Belgian First Division wrap: Brugge held at Gent

League leaders Club Brugge were held to a 2-2 draw at Gent, while Kortrijk defeated Standard Liege in the Belgian First Division on Sunday.

Club Brugge were forced to settle for a point at the Jules Ottenstadion, missing a golden opportunity to extend their advantage on top of the table.

All four goals came inside the first 40 minutes, with M’Boyo Ilombe handing Gent the lead in the fifth minute.

But the advantage was fleeting as Columbia international Carlos Bacca levelled proceedings with a penalty soon after.

Club Brugge edged in front when Jordan Remacle converted a penalty in the 34th minute, though it was all square when Maxime Lestienne struck for Gent six minutes later.

The result leaves Club Brugge with six wins and three draws, two points ahead of nearest rivals Anderlecht, while Gent remain in fifth.

Elsewhere, Kortrijk held on for a 2-1 victory despite the dismissal of Bosnian defender Ervin Zukanovic.

Zukanovic scored the opening goal in the ninth minute at the Guldensporenstadion but was given a straight red card five minutes before the break.

Uruguayan Ignacio Gonzalez levelled the contest with a penalty on the back of the sending off, before Argentinean Pablo Chavarria grabbed three points for Kortrijk with a goal in the 66th minute.

The win moves Kortrijk to sixth, while Standard Liege remain in 12th.

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Halilovic plays down transfer rumours; Razak joins Charlton on loan

Dinamo Zagreb teenage starlet Alen Halilovic has played down the reports linking him with a move to Manchester United or Real Madrid, Sky Sports understands.

Halilovic, 16, made his first-team debut in the Croatian First League giants’ 3-1 victory against Hajduk Split on Saturday.

As if being linked with the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid was not enough, many have compared Halilovic to Argentine ace Lionel Messi.

Once again, Halilovic has played down the comparison to the FC Barcelona star, and — to be perfectly honest — rightfully so.

“I read in the newspapers that I look like Leo Messi when I play,” Halilovic told Jutarnji List. “But I think the comparison with Messi is just too much.

“There is only one Messi. I admire him, he is a role model for many young players, but I don’t know if anyone can be like him.

“Stories about Real Madrid and Manchester United? I don’t give much thought about those kind of stories.

“Dinamo will decide what will happen to me, all I have to do is just try to develop as much as I can. Everything else doesn’t matter right now.”

Razak joins Charlton on loan

According to Sky Sports, Manchester City midfielder Abdul Razak has joined English Championship outfit Charlton Athletic on a three-month loan deal.

Razak, a Côte d’Ivoire international, has made two first-team appearances for his parent club this season, including a start in City’s 4-2 Capital One Cup defeat to Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, 25 September.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the team and working with the manager,” Razak told Charlton’s official website.

“It’s been hard for me to get into the first team at City, and I come here hoping to prove myself with what I do on the pitch and hopefully I can do that on Tuesday.

“This is a very tough league, but you have to be ready for it. This is my third loan spell in the Championship so I’m ready for it.”

The 19-year-old midfielder earned his first international cap for Côte d’Ivoire against Russia on 15 August 2012.

Razak joined City team-mates — and fellow compatriots – Kolo Touré and Yaya Touré in Les Éléphants’ starting XI at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow.

Charlton have tabled nine points from their first eight league matches in 2012-13. Only Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall, Ipswich Town and Peterborough United have earned less points from their respective fixtures.

Now then, can Razak help rescue Charlton from Davy Jones’ Locker? Only time will tell, but I’ve got a feeling that the Red Army will be playing in the English Championship in 2013-14.

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Eredivisie wrap: Six of the best for PSV

PSV Eindhoven capitalised on Twente’s first loss of the Eredivisie season with a 6-0 thrashing of VVV-Venlo on Sunday.

Dick Advocaat’s men closed the gap on league leaders Twente to three points as Dries Mertens and Jurgen Locadia netted hat-tricks at De Koel.

PSV netted four times in the final quarter of an hour after Uche Nwofor was sent off for VVV having picked up his second yellow card in the 64th minute.

Mertens had given his team control of the encounter with a long-range strike and a superb volley in the first half.

But once Nwofor was sent off, the Eindhoven side inflicted further pain on the bottom-placed VVV as Locadia starred on his league debut.

The 18-year-old came on in the 68th minute and struck three times while Mertens also completed his treble in the huge win.

PSV remain two points behind second-placed Vitesse and a win adrift of Twente, who lost 1-0 to Ajax on Saturday.

