Ferguson pleased with Glory effort

Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson was hard pressed to find fault with his team after their 1-0 loss to Melbourne Victory on Friday.

A gem of a goal just before the hour mark from Victory winger Marco Rojas was the difference between the two sides in humid conditions at AAMI Park.

After a solid start to the A-League season that saw them win three of their first five games, Ferguson’s side have hit the skids in recent weeks with the Victory defeat meaning they have picked up just two points from their past four matches.

But Ferguson said he could not question the effort of his side, who were without suspended skipper Jacob Burns, internationals Scott Jamieson and Michael Thwaite, while they lost midfielder Liam Miller five minutes before kick-off with back tightness.

“I thought the first half was pretty even, there wasn’t too much in the game,” Ferguson said.

“The second half started, they’ve come out the blocks and we didn’t weather the storm and they put us under a lot of pressure.

“I just spoke to the boys there and I told them I can’t fault their effort and their commitment and what they gave us tonight. If we keep playing a little bit more consistently and (stay) in games, we’ll do OK.

“They didn’t put their heads down, they kept trying. We did create some chances and the ‘keeper’s (Nathan Coe) made some great saves.”

The Scot lamented a lack of depth in his squad, and said he would likely hand 20-year-old attacker Chris Harold – who caused plenty of problems when he came on as a second-half substitute – his first senior start in their crunch clash with Melbourne Heart next weekend.

“The squad is not as strong as what it was last year in depth. But what I feel as though we have done is strengthen the 11, and I’m missing four of them today,” Ferguson said.

“We’ll have Jacob Burns back in the squad, but we’re down to bare essentials at the moment.

“We’re bringing a lot of young kids in. Chris Harold – he’s exciting – he created a couple of opportunities for himself. I’m more or less looking at giving young Chris an opportunity next week.”

Ferguson paid tribute to the Victory, and said he was a fan of their expansive style of play.

“They play very attractive football,” he said. “They try and use the whole park.

“They’re a very difficult team to play against. The talent they have got, I’m a wee bit jealous to be honest.”

The Glory boss said he had not seen an incident just before half-time involving his star striker Shane Smeltz and Victory midfielder Billy Celeski, where the New Zealand international appeared to raise an elbow to Celeski’s face, drawing blood.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Postecoglou praises in-form Rojas

Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou has paid tribute to winger Marco Rojas after his superb display in their 1-0 win over Perth Glory.

After a switch to a wide left position midway through the first half, Rojas tormented the Glory defence throughout and scored the winner with a sublime strike in the 57th minute on Friday.

Speaking after the match at AAMI Park, Postecoglou said he had been pleased with the effort of the 21-year-old.

“He was good again tonight. I thought we could have got him into the play a little bit more in the first half,” Postecoglou said.

“Our system is designed to give somebody like Marco, and Andrew Nabbout and Archie (Thompson) and the wide players we’ve got, the freedom to play. But to get that license to play, you’ve got to do all the other things.

“He was good, he scored a cracking goal and he’s been good all year.

“The good thing about Marco is he’ll roll up to training and come in wanting to get better and that’s what we need.”

Postecoglou was also pleased with the performance of 19-year-old Nabbout, who inked a new deal with the club on Friday that will see him remain with Victory until the end of the 2014/15 A-League season.

“Young Andrew did well. He’s not ready to play 90 minutes, but we got 60 minutes out of him today, he looked threatening and got into some good areas.

“He’ll get better, he’s nowhere near where we want him to be at the moment, but he’s learning on the job.”

Despite being pleased to come away with the win – moving Victory to within three points of A-League leaders Adelaide United – Postecoglou was unhappy with the lack of application shown by his team early in the match.

“We were pretty disappointed with our first half, we just didn’t play at the tempo we wanted to,” he said.

“We were threatening but not often enough, it ended up being a little bit of a stop-start game which is not what we want, particularly here at home.

“We played probably half an hour of good football from the beginning of the second half and really played with the tempo and the manner that we want to play, and we got the reward for it.

“It was OK, but we need to be better.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Wenger highlights make-or-break fixtures

Arsene Wenger believes the next six games will make or break Arsenal’s English Premier League title challenge.

