Liverpool out of Premier League relegation zone

Liverpool climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone after a moment of magic from Fernando Torres helped set up a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Bolton.

The English giants looked to be heading for another desperately disappointing day at the Reebok Stadium as they struggled to break down a determined Wanderers outfit.

But a sublime backheel from Torres — who had missed several chances during another out-of-sorts performance — created an 86th-minute winner for Maxi Rodriguez that sealed Liverpool’s first away win since April.

The result also sealed back-to-back victories for Roy Hodgson’s men following their win over Blackburn last week.

After languishing in the relegation zone for weeks following their worst start to a season in more than 50 years, Liverpool are now 12th with 12 points, still five points off the coveted top four.

“It’s just nice to be out of that bottom three, we’ve been in there a while so it’s been difficult to look at the table,” relieved Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports afterwards.

“We know we haven’t had a great start, but there’s still a long way to go and with the league so tight, with a few wins we can certainly climb to the top half of the table.”

In Sunday’s early games, Newcastle romped to a 5-1 victory over Sunderland in the Tyne and Wear derby while Aston Villa and Birmingham played out a goalless stalemate at Villa Park.

A hat-trick from captain Kevin Nolan and two goals from striker Shola Ameobi completed an emphatic derby win for Newcastle in a result which eased pressure on manager Chris Hughton.

A miserable afternoon for Sunderland also saw former Newcastle defender Titus Bramble given a straight red card early in the second half for a trip on Andy Carroll, much to the delight of the Toon Army.

The victory saw Newcastle move up to seventh place with 14 points from 10 games and should quell intense speculation over Hughton’s future.

Man-of-the-match Nolan paid tribute to Hughton after leading the rout.

“I’m delighted for the fans and delighted for Chris after what he was put through this week,” Nolan said after netting his first top-flight hat-trick.

“Obviously it’s fantastic. We knew it would be tough – and I think it was, I think we got lucky with a couple of the goals,” he told Sky Sports.

“We’re delighted, we’ve worked so hard this week and it’s paid off today.”

Nolan struck in the 26th, 34th and 75th minutes while Ameobi slotted goals in each half to leave Steve Bruce’s Sunderland shellshocked.

Nolan’s first came from a Newcastle corner swung into the box. Ameobi beat Sunderland’s defence to knock down, and Nolan, with his back to goal and sitting almost on the turf, hooked in a superbly improvised overhead kick.

Eight minutes later Newcastle doubled their lead through Nolan, the Magpies’ skipper suddenly finding himself unmarked and in acres of space after a miscued Joey Barton volley fell kindly in the Sunderland area.

Ameobi buried a penalty on the stroke of half-time after Nedum Onuoha had brought down Jonas Gutierrez in the box.

Bramble’s dismissal on 53 minutes left Sunderland with no way back and with the Black Cats in disarray, Newcastle added to their agony with two more goals.

Ameobi made it 4-0 on 70 minutes, volleying in acrobatically after Carroll’s diving header crashed off the bar.

All that was left was for Nolan to complete his hat-trick, which he duly did 15 minutes from time, connecting with an Ameobi header from point-blank range.

Bent turned in a goal for Sunderland on the stroke of 90 minutes but it barely qualified as a consolation effort.

“Just wanna apologise to all the fans who went to the game and watched else where. Didn’t go the way we wanted,” Bent wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter after the rout.

In Sunday’s other derby game, Birmingham were left fuming after having strong appeals for a penalty turned down when Villa captain Nigel Reo-Coker appeared to handle in the area.

But neither side could engineer a breakthrough as the match ended in stalemate, leaving Villa and Birmingham stuck in 13th and 14th spot respectively after playing 10 games each.

Villa manager Gerard Houllier said his side had been suffering the after-effects of a midweek League Cup match that went to extra-time.

