Campeonato Paulista wrap: Corinthians stop leaders Sao Paulo

Corinthians continued their unbeaten streak in the Campeonato Paulista on Sunday, beating league leaders Sao Paulo away 2-1.

In a blockbuster clash between two of the league’s heavyweights, the home side at the Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo got off to the perfect start when Jadson scored in the fifth minute.

They preserved their advantage for much of the opening period, but entered the interval on level terms – after midfielder Danilo scored a screamer from the edge of the penalty area.

The 33-year-old received a cross-field pass from striker Emerson Sheik, before taking a touch inside a Sao Paulo defender and curling a strike in off the far post.

And just when the game seemed headed for a stalemate, Corinthians earned a penalty – which was converted seven minutes from time by former AC Milan man Alexandre Pato.

Sao Paulo maintained top spot by a point from Ponte Preta in second, while Corinthians finished the day in fifth spot on 29 points – six behind the side they conquered.

The win had taken Corinthians into the top four momentarily although they were displaced soon after by Mogi Mirim, who won 2-0 away at Sao Caetano.

Tiago Alves and Carlos Alberto were both on target for the visitors to Estadio Municipal Anacleto Campanella.

Mogi Mirim went fourth on 30 points with the result, making it four matches unbeaten for Dado Cavalcanti’s men.

Elsewhere, Atletico Sorocaba earned just their third win of the campaign with a 3-0 thrashing of bottom side Guarani.

After starting the day level with the cellar-dwellers, Atletico showed some class with three second-half goals from Edson Sitta, Bruninho and Fabio Sanches to thank for the drought-breaking victory.

Santos snapped a two-match winless run with a 2-1 win away at Oeste.

Starlet Neymar was on target in the 67th minute at the Estadio Dr Alfredo de Castilho, but seemed destined to drop two points when Gilmar equalised four minutes from time.

But a quick response from Cicero salvaged the situation for Muricy Ramalho’s side, helping Santos consolidate third spot in the league on 32 points.

League strugglers Uniao Barbarense and Sao Bernardo FC played out a 0-0 draw at the Estadio Antonio Lins Ribeiro Guimaraes.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Miliband resigns from Sunderland board

British Labour MP David Miliband has stepped down from his position as vice-chairman at Sunderland.

The former foreign secretary, who has also been a non-executive director at the Stadium of Light since February 2011, announced his decision on his personal website following the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as the club’s new manager.

“I wish Sunderland AFC all success in the future,” he said. “It is a great institution that does a huge amount for the North East and I wish the team very well over the next vital seven games.

“However, in the light of the new manager’s past political statements, I think it right to step down.”

The volatile Italian, who has no top-flight experience after only managing with Swindon Town in League One and League Two, has been tasked with saving Sunderland from relegation after their 1-0 defeat to Manchester United left them only one point above the drop zone.

That defeat, Sunderland’s eighth game without a win, cost Martin O’Neill his job as manager and the onus now falls on the controversial Di Canio, 44, to preserve the Black Cats’ Premier League status.

Di Canio has previously discussed his political views, saying: “I am a fascist, not a racist”, in response to the controversy surrounding his raised arm salute when playing for Lazio.

After resigning as Swindon boss in February, where the former Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Lazio player led them to promotion from League Two, Di Canio was linked with the vacant Reading job which was eventually given to Nigel Adkins.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Hughton wants more Norwich firepower

Norwich manager Chris Hughton has put his side’s 1-0 defeat at Wigan on Saturday down to poor finishing.

Having seemingly secured their Premier League position for next season after an impressive mid-season run, Norwich have only won one of their past 14 league games, leaving Hughton’s men four points off the relegation zone.

The Canaries have struggled to find the net of late and Hughton believes this limited attacking threat had contributed to the defeat.

“It’s about clinical moments, and they had the one in the game that got them the goal,” he said.

“I thought we were good in that first-half period – we broke well, and probably away from home, that’s as much as we’ve got into the final third.

“It’s two things when you’re away from home though – if it’s a close game you’ve got to make sure you keep that clean sheet, or you’ve got to have that little bit of quality that gets you that goal.

“We didn’t have that today – it’s something that we were guilty of and something we’ll have to look at but it was a never a game that I felt we were going to lose.”

Grant Holt is the club’s current top league goalscorer with just five strikes, although the Canaries have already announced the signing of the prolific Dutchman Ricky van Wolfswinkel for next season.

