Copa del Rey: Atletico Madrid 2 Sevilla 1

Two Diego Costa penalties saw Atletico Madrid defeat nine-man Sevilla 2-1 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final on Friday.

All three goals at Vicente Calderon came from the spot, after the referee had adjudged players from both sides to have handled in the area.

Alvaro Negredo replied for the visitors after Costa’s opener, but Emir Spahic and Fernando Navarro were both dismissed either side of Diego Godin seeing red for the hosts.

Atletico were still without the injured Radamel Falcao and opted for Adrian Lopez to partner Costa up front, whilst the visitors opted for Negredo in a lone role.

Both sides were limited to very few chances in the opening stages of the match, Costa having the first shot off the game, but his effort was always going wide of Beto’s goal.

Next to attack was Arda Turan, his free-kick sailing over the crossbar minutes later as the hosts began to get a hold of the game, but Sevilla were defending well.

The first real chance of the game came through Koke, but after brilliant work by Adrian, the midfielder could only shoot straight at Beto.

Negredo’s shot from distance was acrobatically tipped over by Thibaut Courtois as the visitors ended the half on a high.

The opening goal came on the 48th minute through Costa’s penalty. Spahic handled the ball in the area and was given his marching orders for a second yellow, allowing the Brazilian to put his side ahead from the spot.

But seven minutes later the sides were level through a Negredo penalty. It was a harsh decision as the ball bounced up onto Diego Godin’s arm whilst preventing a goal-bound effort and he was also given a straight red for his troubles.

Ivan Rakitic’s long-range effort went narrowly wide of Courtois’s goal as the tempo of the game increased after the break.

Sevilla were starting to gain control of the game for the first time in the match, and were unlucky to go behind.

A third penalty was awarded after Fernando Navarro was adjudged to have handled in the area with 20 minutes remaining, and Costa duly despatched for his second of the game.

The match ebbed and flowed as the visitors looked for an equaliser, but persistent fouling from Sevilla saw Atletico awarded numerous free-kicks that started to kill time.

One last chance came from Mario Suarez but he headed wide from a Turan cross, meaning Atletico hold a slight advantage ahead of the second leg in a month’s time.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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KNVB Beker: Vitesse 0 Ajax 4

Ajax booked their place in the semi-finals of the KNVB Beker on Thursday thanks to a 4-0 thumping of Vitesse.

The match pitted the third and fourth-placed sides in the Dutch Eredivisie against one another, but Frank de Boer’s men – who are just two points better off than their opponents in the league – made light work of the tie at the Unive Stadion.

A seventh-minute strike from Danny Hoesen sent the 18-time Dutch Cup winners on their way, but it was in the second half that the floodgates opened.

Danish midfielder Lasse Schoene scored the second just before the hour mark, and a late brace from Icelandic striker Kolbeinn Sigborsson, who netted in the 81st and 86th minutes, made sure of a comfortable passage into the last four.

Ajax will be joined in the semi-finals by AZ Alkmaar and PEC Zwolle, as well as Eredivise leaders PSV Eindhoven.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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Championship: Leicester City 2 Wolverhampton 1

Leicester City have closed to within seven points of Championship leaders Cardiff with a 2-1 win over Wolverhampton on Thursday.

Nigel Pearson’s side went ahead in the 24th minute thanks to a goal from French winger Anthony Knockaert, but they were pegged back six minutes into the second half in spectacular fashion.

And again it was a Frenchman who did the damage, with Bakary Sako latching onto a Tongo Doumbia ball to blast a stunning half-volley into the corner from outside the box for Dean Saunders’s side.

As both teams pushed for a winner at the King Power Stadium, it was Englishman David Nugent who sent the home fans into raptures on 73 minutes, when he charged to the edge of the box and curled the ball past Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal.

The result pulled Leicester three points ahead of third-placed Hull – who are at Millwall on Saturday – while Cardiff are seven points clear on top before their tricky trip to Leeds at the weekend.

Wolves, meanwhile, are just five points clear of the relegation zone with each of the five sides below them having at least one game in hand.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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Willian set for Anzhi switch, Diarra off to Rennes

Willian is set to move from Shakhtar Donetsk to Anzhi Makhachkala in the most expensive move of the European January transfer window.

While loan moves were the order of the day, with the likes of West Ham’s Alou Diarra, Paris Saint-Germain’s Mohamed Sissoko and Porto’s Rolando all earning temporary deals elsewhere, Willian’s reportedly 30-million-pound switch was the talk of transfer deadline day.

The 24-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder, who was linked with a move to Chelsea before this season, is expected to swap Ukraine for Russia with Anzhi expected to add Willian to their squad under head coach Guus Hiddink.

