Carling Cup wrap: Hammers upset United, Arsenal progress

Manchester United have crashed out of the Carling Cup with a 4-0 thrashing at West Ham United, while Arsenal eased into the semi-finals.

Jonathan Spector returned to haunt his former club with two first-half goals, and Carlton Cole added a second-half brace as West Ham humbled United at Upton Park.

Sir Alex Ferguson made 10 changes to the side that demolished Blackburn 7-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday, with Brazilian midfielder Anderson the only starter to keep his place.

But despite the presence of Ryan Giggs, Javier Hernandez and Bebe, United were simply no match for Avram’s Grant men.

Grant made six changes to the side which defeated Wigan Athletic 3-1 on Saturday, including leaving talismanic captain Scott Parker on the bench.

Victor Obinna was one who retained his place in the starting XI, and the on-loan Inter Milan winger conjured up West Ham’s opening goal in the 22nd minute when he chipped into the box for Spector to head past a diving Tomasz Kuszczak.

Spector added a solo goal in the 37th minute, pouncing on a loose ball in the area after Brazilian defender Fabio slipped over trying to clear from Obinna’s blocked shot.

Cole then proved his worth after the break, meeting Obinna’s cross at the edge of the six-yard box and nodding past Kuszczak for a 3-0 lead.

Incredibly, Obinna nabbed his third assist 10 minutes later, again picking out Cole with a cross from the left.

The sometime England international turned and fired inside the far post, signing off on a thrilling victory for the struggling top-flight side.

Meanwhile, Arsenal toppled Wigan 2-0 to book their place in the semi-finals with ease.

Wigan captain Antolin Alcaraz gifted the Gunners a 1-0 lead with an own goal, inadvertently nodding Theo Walcott’s corner kick into his own net on 41 minutes.

Nicklas Bendtner put the tie beyond the Latics on 65 minutes, though the goal owed as much to Wigan’s poor defence as anything else.

The Gunners cut through the middle on a counter-attack, and Mexican attacker Carlos Vela sent a low ball across the face of goal that somehow eluded two Wigan defenders.

Bendtner slid in to meet the ball, poking past Latics goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi for an unassailable 2-0 lead.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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West Ham knock out United in League Cup shock

Holders Manchester United were knocked out of the English League Cup after the Premier League leaders suffered a shock 4-0 loss away to bottom of the table West Ham at a snowy Upton Park on Tuesday.

United, who’ve won the trophy for the past two seasons, found themselves 2-0 down behind before half-time after Jonathan Spector, a former Old Trafford trainee, struck twice.

And another double, from England striker Carlton Cole midway through the second-half, sealed victory for the Hammers.

In Tuesday’s other quarter-final, also an all top-flight clash, Arsenal beat Wigan 2-0 across London at the Emirates Stadium thanks to an Antolin Alcaraz own-goal and a second-half effort from forward Nicklas Bendtner

United States defender Spector had never scored before during his six seasons in English football yet before 40 minutes were on the clock he’d netted twice against the holders, who came into this match on the back of a 7-1 league thrashing of Blackburn Rovers.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, made 10 changes to the side that beat Rovers with only Anderson remaining.

Ferguson, while unrepentant over his decision to field a youthful side, told Sky Sports: “We made a few errors on the goals and really you can’t give away goals like that, even though they are young.

“We’ve always done well with young players coming through these periods. A few years ago we lost at Coventry and they learned a lesson that day.

“Today, West Ham approached it more like a cup tie, got stuck in and a lot of late challenges, things like that. It got the crowd up for them, but the error of the game was about the goals we gave away anyway.”

Under pressure West Ham boss Avram Grant, asked if this result combined with last weekend’s 3-1 league win over Wigan marked a turning point for the east London side, said: “I hope so but we have been continuing our process of developing our quality football.

“It’s a new team with many new players and each game we are better. I hope to continue winning,” the Israeli added.

