Union need improvement at Houston

The Philadelphia Union will need to improve to surpass Houston in the MLS playoffs, when the two sides meet on Thursday.

Facing a very experienced Houston Dynamo team, Peter Nowak’s side seemed to stumble out of the gate in their maiden MLS playoffs campaign, going down 2-1 at home on Sunday in the first of two legs in their Conference semi-final.

Philadelphia defender Danny Califf said his side were not defensively sound, as they conceded twice in the opening half-hour.

“I think we need to be ready for their (Houston’s) set pieces from the outset,” Califf said.

“We knew that was going to be a strength of theirs going in, and we didn’t do a very good job on the first set piece. We need to do our jobs from the opening whistle.”

Califf was obviously not happy with the result, but he was also under the impression that the second goal – scored by Dynamo’s Calen Carr – should not have been allowed.

“I thought he (Carr) was offside. I thought that Stefani, myself, and Gabe were all in a line and he was behind us. So I’m not exactly sure what ended up happening,” he said.

Union manager Nowak is undeterred by their one-goal deficit heading to Houston on Thursday.

“We had a lot of chances. The last part is to finish them. We have to expose their potential weak points. But this loss may be good for this team. Knowing we don’t have to defend, and we have no pressure on us to hold a lead,” he said.

That mindset is also constant throughout the Philadelphia locker room.

“I certainly have all the belief in the world that we can come back and really put our stamp on this series, and show everyone the kind of character we’ve had all season,” Califf said.

“Plus, I would imagine we’ll probably go back to our 4-2-2-2.”

“The fact that it’s a two-game series and that we know that, it just puts it into the fact that it’s crystal clear that we need to win.”

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Doncaster sign El-Hadji Diouf

Championship side Doncaster Rovers have signed former Blackburn forward El-Hadji Diouf on a three-month deal.

The move, which is subject to paperwork clearance, will see the former Senegal international join a Doncaster side that sit joint-bottom with nine points from 14 games.

The versatile attacker will join a raft of former Premier League players at Keepmoat Stadium, including Pascal Chimbonda, Giles Barnes and Herita Ilunga.

Diouf had been a free agent after his contract at Blackburn was terminated over the close season following a six-month loan spell at Scottish champions Rangers.

The 30-year-old has scored 21 goals in 69 international matches and starred at the 2002 World Cup, but did not make an impression at Liverpool when he signed for the Merseyside club after the competition.

He has twice been named African Footballer of the Year, and was named by football great Pele on a list of the 125 greatest living footballers.

Diouf has been dogged by controversy since his arrival in England, and West Ham manager Sam Allardyce recently cited fan unrest along with fitness concerns as a factor in his decision not to sign him following a trial.

He had previously signed for Allardyce at both Bolton and Blackburn.

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Milan´s Mexes to miss fortnight

AC Milan centre-back Philippe Mexes is set for surgery on his injured left hand, in a blow for Massimiliano Allegri’s men.

The 29-year-old picked up the injury in training last Thursday and missed the 3-2 Serie A away win over Roma on Saturday.

Milan doctor Rodolfo Tavana has now revealed that the Frenchman is scheduled to undergo surgery on Monday and will consequently be out of action for two weeks.

“It’s a simple procedure to stabilise a fracture in his left hand. Two small screws will be inserted and then he will have to protect the hand,” Tavana said on the club’s official website.

“Without this operation, the player would have had to be in plaster for 45 days.”

Mexes will miss their Champions League match against BATE Borisov and their Serie A game at home to Catania, but he could return for the league encounter away at Fiorentina on November 19.

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Alves optimistic in European outlook

Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves has insisted his side can still qualify for the Champions League knockout stages despite their slow start.

Disappointing results against Bayer Leverkusen and Belgian minnows Genk have contributed to the poor opening which has seen them claim two points in three games, but Alves – who made a string of saves to rescue a point against Chelsea on matchday two – announced that he still felt qualification was possible at a press conference.

“If we win (against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday), we still have options”, the 26-year-old said.

“We must do our best with the fans’ support so that we can get a win together.”

Meanwhile, Alves has been called up by Brazil coach Mano Menezes, and the former Almeria stopper said he was thrilled at the prospect of representing his nation.

“Things have gone well for me because of the way I have worked. That is why I have been called up. I’m happy to receive the call – it gives me strength,” Alves said.

Following Valencia’s 3-1 over Getafe on Saturday, Unai Emery’s side sit in fourth place in La Liga, just four points behind early-season leaders Real Madrid.

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Hungary legend Albert dies

Hungary and Ferencvaros legend Florian Albert died on Monday at the age of 70, after complications following heart surgery last week.

The former attacker was admitted to a hospital in Budapest and underwent an operation on Friday.

Doctors were initially hopeful that he would survive the surgery, but the illustrious Hungarian passed away this morning after complications.

Albert spent his entire career with Ferencvaros, scoring an impressive 256 goals in 351 league appearances. He won four league titles and led them to Fairs Cup glory in 1965.

The club named their stadium after the legendary forward in 2007.

