Capello open to Bridge return, firm on Terry decision

Fabio Capello insists England’s World Cup preparations would not be disrupted if Wayne Bridge changed his mind about his self-imposed international exile.

Capello’s meticulous plans for the finals in South Africa have been thrown into disarray by John Terry’s alleged affair with Bridge’s former partner Vanessa Perrocel.

The Italian stripped Terry of the England captaincy because he felt his behaviour wasn’t suitable, but that wasn’t enough to appease Bridge, who announced this week that he no longer wanted to be considered for England duty because of his former friend’s presence in the squad.

That left Capello with a major headache as first-choice left-back Ashley Cole is out for three months with an ankle injury and faces a race against time to be fit in time for the World Cup.

Bridge showed his feelings for Terry on Saturday when he refused to shake his rival’s hand before Manchester City’s 4-2 win at Chelsea.

Yet Capello still hopes he can persuade Bridge to change his mind before naming his squad for the finals and he is adamant the squad would not be torn apart by the warring pair.

“I respect Wayne Bridge’s decision, but we have three months to change his decision. I open the door to all the players and now the door is open for the future of Wayne Bridge,” Capello said.

“Bridge has a different vision of life that he thinks it’s better for him to stay out of the team.

“This is the opinion of the player, I think in the squad he can stay without problems for me. He knows if he changes his mind the door is still open.

“In my life I played one World Cup. It’s not easy to play the World Cup. There’s not many chances, but he has decided not to.”

Although Terry is believed to have harboured faint hopes of regaining the captaincy in the future, Capello has crushed that dream by revealing the 29-year-old would never wear the armband again during his reign.

“For me, up until the World Cup Terry will not be the captain. If I will be the England manager I don’t think he will be ever again,” Capello said.

“It was not good because I always ask the captain to be a role model for the children and the fans. It wasn’t good. I told him this.”

Capello also dismissed suggestions that Terry could prove a divisive presence in the dressing room if the other England players are unhappy that his actions have caused such chaos.

“I understand Wayne Bridge is innocent, but I never thought about taking John Terry out of the squad,” Capello said.

“When I spoke with John Terry I was happy because he understood everything, I understood what really happened. I’m not concerned about it.

“I asked Terry to be the same. John Terry is a leader and also will be a leader without the armband. I don’t think the team has lost respect for him.”

With so much damage already done to his plans by his players’ liaisons, the last thing Capello would have wanted to read this week was reports that the wives and girlfriends are planning to base themselves near England’s Rustenburg camp.

England’s 2006 World Cup campaign in Germany was disrupted by the spectacle of the so-called WAGS running riot in Baden-Baden, a situation Rio Ferdinand described as a “circus”, and Capello jokingly said he hopes a virus keeps them far away from the players.

“I don’t know where they will stay. It is far enough when they are out of the training ground,” Capello said.

“For me it is not important what will happen outside the training ground. There will be a virus, no? I think so, I hope so. It was the virus of the last World Cup.”

The former AC Milan and Real Madrid boss knows it is the form of Wayne Rooney that could determine England’s fate in South Africa and he believes the Manchester United striker is now a more complete player than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.

“Rooney is really the centre forward. He defends very well, he can dribble, shoot from long distance and score goals with his head,” Capello said.

“Also the difference between these players is Rooney presses a lot. He runs a lot, the others less that way. It is a big difference.”

Sun 28 February, 2010
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Ancelotti expects troubled Terry to get back on track

Carlo Ancelotti insists he still has faith in John Terry despite the Chelsea captain’s recent dip in form.

Terry again looked below his best as his side slumped to a 4-2 home defeat to Manchester City on Saturday in a heated fixture that brought the centre-back face to face with former England colleague Wayne Bridge.

The two men had not met since allegations emerged about Terry?s relationship with Bridge’s former partner Vanessa Perroncel.

And the fall out led to Fabio Capello stripping Terry of the England captaincy and Bridge’s recent declaration that he cannot face returning to the national squad.

Terry was not alone in appearing below par and having suffered a Champions League defeat to Inter Milan midweek, Ancelotti’s side again looked vulnerable at the back with Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy both scoring twice.