United almost found themselves a goal down when impressive Nigeria forward Victor Obinna, on loan to West Ham from Inter Milan, saw a deflected shot go in off Spector only for his strike to be ruled out for offside.

But minutes later the Hammers were ahead when Spector headed in from Obinna’s chip.

And the dominance of West Ham was rewarded still further in the 37th minute when Fabio’s attempted block fell into the path of Spector, who shot home from close range.

An error from England goalkeeper Robert Green, whose clearance hit the back of Federico Macheda, almost let United back into the match.

However, the Hammers instead went further ahead when the in-form Obinna’s excellent cross was headed in by Cole in the 56th minute before the same duo combined 10 minutes later for United’s fourth.

Arsenal, bidding to win a first major trophy since 2005, missed several chances before going ahead three minutes before half-time when Wigan captain Alcaraz put a Theo Walcott corner into his own net under pressure from Bendtner.

Denmark striker Bendtner sealed Arsenal’s victory in the 67th minute when he turned in a low cross from Carlos Vela.

Defeat for Wigan was made worse by the loss of striker Victor Moses with a wrist injury.

Wednesday’s last eight ties see a derby between Premier League pair Birmingham and Aston Villa while second-tier Ipswich are at home to top-flight West Bromwich Albion.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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Hammer blow for United as holders go out

Holders Manchester United were knocked out of the English League Cup after the Premier League leaders suffered a shock 4-0 loss away to bottom of the table West Ham at a snowy Upton Park on Tuesday.

United, who’ve won the trophy for the past two seasons, found themselves 2-0 down behind before half-time after Jonathan Spector struck twice.

And another double, from England striker Carlton Cole midway through the second-half, sealed victory for the Hammers.

In Tuesday’s other quarter-final, also an all top-flight clash, Arsenal beat Wigan 2-0 across London at the Emirates Stadium thanks to an Antolin Alcaraz own-goal and a second-half effort from forward Nicklas Bendtner.

Wednesday’s last eight clashes see a ‘Second City’ derby between Premier League pair Birmingham and Aston Villa while second-tier Ipswich are at home to top-flight West Bromwich Albion.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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Three-way tie in France after Brest win

Unfancied Brest snapped a three-game winless streak on Tuesday with a 4-1 thumping of Lens to go to the top of the French table with title holders Marseille and Lille.

Brest, only promoted last season, have been a revelation this season but their recent run of poor form suggested they had started to run out of steam.

However, Bruno Grougi bagged two goals from free kicks and set up further efforts for Romain Poyet and Paul Baysse with Eduardo claiming a consolation in freezing conditions at a Francis Le Ble stadium where they remain unbeaten to date.

The match had had to be abandoned at half-time on Saturday owing to the wintry weather enveloping much of France.

The win moved Brest – who had lost two and drwan one of their last three outings – onto 25 points from 15 games, behind Marseille and Lille by just four goals and one goal respectively.

Lens, who have generally struggled since they won the title 12 years ago, are now joint second bottom with Caen with only three wins so far for 14 points.

On Wednesday, Marseille, with a game in hand over Brest, will look to move three points clear with victory over Rennes in another rescheduled game.

Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of Montpellier enabled Didier Deschamps’ side to inch above previous leaders Lille on goal difference.

Saint-Etienne, 12th and without a win in seven league games, travel to 14th-placed Valenciennes in another re-arranged game on Wednesday.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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Dutch-Belgian bid makes final pitch

The Netherlands and Belgium have made their final pitch to FIFA executives in their bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

A small group of fans gathered in Zurich as bid chief executive officer Harry Been and president Ruud Gullit made their final presentation to the FIFA executive committee.

The Dutch-Belgian bid is considered an outsider to win the hosting rights for 2018, with Spain-Portugal, England and Russia all ahead of it in the favourites stakes.

But Gullit was confident their bid was in with a chance.

“We are an outsider of course, we know. We are two small countries. But we are a strong outsider and we feel confident that we have a possibility of winning,” Gullit told Reuters.