Anzhi have reportedly met Shakhtar’s asking price of 30 million pounds for Willian, who will join the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Lassana Diarra and compatriots Ewerton, Jucilei and Joao Carlos at the Dagestan-based club.

Shakhtar head coach Mircea Lucescu was clearly disappointed when he confirmed the clubs had agreed a fee for Willian but claimed he could not have done more to convince the Brazilian playmaker to stay in Donetsk.

“There is a club willing to pay the release clause in his contract and Willian agreed to move. There is nothing I can do,” Lucescu said.

“To tell you frankly, I tried to convince him to stay because I think his decision is hasty and not thought out well enough. He is like a son to me.

“He came to Shakhtar almost as a child and leaves us as a 24-year-old man. I told him he would have achieved more with us when we said goodbye.

“Why did he not listen to me? I guess he was under huge pressure from his agent and his relatives that wanted to get everything at once.”

Diarra, who claimed earlier this month he had been ignored at West Ham, completed a loan move to Ligue 1 club Rennes as the French outfit looked to cover for Yann M’Vila’s transfer to Rubin Kazan.

Sissoko has moved on loan to Fiorentina with the Italian club retaining the option to buy at the end of the season, while Portuguese defender Rolando has also moved to Serie A, having joined Napoli on loan until the end of the season.

Liverpool have released 33-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper Doni, who will return to his homeland and join Botafogo on a free transfer.

In other English Premier League news, Norwich have signed Argentine striker Luciano Becchio from Leeds United with Steve Morison heading the other way in a swap deal, while Fulham have brought in Bulgarian defender Stanislav Manolev on loan from PSV Eindhoven and Stoke have bought American winger Brek Shea for 2.5 million pounds from FC Dallas.

Swiss full-back Reto Ziegler has joined Turkish club Fenerbahce on a six-month loan from Juventus, while French forward Emmanuel Riviere has left Ligue 1’s Toulouse for Ligue 2 high-flyers Monaco on a four-and-a-half year deal.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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Egmond praise for Wheelhouse

Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond has lauded the integrity of skipper Jobe Wheelhouse after being told he would not play next season.

Wheelhouse cut his 10-year association with his hometown team on Thursday after telling the Jets his heart was not with the club any more.

“We respect his decision, because it has been an honest decision. He could have stayed and been in and around the group, but his heart is not in it,” Van Egmond said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

“From that perspective he needs to be congratulated because he has put his hand up and made sure he has been honest with everyone and all we hope for is that he finds exactly what he wants.

“It would have been easier for him to stay in some respects, it would have been very easy for him to go down to Melbourne Heart and collect that contract but he was not going to do that for the wrong reasons and he should be applauded for that.”

Wheelhouse revealed that he had spoken with Van Egmond privately some weeks ago and discovered that he wasn’t in his plans for the future but said that was not the reason for him taking a break from the game.

“There’s other things involved, it’s not just because the Jets didn’t want to keep me, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

“Back maybe three months ago, if there was interest from the Jets I would have considered it no doubt because it is my hometown, but I probably would have been doing it for the wrong reasons,” Wheelhouse said.

Earlier this month the 27-year-old midfielder rejected an offer to join the Melbourne Heart.

”I don’t want to go there and just get a pay cheque,” Wheelhouse said.

”They made me a really good offer, but I’m not here for the money. It’s never been about the money.”

Meanwhile, Van Egmond has revealed he might rest some players ahead of this weekend’s crucial clash with Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium but said he was happy that he still had good competition for midfield roles with the return of Ruben Zadkovich from suspension as well as new signing Zenon Caravella pushing for a starting spot.

“We really welcome the fact that Ruben and Josh (Mitchell) are back into the squad this week and the fact that we are getting good competition for places with adding Zenon to the squad,” Van Egmond said.

“It’s good to have competition for places, but we just have to look at players who have done really well, but they might be a little bit tired.

“That definitely applies for some of the younger ones, so we just have to manage them appropriately.

“Just looking at it today, you think to yourself that it might be a case that we need to do that (rest players). I’ll speak to more individuals later and get a bit of a feeling to see where their heads are at.”

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Thu 31 January, 2013
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Keller hails Bastos impact

Schalke head coach Jens Keller has revealed new signing Michel Bastos has surprised him at training and could start against Greuther Furth.

Bastos has joined Schalke on an 18-month loan deal from Lyon and did enough at Wednesday’s training session, his first with the Bundesliga club, for Keller to consider him for a starting berth on Saturday.

