Ugly win still pleases Simeone

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone was delighted his team overcame Granada in La Liga on Thursday despite not playing their best football.

Simeone’s side needed spot kicks from Diego Costa and David Villa before a late sending off of Atletico’s Filipe Luis and a goal to Granada’s Odion Ighalo made for a nervy finish in their 2-1 victory.

Granada dominated on the ball, holding 68 per cent of the possession, but Simeone was impressed his players’ resilience in obtaining the three points.

“I am left with the impression that team gave me, which is that they know how to struggle when they have to and still manage to win, because we are going to have to struggle to stay in the position we are just now,” Simeone said.

“Penalties are part of the game and winning away from home is difficult.”

Atletico are now one point behind La Liga leaders Barcelona after 11 games but Simeone maintained that he would keep the players focused week-to-week.

“I am very happy for the effort the players have shown, it is not easy to keep winning, but we are not thinking further than the match against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday,” he said.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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La Liga Wrap: Costa on target for Atletico, Getafe climb to fifth

Diego Costa scored again as Atletico Madrid closed to within a point of Barcelona with a 2-1 La Liga win at Granada on Thursday.

The Brazilian-born forward – who this week declared his intention to play for Spain – continued his stunning run of form with a first-half penalty in the victory, taking his league goals tally to 12.

Granada were only denied by the woodwork in the 13th minute as Yacine Brahimi hit the crossbar following Fran Rico’s corner.

Costa headed into the arms of Granada goalkeeper Roberto seven minutes later, before Recio went close at the other end.

The in-form Costa got the chance to score from the penalty spot after Mainz fouled David Villa in the penalty area, and he stroked his effort into the bottom corner to give Diego Simeone’s side the lead.

Costa had two more chances to extend Atletico’s advantage, but failed to score, only for Villa to wrap up the result with 12 minutes left.

The former Barcelona forward was again fouled in the area, this time by Colombian Jeison Murillo, and he dusted himself down before comfortably converting.

The winners were reduced to 10 men in stoppage time as defender Filipe Luis was given a second yellow card for handball.

And Granada set up a tense finish when Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo pulled a goal back, but it was too late for the hosts, as Atletico extended their unbeaten streak to 10 matches against their opponents.

Getafe climbed to fifth with a 2-0 win at fourth-placed Villarreal, thanks to goals from Ciprian Marica and Pablo Sarabia.

Romania international Marica opened the scoring after just five minutes and a red card to Villarreal defender Pablo Iniguez in the 39th minute harmed their cause.

And although they left it late, Getafe substitute Sarabia sealed the win, scoring in the third minute of stoppage time.

Athletic Bilbao came from 2-0 down to rescue a 2-2 draw at home to Elche, extending their unbeaten home run to five matches, while Real Betis and Levante drew 0-0 after the hosts had Javi Chica dismissed in the first half.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Serie A: Roma 1 Chievo 0

Marco Borriello’s second-half header extended Roma’s winning run in Serie A to 10 matches with a 1-0 victory over rock-bottom Chievo.

Rudi Garcia’s men now boast a record that no team in the history of the Italian top flight can lay claim to, even the Juventus team of 2005-06, whose nine-match winning run from the start of the season is no longer recognised after their results were expunged for match-fixing.

But the hosts were made to work hard for their triumph, with Chievo producing a resilient defensive display that had the league leaders frustrated for more than an hour.

Still, the visitors ultimately slumped to their sixth defeat on the bounce and, for the fourth time in a row, the losing margin was just one goal.

Borriello got on the end of substitute Alessandro Florenzi’s cross in the 67th minute to finally end the resistance of Giuseppe Sannino’s underdogs and move Roma five points clear at the top.

The hosts made three changes, with Vassilis Torosidis deputising for the suspended Maicon, while Florenzi had to be content with a place on the bench after Marquinho was preferred.

Chievo, who surrendered a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 at home to Fiorentina on Sunday, brought in four new faces, as Dario Dainelli, Gennaro Sardo, Sergio Pellissier and Luca Rigoni were all called up.

Roma applied early pressure but found it difficult to break through as Chievo defended resolutely.

And when opportunities did come their way, Roma were wasteful – Borriello and Kevin Strootman in particular fluffing good first-half chances.

Christian Puggioni was forced into the first save of the match midway through the half when Strootman collected the ball 30 yards from goal and let fly from the edge of the penalty area, with the Chievo goalkeeper punching clear.

It was a similar story after the interval, with Roma controlling possession and forcing the issue, only to find the away side in determined mood.

But, just as Chievo were daring to dream, Florenzi and Adem Ljajic linked well on the left-hand side of the box, with the former chipping in a cross that Borriello headed into the far corner from six yards for his first goal of the campaign.

Chievo thought they had won a penalty when Pellissier was fouled from behind by Mehdi Benatia, but the offside flag had already been raised.