“Both countries have been doing already very well in the World Cups in the past. Holland is in the top-10 world ranking and we are surrounded with countries that already hosted the World Cup once. And we never had it. Holland and Belgium are (among the) the founders of the FIFA.”

“This could be an excellent moment for FIFA to say, ‘Hey look, you know we give something back to you’.”

“Of course the talents that we have around in these two countries, they play at the best clubs around Europe.”

“So therefore this is the possibility to show people: OK, come to Holland and Belgium and see what we do.”

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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Ligue 1: Brest 4 Lens 1

Brest recaptured some of their lost ground on the Ligue 1 table on Tuesday with a 4-1 hammering of strugglers Lens.

Saturday’s original clash at Stade Francis-Le Ble was postponed due to heavy snow, with scores tied 0-0 at half-time.

Lens would not come as close in the rescheduled fixture, as midfielder Bruno Grougi set up two goals in the opening 20 minutes and added a brace after half-time.

Striker Romain Poyet was the beneficiary of Grougi’s assist in the 11th minute, and defender Paul Baysse added another eight minutes later as Brest took an early 2-0 lead.

Brazilian striker Eduardo pulled one back for Lens shortly before the first-half whistle, but Grougi continued his dominance after the break with goals in the 65th and 80th minutes.

Brest – having fallen from the top of the Ligue 1 table with one point from their last three fixtures – now improve to third with 25 points and level with leaders Marseille, who have one game in hand.

Lens remain 19th on the table with 14 points, one point and goal difference short of safety from the relegation zone.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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No new FIFA probe into BBC claims

FIFA has ruled out a fresh investigation into allegations of corruption raised by the BBC’s Panorama programme.

In an episode aired on Monday, the BBC accused FIFA officials Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and Ricardo Teixeira of taking bribes from sports marketing firm International Sports and Leisure (ISL).

The trio were allegedly paid for their influence in the lucrative appointment of ISL as FIFA’s marketing arm.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter released a statement on Monday saying no evidence of corruption had been found in a previous court hearing, and sport’s ruling body reiterated on Tuesday it would not open a new investigation.

“The matters … were investigated by the relevant authorities in Switzerland,” a FIFA statement read.

“In its verdict of 26 June 2008, the Criminal Court of Zug had not convicted any FIFA officials. It is therefore important to stress again the fact that no FIFA officials were accused of any criminal offence in these proceedings.”

“There has been no court conviction against FIFA. The investigation and the case are definitely closed.”

Leoz, Hayatou and Teixeira, as members of FIFA’s executive committee, will vote on Thursday to decide the host nations of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.

Hayatou is alleged to have received up to 100,000 Swiss francs from ISL before the firm went bankrupt in 2001.

However, the chairman of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said he only received an approved payment of 25,000 francs towards CAF’s 40th anniversary celebrations in Egypt.

“Panorama wanted to make people believe that we were corrupt,” Hayatou told Reuters.

“What they showed was from 16 years ago. Why did they not show this before?”

“The money was addressed for CAF. The executive committee knew of it. I asked them if I should accept and they said yes.”

“These accusations have dishonoured me. I would not have stayed at the head of CAF for so long if I was corrupt.”

“Personally, I know no-one can influence me. I will vote (on Thursday) with a clear conscience.”

Hayatou is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and could still face an investigation from that ruling body.

“The IOC has taken note of the allegations made by BBC Panorama and will ask the programme makers to pass on any evidence they may have to the appropriate authorities,” an IOC statement read.

“The IOC has a zero tolerance against corruption and will refer the matter to the IOC Ethics Commission.”

A fourth FIFA official, Jack Warner, was accused by Panorama of attempting to organise the sale of US$84,000 worth of 2010 World Cup tickets to the black market.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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Europa League preview: Atletico want revenge

Europa League champions Atletico Madrid can book their place in the competition’s last 32 with a win over Aris Thessaloniki on Wednesday.

As well as looking for passage into the next round, Quique Flores’ Atletico side – who sit second in Group B on seven points – will also be keen for revenge over the Greek side, after their 1-0 away defeat in their opening game.