“We lacked a bit of freshness, imagination and creativity. I think we have to take into account most of us played two hours in midweek,” Houllier said.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Cassano begs Sampdoria to let him stay

Bad boy Antonio Cassano has begged his employers Sampdoria to let him stay at the club following a spat with club president Riccardo Garrone.

Sampdoria have asked Italian footballing authorities for permission to terminate the Italy striker’s contract after he apparently argued with and insulted Garrone on Tuesday.

But now Cassano, who has often fallen out with coaches, team-mates and footballing authorities in the past, has begged for a second chance.

“I’m sorry for what happened and I’ve already apologised to Mr Garrone, who I’m very fond of, in the presence of my team-mates,” Cassano told Ansa.

“I’ve read that there’s a lot of speculation surrounding the transfer market but I repeat, as long as there is this possibility, I want to stay at Sampdoria.

“No-one realises the delicate time I’m going through with my wife.

“If I want to stay close to her as much as is possible, given my many sporting obligations, then there’s a reason, but I don’t want to make my private life public.”

Italian press reports claim the 28-year-old Cassano refused to join Garrone at an awards event on Tuesday night, after which Sampdoria dropped him from the match day squad for Sunday’s visit to Cesena.

“Referring to the episode on Tuesday 26th (October) at the Gloriano Mugnaini training centre during which the footballer Antonio Cassano behaved in a seriously offensive and disrespectful way in his meeting with the president Riccardo Garrone, Sampdoria have asked the relevant organisations to begin disciplinary proceedings,” said a club statement on Friday.

Press reports claim Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus would be interested in signing the errant star, a regular under new Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Late Rossi salvages point for Villarreal

Villarreal needed a stoppage time penalty from Giuseppe Rossi to salvage a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon on Sunday as they lost ground on Spanish league leaders Real Madrid.

A Diego Castro goal on 68 minutes looked set to condemn Villarreal to their first defeat since the opening day of the season, however, Italian international forward Rossi converted a spot-kick in the dying seconds for his sixth league goal of the season.

Third-placed Villarreal extend their unbeaten league run to eight games but fall three points behind pacesetters Real Madrid and two behind Barcelona in second.

Elsewhere Deportivo La Coruna finally recorded their first win of the season and did it in style with a 3-0 home victory over Espanyol at the Riazor Stadium.

Goals from Adrian Alvarez and centre-backs Alberto Lopo and Diego Colotto helped Depor move off the bottom of the table – with winless Real Zaragoza slumping to the foot of the table – with their maiden win.

In other matches, promoted Real Sociedad moved up to ninth in the table with a 2-1 win at stuggling Malaga who lie third from bottom.

On Saturday Barcelona thrashed Sevilla 5-0 at Camp Nou to stay within a point of leaders Real Madrid and midfielder Xavi Hernandez said the consistency of Real was pushing them on.

“They (Real) are doing things very well and that stimulates us,” said Xavi. “We won?t get into a war of words with (Jose) Mourinho we want a war on the pitch.”

Real are unbeaten under coach Jose Mourinho and came from behind to win 3-1 at Hercules and retain top spot in the Spanish first division.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late brace to make it 11 league goals for the season to top the goal-scoring charts four ahead of Barcelona?s Lionel Messi.

“I?m in great form and having a phenomenal run,” said Ronaldo. “I am scoring goals and I?m happy because we are still leading the table.”

Atletico Madrid host Almeria later on Sunday at the Vicente Calderon as the bid to climb up from 11th position ahead of next weekend?s big derby match against rivals Real Madrid.

Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan is set to start and Atletico manager Quique Sanchez Flores believes it is just a matter of time before the striker gets back among the goals again.

“(Diego) Forlan is working hard in training to reach his best and I am calm about it,” said Flores. “A goal will come sooner or later because goals are something he does naturally.”

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Lille let lead slip as rain wreaks havoc in France

A pair of goalkeeping clangers saw Lille held to a 1-1 draw at Valenciennes on Sunday, as torrential rain brought serious disruption to the French first division fixtures.