And that was as close as Chievo came to scoring an equaliser, as Roma held on for a slender victory.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Premier League Preview: Manchester City v Norwich City

Manchester City will aim to recover their league form against Norwich City in a fixture that has produced 25 goals in the last two seasons.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men sit six points off the pace in the Premier League as they seek to regain to the title they won in 2011-12.

Last Sunday’s defeat against Chelsea was City’s third of their league campaign, although they did bounce back with a 2-0 League Cup win over Newcastle United on Wednesday.

They now take on a Norwich side struggling in the relegation zone after three games without a league win.

The onus will likely be on striker Sergio Aguero to deliver the goals, with the Argentina international having scored seven times this season, and four times in as many games against Norwich.

Still, Norwich did take all three points from the Etihad Stadium on the final day of last season, winning 3-2, gaining revenge after City had taken a 4-3 victory in another thrilling encounter at Carrow Road the previous December.

Chris Hughton’s men will have hope of causing City’s defence problems on Saturday, with home captain and centre-back Vincent Kompany still on the sidelines because of a thigh injury.

Attacking midfielder Stevan Jovetic is a doubt after limping off in the victory against Newcastle.

Norwich’s injury problems are far more severe as winger Nathan Redmond (thigh) and striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel (ankle) are doubts.

Midfielder Robert Snodgrass is unlikely to play after sustaining a serious head injury in a 4-0 League Cup loss to Manchester United on Tuesday, while Elliot Bennett (knee) and Alexander Tettey (ankle) are unavailable.

But, despite a high number of prospective absentees, manager Hughton is hopeful of replicating the result that they achieved in May.

“It was a really good occasion and a great performance and result,” he said.

“You’re always looking for plusses and ways in which the team can be motivated. We know our performances haven’t been bad, but we haven’t had the points to go with our performances. That’s the reality.

“Nobody will deny that it’s a tough ask but you’ve got to go there and be delighted by the challenge, and you’ve got to be excited by it too.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Martino dismisses Messi worries

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino is not worried by Lionel Messi’s lack of goals in recent games.

The Argentina international has added just one to his tally in four matches since returning from a thigh injury.

But Martino insists that Messi is judged by higher standards than anyone else, meaning even a small run without a goal is made out to be something much worse.

And he has backed the current holder of the Ballon d’Or to get on the scoresheet again soon, praising his mental strength.

“With Leo, he is expected to score goals in every game and if he he doesn’t score every game then people say he has problems,” Martino said.

“He played very well against Celta and just because of circumstances he didn’t score. It is not a crisis, it is just what happens but I don’t understand why people think Messi has these problems.

“Leo is a player who is very strong mentally. Being number one in the world for such a long time, it doesn’t happen to (just) anybody. I don’t think he is concerned if he goes one, two three games without scoring. Maybe tomorrow (on Friday against Espanyol) he will score three or four goals.

“A bad game for Messi is always going to produce something good for the team. What we want is to be at his best physically.”

Much has been made of perceived tactical adjustments made by Martino since taking over at the club, with defender Gerard Pique noting a more direct influence.

He believes his side can improve but warned of the dangers involved with comparing his team to that of former coach Pep Guardiola, who won 14 trophies between 2008-09 and 2011-12.

“We’re always thinking that we can do things better,” he continued. “We can finish chances better and we’re always looking to improve.

“I hope that we can be at our best in a short time but I don’t think we should be comparing this team with other eras. It seems illogical there should be a comparison between the best team in Barca history and this team because we are in a different era now.

“I’m satisfied with the results certainly and you always have to bear that in mind in football. But, at Barcelona you look at the results and the football being played.

“We can play better and we have a margin to improve. If we continue to get these results after three months and know we can improve then we can be optimistic in terms of the future.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Serie A Preview: Parma v Juventus

Juventus go back on the road to face Parma after responding well to their first Serie A defeat of the season in their previous away match.

Antonio Conte’s men recorded convincing home wins over Genoa and Catania to undo some of the damage inflicted upon them by the 4-2 loss at Fiorentina, when they surrendered a two-goal half-time lead.

That result saw the champions lose ground on Serie A leaders Roma but their overall form, which has seen them drop just five points from the 30 available, still has them in a strong position heading into Saturday’s match.

And their response to the setback has been impressive, with six goals scored in the previous two games without reply – while only Roma and Inter can better Juve’s 22-goal haul this term.

Parma’s home record has bailed them out of trouble after Roberto Donadoni’s charges kicked off the campaign with a four-match winless run.

A three-game winning streak at the Stadio Ennio Tardini has lifted them to the relative safety of mid-table, but they have not beaten this weekend’s visitors in the last four meetings.

Carlos Tevez carries Juventus’ most potent threat, with the striker having scored six league goals this season.

The 29-year-old has impressed since joining from Manchester City in the close-season, while Arturo Vidal has provided five goals from midfield to underline the fact that Juve have danger men all over the pitch.

Parma have fared relatively well against Juve on home soil in their two most recent title-winning seasons, holding them to a goalless stalemate in the 2011-12 campaign and a 1-1 draw last term.

