Van Persie insists he should be awarded goal in Sunderland victory

By Andrew Kennedy

The Dutchman saw a cross-cum-shot diverted into the back of the net by Titus Bramble as the Red Devils earned a 1-0 win to maintain their 15-point lead at the top of the league


Robin van Persie has insisted that he should be awarded the goal from Manchester United‘s 1-0 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

The Dutchman’s effort appeared to be heading wide before deflecting off Phil Bardlsey and then subsequently into the back of the net via Titus Bramble’s knee.

However, Van Persie is confident the strike will be counted towards his tally – taking his number for the season to 20 in the league – and in turn ending his own personal goal drought of late.

“No question about that,” Van Persie told Sky Sports. “I think you could see that. It’s been a while so it’s always good to score again and it was an important and today it was all about the three points and we got them.

“We got the three points and we knew before that it was going to be tough. Away at Sunderland is always very hard. They work hard and play a game with lots of long balls and second balls. Everyone fought hard and I think it was a well deserved win.

“This team, if you ask me, is just full of winners. Everyone knows what he has to do. I was never in doubt at 1-0, I was always confident we would win this game. 

“Players like [Michael] Carrick, [Nemanja] Vidic, [Chris] Smalling has been playing really well. [Alexander] Buttner comes in and plays well, everyone knows what he has to do.”

Michael Carrick was glad to put to bed last season’s memory of the Stadium of Light, when the Red Devils learned they had missed out on the Premier League title due to Manchester City’s late win at home to QPR on the final day of the season.

“I think [Sunderland supporters] weren’t the only fans that enjoyed that but that’s gone,” he added.

“We’ve got something to different to win and aim for this time and it was about getting the points for us and ticking another one off, keeping the run going which we did and we’re delighted.

“I thought we played some really good football first half. Controlled the game, didn’t really have as many goalscoring opportunities as we’d have liked but I felt we were in control. 

“We knew second half was going to be different because they’re fighting for their lives and we didn’t expect it to be easy at all but we defended well and we kept together and delighted with the three points.”

Despite the win ensuring United maintained their 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, the midfielder’s focus remains firmly on Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay at Chelsea and the Manchester derby the following weekend.

He stated: “It’s obviously getting closer because it’s one game less and we’ve won again but that’s all it is. We’ve still got a go again, we’ve got a game Monday and [Manchester] City next week. We’ll keep rolling on.”


That it is Messi’s record shows how difficult it is, says Roura

By SW Lim

The Argentine ace broke new ground yet again with his goal against Celta, earning the praise of his coach, who also acknowledged Eric Abidal’s comeback after his liver transplant


Barcelona deputy Jordi Roura has lauded Lionel Messi‘s exploits in front of goal as no mean feat, after the star striker surged to yet another record by scoring during Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Celta.

The 25-year-old broke new ground by being the first player in the history of Spanish football to register a goal in 19 consecutive league games – ensuring he has also scored against every other Primera Liga side in successive games this season.

And Roura revealed his delight for the Argentine’s scoring heroics, telling reporters: “Messi’s record of scoring against all opponents in a row? That no one has done it till now shows how difficult it is.”

Messi’s milestone was not enough to hand the league leaders victory however, with Borja Oubina’s late strike ensuring the hosts shared the spoils on the night Eric Abidal made a long-awaited return onto the substitutes’ bench.

“We had worked hard to turn the score around in the first period, and maybe at the end we lacked the intensity to prevent them from scoring their equaliser,” Roura continued.

“Cristian Tello is someone who can offer something different to the team. He works hard, and still has a lot more margin to grow.

“Abidal is part of the match squad now, meaning he’s ready to play.”

Though the Frenchman was included in the Blaugrana‘s squad for the first time since undergoing a liver transplant last year, he is not anticipated to be fit for his team’s upcoming Champions League quarter-final date with Paris Saint-Germain.