A miserable day was completed by the second half sendings off of Juliano Belletti and Michael Ballack, but Chelsea manager Ancelotti insists there is no reason to panic with his side one point clear at the top of the Premier League table.

“We made mistakes and usually in football when you make a mistake, you lose the game,” Ancelotti said.

“Now we have to look forward and maintain a good control of our confidence.

“We are still at the top of the list. It is only one point but this is not bad. This is the only good thing of this match.

“This is not a good day for us but we have to maintain trust in our quality.”

Bridge had refused to shake Terry’s hand before kick-off but Ancelotti insists his players were fully focused on the game.

“I don’t think my players were distracted. The City players weren’t distracted and also our players weren’t interested.

“John Terry has made mistakes, but not in this match. There is no reason to leave him out. He is our captain.

“It was not a good day for discipline because we could have avoided some behaviour on the pitch and avoided having two players sent off. Ballack made a mistake.”

Blues goalkeeper Hilario had an erratic game in place of the injured Petr Cech and Ancelotti is hopeful his regular number one will be back soon after a calf injury.

Ancelotti said: “We have some players injured and we have to work to give them a good recovery. We hope Cech will be back before four weeks.”

City manager Roberto Mancini admitted he was pleased for Bridge after a trying few weeks and offered hope the full back might reverse his decision to quit the international set-up.

“I am happy for Wayne Bridge,” said Mancini. “It was a good performance and he played well.

“I hope Wayne Bridge can play for the national team. I am sorry for the situation because every player wants to play for his country.

“But it is his decision and I don’t know why he won’t change his mind.”

Mancini singled Tevez out for praise after the striker played less than 24 hours after returning from a break in Argentina following the premature birth of his daughter.

“Maybe I will send Carlo Tevez back to Argentina for another two weeks and then pick him on the day he comes back!,” he added.

City now lie fourth and Mancini believes this result could be a turning point.

He said: “Football is strange. This result could change our season. We are playing for fourth with Spurs, Aston Villa and Liverpool.”

Sun 28 February, 2010
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Wenger sickened by Ramsey horror injury

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he was left sickened by the horrific broken leg suffered by Aaron Ramsey that will rule the teenager out of the game for months.

Wales international Ramsey was stretchered off in the second half of Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Stoke, which moves Wenger’s team to within three points of Premier League leaders Chelsea, after an ugly challenge by Ryan Shawcross.

Shawcross is facing a three-match suspension for the challenge in Saturday’s game, but the Frenchman called for the former Manchester United defender to be hit with a tougher punishment after an injury that left Arsenal’s players distraught.

Wenger has already seen Eduardo and Abou Diaby suffer career-threatening injuries during his time at Arsenal and he wants an example made of Shawcross, who learned just hours after the incident that he had been called up for England’s mid-week friendly against Egypt.

“Is a three-match ban enough? It is just ridiculous,” Wenger said. “It’s beyond words. It was an horrendous tackle.

“I’m very sad. To lose a player of that quality at 19-years-of age when he’s just started his career is just horrendous.

“It’s the third player we have lost to tackles that are just not acceptable and I’m shocked.

“It’s not football for me and it’s not what I like in the game. If we have to live with that, I refuse to do that.

“Of course (the Football Association need to act). I can do nothing about it. The players are professional and they have to respect the rules and respect each other.

“Players who don’t do it need to be punished. This is a young fantastic talent and it’s sad that a player of his talent has been kicked out like that.”

Arsenal are in a strong position as they look to win the title for the first time since 2004, but Wenger said that the victory had been completely overshadowed by Ramsey’s injury.

“I cannot even enjoy this victory because of what has happened. I am shocked because that is not football,” the Frenchman said.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis leapt to Shawcross’s defence and said the player had been left distraught by what had happened.

“There is no way he’d go out and break someone’s leg. Never in a million years,” said Pulis.

“It was a bad challenge in the way Ryan caught him. Everyone at Stoke wishes Aaron a speedy recovery and as a fellow Welshman I am devastated at what has happened.

“Ryan came off the pitch brokenhearted. He was crying his eyes out and his mum took him straight home.”