AZ Alkmaar needed a late equaliser from Adam Maher to secure a 3-3 draw at home to RKC Waalwijk at AFAS Stadion.

Teddy Chevalier cancelled out Viktor Elm’s fifth-minute opener before Jozy Altidore restored the home side’s lead.

But Frank van Mosselveld levelled again before Henrico Drost gave Waalwijk the lead, only for Maher to pop up and snatch a point.

Michael de Leeuw scored a hat-trick as Groningen secured a thrilling 3-2 win at home to Roda JC.

The forward had twice given his team the lead, only for his efforts to be cancelled out by Mark-Jan Fledderus and Amin Affane.

But de Leeuw completed a standout performance with the winning goal in the third minute of additional time.

Newly promoted PEC Zwolle registered their first win of the league campaign and moved out of the relegation zone as Bart van Hintum handed them a 1-0 victory at Willem II.

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Lambert: Too early to criticise Villa

Paul Lambert has warned critics to judge Aston Villa at the end of the season, as his side have endured their worst start to a campaign.

Their 1-1 draw with local rivals West Brom meant that Villa manager Lambert’s side have only picked up five points from their opening six games, leaving them 15th in the table with just the one win to their name, but Lambert insists there is still a long way to go.

“We can only do our best, at the end of the season people will judge you,” he told Sky Sports.

“I’ve come in at a time where the football club has been hurt recently and we’re trying to rectify it, I think people come to watch us now and think it’s exciting. All we can do is our best.”

Lambert saw his side come from behind to pick up a point at Villa Park, with substitute Darren Bent coming off the bench to equalise late on.

“That’s what I want, I want competition and Darren Bent’s a massive part of that,” the 43-year-old added.

“Everyone knows Darren’s a goal scorer and I decided to go with the lads up front but I need everybody. I don’t value anybody higher than anybody else, to do well we need everybody.

“Sometimes it’s easy, when your head goes down. I thought they were excellent and kept on going, maybe left ourselves a bit open at times but it’s a derby game and the atmosphere was great. Credit the team, they gave me absolutely everything.”

Meanwhile, his West Brom counterpart Steve Clarke was happy with his side’s performance but was disappointed not to have picked up all three points.

“It’s a good result, we came here expecting a difficult game, that’s what we got,” Clarke said.

“The disappointment is having gone a goal up and controlled the game for a good spell and created half-chances to get a second goal.

“To get pegged back and finish 1-1 is disappointing, the players in the dressing room are disappointed because they didn’t get the three points. But overall I think we have to be happy with our work today, the performance was really good.”

Clarke also provided a praising assessment of how his side have fared so far this season, with his side currently sitting in sixth place.

He added: “We’ve had a really good start, really positive. The players are enjoying their work and enjoying playing the games.

“We’re picking up good points along the way, we look like a good team and need to keep working hard so we keep looking like a good team.”

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Cech demands clinical Chelsea

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech says his team need to kill off teams quicker after a ‘nervous’ finish to their 2-1 win over Arsenal.

The experienced Czech Republic international was forced into making second-half saves from Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud to ensure the European champions travelled back to Stamford Bridge victorious.

Cech, whose team are three points clear atop the English Premier League, said his side needed to be more clinical.

“It was a pity we did not add a third as we had plenty of speed on the counter-attack,” Cech told the club’s website.

“We were not calm enough when finishing, and it was nervous up until the end.”

The 30-year-old spoke about the importance of victory against a previously unbeaten Arsenal who had impressed in the opening stages of this season.

“It was our first meeting with one of our main rivals this season,” Cech said.

“Moreover, we were away so the three points were very valuable. We wanted to stay on top of the table and we managed to do that.”

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Celtic full of confidence, says Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has hailed his side’s 2-0 win over Motherwell as the ideal preparation for their clash against Spartak Moscow.

The Scottish Premier League leaders travel to Russia on Tuesday, hoping to build on their 0-0 draw against Benfica in their opening Champions League outing.

“They will go into that game after that full of confidence now,” Lennon told BBC Scotland in the wake of his team’s comfortable away victory at Fir Park.

“Psychologically, it’s important. It’s six games in with a game in hand. It was important we went top of the league today.

“People will be looking up at us now and that is important for the team and the club.”

A strike from Gary Hooper and an own goal from Motherwell defender Adam Cummins made the difference for the Scottish heavyweights.

“We were brilliant from start to finish,” Lennon said.

“It should have been a lot more, but I’m delighted at the way we played.

