Wenger questions ArsenalĀ“s efforts

Arsene Wenger said his Arsenal players lacked commitment following a 2-1 defeat at struggling Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.

Arsenal went down to goals from Adel Taarabt and Samba Diakite in the English Premier League clash at Loftus Road, with Theo Walcott netting for the visitors.

It marked the end of a six-match winning run for the north London club, as they passed up an opportunity to move six points clear of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

“Something was missing today,” Wenger said.

“In the Premier League if you miss something on the commitment front you are beaten. That was the result of the situation today.

“It is very frustrating. They left us the ball and waited for our mistakes.

“We took the ball, didn’t do a lot with it and made mistakes. That makes the result.

“Our performance was not good enough to win this type of game. What we produced was not good enough.”

Asked to pinpoint a specific reason for Arsenal’s lacklustre display, Wenger replied: “I don’t know. It is difficult to single out one reason.

“The players prepared properly. We missed something today and you can see that.

“We didn’t create enough chances. It is very difficult like that. We lost a game when our keeper had nothing to do, it is not the first time this year.”

Wenger was not impressed by the playing surface at Loftus Road, but preferred to give credit to the efforts of the home side.

“The pitch is bad but that doesn’t explain our poor performance,” he said.

“Basically, the performance of QPR explains our bad performance.

“Their individuals had that extra-special commitment that took advantage of us in specific positions defensively.

“We made defensive mistakes today. Overall we can congratulate QPR on their performance.”

QPR manager Mark Hughes backed his team to continue upsetting the odds as they seek to escape the relegation zone.

“We have played really well in our last three home games against some big teams, but I thought this one topped the lot,” Hughes said.

“I thought we were exceptional. We kept our discipline, our shape, and for us to put in the performance and get the result was important.

“If we play at that level from now until the end of the season, we will win more games.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Jol unconvinced despite Fulham win

Fulham manager Martin Jol was not entirely satisfied with his team’s narrow 2-1 win over Norwich in the English Premier League on Saturday.

Home side Fulham were in command in the match thanks to early goals from Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff.

Norwich rallied to score through Aaron Wilbrahim, and threatened to force an equaliser after dominating late on at Craven Cottage.

“I have to say I have mixed feelings because in the first half we were prepared and started off well,” Jol said.

“They changed their system all the time, and they do that with a purpose which is not easy.

“We used the right tactics in the first half and there was a good balance between offensive and defensive play.

“So in the second half they changed the formation and almost forced us to double up on the flanks and go back, and we couldn’t get out of it.

“If the balance is gone because your offence and defence, you get a problem, so we couldn’t get out or hold the ball.

“Even in their half, five or six times we gave it away and should have kept it, and that is what they want.

“If you play in your own box all the time you give the opposition more chances to create, and that is why we want to play in the other half.”

Norwich manager Lambert felt his players deserved a reward for their second-half performance.

“We should have (got something from the game),” he said.

“We were relentless in the second half.

“But you can’t give teams two goals at the start. It’s a mountain to climb from there. But the response was absolutely terrific.

“We went about it and try to retrieve the game. In the second half I thought the lads were excellent.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Heynckes: Bayern worthy of win

Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes believes his side fully deserved their 1-0 win over Nuremberg in a closely contested Bundesliga clash on Saturday.

Arjen Robben’s second-half volley ensured the Allianz Arena club closed the gap at the top of the Bundesliga to just three points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund.

The hosts had kept Heynckes’ side silenced for large portions of the encounter, but speaking after the game, the 66-year-old Heynckes said the result was deserved.

“It was an intense game. I knew Nuremberg would be well-organised, and play defensively, and we also came under pressure in the first half,” Heynckes said.

“In the second half, after the substitutions, we had good scoring chances, so I think it was a deserved victory for Bayern.”

Bayern now turn their attention to the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Marseille this week.

The Bavarian giants lead the tie 2-0 on aggregate.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Premier League: Wolverhampton 2 Bolton 3

Bolton came from behind to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 in the English Premier League on Saturday.

After a goalless first half, Wolverhampton hit the front, went 3-1 down and then scored again to set up a tense final few minutes at Molineux Stadium.

The loss leaves Wolves last in the league standings and in dire relegation trouble.

The hosts’ opening goal was deserved after they dominated the first half.

