Premier League: Manchester City 3 Sunderland 3

Manchester City struck twice in the last six minutes to salvage a 3-3 draw at home to Sunderland in the English Premier League on Saturday.

Hosts City trailed to Sebastian Larsson’s goal in the 31st minute of the match at Etihad Stadium.

The Sweden international shot low from the edge of the area, beating City goalkeeper Joe Hart to give the visitors the lead.

City levelled from the penalty spot three minutes before half-time.

Mario Balotelli was the man to convert after Craig Gardner was harshly adjudged to have tripped Edin Dzeko.

But Sunderland were not to be denied a half-time lead.

Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner restored the away side’s advantage with a clinical header from Stephane Sessegnon’s cross.

It was 3-1 to Sunderland 10 minutes into the second half, with Larsson on target for the second time in the match.

Bendtner turned provider for his former Arsenal colleague, sending a low cross into the box for Larsson to turn home.

Martin O’Neill’s visitors retained their two-goal buffer heading into the final minutes, and it looked as through City would suffer a major blow to their Premier League title hopes.

Balotelli offered hope of a comeback when he netted following a dynamic solo run in the 84th minute.

And less than 60 seconds later City were level, thanks to a thumping long-range drive from fullback Aleksandar Kolarov.

The dramatic draw sees second-placed City close to within two points of league leaders Manchester United.

But the reigning champions will now have a chance to move five points clear at the top with victory away to Blackburn on Monday.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Premier League: Aston Villa 2 Chelsea 4

Branislav Ivanovic netted a double as Chlesea kept their top-four hopes alive with a 4-2 win at Aston Villa.

The visitors at Villa Park were cruising after Daniel Sturridge and Ivanovic netted either side of half-time for a 2-0 advantage.

But Villa hit back through defenders James Collins and Eric Lichaj to level proceedings with 10 minutes remaining.

Chelsea managed a late two-goal burst as Ivanovic restored the advantage before Fernando Torres ended his Premier League scoring drought to seal the win and move Roberto Di Matteo’s side to within two points of fourth-placed Tottenham.

Villa’s second defeat in as many matches leaves them lurking dangerously above the relegation scrap, just five points clear of the bottom three.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Bundesliga wrap: Bayern cut Dortmund lead

Bayern Munich moved to within three points of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund with a 1-0 win over Nuremberg on Saturday.

With Dortmund having drawn 4-4 with Stuttgart on Friday, Bayern went into Saturday’s match knowing a win would put extra pressure on the leaders.

The visitors had more possession and shots on goal than Nuremberg but had to wait until the 69th minute to score.

The home side gave the ball away in their own half and Bayern pounced with Frank Ribery’s shot saved by Raphael Shafer, before Arjen Robben followed up to fire the ball into the net.

On a day dominated by visiting sides, Freiburg, Hamburg and Mainz also won on the road.

In-form Freiburg picked up their third win in a row with an upset 2-0 win over sixth-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

The visitors took the lead in the eighth minute when Leverkusen’s Gonzalo Castro knocked a weak clearance straight to Julian Schuster and the Freiburg captain headed the ball home.

Daniel Caligiuri scored Freiburg’s second goal with a powerful strike in the 60th minute.

The victory means Freiburg have earned 13 points from their last five games.

In Bremen, Maxim Choupo-Moting scored twice in the second half as Mainz beat Werder Bremen 3-0.

Adam Szalai opened the scoring for Mainz with a goal in the 19th minute.

Hamburg’s 1-0 victory away from home against Kaiserslautern will be crucial in their quest to avoid relegation.

Marcell Jansen’s goal after 28 minutes mean Hamburg are now on 30 points, two points clear of the relegation places, while Kaiserslautern are now almost certain to be relegated after a third defeat in a row.

A penalty from Lukas Podolski was not enough for Cologne to avoid a third-straight loss in their game against Augsburg.

Goals from Koo Ja-Cheol and Nando Rafael ensured the promoted club beat Podolski’s side 2-1.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Can Newcastle reaffirm their place in the top six with victory over Liverpool?

Newcastle host Liverpool tomorrow at St James Park (I refuse to use the other name).

The Magpies have been superb this season after some shrewd summer dealing from boss Alan Pardew.

On the other hand Liverpool haven’t lived up to expectations in the Premier League.

Comparison

There is simply no comparison between Liverpool and Newcastle’s summer transfer dealing. Liverpool spent a fortune on the British talent like Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson.

Newcastle decided to bring in foreign talent in Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye. There is no question who got the better deals. Newcastle have surprised everybody this season and they are in the European spots.