“We defended well and, certainly, some of our attacking play was excellent. We could have made the game a lot more comfortable, but it was one-way traffic more or less.

“Once we adjusted to their system a wee bit, we were superb. Our front three, their movement, the midfield three were great and I have to say I was very impressed with the back four.”

Sun 30 September, 2012
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McCoist unhappy with Rangers display

Ally McCoist has slammed Rangers’ performance after they narrowly beat Forres Mechanics in their second-round Scottish Cup tie on Saturday.

Kal Naismith scored the all-important goal on his first start for the club but Rangers struggled throughout, even with their opponents being reduced to 10 men in the second half.

“It was a relief (to get through) because we weren’t good today,” the 50-year-old told reporters during a post-match press conference.

“It’s obviously a bit of a helter-skelter we’re on at the moment this season and that was evident today.

“As much as I’m happy to be in the next round, I don’t think I would be doing my job if I didn’t register my disappointment at the way we played and passed the ball.

“We are through, we are in the next round and that was the object of the exercise but we will have to have a wee chat.”

Rangers knocked then-Scottish Premier League table-toppers Motherwell out of the League Cup in mid-week but McCoist is still keen for his charges to improve, especially away from Ibrox.

“We will continue to work on things, especially away from home where our level of performance isn’t as high as it should be,” he said.

“The result against Motherwell was very good but I thought the performance was just as pleasing, if not more pleasing.

“So, for us to put in the level of performance we did today, was disappointing.”

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Prandelli: Italy squad to be ´renovated´

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has revealed his intention to renovate his squad ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

Prandelli’s men impressively reached the final of Euro 2012 before losing emphatically to Spain 4-0.

Italy, having drawn in Bulgaria and won against Malta, will play further World Cup qualifiers against Armenia and Denmark in October as they continue to work towards Brazil in 2014.

Prandelli said changes were needed in the Italy side, just as Spain improved after winning the 2010 World Cup.

“We have to work out how to combine good football with results, therefore achieving qualification without going back on our need to renovate the squad,” Prandelli told reporters in Florence.

“After all, that is what Spain did after winning the World Cup. They changed 50 percent of the side to target Euro 2012.

“It is only natural to run into some initial difficulties, but our objective has to be taking this Nazionale past that hurdle and into World Cup 2014.

“It is not easy, but we must do it, because the Italy squad has to be at least partially renovated.

“There will not be any new faces in the next call-ups because recently we have already brought in quite a few.”

Prandelli, who watched Juventus hammer Roma 4-1 in Turin on Saturday, also gave his thoughts on Juve and former club Fiorentina’s start to the Serie A campaign.

“Juventus are putting the same values as last season on to the field with consistency, so we shouldn’t be surprised,” he said.

“Fiorentina? I won’t say anything out of superstition, seeing as things are going so well for my old club, so I’ll just wish (coach) Vincenzo Montella good luck.”

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Micoud: Grenier better than Gourcuff

Former France international Johan Micoud believes Lyon youngster Clement Grenier is better than Yoann Gourcuff.

The 21-year-old, who has played at every France youth level up until the under-21s, has impressed while Gourcuff recovers from an injury that could keep him sidelined for a further three weeks.

Formerly of Bordeaux and Werder Bremen, the 17-times capped Micoud believes Grenier ought to retain his place in the Lyon squad even once Gourcuff, 26, returns to full fitness.

He told French newspaper L’Equipe: “Grenier affects the play three times more than Gourcuff and is injured 10 times less.

“Seriously, this is a true playmaker who, with his technical quality and his vision, knows how to play the opposition.

“He has the ability to find the perfect pass when there is movement around him.

“And (he has shown) since the beginning of the season, he can be decisive. I love this kind of player – he is what I like in football.”

Sun 30 September, 2012
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Thiago out for two months

Barcelona starlet Thiago Alcantara will be out of action for eight weeks having ruptured his medial knee ligament.

If the Spain international returns from injury in the predicted two-month timeframe then he could miss as many as 11 matches for Barca, including the upcoming El Clasico against Real Madrid.

Thiago picked up the injury in Barca’s 3-2 win against Sevilla on Saturday, when Tito Vilanova’s side came back from two goals down to win in the third minute of stoppage time.

In more positive news for the Camp Nou club, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Adriano have been confirmed fit to face Real.

The two Spanish giants have already faced off twice this season, in which Jose Mourinho’s men came out on top over two Spanish Supercopa legs.

Sun 30 September, 2012
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