Belgian First Division wrap: Lierse maintain lead

Lierse remain two points clear in Group A of the Belgian First Division Play-off II following a 3-0 win over Cercle Brugge on Saturday.

Hosts Lierse led through a goal from right midfielder Kris De Wree 18 minutes into the match at the Herman Vanderpoorten Stadium.

They had to wait until the 78th minute to double their lead when veteran Canada international Tomasz Radzinski struck to make it 2-0, before Egyptian forward Mohamed El-Gabbas completed the scoring five minutes later.

The win sees Lierse stay top of the group, two points ahead of Sint-Truiden, who kept pace with a 2-1 win at home to Mechelen.

Defender Denis Odoi and midfielder Gregory Dufer scored either side of half-time for Sint-Truiden.

Both sides finished a man down after Mechelen’s David de Storme and Sint Truiden’s Peter Delorge both received second yellow cards.

Christian Benteke pulled one back for the visitors with seven minutes remaining, but they were unable to find an equaliser.

Defeat leaves Mechelen bottom of the group with five points.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Zulte-Waregem moved top of Group B following a 1-0 win at home to Germinal Beerschot.

Midfielder Thomas Matton netted the winner for Zulte-Waregem in the 23rd minute.

Westerlo slipped to second place after they could only draw 1-1 away to Kortrijk.

The visitors went in front through Paulo Henrique’s goal in the 56th minute, but the lead lasted just four minutes before Brecht Capon levelled from the penalty spot for Kortrijk.

Westerlo were forced to play out the final 30 minutes a man down after Geoffrey Cabeke received a second yellow card for conceding the penalty.

Kortrijk remain bottom of Group B with just two points, while Westerlo are now second, one point behind the leaders.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Serie A wrap: Inter, Napoli steal late victories

Inter Milan came from a goal down to beat Cesena 2-1 on Saturday, keeping the Serie A title race alive until the next round of fixtures.

Inter trailed through Igor Budan’s 55th minute goal at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi and looked to be heading for defeat until substitute Giampaolo Pazzini struck to level the scores in the 91st minute.

The striker netted again five minutes into injury time to secure an unlikely comeback victory for the defending champions.

Inter, second in the table, are five points behind league leaders Milan, who play Bologna at home on Sunday.

With three rounds of the season still to come, even if Milan beat Bologna they must wait until next weekend at the earliest to secure their first Scudetto since 2004.

In Saturday’s other match, third-placed Napoli beat Genoa 1-0 to secure their first win in three matches.

Slovak Marek Hamsik scored the winner for Napoli with eight minutes remaining at the Stadio Sao Paolo.

Napoli are six points behind Milan and one back from Inter, but hold an eight-point buffer ahead of fourth-placed Lazio.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Redknapp: Goal-line technology is a must

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp called for goal-line technology to be introduced after his team’s controversial 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

Spurs were leading the English Premier League match through Sandro’s long-range effort in the 19th minute at Stamford Bridge, but the game turned when Heurelho Gomes let a Frank Lampard shot squirm through his legs.

The Brazilian goalkeeper appeared to claw the ball off his line, but the assistant referee awarded a goal, with Chelsea going on to win courtesy of Salomon Kalou’s 89th minute effort.

“The first one wasn’t over the line and the second I thought was offside,” Redknapp said.

“That (the first goal) changed the game. The linesman’s made a mistake – an honest mistake. He’s had an honest guess, but he’s guessed wrong.”

“It’s the most difficult thing in the world to see from where he was – he was probably on the 18-yard box when the ball dropped on the line, and he’s given what he thought was the right decision.”

“But technology’s got to come in. That took seconds to see it, five seconds just to go, ‘Yes it’s a goal; no it’s not a goal’. You get a fair decision, the game moves on.”

“I don’t see why we’re still messing around after all these years and haven’t got technology in the game. It’s amazing.”

Despite his team benefiting from the decision, Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti supported Redknapp’s view on the need for goal-line technology.

“Unfortunately the referee does not have a television and I think technology for the goal could be a good decision,” Ancelotti said. “It was not an easy decision, in my opinion.”

