Chamakh shines as Arsenal draw with AC Milan

Arsenal new-boy Marouane Chamakh showed why Arsene Wenger spent nearly a year trying to sign him with a clinical finish in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against AC Milan in the Emirates Cup.

Gunners boss Wenger landed Chamakh on a free transfer from Bordeaux in May after a lengthy courtship and the early signs suggest the Morocco striker will prove to have been worth the wait.

Chamakh marked his first appearance at the Emirates Stadium with a man of the match display capped by a predatory first half strike.

The Gunners were denied a winning start to their four-team pre-season tournament however as Alexandre Pato headed a late equaliser for Milan.

Wenger has spent most of the close-season attempting to stop Barcelona taking Cesc Fabregas back to the Nou Camp.

But, with Fabregas on holiday until next week, the focus switched to Chamakh and fellow new signing Laurent Koscielny.

Chamakh was the star turn as he led the Arsenal attack in the targetman role normally occupied by Robin van Persie, who is still resting after his efforts with Holland at the World Cup.

His goal was richly deserved and Wenger now has to decide whether to play him alongside van Persie or alternate the pair.

Koscielny, a French centre-back who cost 10 million pounds from Lorient, is ear-marked to replace William Gallas at the heart of Arsenal’s defence and was steady enough alongside Thomas Vermaelen.

Arsenal fans will also have been intrigued that Wenger selected Lukasz Fabianski in goal ahead of Manuel Alumnia, suggesting the Spaniard’s days as the Gunners’ first-choice keeper may be over.

Vermaelen, wearing the captain’s armband in Fabregas’s absence, almost put Arsenal in front early on with a glancing header that Christian Abbiati clawed to safety.

Koscielny was close to scoring an unfortunate own goal when his attempted block of a shot from former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini sent the ball cannoning onto the crossbar.

But Arsenal always looked lively going forward and Chamakh put the Gunners ahead in the 36th minute.

Andrey Arshavin surged forward from midfield and held off Gennaro Gattuso before slipping a pass towards Chamakh, who timed his run perfectly to guide a low shot past Abbiati.

It took a fine stop from Abbiati to stop Tomas Rosicky increasing Arsenal’s lead just before half-time as the veteran keeper used his legs to keep out the Arsenal midfielder’s snap-shot.

Chamakh threatened again in the second half with a burst down the left and a powerful shot that Abbiati blocked at the near-post.

Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan, rebuilding after a disappointing effort in Serie A last season, have only just started their pre-season preparations and looked sluggish at times.

But the Italians, cheered on by their former player David Beckham, improved as the game went on and equalised in the 77th minute when Pato’s glancing header found the far corner of Fabianski’s goal.

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Cahill hat-trick powers Everton

Australian international midfielder Tim Cahill scored a hat-trick as Premier League Everton defeated second-tier Championship newcomers Norwich City 4-2 on Saturday in a pre-season friendly.

Former Everton goalkeeper John Ruddy gifted Cahill a sixth minute opener before the Australian added his second seven minutes before half-time.

But Norwich levelled through Andrew Crofts and Andrew Surman in the second half.

South African star Steven Pienaar set-up Russian Diniyar Bilyaletdinov for Everton’s third before Cahill completed his hat-trick on 71 minutes.

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Hurst wants Hammers in Olympic Stadium

West Ham legend Geoff Hurst insists the club must move to the Olympic Stadium if it wants to compete with the very best in the English Premier League.

Hurst, whose famous 1966 World Cup final hat-trick helped England beat West Germany 4-2, wants the Hammers to take over the 80,000-seater venue once the London 2012 Games are over.

The current plans will see the top tier lopped off to leave a 25,000-capacity athletics stadium, but the British sporting icon would love to see West Ham make the two-mile (three kilometre) move across east London.

“All the clubs now have either got new grounds or been refurbished since the early 1990s,” the former striker told AFP.

“To compete in the league it would be a good move to come here.”

London’s bid for 2012 pledged that the stadium would retain its athletics capability after the Games.

Sebastian Coe, the organising committee’s chairman and a double Olympic 1,500 metres champion, is determined to keep that promise.

