Allegri: Momentum crucial for Milan

AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri believes their 3-1 win over Catania in Serie A on Friday was crucial for their momentum.

Goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Stephan El Shaarawy (two) handed the Rossoneri their first back-to-back league victories of the season, despite going behind to Nicola Legrottaglie’s header for the Sicilian club.

“It was a tough match against Catania. They closed us down and took the lead from a corner, where we were a bit too passive,” Allegri told reporters.

“Catania did well in many aspects in the first half, and we only started playing well when I asked my players to dribble and pay greater attention to the dead ball because Catania are very good from these positions.

“The match was balanced, especially in the first half. In the second half, we improved and benefitted from numerical superiority.

“It’s an important victory because it gives us continuity and makes our latest results count.”

Allegri claimed wantaway Catania winger Pablo Barrientos’ dismissal proved instrumental in both his side’s fortunes and his tactical outlook on the match, as he also reserved praise for Boateng’s performance.

“I wanted to play Montolivo in front of the defence in the second half, but then the red card changed everything,” he added.

“Like against Juventus, Boateng had another good game with the right level of intensity. He is finding his feet in a role somewhat different to his usual position.

“Barrientos had to be less hasty in making the foul that led to his sending off. The red card seemed correct.”

Milan temporarily move to seventh in the Serie A standings following their haul of three points at San Siro.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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Eredivisie: PEC Zwolle 0 VVV Venlo 0

PEC Zwolle and VVV Venlo played out a goalless draw in a battle of the Eredivisie’s strugglers on Friday.

Both sides went into the match in desperate need of maximum points to move clear of the relegation-threatened sides but the result did little to boost their chances.

Zwolle, who held title hopefuls Twente to a 2-2 stalemate last weekend, enjoyed most of the possession and chances in front of 10,979 spectators at the IJsseldelta Stadion.

But the promoted outfit could not find a way past VVV goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa.

Manepaa denied Jesper Drost and Denni Avdic during each half to help keep their opponents at bay.

Zwolle moves two points clear VVV, who climbs out of the relegation play-off places on goal difference.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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Ligue 1: Ajaccio 0 Saint-Etienne 0

Saint-Etienne missed the chance to go top of Ligue 1 after they were held to a goalless draw at Ajaccio.

The visitors could not get past Ajaccio shot-stopper Guillermo Ochoa in wet conditions on Friday, as they moved equal second with Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille, and within two points of leaders Lyon.

Saint-Etienne enjoyed the lion’s share of possession at the Stade Francois Coty but struggled to capitalise in the final third.

Former Juventus and Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu, who found the back of the net against Nancy last week, had an opportunity to open the scoring for Ajaccio in the first half but his headed effort skimmed the post.

Saint-Etienne are unbeaten in 10 league games but could drop down to fifth by the end of week 15, while Ajaccio hover two points above the relegation zone in 16th position.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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La Liga: Osasuna 1 Rayo Vallecano 0

Osasuna moved out of the relegation zone thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Friday.

Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side went into the clash on the back of a three-game unbeaten streak and they extended that run courtesy of Enrique Sola’s sixth-minute strike.

The 26-year-old striker latched onto an Alvaro Cejudo pass before squeezing the ball into the back of the net.

Rayo had their own chances, especially in the ninth minute but captain Piti was unable to find a way past goalkeeper Andres Fernandez.

Fernandez was in the thick of the action again before the break, denying the visitors an equaliser from Roberto Trashorras’ free-kick.

Try as they might, Rayo could not find that elusive leveller and Sola’s goal – his third of the season – was enough to lift Osasuna two points clear of the drop zone ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.

After losing two games in succession against Atletico Madrid and Real Valladolid, Osasuna are now unbeaten in their past four league games, while Rayo have lost two of their past four.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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Reading´s McCarthy out for season

Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy has been ruled out for the rest of the season, as he is scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery.

The injury was sustained when McCarthy collided with the goalpost in Reading’s 1-1 draw at QPR in November.

The former England Under-21 international has tried to overcome the problem, but it has been determined he must now go under the knife.

