Liverpool fail to inspire at Utrecht

Liverpool’s stuttering season yielded another forgettable performance on Thursday when the English giants were held to a 0-0 draw at Dutch side FC Utrecht in the Europa League.

Roy Hodgson’s side came close to conceding on numerous occasions, with Jan Wuytens seeing a first-half effort chalked off for a foul and Dries Mertens drawing a sharp save from Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 39th minute.

Liverpool were lucky to escape early in the second period when Raul Meireles had to head off the line from skipper Michael Silberbauer after Reina came for the ball at a corner and missed.

Fernando Torres produced another subdued performance and was denied by home keeper Michel Vorm after being teed up by Utrecht old boy Dirk Kuyt.

Jacob Mulenga spurned a late sight of goal for the hosts, poking across goal and fractionally wide after exploiting hesitancy from Reds left-back Martin Kelly.

In the group’s other game, Napoli hit back from conceding three goals in the first 16 minutes at Steaua Bucharest to snatch a 3-3 draw, with Uruguayan Edinson Cavani notching the equaliser in the eighth minute of added time.

The results mean Liverpool top Group K and have a two-point lead over Napoli and Utrecht.

Napoli’s fellow Serie A representatives Sampdoria won 1-0 at home to Hungarian side Debrecen in Group I, thanks to an 18th-minute penalty by Giampaolo Pazzini.

Sampdoria share the lead in the group with PSV Eindhoven, who won 2-0 at Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv.

Gregorio Manzano’s first game in charge of Sevilla saw his new charges win 1-0 at in-form Borussia Dortmund in Group J.

A goal in first-half injury-time from on-loan Napoli midfielder Luca Cigarini was the difference between the teams, while Marcel Schmelzer was dismissed for the German side after being shown a second yellow card for diving.

Paris Saint-Germain top the group after a 2-0 win at home to Karpaty Lviv gave them six points from a possible six.

Later on Thursday, big-spending Manchester City will look to enhance their credentials as a new power in the European game when they host Juventus in Group A, while defending champions Atletico Madrid tackle Bayer Leverkusen.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Liverpool held at Utrecht, Napoli fight back at Steaua

(GSM) – Liverpool were held to a goalless draw at Dutch side Utrecht in Thursday’s Europa League action, while Napoli demonstrated an impressive come-back to draw 3-3 at Steaua Bucuresti.

Utrecht, who kept Scottish giants Celtic out of the group phase, delivered another convincing performance in their home game with Liverpool.

The guests hoped to add a second victory to their account but were instead fortunate to leave Galgenwaard stadium with a point as Utrecht were closer to a win throughout most of the match.

In the other game, Steaua seemed headed for a comfortable win over Napoli after early goals from Emilson Cribari (own goal), Cristian Tanase and Pantelis Kapetanos.

But things turned around for the Romanians after Kapetanos’ red card in the 31st minute.

Luigi Vitale pulled one back for Napoli just before the break, and Marek Hamsik made it 3-2 in the 73rd minute.

Napoli completed their come-back in the dying seconds as Edison Cavani found the target for 3-3.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Europa League: PSG win again, Sevilla bounce back

(GSM) – PSG added another three points to their Europa League account with a 2-0 win over Karpaty, while Sevilla earned a vital 0-1 victory at Borussia Dortmund.

Paris Saint-German hosted Karpaty of Ukraine in the French capital city, where only four minutes had been played when Christophe Jallet put the home side ahead.

In the 20th minute, Nene added a second for a 2-0 lead, one that PSG would hold on to until the final whistle.

Sevilla needed a good result at Dortmund after losing their opening game to PSG, and got exactly that as Luca Cigarini’s 45th-minute goal was enough for the Spaniards to clinch the three points.

Dortmund were a man down for most of the second half after Marcel Schmelzer received his second yellow card four minutes after the break.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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PSV, Sampdoria victorious in Europa League

(GSM) – PSV and Sampdoria share the lead in UEFA Europa League Group I following wins over Metalist and Debrecen respectively.

PSV traveled to Ukraine to face Metalist and took the lead after 27 minutes when Hungarian winger Balazs Dzsudzsak scored from the penalty spot.

Metalist were a man down from that moment as Cristian Villagra had been sent off for the foul that caused the spot kick.

And three minutes after the opening goal, Swedish striker Marcus Berg found the target for a 0-2 lead. PSV had no difficulties defending that advantage in the remainder of the match.

Sampdoria, who drew their opening match at PSV (1-1), earned a small win over Hungarian side Debrecen with Giampolo Pazzini scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in the 18th minute.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Stuttgart, Young Boys win in Europa League Group H

(GSM) – Stuttgart beat Danish side OB 1-2 on Thursday to jump to the top of Europa League Group H, while Swiss outfit Young Boys earned a 2-0 victory over Getafe.