After 53 minutes, Michael Kightly received the ball wide on the right with just one opponent to beat and the winger drove inside to shoot across Bolton’s goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and into the far bottom corner of the goal.

But having conceded an average of 3.5 goals per game for the past six matches, Wolverhampton’s lead was always shaky.

In the 63rd minute, Bolton’s Martin Petrov scored from the spot after Mark Davies had been tripped inside the penalty area.

It only got worse for Wolves as goals to Marcos Alonso and Kevin Davies within four minutes of each other gave Bolton a two-goal buffer with just six minutes to play.

A defensive mistake allowed Matthew Jarvis to thump home Wolverhampton’s second goal of the match in the 88th minute but Connor’s men could not find an equaliser.

Wolves’ fifth-straight defeat means they remain bottom of the league with 22 points, six points shy of safety with seven games left this season.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Premier League: Wigan 2 Stoke City 0

Wigan gave their Premier League survival hopes a boost after defeating Stoke City 2-0 at DW Stadium on Saturday.

Antolin Alcaraz and Victor Moses netted goals in the second half to give Roberto Martinez’s side their first win in front of their DW Stadium faithful since August.

The result was not enough to lift Wigan out of the relegation zone, but they remain there only by account of goal difference.

Stoke had the first chance of the game through Ryan Shawcross, who tested Wigan goalkeeper Al Habsi with a header from Jermaine Pennant’s corner.

Wigan responded through Franco Di Santo, the Argentine forcing Stoke custodian Asmir Begovic into his first save of the match.

The hosts stepped up the pressure with Shaun Maloney forcing another save from Begovic, before Stoke cleared a dangerous Jean Beausejour cross.

Beausejour should have handed his side a half-time advantage but somehow managed not to guide Moses’ cross into the net from close range.

Martinez’s side continued to press after the interval and were rewarded in the 55th minute when Beausejour picked out Alcaraz, who fired home a header for a deserved lead.

Beausejour had another golden chance in the 72nd minute, but again scuffed his shot after being left unmarked at the back post.

Despite their wastefulness in front of goal, Wigan made sure of the victory in injury time when Moses capped a fine performance by rounding Begovic and sending the ball home.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Coutinho sees future in Spain

Inter Milan’s Philippe Coutinho wants to stay at Espanyol after his loan deal with the La Liga club expires at the end of the season.

Coutinho, 19, has impressed since his January move to Espanyol, and has relished the chance to impress on a regular basis in the Spanish top flight.

“Here I have chances to play and the opportunity to do things,” he was quoted as saying by Marca.

“I don’t know if it’s better here for me or in Serie A, but we’ll see over time.

“I have been very well received and I feel happy when I get the support of the people. I am very happy, and I always try to do my best and help the team.”

Espanyol are seventh on the La Liga table, seven points back from fourth-placed Malaga.

They have at best an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League, but Brazilian Coutinho maintains finishing in the top four is the team’s main objective in the final weeks of the season.

“The Champions League is the goal of both myself, and the squad,” he said.

“I want to achieve the absolute maximum.”

Coutinho has scored four goals in nine league appearances for Espanyol since his arrival at Estadio Cornella-El Prat.

A product of the Vasco de Gama youth system, Coutinho signed for Inter in 2008, but only joined the Serie A powerhouse in July 2010, after his 18th birthday.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Premier League: Fulham 2 v Norwich 1

Fulham defeated Norwich City 2-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday thanks to early goals from Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff.

USA international Dempsey opened the scoring for home side Fulham two minutes into the match at Craven Cottage.

Bryan Ruiz had a low shot saved John Ruddy, but the Norwich goalkeeper could only parry the strike, allowing Dempsey to net on the rebound.

In the 13th minute Irishman Duff made it 2-0 to Fulham.

Goal-scorer Dempsey provided the assist, setting up the former Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers winger to slot home Fulham’s second.

The hosts could have closed out the match inside the first 45 minutes, as Mousa Dembele had a shot deflected wide and Dempsey went close twice from headers.

Jonny Howson then passed up a good chance for Norwich to get one back when he dragged a straightforward attempt wide of goal.

Wes Hoolahan and Andrew Surman threatened after the break for the visitors, who finally got on the scoresheet with 13 minutes to go.

A shot from substitute Aaron Wilbraham found the target with the aid of a deflection off Fulham defender Aaron Hughes.

Wilbraham and Kyle Naughton came close to earning a point as Norwich dominated proceedings in the final minutes.