Wenger’s men are seventh on the table and already 12 points behind leaders Manchester United, but have played eight of their 14 matches to date away from home.

With four of their six matches in December being played at the Emirates, the French manager hopes his side can build momentum going into 2013 and close the gap on the United and Manchester City.

“At the moment the two Manchester sides (are top),” he told the club’s official website.

“They have not been spectacular but efficient, and they have made the maximum of the chances they have created.

“For example, Manchester United have already lost three games and have lost in the Champions League as well. It is exactly what we have done but they took more points and had less draws than we did. That has been the difference until now.

“We will come back. Now we have six games, four at home, and if we do well in this block I think we have a chance to come back. But of course it is vital for us to do well in these games.”

Wenger is also hopeful captain Thomas Vermaelen can play a major part in Arsenal’s rise up the table after impressing against Everton on Wednesday.

When Laurent Koscielny limped off at Goodison Park, Vermaelen was moved to his preferred role of centre-back and looked assured against Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic.

And Wenger thinks that performance will give the Belgium international a much-needed confidence boost after coming in for criticism this season.

“That will boost his confidence and hopefully get out of his mind what happened before when he was not completely confident,” he said.

“He was physically sharp, confident, calm and important for us.”

Next up for Arsenal is the visit of Swansea City to the Emirates on Saturday.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Barzagli welcomes Conte return

Juventus centre-back Andrea Barzagli believes Antonio Conte’s return in a week is going to be a great boost for his team.

The 43-year-old was handed a 10-month ban at the start of the season due to failure to report alleged match-fixing during his time in charge of Siena.

The punishment was subsequently reduced to four months, and Conte is set to return on the Juventus bench in a week.

“Massimo Carrera and Angelo Alessio are good, but Conte is something completely different,” Barzagli told Corriere dello Sport.

“It is not easy to face so many games without a coach with his temperament, someone who knows how to drag us along.”

Juventus have lost two out of their past four domestic matches, but remain two points clear atop the Serie A table.

Barzagli said Juve had recognised the areas in which they went wrong, with his side focused on returning to winning ways against Torino on Saturday.

“We played poorly, we know that. We’ve looked at the errors and we’re ready to start again,” he said.

“Tomorrow’s opponents Torino are a tough side, well organised and they have suffered in very few games.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Villas-Boas issues hands-off warning

Tottenham Hotspur’s Andre Villas-Boas criticised Luka Modric after the Croatian called on Gareth Bale to join him to Real Madrid.

Modric, who joined the Liga champions from Spurs in the off-season, claimed he had spoken to Bale about his desire to one day win the Champions League, and said the flying Welshman’
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s presence at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu would make Real ‘unstoppable’.

Modric’s comments prompted a response from Villas-Boas on Friday, with the Portuguese coach suggesting the ex-Spurs man should concentrate on his commitments in La Liga instead of Bale’s future at White Hart Lane.

“I think Modric should focus more on his club than ours,” he said.

“He has to worry about Real’s game against Atletico Madrid and about getting in to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

“Obviously Modric is aware of Gareth’s performances because of his love for Tottenham and the fact that he is very connected with him and this football club, but it’s completely impossible.”

According to Villas-Boas, midfielder Scott Parker is back in light training as he looks to make his first appearance this season following an Achilles problem.

“He (Parker) is in light training but we hope in the next two weeks he will be available. He is making big progress,” Villas-Boas said.

“His impact can be decisive. He was player of the season last year and we expect him to be one of our main strengths.

“He hasn’t lost his abilities. Now we have resumed light training with him he has been absolutely amazing.”

Totttenham make the short trip to Craven Cottage on Saturday to face Fulham and will hope to continue a good run that has seen them lose just once in their last six outings.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Vieira: Tougher penalties for racism needed

Former Arsenal star Patrick Vieira believes football needs to adopt a much tougher stance on incidents of racist abuse.

Manchester City’s football development executive believes the penalties should be much more severe than just fines and insists points deductions or bans from competition should be enforced.

“If you really want to fight racism, if you really want to show to the world that football wants to fight against it, you will have to use a deduction of points against clubs or kick them out of competition,” Vieira told The Times.