A number of Liverpool’s summer signings have struggled and proved they are not good enough to pull on a red shirt. This has resulted in a really poor Premier League campaign for Kenny Dalglish’s side.

Example

Newcastle’s recruitment policy is a good example to any team on how to buy quality players at reasonable prices. The Magpies are in fact a good example to Liverpool especially. A club the size of Liverpool should have a far better scouting network and should be signing far higher quality players.

Sixth

Newcastle was in sixth place and were eight points clear of Liverpool at the start of the day. Liverpool were considered outsiders to get into the top six of the Premier League with the season set to finish. However the Reds have dropped down to eighth in the table after Everton’s 2-0 victory over West Brom.

A defeat for Liverpool in the North East would continue Liverpool’s Premier League struggles. It doesn’t look inconceivable that the Magpies heap more misery on Liverpool on Sunday lunchtime. A draw would probably be good enough to cement the Geordies in the top six of the Premier League.

Atrocious

Liverpool’s form in the Premier League in recent months has been atrocious. The Reds have suffered five defeats in their last six Premier League games, their only victory coming against an under strength Everton side in the Merseyside derby.

The recent run of results has lead to questions about the future of Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool boss. The Scot is a club legend but it hasn’t stopped him being criticised by his own supporters. Despite their cup success this season Liverpool fans are still not happy with their team.

Expectations

Expectations are always high in the red half of Merseyside because of the clubs history and tradition. Unfortunately Liverpool are currently not able to compete with the best teams in the top flight but expectations still remain high.

This season has to be considered a transitional period. The Liverpool fans have to realise that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that the team were in a terrible mess when Dalglish returned. I have to admit I’m not the Scot’s biggest fan but he has changed the atmosphere at around the club.

Newcastle came into this season with very low expectations and that has helped the club to be the surprise package of the season. Newcastle fans had a bit of a reality check when the club was relegated into the Championship and as a result their expectation levels were lowered.

A top half finish in the Premier League would probably been considered a success at the start of the season but they have gone one step further and got themselves amongst the top six. Boss Alan Pardew deserves a lot of credit for the teams success.

He wasn’t a popular appointment when he arrived on Tyneside but he really has brought a stability to the club that had been missing in previous years.

Draw

I think tomorrows game has a lot more significance to Liverpool than Newcastle. The Reds need to get a result to restore their pride and gain some momentum ahead of their crunch FA Cup semi-final with local rivals Everton, in two weeks time. There is encouragement for the Reds though as they have a good record on Tyneside.

Newcastle are strong at home though and could just nick this one. I don’t however think that the Magpies would be too disappointed with a draw and I believe that’s the most likely outcome of this clash.

Can Liverpool catch Newcastle and seal sixth place in the Premier League?

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Montpellier´s Jourdren calls for calm

Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren has urged his team-mates to remain calm as the Ligue 1 title race draws to its conclusion.

Rene Girard’s Montpellier have proved unlikely challengers this season, and sit first on the table, ahead of Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference.

With his team’s hold on top spot precarious, Jourdren has warned his colleagues they must be careful as they enter the most critical part of the season.

“There are still a lot of matches to play,” Jourdren told Goal.com.

“It’s good to be first in the table, but we have to be careful because the teams behind us can catch up quickly.

“However, we don’t feel any pressure, because our goal is to finish in the top five. If we’re at the top of the table, it’s only positive.

“We all have the ambition of staying at the top, but, like I said, that doesn’t put any extra pressure on us. At the moment, we’re taking it match by match, without asking questions of ourselves.”

While the players are apparently realistic about their chances, Jourdren said the team’s unexpected challenge has greatly excited the Montpellier supporters.

“The people who I cross in the street are very happy with our results and our performances,” he said.

“They see that Montpellier are joint-top of the table with PSG, and they inevitable think that we’re going to become champions of France.

“I tell them that it’s very tough. The most important thing is that we remain high up the table until the end, in the top five. People want us to be champions, but they must stay calm because it’s hard.”

Montpellier and PSG are both seven points clear of defending champions Lille, who are third.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Napoli at ease on big stage

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri says his side are not afraid of playing in big matches and are ready for battle with Juventus on Sunday.

Mazzarri’s side played in some high-profile encounters during their exciting run in the Champions League this term and the Italian insists that the trip to Turin will not faze his side.

“We are now used to playing matches of a high level. We are going to get the most out of our game against Juventus,” Mazzarri told reporters.

“I am sorry this match against Juve will not be a championship game for us. But we have done so much this year, taking into consideration the Champions League.

“In the championship we have dropped points, but we have been a little unlucky. But now we are looking forward to Juve.