But Fulham held out to end a sequence of three successive league defeats.

The win sees them climb to 11th on the table, level on points with 12th-placed Norwich.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Premier League: Everton 2 West Bromwich Albion 0

Leon Osman’s deflected strike and a Victor Anichebe goal saw Everton defeat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.

Osman opened the scoring in the 18th minute for the hosts at Goodison Park when his strike took a huge deflection off West Brom defender Gareth McAuley before beating Ben Foster.

The hosts stepped up the pressure after taking the lead, Darron Gibson hitting a ferocious 20-yard strike just above the woodwork.

West Brom almost equalised before half-time when Paul Scharner burst into the Everton penalty box and forced Tim Howard’s only save of the match.

Marouane Fellaini then tested Foster with a long-range effort, but the goalkeeper tipped it to safety.

The second half was a dull affair until Anichebe extended Everton’s advantage with a well-taken goal on 67 minutes.

The Nigerian striker fired in off the far post after good work from Steven Pienaar, who should have then put the result beyond doubt in the 74th minute but could only fire straight at Foster after being played in by Nikica Jelavic.

The result lifts Everton to seventh on the table, though they could be usurped by bitter rivals Liverpool, who play at Newcastle on Sunday.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Premier League: QPR 2 Arsenal 1

Queens Park Rangers’ unlikely bid for English Premier League survival continued with a surprise 2-1 win at home to Arsenal on Saturday.

Faced with the arguably the toughest run-in of any team in relegation trouble, the hopes promoted side QPR harboured of escaping the drop had already been written off by most observers.

But Mark Hughes’ team backed up their shock 3-2 victory at home to Liverpool on March 21 with an equally improbable triumph over Champions League-chasing Arsenal.

The hosts went in front 21 minutes into the match at Loftus Road courtesy of Adel Taarabt’s first goal this season.

Gathering a pass mid-way into Arsenal’s half, the Morocco international shrugged off the attentions of Thomas Vermaelen, before bearing down and goal and dispatching a well-taken strike beyond goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal equalised in the 37th minute, with Theo Walcott netting on the rebound from his own shot, which struck a post before bouncing kindly for the England winger.

The heavyweight visitors might have been expected to push on and take control of proceedings.

But it was QPR who forced the decisive goal, with the unfortunate Vermaelen again at fault.

The Belgian centre-back’s slip allowed Jamie Mackie to advance into the area and set up Samba Diakite, who guided the ball home to make it 2-1.

QPR remain inside the relegation zone on goal difference, but are level on points with Blackburn Rovers and just one point back from Bolton Wanderers.

With fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur not in action until Sunday, Arsenal remain third, despite failing to win for the first time from their last seven outings in all competitions.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Scottish Premier League wrap: Rangers delay Celtic celebrations

Rangers defeated Motherwell 2-1 to ensure bitter rivals Celtic cannot claim the Scottish Premier League title for at least another week.

The home side went into the game having not beaten Rangers in 10 years but their fans were given some hope when Henrik Ojamaa scored after six minutes.

Chris Humphrey produced an electrifying run down the right to set up the goal, bursting into the penalty area before cutting the ball back to Ojamaa who side-footed the ball into the net.

But Motherwell’s lead lasted just three minutes before Steven Whittaker scored from outside the area for Rangers.

The visitors left it until the 89th minute to score a winner.

A long throw from Rangers was allowed to bounce inside Motherwell’s penalty area and Lee McCulloch tapped in from a metre out.

St Mirren and Kilmarnock produced the most thrilling game of Saturday’s action with St Mirren snaring a 4-2 victory.

Steven Thompson scored a hat-trick for the hosts, with Nigel Hasselbaink scoring St Mirren’s other goal.

Dieter Van Tornhout and Dean Shiels got on the scoresheet for Kilmarnock.

Hearts defeated Aberdeen 3-0 with Rudi Skacel scoring twice for the home side.

Ryan McGowan scored the opener for Hearts with a header in the 27th minute and then set up Skacel for the Czech midfielder’s first goal of the game eight minutes into the second half.

Skacel wrapped up the win with another goal in the 89th minute.

In Saturday’s other match, Dundee United defeated Dunfermline 3-0.

After a scoreless first half, the home side broke away in the second with Jon Daly’s two goals split by a strike from Scott Robertson.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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