Belgian First Division: Club Brugge 5 Westerlo 0

Club Brugge opened their Belgian First Division campaign in emphatic fashion on Sunday, thrashing Westerlo 5-0.

Visitors Westerlo had held their hosts goalless during the first 45 minutes of the match at the Jan Breydel Stadion, but an own-goal from defender Wouter Corstjens six minutes into the second half opened the floodgates.

Spanish forward Victor Vazquez struck to double Brugge’s lead on 59 minutes before Westerlo’s task became harder when they lost right back Gunther Vanaudenaerde to a second yellow card three minutes past the hour mark.

Midfielder Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe was the next man to get in on the scoring act, netting Brugge’s third on 69 minutes and goals from substitute Thomas Meunier and defender Ryan Donk in the final 10 minutes sealed a comprehensive win for the home side.

The margin of victory sees Brugge move into first place ahead of champions Genk courtesy of their superior goal difference.

Westerlo meanwhile, who finished eighth last season, have the unwanted distinction of propping up the table after the opening weekend.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Moxey: Wolves may not make any more signings

Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey has admitted the club may not replace players who leave before the start of the season.

The English Premier League club spent seven million euros on former Birmingham defender Roger Johnson, while midfielder Jamie O’Hara and goalkeeper Dorus De Vries were brought in on free transfers.

Manager Mick McCarthy could make further changes to his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of August, but Moxey said that would not guarantee outgoing players would be replaced.

“This is not about ‘cash-strapped Wolves having to sell before they can buy’, or that we can only bring in players if we get rid of players first,” Moxey told the club’s official website on Sunday.

“We are not really short of players at the moment and if we do get rid of two or three, we still might not bring anyone else in.”

Replacing outgoing players is not out of the question for Moxey, but it is unlikely Wolves will spend as much as they did on Johnson on another player before the window closes on August 31.

“We have got a small amount of spare capacity within the overall squad, which means some players are available to leave,” Moxey said.

“It doesn’t makes sense to certain senior players – and neither for us – to keep them here if they are not going to play.”

“At the same time, having invested heavily in Roger Johnson, Jamie O’Hara and free agent Dorus De Vries, I doubt we will splash out major sums of money again this summer.”

“But if we find the right players at the right money, then we might still add to our squad because we are always looking to improve the team and we think we have done so already.”

“Myself and the manager are still speaking to lots of people regarding players in, and out, and that process will continue until Mick is satisfied with the make-up of the squad or the transfer window closes.”

Wolves start their Premier League campaign with a trip to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn on August 13.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Club friendly wrap: Red Bulls claim trophy as Gunners choke again

Arsenal threw away another lead as the New York Red Bulls took out the Emirates Cup after a 1-1 draw on Sunday.

An own goal from Kyle Bartley cancelled out Robin van Persie’s first half opener to see the Red Bulls, with former Arsenal star Thierry Henry playing a full game, collect the trophy at the two-day tournament.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was also substituted after five minutes with a minor ankle injury.

The hosts opened the scoring just before the break as Czech Republic international Thomas Rosicky’s set-piece found an unmarked van Persie to head in.

The English Premier League side looked set for victory but gave up their lead, just like they did against Boca Juniors on Saturday.

With six minutes remaining, a great Henry pass found Roy Miller’s bursting run into the box and he dinked a shot over goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, with Bartley’s attempted clearance only finding the roof of the net.

In the day’s earlier game, Paris Saint-German clinched second with a comfortable 3-0 win over Boca Juniors.

Elsewhere, Manchester City took out the Dublin Super Cup after an impressive 3-0 win over Inter Milan.

City boss Roberto Mancini enjoyed a sweet victory over his former club as goals from Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and Adam Johnson gave his side victory.

Balotelli headed City ahead on the stroke of half-time and Dzeko doubled the advantage early in the second half after a lovely pass from David Silva.

City kept things tight at the back and substitutes Shaun Wright-Phillips and Johnson combined to add a third late on.

In the other game, Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper both struck doubles as Celtic recorded a 5-0 win over Airtricity XI, a collection of the best players from the Irish Premier League.

In other friendly matches, Newcastle United suffered a 3-2 loss to Championship outfit Leeds United.

Leeds were twice pegged back as Australian defender Patrick Kisnorbo and Lloyd Sam had their goals cancelled out by Steven Taylor and Slovenian teenager Haris Vuckic respectively, before Billy Paynter popped up to head in the winner.

Wigan Athletic recorded a solid 3-1 win over League One side Preston North End.

James McCarthy, Nigerian attacker Victor Moses and defender Emmerson Boyce were on the scoresheet for the Premier League side, with Preston midfielder Amine Linganzi getting their goal.