“We did our job and our job was to win. I think that to be honest we were lucky because some decisions were good for us but this is football.”

“We are happy for this result and the performance today.”

“The spirit in the game also, when we were 1-0 down and then in the second half, was very good.”

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Premier League: Chelsea 2 Tottenham 1

Substitute Salomon Kalou struck a minute from time to give Chelsea a controversial 2-1 win over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

The sides looked to be meandering towards a 1-1 draw after Sandro and Frank Lampard had exchanged very different long-range strikes in the first half.

But Chelsea, who dominated possession and enjoyed the better of the chances, finally grabbed their winner when Kalou tapped in following a mis-hit strike from Didier Drogba.

The victory leaves Chelsea just three points behind Manchester United, who face Arsenal on Sunday, before Carlo Ancelotti’s men square up to the league leaders at Old Trafford next weekend.

But the Blues needed two huge slices of luck to squeeze past Tottenham, who are now four points behind fourth-place City, having played a game more and with a far inferior goal difference.

It was Spurs who took the lead in emphatic fashion, with Sandro arching a 30-yard volley into Petr Cech’s top right-hand corner after just 19 minutes.

But with half-time approaching, Chelsea got back on level terms in controversial fashion through Lampard.

The England international took aim from 25 yards but, when his strike flew straight at Heurelho Gomes, it looked like a routine save for the Brazilian.

However, the ball squirmed out of his arms, through his legs, and slowly towards the line.

The goalkeeper appeared to claw the ball clear before it crossed the line, but the linesman ruled that it had in fact gone over, and the referee awarded a goal.

And Chelsea’s winner was no less fortuitous. Kalou, who had replaced Fernando Torres in the 62nd minute, appeared to be in an offside position when he stabbed the ball home from close range a minute from time.

But Chelsea cared little about the controversy and celebrated gleefully at the final whistle as they kept their slim title hopes alive.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Holloway satisfied with dour point

Ian Holloway has issued a rallying cry to Blackpool after the relegation-threatened club were held 0-0 by Stoke City on Saturday.

The Seasiders failed to take more than a point from their clash with Stoke at Bloomfield Road, in the process ending their run of scoring and conceding a goal in every home game this season.

But it could have been worse for Blackpool, with Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones somehow shooting wide of an open goal in the shadows of half-time after rounding Blackpool goalkeeper Matt Gilks.

The draw leaves Blackpool perched perilously above the relegation places on goal difference, with a visit from Bolton Wanderers and away trips to Manchester United and Tottenham to come.

The ever bullish Holloway has called on his troops to defy the odds and save their skin at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane.

“We are better away from home, aren’t we?” Holloway told Sky Sports.

“It is Tottenham and Manchester United away, but we have given both of them a game and we are going to need to because our survival is going to hinge on it, so it’s all to play for.”

“I’ve asked for performances and that was as good as we have been defensively and it was against Stoke who are that good at set-plays.”

“I would like to congratulate Tony (Pulis, Stoke boss) for how well his team played and I thought it was a big, big ask for us today and I think that we handled it very well.”

“I was very, very pleased how we limited them to very few chances. Obviously Kenwyne Jones has missed a sitter at half-time but recently they have been going in.”

Pulis was pleased overall with the result of the game, one which leaves the Potters mid-table with 43 points and games against Arsenal, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic to come.

“In the second half, I felt that we took control of the game, and the result is a fair result in a lot of respects,” the Stoke manager said.

“It was an honest game with a lot of people having a go and plenty of effort.”

“Blackpool are a really committed team and they make you play for every pass and challenge, and they get men forward and attack you on both sides of the pitch.”

“I felt that we were a little bit unlucky not to get the three points but it was a good clean sheet, it was always going to be a difficult game for us.”

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Martinez confident of Premier League survival

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez chose to view his team’s 1-1 draw against Everton as a point gained despite conceding late in the match.

Hosts Wigan led through Charles N’Zogbia’s 21st-minute goal in the English Premier League match at the DW Stadium.

They survived one penalty when Ali Al-Habsi saved from Mikel Arteta, but the Oman international goalkeeper was unable to prevent former Wigan man Leighton Baines equalising with another spot-kick in the 78th minute of Saturday’s clash.