“You can understand Lord Coe’s position and the organising committee to leave a legacy of a running track,” said Hurst.

“One or two people say you can lose the atmosphere but a lot of foreign clubs still play in a stadium where they’ve got running tracks.

“Ideally, you would not want the running track but there may be an element of compromise if West Ham want to move out of the old stadium into the new stadium, and it may be the compromise they’ll make.”

Hurst also played cricket for Essex in his youth and the county is interested in using the stadium for Twenty20 matches.

“Speaking as a sportsman, not just a footballer, as long as it’s used for sport after the Olympics and all the facilities are used, that would be a tremendous part of the legacy which we want to see,” the 68-year-old said.

West Ham have been at their Upton Park home since 1904 and began a series of renovations in 1993 to take the all-seater capacity to 35,300.

But they have never finished higher than fifth in the Premier League and have been relegated once.

The Hammers and the local municipal authority have submitted a joint proposal for taking over the Olympic Stadium for football and community use.

Hurst does not want to see the chance pass by but said missing out would not be a disaster.

“It would be a great shame to an extent but it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” said Hurst, who scored 180 goals in his 411 West Ham appearances between 1959 and 1972.

“We would still be in a good stadium, we’ve got a great, loyal support and if continue to fill it then there’s still an opportunity, as I understand, to fill in the corners to make it up to 40,000.”

West Ham narrowly avoided relegation last season under Gianfranco Zola but Hurst is confident they can improve under new boss Avram Grant, the former Portsmouth manager.

“My initial hope is that we do well and consolidate in the Premier League and improve on last season, that we sit comfortably this year and have a good season in the league.”

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Lennon hopes Lyon fightback will inspire Celtic

Celtic manager Neil Lennon hopes his side’s gutsy fightback to earn a 2-2 draw against Lyon in the Emirates Cup will prove his players with the inspiration for a great escape in the Champions League.

Lennon’s team recovered from two goals down thanks to late strikes from Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras in the pre-season tournament at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

But the Scottish club need to overturn an even greater deficit when they face Braga in the Champions League third qualifying round second leg at Parkhead on Wednesday.

The Hoops trail 3-0 after being thrashed in Portugal in midweek and Lennon said: “We’ve got to take a lot of positives from this performance, the chances we created, the way we pressed well.

“They know now they can play against top players and compete well. I know it was a pre-season game but it’s a positive sign.

“I think they will get confidence from the performance never mind the comeback.

“We kept going with a lot of young kids out there. I was thrilled with them.”

The only downside for Lennon was an injury to captain Scott Brown, who limped off after taking a knock on his foot, but the Celtic boss hopes his midfield dynamo will be back to face Braga.

“Scott Brown got a bang on the foot. We’ll just have to see how it is on Sunday,” he said.

Lyon coach Claude Puel was impressed with his side’s fluent play but conceded the gloss had been taken off their performance by Celtic’s late goals.

“The last 10 minutes were a real shame because it ruined the good things we did before,” he said.

“We’ve learned a lot about our players. We showed great composure, passed he ball well and created lots of chances.

“I enjoyed our second goal with the young players involved. It was encouraging but we will play a more experienced team against Milan on Sunday.”

Lyon had been in control of the match thanks to goals from Michel Bastos and Harry Novillo.

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Rossi invites Inter bid

(GSM) – Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi has seemingly invited Internazionale boss Rafael Benitez to make a bid for him, after admitting that he “could never say no to a side like Inter”.

Rossi, who moved to the Yellow Submarine from Manchester United in 2007, began his career in Italy with Parma and returned to play for the Serie A side on loan before transferring to Villarreal.

Poor form last season meant the playmaker was overlooked by Marcello Lippi for Italy’s 2010 World Cup squad.

However, with Mario Balotelli looking set to leave the San Siro, Rossi has emerged as a possible replacement – a link that he has welcomed.

“I am very happy at Villarreal and owe them a great deal,” Rossi told Corriere dello Sport. “However, I could never say no to a side like Inter. My phone is always on.