“Statistics don’t lie but our general play has been good enough, as anybody that was here today will have seen,” Hughton admitted.

“To win games, though, you’ve got to score goals and we’re finding that a little more difficult at the moment.”

With their relegation rivals rapidly closing in, the 54-year-old remained confident that his side could stay up, provided that they continue to pick up results at Carrow Road.

“We’ve got seven games left, and four of them are at home,” he continued.

“For clubs like ourselves, it’s always going to be about your home form. We need to make sure that we pull all the good things out of that game today and take advantage of the fact that we’re at Carrow Road.

“The only way our situation can change is by getting the points that we need and the wins that we need. That starts with the next game against Swansea.

“You have to be confident that you’ve got enough in the squad to get the points that are needed. Absolutely we have, but we have to show it. Today’s a disappointing day, but we need to turn it into a good day next week.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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La Liga wrap: Atletico, Valencia share spoils, Sociedad held

Atletico Madrid failed to climb above rivals Real Madrid after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Valencia in La Liga on Sunday.

The visitors got off to a dream start at the Estadio Vicente Calderon when Brazilian attacker Jonas scored in the fifth minute – firing home between the legs of Atletico shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois from eight yards out.

But their celebrations were short-lived as Atletico hit man Radamel Falcao equalised just 90 seconds later.

Falcao scored his first-ever goal against Valencia when he struck a swift volley home past Diego Alves, after being put through by a delightful Arda Turan chip pass.

Valencia came closest to stealing all three points late, when Dani Parejo’s long-range effort went just inches wide of Atletico’s goal on 85 minutes.

Atletico, though, could not find the winner that would catapult them above Jose Mourinho’s men and into second spot, and remain third just one point behind Real.

Diego Simeone’s side also failed to capitalise on fourth-placed Real Sociedad being held to a draw earlier in the day.

Espanyol were the team to deny Philippe Montanier’s Champions League chasers in a 2-2 draw at home.

Sociedad were forced to come from behind twice, and they couldn’t find the winner to boost their chances of reaching the European top-tier competition next season.

Sergio Garcia had put the Estadio Cornella-El Prat hosts ahead in the ninth minute, only for Real to equalise via David Zurutuza.

Christian Stuani restored Espanyol’s advantage, before defender Javi Lopez then conceded into his own net with 14 minutes to play.

Elsewhere, bottom side Deportivo La Coruna earned a valuable three points in their relegation plight, beating second-bottom Mallorca 3-2 away from home.

Deportivo trailed when Victor Casadesus kept the Iberostar Stadium faithful happy on 19 minutes, as the Spaniard fired in a deflected strike.

But it was 1-1 at the interval, when Deportivo’s Silvio completed a dashing run down the left with a shot into the bottom-right corner.

Three minutes after the interval, Deportivo completely turned around the relegation six-pointer via the boot of Carlos Marchena from close range.

A Riki header increased Deportivo’s buffer, but they had to see off some nervous late moments due to an 86th-minute strike from Mallorca’s Emilio Nsue.

A brace to Kike Sola helped Osasuna snap a three-match losing streak, as they beat Real Valladolid 3-1 away.

Osasuna put their opponents ahead at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla, when Ruben Gonzalez got the final touch into his own net off his head.

But it was Sola to the rescue, as he first equalised with a diving header before doubling his tally and putting his side ahead on the hour mark.

Miguel de las Cuevas then created a turnover in midfield, and stormed towards goal before slotting Osasuna’s third – seeing them seven points clear of the drop zone.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Pepe prepared for Mourinho snub

Real Madrid’s Pepe says he would not be surprised if he was omitted from the starting line-up for the Champions League clash with Galatasaray.

The 30-year-old defender has seen his appearances for the Spanish giants reduced in recent months, following setbacks from injury and the emergence of young starlet Raphael Varane.

But despite lining up against Zaragoza in La Liga on Saturday, Pepe believes Varane – who did not travel – was conspicuous by his absence, and expects the Frenchman to be given the nod for the visit of the Turkish champions on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t selected, but I’m here for the team,” Pepe told Marca.

“The coach (Jose Mourinho) decides what is best. We have a good squad and, as I said before, I’m here to help. I’ve played many games for Real Madrid and my approach will be the same as always.”

Pepe has featured in all of Madrid’s eight games in the Champions League so far this season.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Di Canio lands Sunderland job

Sunderland have appointed Paolo Di Canio as their new head coach.