“That will stop it, of course. If you kick a club out of Europe because they couldn’t control their fans, it will happen once and I will guarantee it’s not going to happen twice.”

The Frenchman warns that a lack of serious action to tackle the problem will only allow it to grow.

“If nothing is done, the situation will get worse and worse and you never know where things will go,” Vieira said.

“Before we get to a place where you can’t control it any more, you have to stop it straight away and the only way you can stop it is to have clear, strong punishments.

“Of course, we all need a second chance, we all need to realise that we are doing something wrong, but if you do it again the punishments should be really hard.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Premier League preview: December 1st 2012

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill is in desperate need of a victory at Norwich on Sunday

This weekend’s Premier League programme kicks-off at the Boleyn Ground, where West Ham host Chelsea.

The visitors have drawn their first two games 0-0 under new boss Rafa Benitez and have been poor.

The Blues are now seven points behind league leaders Manchester United and are in desperate of some inspiration.

The arrival of Benitez has yet to bring the best out of their expensively assembled squad.

The home side have enjoyed a good season so far, but are currently in the midst of a difficult run of games. Sam Allardyce’s men lost 1-0 at Manchester United last time out. The Irons have dropped into tenth place after consecutive defeats.

League leaders Manchester United visit Reading in the evening kick-off. United’s victory against West Ham kept the Red Devils a point clear at the top of the Premier League table. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson will be encouraged by his side keeping a clean sheet against West Ham and will expect maximum points in Berkshire.

Reading are currently second from bottom in the Premier League table, after being defeated 1-0 at relegation rivals Aston villa on Tuesday night. The Royals are now four points away from safety and will be hoping to claim some unlikely points against United.

Manchester City will be looking to retake top spot in the Premier League from arch-rivals United, as the champions host Everton. A victory against David Moyes’ side could put them temporarily top of the league. City are unbeaten at the Etihad Stadium since December 2010.

However, the last team to inflict a home defeat on Roberto Mancini’s men were Everton and they have a decent recent record at City. Despite making a lightning start to the season Everton’s form has drifted off in recent weeks.

The Toffees have won one, lost one and drew six of their last eight top flight encounters, but in Marouane Fellaini they have one of the stars of the top flight campaign so far.

West Brom host Stoke at the Hawthorns looking to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat to Swansea last time out. The Baggies are still fourth in the Premier League, despite that defeat and will be looking to get back to winning ways in this encounter.

Stoke have hit form in recent weeks and defeated Newcastle 2-1 midweek at the Britannia Stadium. The victory moved the Potters into ninth place and Tony Pulis’ side are currently on a four match unbeaten run.

At Loftus Road there is a big game at the bottom of the table as rock-bottom QPR hosts Aston Villa. The Hoops drew 0-0 at Sunderland in Harry Redknapp’s first outing as boss. The former-Tottenham boss will have taken encouragement from his team’s performance though.

Redknapp’s side are currently eight points behind Aston Villa, who are 17th in the league table, so it’s vital they record a victory over the Villans. Villa claimed a morale-boosting 1-0- victory over Reading in their last outing, but are just one point outside the drop zone.

The side immediately below Villa are Southampton, who visit Liverpool. Liverpool’s unbeaten run of eight games came to an end with a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane on Wednesday night.

However their performance gave boss Brendan Rodgers cause for optimism and the Reds will see this as an ideal opportunity to bounce back from that loss.

The visitors are currently on a three match unbeaten run, drawing 1-1 at home with Norwich on Wednesday night. Although the Saints have picked up just one away win this season in the top flight.

Elsewhere, Fulham host Tottenham at Craven Cottage. The Cottagers are currently going through a spell of no victories in the last six matches, although they drew 0-0 at Chelsea last time out.

Tottenham have claimed victories in their last two Premier League outings, with a 2-1 victory over Liverpool on Wednesday the latest. The victory moved Spurs up to fifth place in the table, just three points away from fourth spot and the Champions League places.

Former-Fulham stars Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele will be in-line to face their former-club for the first since their summer moves to White Hart Lane.

Arsenal host Swansea at the Emirates Stadium looking to get back to winning ways after draws at Aston Villa and Everton. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has come in for criticism in the last few weeks for some of his substitutions and the Gunners are now five points behind fourth place West Brom.