“It’s an honour to be linked with the champions of Italy and Europe, but for the moment there has been no official contact. I would only leave Villarreal if the call came from a big club. I am ready for a team like Inter.”

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Richardson extends Sunderland deal

Sunderland’s former Manchester United midfielder Kieran Richardson on Saturday signed a new three-year contract which commits him to the Premier League club until 2013.

The 25-year-old joined the club three years ago and has played 85 games for the Black Cats.

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Celtic show fighting spirit to earn draw with Lyon

Celtic showed the fighting spirit they will need to recover from their Champions League flop as the Scottish club battled back to earn a 2-2 draw against Lyon in the Emirates Cup on Saturday.

Neil Lennon’s side were playing for the first time since their dismal 3-0 defeat against Portuguese club Braga in the Champions League third qualifying round and they looked set for another dispiriting loss as goals from Michel Bastos and Harry Novillo put Lyon in control.

But two goals in the last eight minutes from Gary Hooper and substitute Georgios Samaras salvaged a draw in the opening game of the pre-season tournament at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Celtic’s late rescue act was a much-needed boost before they attempt to pull off a miraculous recovery in the second leg against Braga at Parkhead on Wednesday.

Lyon’s French League campaign starts against Monaco next weekend and Claude Puel opted to send out an under-strength side missing the likes of Cris, Jeremy Toulalan and Lisandro Lopez.

Even so, Puel’s understudies could have been ahead early on. Samuel Umtiti’s cross was dummied by Alexandre Lacazette and Novillo appeared at the far post to drive in a shot that was cleared off the line.

Lyon were dangerous whenever they went forward and Puel’s side took the lead in spectacular fashion in the 28th minute.

When Bastos, one of the few senior stars in Lyon’s team, lined up a shot from a free-kick way out on the right edge of the Celtic penalty area, it seemed the Brazilian was being a touch optimistic.

But, summoning up the kind of strike that deserved to grace a more significant occasion than this, Bastos lashed in a ferocious swerving effort that raced past Lukasz Zaluska into the far corner.

Novillo threatened again early in the second half as he controlled a pass on his thigh before making space for a curling shot that cannoned off the bar.

It was a warning that Celtic failed to heed and 18-year-old striker Novillo increased Lyon’s lead in the 54th minute.

Lacazette crossed low into the penalty area and Novillo’s powerful shot deflected off Celtic defender Glenn Loovens and past Zaluska.

But to their credit, Celtic refused to throw in the towel.

They reduced the deficit in the 82nd minute when Hooper volleyed home from close-range to claim his first goal since his move from Scunthorpe.

And, with Lyon disrupted by a host of substitutions, Celtic were able to snatch an equaliser in stoppage time when Samaras headed in a cross from James Forrest.

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Jova looking to impress Hodgson

(GSM) – New Liverpool signing Milan Jovanovic has expressed his confidence that he will repay the faith shown in him by Roy Hodgson by proving to be a Premier League success.

The Serbia international moved to Anfield, after playing in this summer’s World Cup for his nation, having previously made an agreement with former Reds boss Rafa Benitez.

And Jovanovic, who is grateful that Hodgson decided to conclude the deal, wants to impress his new manager.

He told Liverpool’s official website: “My main thing now is to show Roy Hodgson that the club hasn’t made an error in bringing me here.

“The coach is fantastic. He speaks very openly with us and tries to put across his ideas clearly.

“I hope that I will learn more and more. I accept the coach’s words and now it is up to me to show him I really can do everything he asks me to do.

“I have only been here a short time, but I want to show all my qualities.

“I know that physically the Premier League is a demanding league, but when I thought about this characteristic, I thought, ‘this is me’.

“I think I can do everything I need to play at the top level here. It is a long season and if you count games with the national team as well, you can be looking at 60 or 70 games, but I feel okay and of course I am really looking forward to it.

“I couldn’t have asked for more from the other players in making me feel welcome. They have been very kind and I feel very close to the group in a short space of time.

“I am 29 and feel I am at my best. I feel this is my best time and I am with the best team.”

Sat 31 July, 2010
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AEK Athens win Sydney pre-season tournament

AEK Athens captured the Sydney international pre-season tournament with a 1-0 win over Glasgow Rangers on Saturday.