Juve’s last win in Parma came in January 2010, when a Paolo Castellini own goal sealed a 2-1 victory for the visitors.

The hosts will look to Marco Parolo for inspiration, with the 28-year-old midfielder having scored five of their 16 league goals.

Neither side has any fresh injury concerns, with Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic unlikely to return from their thigh injuries for Juventus.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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UAE Pro League: Al Ahli, Al Sharjah, Al Shabab all win

League leaders Al Ahli maintained their six-point cushion in the UAE Pro League with a 3-2 victory over Bani Yas.

Efforts from Hugo Viana and Grafite sandwiched a strike from Yousef Jaber, with Grafite having to strike again after Marcelinho’s leveller.

Al Shabab remain in second place on goal difference after coming from behind to beat Ajman 3-1. Edgar Silva netted twice to secure the three points and ensure they stayed ahead of Al Sharjah in the table.

Third-placed Al Sharjah cruised to a 2-1 victory over 10-man Al Wahda on Wednesday as Mauricio Ramos and Ahmed Khamis found the back of the net, while the visitors had Hussain Fadhel sent off with seven minutes to play.

Goals from Asamoah Gyan, Omar Abdulrahman and Fares Juma helped Al Ain record a 3-2 victory over Al Nasr, as they jumped above their opponents into fourth place.

Ibrahima Toure and Eder Luis had kept Al Nasr in the game, but Fares’ last-minute winner saw the points go to the hosts.

Bottom of the table Al Shaab fell to their fifth defeat of the season as they were beaten 5-2 by Emirates – Jair netting twice for 11th placed team as they ended a run of four games without a win.

Al Wasl had Mohamed Naser to thank as they ended a run of two consecutive defeats with a 2-1 victory over Al Dhafra, the forward netting twice in 12 second-half minutes to take the victory.

The final match of the round saw Al Jazira entertain Dubai, and the visitors produced a spirited second-half display to earn a 2-2 draw having been 2-0 down at half time.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Gomis to leave Lyon at end of season

Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis has revealed that he intends to leave the Ligue 1 club at the end of the campaign.

The France international appeared set to end his four-year stint with the club in the close-season, but a proposed move to Premier League side Newcastle United fell through.

Gomis will become a free agent at the end of the season when his current deal at the Stade de Gerland expires.

And the former Saint-Etienne man insists 2013-14 will be his final term with Remi Garde’s men.

“I will stay until the end of the season,” he told RMC.

Gomis was forced to train away from the first team during the transfer window after refusing to sign a new contract.

But the 28-year-old was quick to stress that the dispute between himself and the club has been forgotten.

“It was complicated but there is no problem,” he added.

“I have the confidence of managers and coaches. Everything that happened that is ancient history.

“I will give everything for Lyon, I am very attached to this club.

“You cannot erase everything that happened, but we have a common goal.”

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Premier League Preview: Fulham v Manchester United

Manchester United travel to Craven Cottage on Saturday looking for their sixth straight Premier League win over Fulham.

The reigning champions have not been beaten by the west London outfit since December 2009, when goals from Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff gave Fulham a 3-0 home victory.

United sit eight points adrift of Premier League leaders Arsenal following an indifferent start to life under new manager David Moyes, but they go into this clash unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions.

That run includes last Saturday’s top-flight success over Stoke City, when they twice came from behind to win 3-2.

And Moyes takes his side to Craven Cottage with a near fully fit squad to choose from, with Danny Welbeck (knee) his only absentee, and the England international’s fellow strikers Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez – who all scored against Fulham last season – all available.

Martin Jol’s team, meanwhile, head into the contest on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Southampton in their last Premier League game.

The Dutchman said he was left “puzzled” by their performance at St Mary’s, in a game that came just five days after they had crushed Crystal Palace 4-1.

Fulham’s attack has been blunt for much of the season, with the win over Palace marking the first time they have scored more than one goal in a Premier League game this term.

But the hosts can have hope of producing an improved attacking display against a United defence that has kept just two clean sheets in nine top-flight outings.

Defender Brede Hangeland could return for Fulham after missing the last two games with a nerve problem in his leg, but forward Hugo Rodallega (groin) is a doubt.

Matthew Briggs, meanwhile, is out with a groin problem.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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Toronto make Defoe offer

Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermaine Defoe has been offered £90,000 per week to join former teammate Ryan Nelson’s Toronto FC, the Express understands.

The England international has made just one Premier League start so far this season, but has shone in the cup competitions scoring two goals in two League Cup ties and four in six in Europe helping him maintain his place in Roy Hodgson’s England plans.

Queens Park Rangers have also been linked with a move for 31 year old, with Harry Redknapp keen to work with him at what would be a fourth different club, having also coached the striker at West Ham United, Portsmouth and Spurs.

Defoe was one of eight Tottenham players to convert a penalty against Hull City in the fourth round of the League Cup last night, and set up a quarter final with West Ham – the club where he began his playing career.

Thu 31 October, 2013
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