For Aris, who sit third in Group B on four points, the clash at the Estadio Vicente Calderon is a must-win affair to avoid an early exit from the tournament.

Group leaders Bayer Leverkusen have eight points and can also secure their path into the second round with a win over bottom side Rosenborg, who need a win to stay alive.

In Group A, Manchester City will be looking to rebound from a 3-1 defeat to Polish club Lech Poznan in their home match with Salzburg, who need a win to remain in contention of progressing.

Lech lead Group A on goal difference from City, with both sides on seven points, while Juventus, who drew with Salzburg in Turin’s Olympic Stadium in their last Europa League fixture, face the tricky trip to Poland.

Sporting Lisbon will look to bounce back from their 3-1 defeat in Belgium against Gent when they welcome French Ligue 1 pacesetters Lille to the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Sporting lead the Group C standings with nine points, four clear of Lille and five clear of both Levski Sofia and Gent who will do battle in Belgium in the group’s other match.

Croatian side Hadjuk Split and AEK Athens will battle it out in Group G, with both sides on four points with Anderlecht, who play runaway group leaders Zenit St Petersburg in Russia.

Zenit St Petersburg, the 2008 champions, have already booked their spot in the last 32 with four wins from as many matches seeing them lead the table with 12 points.

It is a similar story in Group H, with Stuttgart putting aside some dismal domestic form to reach the next phase of the Europa League with 12 points from four games.

They travel to Basel to take on Swiss club Young Boys, who are second with six points, while Spanish side Getafe are away to Danish outfit Odense with both looking to move off three points and close the gap on Young Boys.

In Group I, Sampdoria will be looking to build on their 1-1 Serie A draw with AC Milan on Saturday when they travel to the Netherlands to do battle with Dutch league-leaders PSV Eindhoven.

PSV lead the group with 10 points, three clear of Ukrainians FC Metalist Kharkiv, and five ahead of Sampdoria.

Metalist host bottom-placed Hungarian side Debrecen, who are yet to earn a point from their four games.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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Loew toughens up Germans´ Euro 2012 plans

Germany coach Joachim Loew said Tuesday he wants a tough warm-up programme for his team in the build-up to Euro 2012 with plans in the pipeline to face World Cup finalists Holland.

With Germany five-points clear at the top of Euro 2012 qualifier Group A, the Euro 2008 finalists look set to qualify as group winners for the European Championships to be held in the Ukraine and Poland in 18 months.

If Germany qualify directly, they are set to play Holland in November 2011 followed by a match against the Ukraine.

Then in February 2012, they are set to face France, but no dates or venues have been set yet for any of those games.

“We want to test ourselves against the strongest possible sides,” Loew told German daily Bild.

Germany’s next game is a friendly against Italy in Dortmund on February 9 and they play South American giants Brazil in Stuttgart in August 2011, as well as six more Euro 2012 qualifiers next year.

They will also play Uruguay in May 2011 in a re-match of their third-placed play-off at the World Cup in South Africa before concluding their Euro 2012 campaign against Belgium next October.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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Mourinho banned for red card controversy

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has received a one-game Champions League ban after UEFA found him guilty of improper conduct.

The Portuguese manager, who won last year’s Champions League title with Inter Milan, was deemed to have instructed Real players Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos to deliberately incur second bookings against Ajax last week.

The second yellow cards for both players meant that, while they would be suspended for their final group game, their previous cautions would be wiped out heading into the Champions League knock-out stages.

Mourinho received a 40,000 euro fine and two-match touchline ban for his part in the controversy, with the second game suspended for three years, and will watch his side’s final Group G match against Auxerre next week from the stands.

The controversial tactics also incurred the club a 120,000 euro fine, while Alonso and Ramos received 20,000 euro fines.

Goalkeepers Iker Casillas and Jerzy Dudek, who were accused of passing on the message to the players, received 10,000 and 5,000 euro fines respectively.

Tue 30 Nov, 2010
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