Marseille’s match at home to Rennes and Bordeaux’s trip to Monaco both fell victim to torrential rain, and the northern derby at Stade Nungesser looked destined for a goalless conclusion until two late moments of misfortune.

Lille broke the deadlock in the 86th minute when top scorer Moussa Sow’s rising shot hit the crossbar and struck home goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau on the back before bouncing over the line for an own goal.

Victory would have taken Rudi Garcia’s men up to sixth, but barely a minute later Valenciennes drew level as Lille goalkeeper Mickael Landreau let a free-kick spring from his hands and Gregory Pujol slid in to volley home.

Sow could even have won the game in injury time, but his gentle header came back off the left-hand post with the advancing Penneteau beaten.

Lille, who finished fourth last season, climb to eighth in the table, while Valenciennes leap five places to 11th.

The Marseille-Rennes match, originally scheduled to take place on Saturday evening, was initially postponed until 1700 local time (1600GMT) on Sunday, but a pitch inspection on Sunday afternoon found that the Stade Velodrome pitch was still waterlogged.

“In the interests of precaution, the safety of the players is of primary importance,” said match referee Fredy Fautrel.

With torrential rain widespread across southern France, Monaco’s home game with Bordeaux was also called off after the Stade Louis II pitch was deemed unplayable.

Rennes went into the weekend with a one-point lead over Marseille at the top of Ligue 1, but Brest’s 2-0 victory at home to Saint-Etienne on Saturday allowed them to go two points clear at the top of the standings.

Brest, promoted from the second division last season, are now guaranteed to remain on top of the standings until next weekend’s fixtures.

“This is a great surprise,” said Brest coach Alex Dupont.

“But the position we’re in isn’t down to luck. We’re on the right track and deserved this victory.”

Montpellier, currently sixth, will go second if they win at home to seventh-placed Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s late game.

In Saturday’s other matches, Toulouse held onto fifth place after drawing 1-1 at home to third-bottom Lens, while Lyon reacted to their League Cup defeat at home to PSG by beating Sochaux 2-1.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Dortmund go top after win at rivals Mainz

Borussia Dortmund went back to the top of the Bundesliga on Sunday after a hard-earned 2-0 win at title-rivals Mainz with the winning goals coming from teenager Mario Goetze and striker Lukas Barrios.

Dark-horses Mainz were knocked from top spot after being downed by Jurgen Klopp’s young guns from Dortmund in a tense affair at Mainz’s Bruchwegstadion in front of a sell-out crowd of 20,300 and the hosts had a penalty saved.

The win gives Dortmund a one-point lead over second-placed Mainz after ten league matches. Hanover have the chance to go third in the table if they beat Hoffenheim on Sunday evening.

With the guests enjoying a few chances in the build up, Dortmund opened the scoring on 26 minutes when 18-year-old Goetze pounced on Mainz defender Niko Bungert’s mistake and fired home.

Mainz fought back hard in a bid to force the equaliser and were awarded a penalty by referee Michael Weiner on 47 minutes when Serbia defender Neven Subotic fouled Hungarian Adam Szalai in the penalty area.

But Mainz midfielder Eugen Polanski had his shot saved by Dortmund captain Roman Weidenfeller and Borrusia cleared the danger.

Paraguay striker Lucas Barrios scored his fifth league goal of the season when he fired home from a tight angle on 67 minutes and although Mainz fought hard to get back in the game, they struggled against Dortmund’s strong defence.

On Saturday, Werder Bremen and Schalke both warmed-up in poor fashion for crunch Champions League clashes on Tuesday as they were both beaten at home in the Bundesliga.

Werder Bremen are at home to Dutch side FC Twente in Group A, but they were beaten 3-2 at home by Nuremberg in the German league.

Likewise, Schalke are at Hapoel Tel Aviv in Group B, but they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to Leverkusen – the Royal Blues’ sixth defeat in 10 games.

Eintracht Frankfurt went fourth after their 3-1 win at ten-man St Pauli.

Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko also netted twice in his side’s 2-0 win over Stuttgart while Hamburg were upset 3-2 at Cologne as Slovenian striker Milivoje Novakovic scored a hat-trick.

Kaiserslautern beat Moenchengladbach 3-0 while defending German champions Bayern Munich are seventh in the table after a 4-2 win over Freiburg on Friday.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Xavi ready for ´football war´ with Mourinho

Barcelona playmaker Xavi said on Sunday that he was ready for a “football war” with Real Madrid, but not a war of words with their outspoken coach Jose Mourinho.

“We won’t get into a war of words,” said Xavi, after inspiring Barca to a 5-0 thrashing of Sevilla on his return from injury on Saturday.

“We want a football war on the pitch.”

Mourinho, who is famed for his press conference soundbites, suggested earlier in the season that Barcelona’s opponents sometimes failed to put up a fight against them.

He also sought to relieve pressure on under-fire Real striker Karim Benzema by comparing him to Barca forward David Villa, who was without a goal in three games until he netted a brace against Sevilla.

Xavi added that he felt almost fully recovered from his knee tendinitis, which had kept him on the sidelines for two matches.

“I feel almost 100 percent again,” said the Spain international.

“I hope to play in every match but it depends on the pain.”

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Newcastle thrash Sunderland to claim derby win

Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan scored a hat-trick as the Magpies eased the pressure on manager Chris Hughton with a 5-1 rout of bitter northeast rivals Sunderland here Sunday.

Nolan’s treble and two goals from striker Shola Ameobi sealed a one-sided victory for newly promoted Newcastle as 10-man Sunderland suffered a halloween horror story at St James Park.

A wretched afternoon for the Black Cats also saw former Newcastle defender Titus Bramble given a straight red card early in the second half for a trip on Andy Carroll, much to the delight of the Toon Army.

The victory saw Newcastle move up to seventh place in the Premier League standings with 14 points from 10 games and should quell intense speculation prior to the game that Hughton faced the sack.

Nolan struck in the 26th, 34th and 75th minutes while Ameobi slotted goals in each half to leave Steve Bruce’s Sunderland shellshocked.

Nolan’s first came from a Newcastle corner swung into the box. Ameobi beat Sunderland’s defence to knock down, and Nolan, with his back to goal and sitting almost on the turf, hooked in a superbly improvised overhead kick.

Eight minutes later Newcastle doubled their lead through Nolan, the Magpies’ skipper suddenly finding himself unmarked and in acres of space after a miscued Joey Barton volley fell kindly in the Sunderland area.

The full-blooded nature of the derby was evident early on, with Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote cautioned for an ugly shin-high lunge on Steed Malbranque before Carroll followed him into the book for a challenge on Danny Welbeck.

Malbranque was then booked near the half-hour mark for clattering into Barton, with referee Phil Dowd brandishing yellow twice more in the half against Sunderland’s Nedum Onuoha and Newcastle’s Danny Simpson.

A miserable first half for Onuoha got even worse in time added on for stoppages, when the defender tangled with Argentinian midfielder Jonas Gutierrez in the penalty area to leave Dowd no option but to point to the spot.

Nolan passed up the opportunity to complete a first-half hat-trick, leaving Ameobi instead to bury an unstoppable penalty into the bottom corner.

Sunderland’s best chance early on came when Welbeck raced clear on the counter-attack to stretch the Newcastle defence.

But with unmarked strike partner Darren Bent screaming for the ball in the centre of the penalty area, Welbeck chose to go it alone, seeing his shot comfortably blocked by Simpson.

Bramble’s dismissal on 53 minutes left Sunderland with no way back and as Newcastle continued to dominate the visiting team’s frustration mounted.

Phil Bardsley was booked for an unnecessary foul on Fabricio Coloccini, Lee Cattermole also seeing yellow for upending Tiote. In total Sunderland saw six players booked in addition to Bramble’s red card.