Albert also made 75 international appearances for Hungary, scoring 31 goals in the process. He was joint top-scorer at the 1962 World Cup with four goals and played a key role in Hungary’s third-placed finish at Euro 1964.

Albert is the only Hungarian to have won the Ballon d’Or. The Ferencvaros legend was awarded the prestigious individual trophy in 1967.

Mon 31 October, 2011
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South Africa announce November line-up

South Africa have announced they will play friendlies against Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast in November.

Bafana Bafana will play the Elephants – Africa’s top-ranked team – in a highly-anticipated match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on November 12, before travelling to Zimbabwe for the match at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare three days later.

“We are very excited at having two great opponents inside three days. This should give Bafana Bafana head coach Pitso Mosimane and the boys an ideal workout and keep them in top condition,” South African Football Association CEO Robin Petersen said on their official website.

“The Zimbabwe encounter should be an interesting game taking into consideration that most players in the Zimbabwe national team ply their trade in the Absa Premiership (South Africa’s Premier Soccer League).”

The last time the two neighbours met was on 27 January 2010 in a World Cup warm match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

South Africa recorded a resounding 3-0 victory over the Zimbabweans on that occasion, with goals from Siphiwe Tshabalala, Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Lucas Thwala.

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Schweinsteiger ready to fire

Bayern Munich are likely to include midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in the squad for Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Napoli.

The Germany international picked up a calf injury in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Nuremberg, and was forced to be substituted after 71 minutes.

After some nervous moments at the Allianz Arena, manager Jupp Heynckes confirmed to the club’s official website that the injury was ‘already much better’, indicating Schweinsteiger would be primed to take part in their Group A top-of-the-table showdown.

Schweinsteiger missed training on Sunday, as did centre-back Daniel Van Buyten, who was suffering from a bruised foot.

The pair are expected to return to full training by Tuesday, 24 hours prior to the important home clash that may have a big hand in deciphering who finishes top of the tough group.

Additionally, defender Breno took part in a skills session on Sunday for the first time since he was arrested for suspicion of arson.

The 22-year-old has undergone psychotherapy and is nearing a return, but he will not make the bench for the Napoli match.

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Reports: City cut Toure´s pay

Manchester City have withheld substantial image rights payments from Kolo Toure after he failed a drug test, according to reports.

The Ivory Coast international has reportedly told friends he will consider leaving City in January if the club are successful, as reported by the English tabloid the Daily Mirror.

Reports also suggest City had initially tried to fine Toure around 500,000 pounds, but have now decided to focus on his image rights, which are worth 20-25 percent of his income.

The defender is believed to earn 120,000 pounds per week.

He will on Monday attend a disciplinary panel chaired by Manchester City football administrator Brian Marwood, accompanied by legal advisors.

He is expected to be represented by the Professional Footballers Association, according to the Sun, after the players’ union succeeded in halving the fine handed to Carlos Tevez for refusing to warm up as a substitute in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

Manager Roberto Mancini is staying out of the dispute, and has already insisted that there is no comparison with the Tevez saga to Toure’s predicament.

The defender failed a drug test in March this year after testing positive for a specified substance, which he maintained was a by-product of taking his wife’s slimming pills.

The club supported him in his hearings with the FA, and he received a six-month ban in May, from which he returned in September. He has played four games so far this season.

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Park proud of United resilience

Manchester United’s victory over Everton was crucial after their derby humiliation against Manchester City, midfielder Park Ji-Sung said.

A solitary strike from Javier Hernandez was enough for United to leave Goodison Park with all three points on their first Premier League outing since a humbling 6-1 defeat to City at Old Trafford week ago.

Park believes it was imperative for United to bounce straight back from that setback and see off a determined Everton side.

“It was very important for us – we had to get back to winning ways after the defeat against City,” the South Korean said.

“The boss told us that in the club’s history, we always get over (bad results). He encouraged us to play and be confident.”

“We had to show that and the players had to fight to win the game and the determination was great.”

“Goodison Park is always a hard game for us, we have had difficulty there. We had to win the game.”

Despite getting back to winning ways, Park said further improvement is needed if United are to be successful in their quest for trophies this season.

“It is very important to improve ourselves for the rest of the games. Hopefully we can continue to play like that.”

Mon 31 October, 2011
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Rafael nears Manchester return

Manchester United defender Rafael is nearing a first team comeback after recovering from a shoulder injury.

The versatile Brazilian has been out after dislocating his shoulder in training in August, but may feature in United’s reserve match with Everton on Thursday.

The right-back’s only showing so far this campaign came in the Community Shield victory over Manchester City, after he made 28 appearances in all competitions last season.

United have moved Chris Smalling across from his preferred position in the centre of defence to the right in recent weeks, but the England international has recently suffered a broken toe and will be out for up to a month, allowing a passage back into first-team action for the 21-year-old Rafael.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson told the club’s official website: “Rafael has been training for over a week.”

“It was a big operation on his shoulder and we hope we can maybe fit a game in for him, maybe the next reserve game.”

“He’s coming along fine, there has been no setback and he has been training every day.”

Mon 31 October, 2011
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