Australian Nathan Burns claimed the winner in the 73rd minute for the Greek side to remain unbeaten with their third victory of the tournament.

AEK Athens head home for their Greek season after also beating English Premier League Blackburn Rovers 2-1 and hosts Sydney FC 5-3.

Burns netted with a powerful header leaping to head home a cross from Nikos Karabelas.

Athens’ win would have been even more comfortable had substitute Rafik Djebbour not been denied by two great saves from Rangers goalkeeper Alan McGregor in the later stages.

The Scottish champions also created chances with defender Steven Whittaker floating in two enticing crosses from the left that Kenny Miller just failed to meet.

Lee McCullough also had a volleyed effort saved from a Steve Davis corner in the 36th minute, before captain David Weir headed wide from a free kick.

Blackburn finished second in the tournament after their 2-1 win over Sydney FC later Saturday.

Australian international Brett Emerton and Norwegian Morten Gamst Pedersen put Rovers 2-0 ahead before striker Alex Brosque scored Sydney’s only goal nine minutes from time.

It was Sam Allardyce’s team’s best performance of the pre-season tournament after losing to AEK Athens and Rangers.

Sat 31 July, 2010
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Fabregas speculation is not good for anybody

The speculation about Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas future must be like torture for his clubs fans.

Everyday there seems to be more speculation and argument over the Spanish international.

Surely his future should be sorted out before the season kicks off in two weeks time.

Long-Running

The Fabregas saga has been a long and annoying one. Speculation over a move back home to Barcelona has been rift for a few seasons. Nothing has come of it yet but it almost seems inevitable that he will make the move eventually.

This situation reminds me of that of Cristiano Ronaldo when he was with Manchester United. For consecutive summers Real Madrid were linked with the Portuguese star and eventually he joined Los Blancos last summer.

Unsettled

Fabregas must be unsettled by the constant rumours and speculation; he wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t unsettled by talk of a move to arguably the biggest club side in the world. The problem for Fabregas is that he can’t really win.

If he says he wants to stay at the Emirates then fans won’t really believe him and if he says he wants to go then Arsenal fans will be devastated. He has admitted that he finds himself torn between the two clubs he loves. If he wants to stay then he should come out and try his best to convince the fans his future is with the Gunners.

Home

Not only are Barcelona one of the biggest clubs in the world, they are also Fabregas’ boyhood club. He supported the club as a boy and came through the famous Barca youth system. He moved to Arsenal at a young age because he knew he would find it hard to get into the team with the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta already at the club.

First Team Football

With the talent in the Barcelona side I don’t see where Cesc would fit into in. Just like the Spanish international side Fabregas would be competing with the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergi Busquets for a place in the centre of midfield. He is currently not first choice for his international side and it could be the same story at club level, if he did make the switch.

Talented

Cesc Fabregas is without doubt one of the most talented footballers in the Premier League. He is a crucial cog in the Arsenal side. He makes the whole side ticks. When he was absent from the Arsenal team last season the team didn’t play with the same fluency.

Confident

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger seems confident of keeping his captain. He told Sky Sports news: “I have always said that Cesc Fabregas will be our captain next year and that we want to keep him,”

“And, despite all the speculation from last season and the whole summer, nothing has changed.”

Time

Wenger seems convinced that Fabregas is staying. However if he does leave the club then the Frenchman will have a short amount of time to replace the 23 year-old. It will be hard enough for Wenger to replace a player of Fabregas’ quality but within a few weeks could prove impossible.

It’s not a good situation for the club or the player to find themselves in and it could have an unsettling affect on the rest of the Arsenal squad. The whole Fabregas saga could ruin the clubs chances of success next season. I hope he stays at Arsenal, despite my liking for Barca.

With the Gunners he will get guaranteed first team football next season. Unfortunately at Barcelona Pep Guardiola cannot guarantee him first team football. It would be a shame to see his talent go to waste sitting on the Barcelona bench.

How will the Cesc Fabregas saga conclude?

Sat 31 July, 2010
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