“As long as we can still mathematically qualify for the Champions League we must aim for the maximum. After this complicated game that awaits us we will have a specific timetable that will allow us to decide our future.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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J.League wrap: Sendai stay perfect

Vegalta Sendai continued their perfect start to the J.League season with a 2-1 win against Cerezo Osaka on Saturday.

Brazilian striker Wilson scored his first goal for Sendai since joining from Chinese club Shaanxi Chan-Ba in the 35th minute, while Shingo Akamine added another for the visitors five minutes after the break.

Cerezo’s Ryugi Bando dragged the margin back to one goal in the 84th minute to set up a tight finish but Sendai held on.

Sendai lead the J.League with 12 points after four wins from four games, while Cerezo are seventh on seven points.

Jubilo Iwata moved into second spot with a 1-0 victory over reigning champions Kashiwa Reysol.

Kashiwa had grabbed their first win of the season last week but they could not continue that form against Jubilo.

The home side took the lead in the 26th minute thanks to Ryoichi Maeda and held on in a tight match to jump above FC Tokyo on the ladder.

In Tokyo, the home side suffered their first defeat of the season, going down 1-0 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Sanfrecce’s Hisato Sato scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute.

Promoted club Sagan Tosu thumped Vissel Kobe 3-0 to win their second match in a row.

Ryunosuke Noda, Yohei Toyoda and Kei Ikeda scored for Sagan.

Elsewhere, Shimizu S-Pulse defeated Consadole Sapporo 1-0, Yokohama F. Marinos drew 0-0 with Kashima Antlers and Albirex Niigata were held 1-1 at home by Gamba Osaka.

Urawa Red Diamonds drew 1-1 with Kawasaki Frontale, while the scoreline was the same between Omiya Ardija and Nagoya Grampus.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Canada target Mexico upset

Canada’s Olympic football captain Andres Fresenga has admitted to nerves ahead of his team’s crucial qualifier against Mexico on Saturday.

If Canada beat Mexico they will qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 1984 in Los Angeles.

That drought has the Canadians on edge as the burden of expectation starts to weigh on their young shoulders.

“I’m anxious, I’ve never wanted to play a game so badly in my life,” Fresenga said.

“Preparation wise we are good, we are confident, but not over-confident.

“We just want to get it over with and get those tickets to London.”

Canada beat the United States and drew with both El Salvador and Cuba in Group A of CONCACAF qualifying to earn a semi-final berth.

They face a Mexico side who have won the pre-Olympic CONCACAF tournament five times and are undefeated in this year’s tournament.

Canada coach Tony Fonseca has admitted his side might be nervous ahead of the game, but still thinks his team will perform well.

“Anxiety could be a problem, but a lot of them have experience already in different areas,” Fonseca said.

“For once this stadium will be full, it’s something they don’t face too often.

“But I think it will be good for them, it will be a unique experience.”

The semi-final against Mexico will be Canada’s fourth game in nine days and Fonseca is concerned how that may affect his team.

“We had to look at our fitness, some of our guys were exhausted after three games in five days and they were a bit overwhelmed with the situation,” Fonseca said.

“Mentally they were a little bit drained.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Petrov retires after cancer diagnosis

Aston Villa captain Stilian Petrov has told Bulgarian media he has retired from football to focus on his battle with cancer.

Villa announced on Friday that the Bulgarian international has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

But Petrov has vowed to fight for his life, telling Tema Sport: “I am now beginning to fight for my life and I will fight. Football is over, this is the end.”

Petrov said he had felt a strange headache during the first half of Aston Villa’s defeat against Arsenal last weekend. What at first seemed to be a fever was later diagnosed as acute leukaemia.

“I lost my energy early in the second half and it was very unusual for me,” Petrov said.

“But this is life, you see we drank a coffee in London a week ago and now we’re talking about things like this.”

The Bulgarian has received good wishes from all parts of the world and said the support will help him in his battle against the illness.

“I’ll fight, it’s clear and I also would like to thank everyone for the support from all around the world.

“But, of course, wishes from Bulgaria encourage me most.

“They give me strength to believe that one day I will recover.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Galliani unimpressed by Inter´s methods

AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has criticised Inter Milan following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri last week.

Ranieri was relieved of his duties on Monday, despite indications from Inter president Massimo Moratti that his job would be safe until the end of the season.

Andrea Stramaccioni was promoted from youth-team duties to become Inter’s third coach this season, and their sixth since May 2010.

Galliani claims Milan have a better approach to addressing issues with their technical staff.

“The difference between us and the others is that we criticise our coaches, but keep them,” he said.

“Others stay silent, then sack them.”

Serie A leaders and defending champions Milan travel to face Catania on Saturday.

They take on Barcelona away from home in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Tuesday.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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