their last 10 games when they won 3-1 at Hanover and the result leaves bottom side Hertha Berlin five points adrift after a scoreless draw with Bochum in the capital.

Cologne are up to 13th after their second consecutive win having beaten Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1.

Defending champions Wolfsburg’s 1-1 draw at Hamburg on Friday leaves the team from the Hanseatic city fifth in the table.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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Warnock: Moses set to shine

(GSM) – Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock expects new Wigan signing Victor Moses to shine in the Premier League. Although several clubs were interested in acquiring his services, the teenage Palace forward eventually signed for Wigan.

Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton were all reportedly interested in the 19-year-old. However, only the Latics matched Palace’s £2.5million valuation.

And Warnock said that he expects his now-former player to make some managers regret not trying harder to sign him.

Warnock said: “I expect to see Victor do very well in the Premier League and I think a lot of other managers, who have ummed and ahhed and thought I was wasting their time, are going to eat their words.

“I see him floating around up front off a targetman. Good players can play anywhere. He’s got the ability and the quality and he’s added the hard work of late. I’ve told him I’m really looking forward to watching him and if he needs me at all I’m on the end of the phone.”

Sun 31 January, 2010
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City players show Bridge support over Terry scandal

England defender Wayne Bridge was shown widespread support from his Manchester City team-mates on Sunday amid a media storm over reports that England captain John Terry had an affair with his former girlfriend.

City manager Roberto Mancini – whose side had just beaten Portsmouth 2-0 – said after the match that some of the players wore shirts bearing the words “Team Bridge”.

“The players are very close to Wayne,” said Mancini.

“He is a fantastic player and a good guy. It was a nice gesture.”

While Bridge is out injured, Terry is weathering a media storm following reports that he cheated on his wife Toni with the former girlfriend of Bridge, French lingerie model Vanessa Perroncel.

Terry’s captaincy of England, only months from the start of the World Cup, is now reportedly under threat, although reports suggest Football Association chiefs are set to leave any final decision to England coach Fabio Capello.

Whether such a show of support for Bridge, considered England’s second-choice left-back, influences any decision by Capello regarding the England captaincy would be hard to determine.

But Capello, a strict disciplinarian, is mindful of the effect the scandal could have on dressing room unity. One of the players to have shown support for Bridge was Gareth Barry, a certainty to make Capello’s squad for South Africa.

In a statement released on Saturday, Bridge – who while at Chelsea was a neighbour and close friend of Terry’s – said he would not make any comment about Terry’s relationship with Perroncel and was interested only in the welfare of their three-year-old son.

However, Bridge – who ironically spent a lot of time last summer trying to covince Terry to quit Chelsea for City – is said to be so upset by the scandal that he has considered quitting the England team.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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Auxerre close on French pace-setters

Auxerre boosted their bid for European football next season by beating relegation-threatened Saint-Etienne 1-0 at the Stade Abbe Deschamps on Sunday.

Centre-back Jean Pascal Mignot scored the decisive goal 12 minutes from time when he dispatched Valter Birsa’s right-wing corner at the near post.

Saint-Etienne, 10-time French champions, almost took the lead in the third minute when Dimitri Payet thumped a shot against the post, while Auxerre saw substitute Dennis Oliech graze an upright in the second half.

The visitors appeared to have brought themselves level when Gonzalo Bergessio netted four minutes from the end but his strike was controversially ruled out for offside.

“I said to myself that we were heading for a draw and then Birsa placed a good corner onto Mignot’s head for a great goal,” said Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez.

“I feel for Saint-Etienne as well, because they scored a valid goal that was not given by the referee. Saint-Etienne didn’t deserve to lose, but that’s football.”

Auxerre move up to fifth, level on points with fourth-placed Monaco – who are a place below the Champions League qualification berths – while Saint-Etienne remain fourth from bottom, four points clear of the drop zone.

Valenciennes drew 1-1 at home to Sochaux, with Johan Audel’s 21st-minute opener for the hosts cancelled out by Damien Perquis’s equaliser nine minutes into the second period.

Lyon, sixth, host Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s late game, where they will hope to bounce back from the disappointment of exiting both domestic cup competitions in the space of three days earlier in the week.

In Saturday’s matches, leaders Bordeaux were held to a surprise 0-0 draw at home to second-bottom Boulogne, enabling Montpellier to move to within six points of the champions by beating Marseille 2-0.

Lille remain third, two points behind Montpellier, after beating Lens 1-0, while Monaco won 3-2 against struggling Nice for their first win in the Riviera derby for 14 years.

Sun 31 January, 2010
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