Stoke had taken the lead courtesy of Danny Pugh’s first Premier League goal before Nicklas Bendtner headed an equaliser.

Cesc Fabregas put Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot in stoppage time after Pugh had handled inside his area before Thomas Vermaelen wrapped up the points with the third goal.

The injury is a huge blow to Wales as it will almost certainly rule Ramsey out of the start of their qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championships, which begins later this year.

Sun 28 February, 2010
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Colon go top as Velez Sarsfield lose at Huracan

(GSM) – Colon de Santa Fe are the new leaders in the Argentinian Primera Division following a 1-1 draw with Rosario Central, while Velez Sarsfield lost 3-2 at Huracan.

It was a highly eventful encounter in the city of Santa Fe, where Colon scored the opening goal through German Rivarola in the 37th minute but Rosario’s Luciano Figueroa levelled shortly before the hour mark.

Although no more goals were scored from there on, there was enough to see as Jonatan Gomez of Rosario was sent off in the 65th minute, followed 22 minutes later by teammate Guillermo Burdisso and Colon’s Marcelo Goux, leaving just 19 players on the pitch.

Velez Sarsfield had everything going according to plan when Rolando Zarate put the Copa Libertadores contenders ahead on 42 minutes.

But Huracan dominated in the second half with converted penalties from Gustavo Balvorin and Patricio Toranzo, before Federico Laurito made it 3-1 in the 80th minute. Santiago Silva pulled one back late on but it was too little, too late.

Colon may not actually finish the week in first place as Banfield have the chance to conquer the top spot in their away match to Newell’s Old Boys on Sunday.

Sun 28 February, 2010
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Benfica, Sporting Braga make no mistakes

(GSM) – Benfica remain on top of the Portuguese league following a convincing 0-4 win at Leixoes, while second-placed Sporting Braga beat Olhanense 3-1.

Benfica visited a very troubled Leixoes side in the city of Matosinhos, and needed 27 minutes for Eder Luis to score the opening goal.

In the second half, it was all Angel Di Maria as the Argentinian scored a hat-trick with goals in the 59th, 76th and 87th minutes.

Sporting Braga initially struggled in their home match with Olhanense, who took the lead through Djalmir in the 16th minute.

But Matheus Nascimento levelled five minutes later, for Evaldo to make it 2-1 eight minutes before the break. Meyong Ze netted the home side’s third in the 55th minute.

With nine rounds to go in the 2009-10 season, Braga are just one point behind Benfica.

Sun 28 February, 2010
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AZ, Heracles win in Eredivisie

(GSM) – AZ Alkmaar earned a convincing 0-3 win at Vitesse in Saturday’s Eredivisie action, while Heracles returned to winning ways with a 1-2 result at Heerenveen.

Dick Advocaat’s AZ seem to be doing much better than before the winter break, and this was once again confirmed at Vitesse.

The reigning champions were mostly inspired by striker Mounir El Hamdaoui, who scored the opening goal shortly before the break and went on to add goals in the 49th and 56th minutes to give his side a comfortable win.

While AZ successfully defended their fifth place, Heracles remain in sixth following their 1-2 win at Heerenveen.

Bas Dost put the visitors ahead in the 50th minute, but had his goal cancelled out by Gerald Sibon 14 minutes later. Heracles had the final say however as Everton netted the winner on 75 minutes.

Sat 27 February, 2010
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Lazio and Fiorentina frustrated by draw

Lazio and Forentina drew 1-1 in the capital’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday in a result that helped neither team in their respective Serie A battles.

Lazio remain one place above the relegation zone and now sit three points ahead of 18th-placed Livorno, although having played a game more.

Fiorentina, meanwhile, saw their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League for a third year in a row hit as the draw leaves them six points off fourth-placed Juventus, but again having played a game more.

Lazio led almost from start to finish as Sebastiano Siviglia gave them a seventh minute lead in fortunate circumstances as his near post flick from a corner looped up over French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey and in off the far post.

But young Brazilian forward Keirrison made up for his late miss against AC Milan in midweek to poke home an injury time equaliser from six yards.

In the day’s other game Catania boosted their own survival hopes while denting Bari’s chances of European football next season with a 4-0 thrashing in Sicily.