Schalke have notched a win and a draw since the Bundesliga resumed after its winter break and another victory against Furth, who are last on the table, could see Keller’s side move up one position to fifth.

“The impression he (Bastos) made yesterday was surprisingly good, that isn’t normal when you train with a new team,” Keller said on Thursday.

“He didn’t know the squad and our processes so he impressed us even more.

“So after all that it is possible that he will play on Saturday.

“He is good in shape and played a few games for Lyon.

“He did the entire preparation with Lyon so he is absolutely fit, so he could be a starter on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt has argued that although Pep Guardiola’s decision to join Bayern Munich as head coach next season shows the Bundesliga interests the world’s top managers and players, German clubs should not get carried away with recruitment.

Heldt believes Bundesliga clubs should continue to work within the culture of financial prudence that has defined German football in the past decade.

“I think the attractiveness of the Bundesliga is higher than ever, also for the foreign players,” Heldt said.

“That’s the way I see it and of course it is useful to plan conservatively.

“You can see that at many football clubs all over the other European leagues that they’ve bought players regardless of the consequences which now gets themselves into disasters.

“I believe the German clubs do that the exact correct way now and don’t act beyond their means, especially in respect of the financial fair play, this is very advisable.”

Thu 31 January, 2013
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Salamon joins AC Milan

AC Milan have secured the services of Poland Under-21 international Bartosz Salamon from Brescia for an undisclosed fee.

The towering defender signed a contract until 2017 at San Siro on Thursday as Massimiliano Allegri continued strengthening his squad.

AC Milan were in the market for defensive reinforcements following the departure of Francesco Acerbi, and they see Salamon as a valuable long-term addition to their squad.

Salamon, 21, joined Brescia from Lech Poznan at the age of 16, and had developed into an important first-team member at the Serie B outfit after a loan spell at Foggia in 2010/11.

The youngster had also caught the attention of several other Serie A sides, but has decided to continue his career at AC Milan.

Meanwhile, AC Milan have opted to sell 50 percent of Alberto Paloschi’s economical rights to Chievo.

The attacker is on loan at the Verona outfit, and has netted seven goals in 10 Serie A appearances so far.

Additionally, the San Siro outfit have sold goalkeeper Ferdinando Coppola to Torino.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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Gomes joins Hoffenheim on loan

Tottenham have confirmed goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes will spend the rest of the season on loan at Bundesliga club Hoffenheim.

The Brazilian international has made 136 appearances for the club since joining from PSV Eindhoven for 8.5 million pounds in 2008.

But Gomes has fallen behind Hugo Lloris and Brad Friedel in the pecking order at White Hart Lane.

He will now move to the Bundesliga in search of first-team football, where he will join the club with the worst defensive record in the division and who sit second bottom in the league.

The 11-time Brazil international will compete with former German international Tim Wiese for the number one jersey.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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Newcastle sign Mbabu

Newcastle United have confirmed the signing of Swiss youngster Kevin Mbabu from Servette for an undisclosed fee.

The 17-year-old defender has signed a three-and-a-half year deal at St James’ Park after impressing during a trial spell.

Mbabu, who was delighted to put pen to paper, becomes Alan Pardew’s sixth signing of the window and will immediately join up with the reserves.

“I am delighted to join Newcastle United,” he told the club’s website.

“Today is a big day for me. I’ve always wanted to sign for a club in the Premier League and Newcastle is one of the biggest there is.

“I want to finish my development here with the reserves before one day training with the first team and hopefully breaking into the first team.”

Newcastle reserve team manager Willie Donachie was excited by the signing and said the Switzerland Under-19 international has a bright future ahead of him.

“Kevin is strong, confident, skilful and a very good prospect,” he said.

“He still has a lot to do as he is only 17 years old, but I saw him playing for Switzerland Under-19s against Scotland and he did really well.

“He can play central defence or right-back and if he keeps working hard then he could have a great future in the game.”

Thu 31 January, 2013
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Sunderland terminate Saha contract

Sunderland have confirmed that Louis Saha has left the club after his contract was terminated by mutual consent.

The Frenchman moved to the Stadium of Light on a one-year deal after leaving Tottenham in the summer, but failed to net in his 14 total appearances on Wearside.

The five-million-pound arrival of Danny Graham from Swansea on Thursday left the veteran striker surplus to requirements, and the club have now decided to bring his contract to an early end.

Speaking to the club’s official website, Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne said: “We wish Louis all the very best for the future and thank him for his contribution to Sunderland.”

The former Fulham, Manchester United and Everton man is expected to pursue his career outside of Europe, with clubs in Brazil and the MLS said to be showing an interest.

Thu 31 January, 2013
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