“It is disappointing because we couldn’t get the three points but we knew it was going to be a very difficult game,” Martinez said.

“Everton showed the experience they have got and what a competitive side they are.”

“I see it as another point. I don’t think we could afford to lose today.”

Wigan are now third from bottom, level on points with 17th-placed Blackpool but inside the relegation zone due to their inferior goal difference.

“Unfortunately (it) is going to take the fight to the last week of the season but I think that is what we expected,” Martinez said.

“It is a real fight, a real challenge. We have got three games to go and I feel we are capable of getting points against anyone.”

“We see it as a phenomenal challenge. Everyone expected Wigan to go down and we are really excited to try to defy the odds.”

Martinez also defended Hugo Rodallega after the Colombian striker conceded the penalty that saw Everton draw level.

“Hugo is devastated, as you can imagine,” Martinez said.

“Those are incidents that happen. Prior to that he had made three great actions at corners, defending with great aggression.”

“Hugo has won so many points for us and will carry on winning points for us. That is the nature of the game and we will support him.”

Everton assistant manager Steve Round credited his players with staging a comeback against a team battling for survival.

“It was a struggle,” Round said.

“We were playing against a team that are fighting for their lives.”

“Unfortunately we missed a couple of chances and missed a penalty and we thought it was going to be one of those days.”

“But credit to the lads, they showed great resolve and resilience, as Everton do.”

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Hughes targets top-10 finish

Mark Hughes believes Fulham deserve a top-10 finish after the Cottagers routed Sunderland 3-0 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Simon Davies nabbed a brace and Gael Kakuta added another for Fulham, who took full advantage of Sunderland’s injury-ravaged line-up to record just their second away win of the season.

The Cottagers are ninth on the table with 45 points with games against Liverpool, Birmingham City and Arsenal to come, a terrific position given the club were considered dark horses for relegation earlier this year.

Hughes believes his club deserves to stay in the top 10 on their recent form, calling on his players to ensure they take a full nine points in the run-in.

“We have still got games and we will try and do our best in each of them,” Hughes told Sky Sports.

“If we get maximum points out of those games we should be very much in that top 10, which is where we think we deserve to be.”

Sunderland struggled for chances all game without a single recognised striker, with winger Stephane Sessegnon filling in up front for injured trio Asamoah Gyan, Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell.

But Hughes said he expected Fulham would have taken three points regardless of Sunderland’s fitness woes.

“It was difficult for Sunderland, obviously they have got injuries and are struggling for strikers themselves,” he said.

“But even so, the way we played today, certainly in the second half, we would have gone away with the win.”

Black Cats boss Steve Bruce was less convinced, saying he expected any club in the English Premier League would struggle with an injury list as long as his.

“Everybody who knows what has happened to Sunderland knows the problems we have had,” he said.

“They have been horrific and today it was shown. I don’t think there are many Premier League teams without a striker, and even the young ones we had in the reserves and the youth team got injured in midweek so it compounded the problem.”

“The reason why our season got off to a wonderful start is that for six months there was a resilience and we didn’t give much away.”

“But our defending today with the change in personnel was not good enough at this level and we got punished.”

“When you give away bad goals like that, you expect frustrating days like today.”

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Hodgson certain of West Brom safety

Roy Hodgson has declared West Bromwich Albion safe from relegation after his side came from behind to edge Aston Villa 2-1 on Saturday.

An own goal from Abdoulaye Meite put Villa ahead early in the Midlands derby, but Peter Odemwingie proved the hero once more with an equaliser – his 14th goal of the campaign – on the hour.

Things quickly turned sour for West Brom as Paul Scharner was sent packing with a second caution, but Youssouf Mulumbu found the net with six minutes remaining to hand the Baggies their first win over Villa since 1985.

West Brom leapfrog their Midlands rivals into 11th place on the table with 43 points, having taken 16 in nine matches since Hodgson was installed as manager.

Asked if their latest success meant safety for another season, Hodgson told Sky Sports: “Oh yes, I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”

“I don’t know what the other results were today but I really can’t see us going down on 43 points with a good goal difference.”