Adrian Ricchiuti opened the scoring on four minutes and Cristian Llama doubled their advantage five minutes before the interval.

Japan forward Takayuki Morimoto ended Bari’s comeback hopes nine minutes from time and top scorer Jorge Martinez rounded things off in injury time.

Sat 27 February, 2010
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Shawcross handed bitter-sweet England call-up

Fabio Capello handed a surprise call-up to Ryan Shawcross for England’s friendly against Egypt just hours after the Stoke defender was sent off in tears during his club’s defeat against Arsenal.

Shawcross was dismissed for a late tackle on Aaron Ramsey at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday that left the Arsenal midfielder with a serious leg injury and the centre-back, who walked off the pitch in tears, was reportedly still crying when he was driven away from the ground by his mother.

On a bitter-sweet day for the former Manchester United trainee, moments later Shawcross learned that Capello has drafted him into the squad for Wednesday’s match at Wembley.

Capello and assistant Franco Baldini delayed the announcement of their squad by 40 minutes to have a final discussion about Shawcross’ presence after hearing that he had been involved in the incident with Ramsey.

But Shawcross’ clear regret over the incident convinced them to go ahead with their plan to pick the 22-year-old.

Shawcross partly owes his place to Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand’s back injury which has forced the new England captain to miss Sunday’s League Cup final against Aston Villa.

He has been a key figure in Stoke establishing themselves in the Premier League over the last two seasons and had never previously been sent off in his short career, which also included a loan spell at Belgian club Royal Antwerp during his time at United.

Capello also called up Arsenal winger Theo Walcott and Aston Villa midfielder Stewart Downing, while there is no place for out-of-form Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole.

With first choice left-back Ashley Cole out with an ankle injury and deputy Wayne Bridge opting out of England duty as a result of John Terry’s alleged affair with his ex-partner Vanessa Perroncel, Capello turned to Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock and Everton’s Leighton Baines.

Warnock has made one previous England appearance in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, while Baines has yet to make his debut.

There was also a call-up for AC Milan midfielder David Beckham despite his recent poor form with AC Milan, while Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Carlton Cole will compete for the job of partnering striker Wayne Rooney.

With Terry stripped of the captaincy and Ferdinand absent, it is expected that Steven Gerrard will skipper the team.

England squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Egypt at Wembley:

Goalkeepers: David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham), Joe Hart (Birmingham)

Defenders: Wes Brown (Man Utd), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Joleon Lescott (Man City), Ryan Shawcross (Stoke), Leighton Baines (Everton), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa)

Midfielders: James Milner (Aston Villa), David Beckham (AC Milan), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Gareth Barry (Man City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Michael Carrick (Man Utd), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Man City), Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)

Strikers: Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Carlton Cole (West Ham).

Sat 27 February, 2010
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Lyon put pressure on blown away Bordeaux

In-form Lyon moved to within two points of French league leaders Bordeaux with a comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Nice on Saturday.

The win for Claude Puel’s side maintained their unbeaten league record in 2010 and secured revenge for a 4-1 defeat at Nice in late October.

Lisandro Lopez put the hosts ahead in the 10th minute at the Stade Gerland, tapping home Miralem Pjanic’s precise low centre from the right.

Lyon spurned multiple chances to make the game safe, with Michel Bastos scuffing badly wide shortly after Lisandro’s goal and substitute Bafetimbi Gomis heading over from right in front of goal in the 89th minute.

Nice’s best chance fell to Chaouki Ben Saada, whose long-range strike was brilliantly saved by Lyon’s French international goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Gomis made amends for his miss in injury time when he pressured Nice defender Onyekachi Apam into diverting Mathieu Bodmer’s cross into his own goal.

“It’s good for us. We could even have increased the score but we didn’t,” said Bosnian international Pjanic.

“It’s a shame but, at the end of the day, we’ve still scored goals without letting any in.”

Lyon, who will take a 1-0 lead into the away leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid on March 10, now have 49 points, two less than Bordeaux but having played two games more.

Bordeaux’s trip to Le Mans on Sunday has been postponed due to a severe weather forecast predicting violent winds in the Sarthe region.