Most of the match between OB and Stuttgart went by without goals but the German visitors did finally break the deadlock through Zdravko Kuzmanovic.

OB restored the balance with a goal from Andreas Johansson six minutes later but Austrian striker Martin Harnik had the final say as he scored the winner in the 86th minute, 1-2.

Young Boys, the Swiss team that almost kept Tottenham Hotspur out of the Champions League, received Getafe and sent the Spaniards homewards emptyhanded.

David Degen scored both goals for the home side, beating the opposing goalkeeper in the 10th and 64th minutes.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Does Andy Carroll deserve an England call-up?

Newcastle striker Andy Carroll has started the season in really good form scoring four goals.

The giant striker was also last season’s top goalscorer helping the Magpies to the top of the Championship and winning promotion back to the Premier League.

Left Out

Carroll has been left out of Stuart Pearce’s under-21 squad for their upcoming European Championship play-off. That almost certainly means he will be in the full England squad for the clash with Montenegro on 12th October.

England are currently lacking striking options and Carroll could benefit from the lack of options available to Fabio Capello. He has already impressed for Pearce’s under-21’s and could be in line for a full debut

Highly-Rated

Carroll is still just 21 but big things are expected of the young Geordie. He has been compared to Newcastle great Alan Shearer but he has a lot to live up to being compared to one of Newcastle’s biggest heroes.

Homegrown

However there are two similarities with the Geordie great. Carroll is a local lad just like Shearer and he also wears Shearer’s old number nine shirt. According to reports his whole family are Newcastle fans and are very proud of the striker.

Scotland

Carroll also qualifies to play for Scotland through his grandparents. And Scotland boss Craig Levein hasn’t lost hope of persuading him to play for the Tartan Army. Levein told Sky Sports: “We are continually looking for players to play for Scotland. (With regards to Andy Carroll), nothing is dead in the water.

“Until Andy Carroll plays a competitive match for England he is still eligible and it’s something we haven’t given up on. But I would rather concentrate on the players who are in this squad.”

I can’t see the youngster choosing Scotland ahead of the country of his birth, especially with a call-up to the full England squad reportedly so close. To be fair to Carroll I believe it would be a strange move to choose to play for Scotland.

If he had no other option but to play for Scotland then he should play for the Scots but he has a bright future ahead of him and an England career will probably be part of that future. This could prove academic if he plays for England on 12th October.

Different

Andy Carroll is a different option for Fabio Capello. He is an old fashioned targetman. He is nearly as tall as Peter Crouch but in my opinion he is more skilful and a better header of the ball.

Since Emile Heskey retired from international football England now lack a proper hold up striker and Carroll could be the man that Capello is looking for. Capello is still at the stage where he is trying out new players after the disastrous World Cup.

I think Andy Carroll deserves a chance to impress up front. With the likes of Jermain Defoe and Bobby Zamora out injured this could be the perfect chance to show what he can do on the international stage.

Does Andy Carroll deserve to be called up by England?

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Europa League: Zenit beat AEK to top Group G

(GSM) – Zenit St. Petersburg are the new leaders in UEFA Europa League Group G following a 4-2 win over AEK, while Hajduk Split got their first points in a 1-0 win over Anderlecht.

Zenit needed less than a minute against Greek side AEK, for Tomas Hubocan to put the Russians in the lead. Another 12 minutes later, Bruno Alves made it 2-0.

Nikos Liberopoulos pulled one back for the visitors in the 37th minute but had their hope crushed a few minutes later as Cristian Nasuti was red-carded and Zenit’s Danko Lazovic converted a penalty kick for 3-1.

The Serbian forward then added a fourth goal close to the hour mark, and a converted spot kick from Pantelis Kafes in the 83rd minute was too little, too late for the Greeks.

Hajduk Split and Anderlecht both lost their opening games in this group, making a win all the more vital on Thursday.

The game in Croatia was headed for a goalless result until Ante Vukusic broke the deadlock in the 90th minute to hand Split three valuable points.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Giggs not in for Wales job… for now

(GSM) – Manchester United star Ryan Giggs has ruled himself out of the running for the Wales’ national team’s vacant managerial hot seat for now.

The 36-year-old insists that he finds the post appealing for the future but he remains focused on his playing role at United.

Some have tipped the United winger to follow in the footsteps of former United ace Mark Hughes, who took over the Wales’ job in 1999 while still a player at Southampton.

But Giggs insists he cannot do the same move as he is currently committed for his career at Old Trafford.