Elsewhere, Championship side Blackpool were held to a 1-1 draw by League One outfit Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

Striker Chris Porter had put the hosts ahead before Scot striker Craig Sutherland netted in the second half.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Scottish Premier League: Hearts 0 Dundee United 1

Dundee United have recorded their first win of the Scottish Premier League season with a 1-0 victory over Hearts on Sunday.

Irish striker Jon Daly struck what proved to be the winner in the 38th minute at the Tynecastle Stadium.

The 28-year-old headed in the only goal of the game from a Willo Flood corner.

Apart from the goal, Hearts had the better of the play but rarely tested United shot-stopper Dusan Pernis.

Hearts’ loss came after their first-up draw with Rangers, while United are third in the early part of the season with four points from two games.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Chinese Super League wrap: Shanghai stunned by Shenzhen surprise

A second-half brace from Huang Fengtao has given Shenzhen Ruby a surprise 2-0 win over Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League.

The striker opened the scoring on 79 minutes before sealing the win at the Huizhou Olympic Stadium with his second in the fifth minute of additional time.

Despite the win on Sunday, Philippe Troussier’s team remain in the relegation zone, while Shanghai Shenhua are seventh.

In another upset, a goal from Brazilian striker Leandro Netto helped Henan Jianye to a 1-0 win over the sixth-placed Shaanxi Chanba.

An 81st-minute penalty from Xu Wen gave Nanchang Bayi a 1-0 win over Dalian Shide to ensure they would remain just outside the relegation zone.

Elsewhere, Jiangsu Shuntian struck four times in the first half on their way to a 4-2 win over Liaoning Hongyun.

Serbian forward Aleksandar Jevtic hit a brace with goals from Komoliddin Tadjiev and Sun Ke giving Jiangsu a 4-0 lead.

China international Zhao Junzhe pulled a goal back just before the break and midfielder Yu Hanchao struck on 77 minutes, but it proved to be too late for Liaoning.

Qingdao Jonoon recorded a strong 3-1 win over Hangzhou Lucheng.

Liu Jian had given Qingdao an early lead before Uruguayan striker Paulo Pezzolano equalised nine minutes into the second half.

But goals from Zheng Long and forward Zhu Jianrong were enough to give them an important win and help them into ninth.

In other games, Changchun Yatai came from behind to gain a 2-2 draw against Chengdu Blades.

Colombian Javier Estupinan and Australian midfielder John Hutchinson had put the Blades two goals to the good before Zhang Wenzhao and Wang Wanpeng secured the visitors a draw.

Meanwhile, Argentine Luciano Olguin and Roda Antar exchanged goals as Tianjin Teda and Shandong Luneng played out a 1-1 draw.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Lavezzi: I have received no offers

Ezequiel Lavezzi has rejected speculations linking with a move away from San Paolo by saying that he has received no formal offers.

The Argentine forward was a target for a number of clubs this summer, but he has revealed that there was no concrete interest.

“I know the people love me here and I understand they have this fear,” Lavezzi told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“However, so far I have not received any offers or heard about any negotiations. This is all media talk. I don’t know if anyone is really looking for me, but I can be certain no formal bids have reached Napoli.

“On August 4 I will be at the San Paolo for the presentation of the team and the friendly against Penarol.

“I have a contract until 2015, I am a Napoli player and am at the disposal of Walter Mazzarri. There is no controversy.

“If someone wants to make it seem as if I want to leave in order to make me look bad, then I don’t know what to think. They’re all lies.”

Sun 31 July, 2011
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United ready for life after Alex

Manchester United chief executive David Gill insists the English champions are prepared for the day Sir Alex Ferguson stands down.

Ferguson, who has led United to 12 of their 19 English league titles, is embarking on his 25th season at Old Trafford and will turn 70 on December 31.

Gill said that although Ferguson’s hunger for success remained, the club was prepared to replace him when they needed to.

“There won’t be a meltdown. It will clearly be a sea change for the club and we have to be ready,” he told The Guardian.

“I will co-ordinate the process but clearly I will take great store in what he (Ferguson) says and what other key people at the club say.”

“The owners will clearly have a view. All these things will come together.”

“It would be a collective body, not a big body, but we would get all the input to make sure we make the appropriate choice.”

“We never discuss it (Ferguson’s retirement), put it that way. He delegates well and football keeps him young.”

Meanwhile, Gill criticised those supporters who are still opposed to the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United, but believes that the majority of fans now trust the Florida-based owners.

“We are never going to win (over) those people,” he said.

“If we won four European Cups in a row, there will be certain people who won’t like the owners and what they stand for.”

“The anti-people were here before the Glazers.”

“But we are running the club for the vast majority of millions of fans around the world who believe the club is moving in the right direction.”

Manchester United start their domestic season against local rivals Manchester City in the Community Shield on August 7, before opening the defence of their Premier League title away to West Bromwich Albion a week later.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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J.League wrap: Tashiro steers Antlers to victory

Kashima Antlers striker Yuzo Tashiro scored twice in the first half as his side beat Cerezo Osaka 3-1 in J.League action on Sunday.