The 44-year-old Italian signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Black Cats and will begin working with the relegation-threatened team on Monday.

Chairman Ellis Short said: “Paolo is hugely enthused by the challenge that lies ahead of him. He is passionate, driven and raring to get started.

“The sole focus of everyone for the next seven games will be to ensure we gain enough points to maintain our top-flight status.

“I think that the chances of that are greatly increased with Paolo joining us.”

The appointment comes after Sunderland sacked Martin O’Neill on Saturday evening following the 1-0 home loss to Manchester United, ending a reign that began in December 2011.

“Our fans have shown tremendous patience and understanding this season,” Short said.

“They have continued to back the team in huge numbers, both home and away, and that is something that continues to inspire all of us in our drive to give them the successful club they deserve.

“That remains our primary aim.”

Di Canio’s only managerial experience was with Swindon Town, who he guided to the League Two title in 2011-12, before resigning in February this year following off-field financial disagreements.

Sunderland are just one point clear of the Premier League relegation zone and face a trip to Chelsea this Sunday.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Pulis laments Stoke defeat at Everton

Tony Pulis was aggrieved that his Stoke side could not find the net against Everton despite creating a number of chances in their 1-0 defeat.

Stoke have been in poor form of late, winning only one Premier League game since the turn of the year but put in one of their better away performances this season at Goodison Park, creating a number of chances either side of Kevin Mirallas’ winning goal.

“We haven’t played many games where we haven’t created any chances, and that was the case again today,” the Welshman said.

“Obviously it is a bit of a worry, because we had more than enough chances to have got a point from the game, or even won it.”

The defeat was Stoke’s fifth in six matches and leaves them just four points off the relegation zone despite being within touching distance of the European places at the end of December.

“You sometimes have a run of games where these things can happen,” Pulis said.

“Unfortunately for us, we are on one of those runs right now. You just have to make sure that the lads remain confident and believe in their ability.

“We have come here and played against a very good Everton side, who I have always said will challenge for a top-four spot this season, and we feel aggrieved to be leaving here with nothing.”

Stoke’s next match sees relegation rivals Aston Villa come to the Britannia Stadium where a win for the visitors would close the gap between the two sides to just a single point with six matches left to play.

“We need our fans behind us as much as ever for that game,” Pulis added. “They make the difference for us, there is absolutely no doubt about that.

“I said the other day that our four home games will dictate things for us, and I stick by that. We aren’t panicking here though; I have said all along that this will be a tough season for us.

“We need a win, and we will do everything we can to make sure that we get that against Aston Villa next weekend.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Rodriguez praises Pochettino impact

Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez believes his own form can be put down to the faith shown in him by manager Mauricio Pochettino.

The 23-year-old arrived from Burnley in the summer of 2012 for a then club-record fee of seven million pounds.

However, the performances of Rickie Lambert and Nigel Adkins’ decision to ease him into the side restricted his initial impact on the south coast.

But since the arrival of Pochettino, Rodriguez has become a regular member of the Argentine’s starting XI and has scored three times since late January including the opener on Saturday at home to Chelsea where his deftly-taken opening goal set Saints on their way to a 2-1 win.

“The manager has put his faith in me,” the former England Under-21 international told the club’s official website.

“He gives you belief that you should be on the pitch because he’s played me and given me a chance. All I can keep doing is to try and do my best for him, and for the team.

“I was chuffed with the goal but, like I always say, it’s the three points that matter.”

After Rodriguez’s strike was cancelled out by John Terry, the Saints’ winner came from a long-range Lambert free-kick, which the 31-year-old’s strike partner had nothing but praise for.

“Rickie’s was a great goal as well,” he said. “We were disappointed with the goal we conceded, but we went straight back in front.

“Rickie’s class showed with the free-kick. When you’ve got someone like that in your team it is a lot easier.

“We just looked at this as another game against a good side. We took the game to them again and stuck to our game plan – and it worked.”

After Pochettino’s men had caught the eye in the first half with their attacking play, the hosts had to show defensive fortitude in the second period to keep out the reigning European champions.

“You’ve got expect (to defend) against Chelsea because they’re a great side and they’re the European champions,” Rodriguez said.

“We stuck with it and ground out a win where we probably would have crumbled earlier in the season. That shows how good defensively we are now.”

The win moves Saints up into 12th position, albeit only four points above the drop zone and Rodriguez is wary of celebrating survival just yet, particularly with a trip to relegation rivals Reading next week.