With Sunderland in total disarray, Ameobi made it 4-0 on 70 minutes, volleying in acrobatically after Carroll’s diving header crashed off the bar.

All that was left was for Nolan to complete his hat-trick, which he duly did 15 minutes from time, connecting with an Ameobi header from point-blank range.

Bent turned in a goal for Sunderland on the stroke of 90 minutes but it barely qualified as a consolation effort.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Netherlands: Feyenoord lose at AZ

(GSM) – Feyenoord remain dangerously close to the relegation zone in the Dutch Eredivisie following Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at AZ in Alkmaar.

Following their 3-0 win over VVV on Wednesday, Feyenoord hoped that this was the start of a better spell in the Dutch league.

But AZ clearly had different plans and took the lead through Brett Holman in the last minute before the break.

Italian Graziano Pelle added a second in the 61st minute.

Luc Castaignos then pulled one back eight minutes later but that wouldn’t be enough for Feyenoord as AZ kept the three points in Alkmaar and climb to sixth place as result.

Feyenoord remain stuck in 15th place, just two points ahead of the danger zone.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Japan: Kashima Antlers crash at Albirex Niigata

The Japanese J-League season seems to be all but decided after second-placed Kashima Antlers crashed to a 2-1 defeat at Albirex Niigata on Sunday.

Kashima needed a win in order to restore the original eight-point gap with leaders Nagoya Grampus.

The first half at Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan stadium ended goalless, but Brazilian Marcio Richardes scored the opener in Albirez’ favour after just three minutes in the second.

Toru Araiba leveled on the hour mark but Albirex had the final say as Isao Homma netted the winner in the dying seconds, 2-1.

Kashima are now 11 points behind leaders Nagoya, with just six rounds to go.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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Villa held by Birmingham in midlands derby

Aston Villa and Birmingham fought out a 0-0 draw as the latest instalment of their fierce local rivalry ended in stalemate at Villa Park on Sunday.

England winger Ashley Young saw a shot hit the woodwork in the closing minutes before Birmingham’s towering striker Nikola Zigic sent a glancing header just wide in injury time.

The result left the midlands rivals in the same positions in the Premier League standings, Villa in 12th spot with 12 points from 10 matches, Birmingham one point behind in 13th place.

A goal-less first-half saw Birmingham finish the stronger, with Alex Hleb and Craig Gardner gradually starting to cause problems for Villa from midfield after the home side started brightly.

The major talking point came when Birmingham had strong appeals for a penalty turned down after a bouncing ball struck Nigel Reo-Coker’s arm in full view of World Cup final referee Howard Webb.

Birmingham had carved out the first half chance, Craig Gardner rifling in a shot from inside the box which Villa defender James Collins blocked.

Villa had threatened sporadically, Young just failing to pick out Emile Heskey with a low pass into the box which was gathered safely by Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster.

Gardner meanwhile was the first player to find his way into Webb’s notebook, receiving a caution after only 12 minutes for a clumsy lunge on Reo-Coker.

Zigic was the next to see yellow, booked on 39 minutes for throwing an arm into the face of Collins.

Villa defender Stephen Warnock received the third yellow card of the opening 45 minutes on the stroke of half-time, sliding in recklessly on Hleb.

The second half followed the same pattern as the first, both sides swapping low shots from distance but largely cancelling each other out in midfield.

Gardner saw a low shot easily held by Brad Friedel before Reo-Coker’s 20-yard effort was blocked by Foster.

Reo-Coker was booked midway through the half after clashing with Gardner and Barry Ferguson shortly before Villa substitute Barry Bannan saw a curling shot pawed away by Foster.

With the clock running down, Villa pressed hard for a winner and could have snatched all three points when Young breezed past Liam Ridgewell before sending a shot crashing against the angle of the post and cross bar.

Zigic also had a chance for Birmingham in the closing moments, but just failed to get enough on his header from a teasing free-kick Sebastian Larsson.

Sun 31 October, 2010
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