Midfielder Takashi Inui had given the home side the lead in the 22nd minute but then Tashiro pounced, scoring twice in the final seven minutes of the first half.

Mitsuo Ogasawara scored the third goal in second half stoppage time.

The win lifts Antlers into 12th place on the table, one point ahead of Osaka.

Second-half goals by Keiji Tamada and Jungo Fujimoto steered fourth-placed Nagoya Grampus to a 3-0 away win over bottom side Avispa Fukuoka.

Tamada struck in the 51st minute and Fujimoto added the second in the 73rd minute.

Australian striker Josh Kennedy made sure Grampus went home with the points, slotting home a penalty in the 90th minute.

Second-placed Kashiwa Reysol lost the chance to close the gap on leaders Yokohama F Marinos when they were held to a goalless draw by Vegalta Sendai.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Is the World Cup qualifying seeding correct?

The European section of the World Cup qualifying draw made for some very interesting reading. I have already commented on England’s draw.

However it’s the other groups that really do baffle me. Some of those groups are really very open because some of the teams that deemed top seeds are weaker than some of the second seeds.

France

Take France as an example. They may have slipped down the pecking order in the FIFA world rankings to 15th but they are still a quality team. They have players playing throughout the top leagues in Europe, yet they are regarded as a second seed.

Now compare those players to those that represent Scandinavian country Norway. Norway may have moved up to 12th in the FIFA world rankings but they have not qualified for a major tournament in over a decade. They are still in with a chance of qualifying for next years European Championship though.

Elite

This is not about me being elitist, it’s about wanting the best teams from our continent represented on the world stage at the World Cup. I’m sure fans of football all over the world would rather watch France play than Norway.

This is not a criticism of Norway either, it’s a criticism of UEFA in general. As usual the bureaucrats have put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.

Smaller

The way the draw has taken shape has given smaller countries the chance to qualify. I have nothing against this either. I would love the likes of Wales or Scotland to qualify for a World Cup because I like to see all the British teams do well in international competition.

This draw has gave some teams who wouldn’t usual have a hope of qualifying with an opportunity to make it to Brazil 2014. Which I suppose is good for fans in those countries.

Qualifying

France were second seeds and have been drawn up against World Champions Spain. This probably won’t have much of an effect on who qualifies, as the eight best runners-up qualify and I’m sure of them will be from that group.

It’s just a matter of who tops the group and who finishes second. This will have a slight effect on how the countries are seeded for the World Cup finals. And also how tough a route into the second round the country will have.

Sporting

Maybe UEFA have decided that it would be more sporting to seed the teams how they have. I suppose they have done what they feel was the right thing. However the World Cup should be the top national teams in the world trying to prove they are the top teams.

Accept

Now the draw has been made I have to accept it. Even though I don’t think the seeding is right I must now accept the draw and look forward to the games ahead. One thing is for sure the qualifiers always bring up some surprises and I can’t see this campaign being any different.

Have the European teams been seeded correctly?

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Cleverley wins Fergie´s backing

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has praised young midfielder Tom Cleverley.

The 21-year-old spent last season on loan at Wigan Athletic and has come back to Old Trafford a required player, after Paul Scholes retired.

Cleverley was one of his side’s best in a 2-1 friendly win over Barcelona in Washington on Saturday, putting in a performance that excited his manager.

“With Paul Scholes retiring and Darren Fletcher still recovering from his virus it’s an area in which we have to find a solution for but that’s why we played Cleverley today,” Ferguson said.

“Cleverley physically is not the strongest lad, but he’s wiry, he has a great idea of the game, he is a good footballer. So for him tonight was a big day.”

“I thought he was the best player. His discipline was terrific, he’s a quick player, he’s a quick passer ball, he’s got good eyes. So he’s a big, strong possibility for us to start this season.”

Ferguson also maintained he had made the right decision by signing young goalkeeper David De Gea as a replacement for Edwin van der Sar, who has retired.

“Replacing Edwin van der Sar is very difficult. He was a great goalkeeper,” he said.

“But the benefit we have with De Gea is that he is only 20. The qualities that stood out for us are his great composure and use of the ball.”

“He is quick and agile, which is something we banked on. When we assessed him I thought he was the right goalkeeper to take.”

Mexican striker Javier Hernandez was not in action after suffering concussion at training, but Portuguese winger Nani, who scored the game’s opener, feels the forward will be fine for Sunday’s Community Shield match against Manchester City at Wembley.

“I think he’s okay now,” Nani said.

“I think he needs a couple days to come back to training, but he’s feeling very good.”

Nani was pleased with the team’s performance as they were able to beat the side who defeated them in the Champions League final at Wembley in May.

“It was good. It’s always good to play against Barca. It’s always a good game and I think the team did well.”

Sun 31 July, 2011
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