He said: “I am playing for Manchester Unitedand am fully focussed on that.

“I just don’t think you can do the two, especially at a club like United.

“I know Mark Hughes did them but it is a little bit different when you are playing Champions League.”

Giggs, who has been taking his Uefa coaching badges, admits he would like to be manager of his country in the future.

“One day I would like to do it but I didn’t think about it this time,” he said.

“Before I get any job I want to get all the necessary qualifications, I wouldn’t take a job until I had them.

“I am halfway through my Uefa ‘A’ Licence at the moment, the idea being that I will be ready for it when I do finish.”

While the Cardiff-born star admits he does not know whether he will like management until he tries it, he wants to maintain a link with the game when his playing days are over.

“I honestly don’t know whether I would like it. Until you try it how can you?” he said.

“I will probably either love it or hate it.

“I enjoy helping young players and being out on the training ground. I enjoy the buzz of the game.

“But when you are not playing you are going to lose all that. How do you get it back? Coaching or managing.”

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Scotland’s Mackie says Spain prospect ´ridiculous´

New Scotland call-up Jamie Mackie admitted the thought of playing against Spain was “ridiculous” after he was selected for the Euro 2012 qualifiers against both the world champions and the Czech Republic.

The 25-year-old QPR forward is the leading scorer so far this season in English football’s second division, with eight goals in nine games for the Championship leaders.

Although born in Dorking, south of London, Mackie qualifies for Scotland through his grandfather and he takes the place of the dropped Kris Boyd for the matches away to the Czech Republic a week on Friday and the visit of Spain, also the European champions, to Hampden Park on October 12.

“I am extremely proud to be selected for this squad,” Mackie said.

“Me and my grandfather used to speak about it a lot and it is a real honour for me to finally get the chance.

“It was something I always knew was possible. I knew I qualified to play for Scotland but I was not sure if anybody else knew.

“I have been given a bit more of a profile with QPR and I think people are now starting to take notice of me.”

Mackie added: “This has been a long road for me but I am nowhere near the end of it.

“I am not a player who has burst onto the scene as a teen — I’ve had to work very hard to get where I am,” explained Mackie, who has also played for Wimbledon, Milton Keynes Dons, Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle.

“I suppose in a way it makes this more satisfying because I’ve had to work my way up.

“To be honest, the thought of playing against Spain, the world champions, is ridiculous but it makes no difference the opposition, I am just delighted to be involved.”

Scotland coach Craig Levein, explaining his decision to select Mackie, said: “I was aware of Jamie at the start of the season.

“He has been watched on four separate occasions and each report has been excellent. We have been looking high and low to add to the existing pool that we can pick from.

“I believe his grandfather was born in Kilmarnock so he fits the criteria and I’m happy to have him on board.”

As for leaving out Boyd, Levein said: “If you look at the strikers I have picked, I have picked players on form, that is basically it.

“I have had a chat with Kris and explained that to him.

“He is a top goalscorer and I have no doubt that once he hits a bit of form he will be back involved in the squad.”

Scotland, who last qualified for a major tournament at the 1998 World Cup in France, have four points from their opening two qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

Scotland squad

Goalkeepers: Allan McGregor (Rangers), Matt Gilks (Blackpool/ENG), Craig Gordon (Sunderland/ENG)

Defenders: Alan Hutton (Tottenham/ENG), Christophe Berra (Wolves/ENG), Kirk Broadfoot (Rangers), Stephen McManus (Middlesbrough/ENG), Gary Caldwell (Wigan/ENG), David Weir (Rangers), Steven Whittaker (Rangers)

Midfielders: Charlie Adam (Blackpool/ENG), Scott Brown (Celtic), Graham Dorrans (West Brom/ENG), Lee McCulloch (Rangers), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United/ENG), James Morrison (West Brom/ENG), Barry Robson (Middlesbrough/ENG), Jay McEveley (Barnsley/ENG), Shaun Maloney (Celtic)

Strikers: Steven Fletcher (Wolves/ENG), Chris Iwelumo (Burnley/ENG), James Mackie (QPR), Kenny Miller (Rangers), Steven Naismith (Rangers)

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Carroll set for England call-up

(GSM) – Newcastle United star Andrew Carroll seems to be ready for his first ever call-up to the senior England squad for their home Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro.

Carroll has impressed so far this season for his club, having scored four goals and performed well enough to impress coach Fabio Capello.

The 21-year-old striker has been omitted from Stuart Pearce’s Under 21 England squad, a fact that probably means he will receive his first chance to shine in an England shirt.

Meanwhile, Arsenal duo Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs are set to miss out on Capello’s list after they were named in Pearce’s squad.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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