“I would say, even if it’s not mathematical, as far as I’m concerned it’s as good as done.”

“I’m very, very pleased. We started the game without three of our important regular players (Chris Brunt, Steven Reid and Jerome Thomas).”

“We then lost Gonzalo Jara to injury and we tried to keep in the game, which I thought we did reasonably well and then no sooner had we battled our way to an equaliser, we were down to 10 men.”

“We had to show a lot of fighting spirit, a lot of determination and also quite a lot of tactical discipline to keep them out and amazingly score a second goal, which was the winner.”

Villa caretaker manager Gary McAllister said his players were taking the result hard, having fought themselves into a winnable position early and again after Scharner’s dismissal.

“I’ve got to say there are a lot of disappointed players in that dressing room and they know,” said McAllister, who is in charge for the rest of the season while Gerard Houllier recovers from a heart scare.

“There are a lot of experienced players, a lot of international footballers. There are a few international captains, so they’re all disappointed.”

“They have been done by a sucker punch looking for three points and now we’re leaving here with nothing. It’s hard to take against a local rival.”

Sat 30 April, 2011
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One down one to go, says Kean

Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean believes one more victory will be enough to secure survival following a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers.

Martin Olsson’s goal in the 20th minute at Ewood Park on Saturday was enough to secure Blackburn their first win since January.

They are now 15th in the English Premier League table with 38 points, three points clear of the relegation zone with three matches of the season left to play.

Blackburn are away to bottom side West Ham United next, before a home match against league leaders Manchester United.

They travel to second bottom Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day of the season.

“We’ve got to play West Ham and we’ve got to play Wolves in the last game so everybody can’t get three points,” Kean said.

“So I imagine if you’ve got 40 points and a good goal difference, which we have, that’s going to see you safe.”

“I thought we performed with a lot of attitude and spirit and togetherness,” he added.

“Today there wasn’t a want for the points, there was a need which is a very different emotion. You could feel it in the dressing room.”

“The lads had a focus and I thought they gave an outstanding and professional performance. They gave me every single thing I asked for before the game and more.”

Bolton boss Own Coyle felt his makeshift team did not deserve to go home empty handed after a committed performance.

“I’m frustrated,” Coyle said.

“I felt the application the lads put in was terrific given again we were decimated by injury and really had a makeshift team.”

“We started the game well and probably could and should have scored and then we’ve shot ourselves in the foot with the goal we’ve lost.”

Bolton bounced back from a 5-0 FA Cup semi-final thrashing against Stoke to beat Arsenal 2-1 last week, but the match against Blackburn proved beyond Coyle’s team.

“I think a lot of them acquitted themselves very well in terms of the effort, both physically and mentally, they had to give given how big the last couple of weeks have been for them and coming off a tough midweek game as well,” he said.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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Premier League: Sunderland 0 Fulham 3

Simon Davies scored a double as Sunderland slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Fulham at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Most of the home fans fans headed towards the exits in the 73rd minute when Davies scored his second, Fulham’s third of the game, but the rumblings on the terraces had started before that with Sunderland labouring all afternoon.

Stephane Sessegnon and Steed Malbranque were asked to fill in for injured frontmen Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck, but never really looked up to the job for the home side.

Sunderland almost completely dominated the first-half without ever being able to make their possession count in front of goal.

Ahmed Elmohamady headed wide early on and Malbranque curled a shot wide of goal when in a one-on-one with Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer on the half-hour.

And they were made to pay for their profligacy in the 33rd minute when Gael Kakuta was left unmarked in the Sunderland box and stabbed the ball home from eight yards.

Sunderland went into the break trailing from that goal and never looked as though they would overhaul it in the second half.

They simply lacked any punch in front of goal and their only real opportunity was a chance for Lee Cattermole in the 56th minute when he shot straight at Schwarzer.

Fulham responded with a two-goal blast from Davies – the midfielder getting on the end of a Sidwell pull back from the left in the 61st minute and a Zamora cross from the right in the 77th.

Those Sunderland fans who had not left the stadium by the final whistle showed their displeasure, booing the home side from the pitch.

Sat 30 April, 2011
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