“It’s still tight down there, so we’re going to concentrate on ourselves because that’s all we can affect,” he said.

“Our next game is our most important game – that’s what we all think and we’ll be working all week for that.

“It’s important that we get three points to move us up the table. We’ll work out a strategy and a tactic to play against them, and work hard to win the game.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Sir Alex plays down Hernandez exit rumours; Yilmaz could leave Gala

Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted Manchester United will not sell Javier Hernandez in the summer.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted the club will not sell Javier “El Chicharito” Hernandez when the transfer window reopens in the summer, despite reported interest from Serie A leaders Juventus and Spanish giants Real Madrid, ESPN FC understands.

Hernandez, 24, has bagged 16 goals and five assists in all competitions for United this season.

However, the Mexico international has not been a regular starter for the Red Devils, and remains behind the likes of Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney on United’s depth chart.

Hernandez has started just six Premier League matches this term, while Rooney, Van Persie and Welbeck have started 17, 27 and 11 respectively.

The Mexican striker has scored in 53.5% of his league appearances in 2012-13, his highest goal-scoring rate in the Premier League since joining United from Liga MX side Club Deportivo Guadalajara in 2010.

Meanwhile, Danny Welbeck has scored just once in 23 league games, but his ability to play wide-left, wide-right and behind the lone striker have kept him ahead of Chicharito in the pecking order at Old Trafford.

Now then, recent reports have suggested Manchester United could listen to offers for Hernandez in the summer, but Fergie has dismissed any such speculation.

“I’ve said to him it’s not easy to keep leaving him out because a 16-goal tally in the number of games he’s started is a brilliant record,” Ferguson said. “And he’ll always have that because he’s fantastic in the box.

“But it’s difficult when you’re up against a player of Robin van Persie’s form, then you’ve got Welbeck, Rooney, Kagawa – that’s the benefit of having a strong squad.

“He’s on a long contract for starters and we won’t be entertaining any interest. He’s a really important player for us. You see that all the time.

“He does something every game; he changes it. He does something different to the other strikers.”

Hernandez, who has scored seven goals in 10 career appearances against Chelsea, is expected to feature in the Red Devils’ starting XI against Chelsea in Monday’s FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Yilmaz could leave Gala

Galatasaray S.K. manager Fatih Terim has admitted it will be difficult to keep in-form striker Burak Yilmaz at the Türk Telekom Arena, Sky Sports reports.

Yilmaz, who joined Galatasaray from Trabzonspor for a fee of €5 million in July 2012, has bagged eight goals thus far in this year’s UEFA Champions League.

“It’s not going to be easy to keep him,” Terim was quoted as saying in The Observer.

“He has targets but it will be his decision. Being wanted is a good thing, but we are fond of him and believe he will do great things for us in the future.

“He listens. He is 27 but he is still open to learning new things. Burak senses goals. He can score any time and from anywhere. I’m really fond of him, he has been a miracle signing.”

Yilmaz and Galatasaray will travel to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu to take on European powerhouse Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday, 3 April.

Expect Drogba and Yilmaz to start up front for the visitors.

Sun 31 March, 2013
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Abate: Balotelli is the ´cherry on top´

Ignazio Abate has hailed team-mate Mario Balotelli as the ‘cherry on top’ of the AC Milan squad.

The former Inter starlet has been in scintillating form since returning to Italy in January, netting seven times in as many games, a run of form which has propelled the Italian giants to third in Serie A and favourites to achieve Champions League qualification.

And Abate said the club are benefitting from boasting a spine through the team which understands the core values of Milan – fronted by their prolific number 45.

“The president gave us Balotelli in January – he’s the cherry on top our cake, he makes the team dangerous,” he said.

“Now the spine of (a lasting) team is being built and it’s an Italian one that understands what it means to wear these colours.”

The 26-year-old then turned his attentions to Fiorentina ahead of next week’s trip to Florence.

Milan are currently in pole position to secure the third and final Champions League spot ahead of the Viola, who trail Massimiliano Allegri’s men by six points.

And Abate says the team are well-prepared for the clash due to the significance of the fixture.

“This is a team that plays with a knife between its teeth and we can make life difficult for any team,” he added.

“(The match against Fiorentina is a) big game for Champions League qualification, but right now we’re in good shape both physically and mentally.”

Sun 31 March, 2013
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