With the champions not playing this weekend, third-placed Montpellier can go level on points at the top of the table if they beat Rennes in Saturday’s late kick-off.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Monaco won 1-0 at home to second-bottom Boulogne to keep hold of seventh place, while Lorient secured their first home win of the year by defeating Sochaux 1-0 thanks to Sigamary Diarra’s 34th-minute strike.

Bottom club Grenoble secured their first away win of a dismal season after a brace from 20-year-old defender Yoric Ravet brought them a 2-0 victory at Nancy.

Saint-Etienne’s bid to pull clear of the relegation zone suffered a blow with a 1-0 defeat at Valenciennes, while Toulouse prevailed by the same scoreline at home to Lens.

The big game of the weekend in France takes place on Sunday, when title challengers Marseille travel to arch-rivals Paris Saint-Germain for the second ‘Clasico’ of the season.

Fourth meets sixth in Sunday’s other game as Lille host Auxerre.

Sat 27 February, 2010
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Arsenal late show marred by horrific Ramsey injury

Arsenal’s title ambitions remain alive after a 3-1 win at Stoke on Saturday in a match which was overshadowed by a horrific injury to Gunners’ midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

The highly-rated 19-year-old Wales international was taken to hospital after a 65th minute challenge by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross which earned the defender a red card.

Ramsey’s potentially career-threatening injury was deemed so ugly that television bosses refused to show replays of the incident.

Shawcross was clearly distraught as he left the pitch in the tears, the incident reviving memories of the incident when Arsenal’s Eduardo suffered a dislocated and fractured ankle after a challenge by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor almost two years to the day.

Stoke had taken the lead courtesy of Danny Pugh’s first Premier League goal early in the first half before Nicklas Bendtner headed an equaliser.

After Ramsey’s injury, Cesc Fabregas put Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot in the 90th minute when Pugh handled inside his area before Thomas Vermaelen wrapped up the points with the third goal.

Arsenal started the game knowing that victory would take them three points behind leaders Chelsea following Chelsea’s surprise home defeat to Manchester City earlier in the day.

Yet Stoke has not been a happy hunting ground for the London club down the years. Arsenal’s last league win on Stoke turf coming 28 years ago while they were looking to avoid a fifth straight league defeat against the Potteries club.

Stoke were supposed to be tired after an energy-sapping extra-time FA Cup victory over Manchester City on Wednesday.

Yet it was the Arsenal defence that was half asleep when was Pugh headed his side into an eighth minute lead following another long throw-in by Rory Delap.

The set-piece specialist has established a reputation for unlocking opposition defences with his long-range throws and he was at it again as he launched another into the Arsenal penalty area which was flicked on by Shawcross.

Pugh, making his first Premier League start of the season, was in the right place to head low into the net after being played on side by Vermaelen.

In the opening half hour Arsenal managed to test Thomas Sorensen just once when Fabregas’s powerful effort tipped behind for a corner by Thomas Sorensen.

But they got back on level terms 13 minutes before half time thanks to a piece of quality from Bendtner, the Dane outjumping the home defence to get on the end of Fabregas’s cross and power a header beyond the reach of Sorensen.

After a sluggish start, Arsenal were beginning to dominate and were fortunate not to win a 49th minute penalty when Stoke captain Abdoulaye Faye shoved Ramsey to the floor inside the home box.

Arsenal protested strongly but referee Peter Walton was not interested.

Sorensen was the busiest man on the pitch, Ivory Coast international Emmanuel Eboue denied his third goal of the campaign after the keeper did well to stop his rasping 59th minute drive.

But as the clock ticked down, Arsenal’s frustration began to show. Having earlier denied the visitors a penalty, the referee further irritated Wenger by harshly booking Alexandre Song for a foul on Delap which means the Cameroon midfielder will miss the next two games.

Then came the incident which overshadowed the game, Ramsey receiving five minutes of treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off towards a waiting ambulance and whisked off to hospital.

Shawcross was distraught as he made his way off the pitch, the players in tears as he made his way off the pitch but Arsenal regained their composure to claim a crucial win.

Sat 27 February, 2010
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