McCarthy tweeted on Thursday afternoon: “On route back home from London, was expecting the outcome with the specialist. Surgery on Monday. My season over! #Raging”

Australian custodian Adam Federici will assume the number one role for the Royals, with Stuart Taylor and Mikkel Anderson as back-up options.

Federici’s next test will come when Manchester United visit the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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Championship: Birmingham City 3 Middlesbrough 2

Birmingham City came from behind twice to beat promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough 3-2 in Championship action at St Andrews on Friday.

Middlesbrough had taken a 14th-minute lead courtesy of captain Grant Leadbitter before Marlon King restored parity from the penalty spot on the stroke of half time.

Australian striker Scott McDonald put the visitors back in front on the hour mark but Birmingham responded almost immediately through Wade Elliot.

And King completed the comeback in the final nine minutes as Boro missed the chance to move level at the top of the table.

Lee Clark’s side created the first real opportunity of the match but giant Serbian striker Nikola Zigic sent his headed effort wide of the post.

The visitors, who easily accounted for Huddersfield Town in mid-week, were the ones to break the deadlock inside the opening 15 minutes.

Andy Halliday whipped in a teasing cross from the left wing and Leadbitter stepped up to head home his first goal of the season.

Boro had two chances to extend their lead but in-demand goalkeeper Jack Butland denied Emmanuel Ledesma on two occasions.

Butland’s efforts seemed to spur his team-mates into action and they soon found themselves level moments before the break.

Andre Bikey brought down King and the former Boro loanee converted the resulting spot-kick.

Tony Mowbray’s men emerged from the tunnel full of energy and restored their advantage in the 62nd minute.

McDonald pounced on some slack defending to net his third goal in two games.

However, the visiting side were pegged back within four minutes as Wade unleashed a volley from 25-yards out, much to the delight of the home supporters.

Birmingham were playing with an extra spring in their step and King scored the all-important winner in the 81st minute, ending City’s four-game winless streak and condemning the visitors to their third loss in four matches.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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Bundesliga: Fortuna Dusseldorf 4 Eintracht Frankfurt 0

Fortuna Dusseldorf fully exploited their numerical advantage by beating high-flying Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 in the Bundesliga on Friday.

Eintracht forward Karim Matmour saw red in the first half and it proved costly for the visitors as Fortuna claimed victory courtesy of goals to Stefan Reisinger, Oliver Fink, Nando Rafael and Axel Bellinghausen.

Fortuna were full of confidence heading into Friday’s battle of the promoted sides having earned a point at defending champions Borussia Dortmund last week, while Eintracht were coming off six defeats in their past seven Bundesliga outings.

The hosts received a boost in the 34th minute when Matmour was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

And Norbert Meier’s side made the most of the situation as Reisinger netted the opening goal just four minutes later – his third goal in as many games.

Fortuna doubled their lead three minutes before the half-time interval, as Fink unleashed a curling long-range shot past a helpless Kevin Trapp.

Rafael, who was a late replacement for Australia international striker Robbie Kruse, added a third on the hour mark after finding himself free in the penalty area.

The rout was completed within five minutes of the final whistle as Bellinghausen squeezed the ball through Trapp’s legs.

As a result, Fortuna moves up to 13th in the table, while Eintracht remains fifth behind league leaders Bayern Munich.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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Crouch doubt for Hawthorns trip

Stoke City striker Peter Crouch is in doubt for the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, manager Tony Pulis has revealed.

Crouch was involved in a collision with Fabricio Coloccini when Stoke beat Newcastle on Wednesday, resulting in the 31-year-old losing two front teeth.

But Pulis insists the England international is eager to start at the Hawthorns and has every chance of featuring if he is cleared by a dental specialist.

“Crouchy is seeing the specialist as we speak, so we’ll have to wait and see if they are able to fit the brace,” Pulis told reporters.

“He will meet up with the rest of the squad at our hotel in the morning and I’ll have a chat with him. I’ll see how he is then and that will probably determine whether he features in the game, but I am quite hopeful.”