Swansea are just one place behind the Gunners after defeating in-form West Brom 3-1 at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday night. A victory could move the Swans into the top six and they will again be looking to bargain buy Michu to inspire maximum points.

On Sunday, Norwich host Sunderland at Carrow Road. The home side are on a seven match unbeaten run, after drawing 1-1 at Southampton in their last outing, but are just four points clear of the relegation zone. Boss Chris Hughton will be hoping for maximum points to move the Canaries clear of the drop zone.

The visitors are struggling badly this season and have picked up just two victories in the top flight. Boss Martin O’Neill had to deny that he offered his resignation after the midweek 0-0 draw with QPR and his team desperately need a victory in East Anglia.

Can Martin O’Neill survive the weekend as Sunderland boss?

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Di Maria rubbishes insult claims

Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria has dismissed accusations by Alcoyano midfielder Julio de Dios that he was insulted by the Argentina star.

Jose Mourinho’s side hosted the Alcoy side on Tuesday in the Copa del Rey and, after suffering a 3-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, de Dios claimed the 24-year-old labelled him as ‘failed’.

Di Maria denied he made the comments and insisted he would never talk down to players from smaller opposition, reminding reporters of his own origins.

“I have come to Real Madrid after struggling a lot since I was a kid,” he told AS. “I come from lower (league) teams myself and never in my life have I offended a friend. It never even occurred to me to do something like that.

“For me, opposing players are also partners. I come from the bottom, I come from a poor family and I have never underestimated an opponent.

“Every player, from the smallest to the biggest, have fought to the death for their careers. I feel really sad about the news that has come out in some media.

“I am offended as a player and as a person, because I have never forgotten about my roots. And no matter what happens in my life, I will never forget them.”

Di Maria said he was looking forward to the upcoming derby against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, adding he was confident the club’s fans would support the side after sections of the crowd booed coach Jose Mourinho during the game against Alcoyano.

“We will give everything to achieve a victory that we could really use and give great joy to our fans,” he said.

“I am convinced that we will enjoy the support of our own (fans). It is a special week because it is a derby with Atletico.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Ribery ´100 percent sure´ Bayern will win title

Bayern Munich attacker Franck Ribery is certain his side will win the Bundesliga title this campaign after being runners-up last season.

Jupp Heynckes’ men sit atop of the table after 14 games, holding a 10-point lead over second-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

Ribery insists Bayern will be able to ensure they do not repeat the mistakes of last year’s campaign, when they let a lead slip as Borussia Dortmund won the title.

“I am 100 percent sure that we will become champions,” the Frenchman told Bild.

“The disappointments from last season motivate us to do better this year. We are all desperate to win the title. That’s the most important goal.

“After that, we can then look at how far we can go in the Champions League and DFB Pokal.

“We cannot afford to make the same mistakes we made last year against smaller clubs. We had an eight-point lead, but Borussia Dortmund beat us to the title.

“I am convinced that we have learned from what happened.”

Fri 30 November, 2012
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Redknapp plays down Cole link

Harry Redknapp says he has not made any enquiries about bringing Joe Cole to Queens Park Rangers from Liverpool.

Cole worked under Redknapp at West Ham United, and the new QPR manager has said he still has belief in the 56-cap England international, despite his disappointing spell at Anfield.

Redknapp took over QPR in October following the sacking on Mark Hughes, and is widely expected to reinforce the squad during the January transfer window.

“I like Joe, I had him as an 11-year-old,” Redknapp told reporters.

“The talent is there and I think there’s still a top player in there. I haven’t made any enquiries yet – I haven’t made any enquiries for anyone.”

QPR have also been linked with Marseille striker Loic Remy, who was reportedly close to joining Tottenham during Redknapp’s reign at White Hart Lane.

“I was interested in Remy but that was then,” he said.

“It’s a different situation now. He would be expensive. It depends on where we are in January.

“I’ve never discussed players w
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ith anyone. Here we are, we need to win matches now. January is way off.”

QPR’s next match is at home to fellow strugglers Aston Villa on Saturday.

Fri 30 November, 2012
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