Pulis also confirmed that Michael Owen and Andy Wilkinson could be involved from the bench during Saturday’s game.

Meanwhile, the club have parted company with Diego Arismendi by mutual consent.

The Uruguayan midfielder signed for the club August 2009 but has failed to break into the first team since, spending much of his time on loan at Brighton, Barnsley and Huddersfield.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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Serie A: Catania 1 AC Milan 3

AC Milan came from behind to beat 10-man Catania 3-1 on Friday, securing back-to-back wins in Serie A for the first time this season.

Nicola Legrottaglie opened the scoring on 11 minutes but Pablo Barrientos’ red card turned the game on its head as Milan netted three unanswered goals in the second half, two of those coming from in-form striker Stephan El Shaarawy.

Confident from their victory over defending champions Juventus last weekend, Milan instantly took hold of possession during the early exchanges and they had their first shot on target pushed away from Mariano Andujar after six minutes.

But five minutes later they surprisingly fell behind. Some painfully static defending enabled Legrottaglie to stroll into the box and send a bullet header home from Francesco Lodi’s corner.

More shoddy defensive play from Milan presented the hosts with a fantastic chance to double their advantage soon after, however, Sergio Almiron’s header lacked conviction and went wide of the goal.

Milan’s forwards were extremely isolated, with Riccardo Montolivo’s efforts to link up with the front three being hindered by a lack of movement and support.

The onus was on Allegri’s men as they emerged for the second half but they were offered a helping hand within five minutes of the restart.

Barrientos took a wild and unnecessary swipe at Antonio Nocerino which earned him a second yellow card and reduced his side to 10 men.

It did not take long for Milan to make the most of their numerical advantage, as El Shaarawy restored parity by lifting the ball over Andujar from Kevin-Prince Boateng’s cross in the 53rd minute.

The turnaround was completed just three minutes later as Boateng turned Lodi with ease at the top of the box before bending a shot into the corner of the net.

El Shaarawy and Robinho both wasted fantastic chances to enhance upon their side’s lead, while substitute Urby Emanuelson also failed to finish following a melee in the area as his shot came back off the post.

Boateng was dismissed in the final minute of normal time for a challenge from behind but El Shaarawy put the result beyond doubt with his 12th goal of the campaign.

Victory moves Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan above Catania and into seventh place, though that can change depending on the weekend’s results.

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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O´Neill shoulders Sunderland responsibility

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has admitted he has a ‘tough job’, but believes he is the man to deliver success at the Stadium of Light.

The Northern Irishman has come under pressure in recent weeks after a troublesome start to the Black Cats’ league season, which has left them in a lowly 16th place ahead of the club’s trip to Norwich City this weekend.

However, O’Neill is sure his time with Sunderland will be “successful” despite the job matching his stern expectations before he joined

“It’s almost exactly what I thought it would be and, from that aspect, it hasn’t disappointed,” O’Neill told reporters.

“It’s a tough job, I know. (Owner and chairman) Mr Short said to me when I came here, ‘Look, try to stay in the division’, and perhaps we got carried away with ourselves because we were able to achieve that more quickly than I had thought.

“This season, it has been tough. I expected it to be tough and, obviously, it’s important that we are in this division for next season as well.

“There is no such thing as a five or 10-year project anymore in management but it takes a little bit of time. That’s very, very obvious, but I expect it to be successful.”

And O’Neill is willing to delve into the January transfer market to bolster his squad, despite suggestions from other managers that mid-season additions can fail to deliver.

He continued: “We will try to strengthen if we can do. Most people will tell you that maybe it is not the best time but I have done it in the past and the players I have taken in in the January transfer window have proved pretty successful, the likes of Ashley Young (at Aston Villa).

“It is the one opportunity during the course of the season that you get, and it would be inappropriate for us not to have a look at that.

“If you were thinking about somebody that you feel is capable of doing something pretty OK for the club for the next couple of years, then January is no different to the summertime.”

Fri 30 Nov, 2012
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