Zaragoza 1-1 Real Madrid: Ronaldo saves Blancos from defeat at La Romareda


The Portuguese forward restored parity with a precise finish but they could not find a winner, letting Barcelona off the hook for their earlier slip-up in Vigo

By Tom Webber


Real Madrid failed to close the gap at the top of La Liga as they were held to a 1-1 draw byZaragoza at La Romareda.

On-loan Barcelona B player Rodri gave the hosts the perfect start as los Merenguesstruggled to get a foothold in the game. Cristiano Ronaldo managed to net an equaliser before the break with his 28th league strike of the season but they could not find another in a lacklustre second.

Things did not go to plan from the start for Jose Mourinho’s men as the relegation-embroiled side took a surprise lead in the sixth minute. 

Apono poked the ball off the toe of Luka Modric and straight into the path of Rodri who raced through one-on-one with Diego Lopez. He shaped to hit the ball across the keeper but stylishly placed it in the other corner, finishing with aplomb.

Madrid were extremely rushed in possession but still came desperately close to finding an equaliser soon after. Marcelo’s cross-field pass fell over the shoulder of Ronaldo but he was unable to guide his first-time volley into the top corner.

Los Blancos were struggling for fluency in the final third and a searing Rodri effort that arrowed narrowly over the bar almost doubled their woes.

But the visitors were presented with an opportunity to draw level with 27 minutes on the clock as Roberto Jimenez failed to collectLuka Modric’s in-swinging free kick. Glenn Loovens’ sliced clearance presented Pepe with a chance to head in the equaliser, but the Dutchman recovered to poke the ball off the line.

Madrid were resorting to a long-ball game but it paid dividends in the 38th minute. Pepe’s pass from deep was not dealt with by Loovens and Ronaldo bulldozed through the defence before lashing a low shot past Roberto at his near post.

The scoreline would have been completely reversed two minutes later had it not been for a top save from Roberto to keep Michael Essien’s header out of the net.

The reigning Liga champions did not let up after the break but the score somehow remained level as Marcelo hit the post of an open goal after Roberto had done superbly to deny Ronaldo in the 48th minute.

Zaragoza were by no means ready to surrender and they soon returned to the intensity levels that had caused the visitors so many problems in the first half.

In an attempt to revive his team Mourinho added Sami Khedira, Angel Di Maria and MesutOzil on the hour mark, but the game remained delicately balanced.

In fact it was the Blanquillos who were looked increasingly likely to steal a winner but Lopez ensured the draw as he did brilliantly to keep out a pair of top-drawer headers from HelderPostiga in the closing stages.

The result means Madrid remain 13 points behind Barcelona, who could only manage a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo earlier on Saturday. Zaragoza, meanwhile, will be hopeful that the unexpected result can provide a late surge to safety.

Matri: Juventus must recharge batteries ahead of Bayern

By Stefan Coerts

The attacker, who netted the winner in Saturday’s encounter, has made it clear the Turin side need some time to recover from their efforts in the Derby d’Italia


Alessandro Matri has admitted Saturday afternoon’s Serie A win over Inter has cost Juventusa lot of energy ahead of next week’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich – who went on to win 9-2 against Hamburg.

The reigning Italian champions recorded a 2-1 away win over the Nerazzurri to make amends for their home loss earlier this season, but victory did not come easy for Juve.

“Today’s game took a lot out of us and we need to recharge our batteries ahead of Munich,” Matri was quoted as saying on the official Juventus website.

“We’ll have a warm-down tomorrow then on Monday we’ll train specifically with Tuesday’s game in mind.”

The attacker then went on to voice his delight with Saturday’s victory as he feels it was a crucial win in the hunt for the Scudetto.

“It was a big win for us and we played at a high tempo right from the off,” he continued.

“We’ve picked up three crucial points for the league table and now we’re focused on Bayern.”

Juventus currently hold a 11-point lead over second-placed AC Milan, with Napoli to play Torino on Saturday night.

Benitez defends Chelsea squad rotation in defeat to Southampton

By John Stammers at St Mary’s Stadium

The 52-year-old named a under-strength line-up with big games in the FA Cup and Europa League on the horizon, but was adamant that the players named were good enough to win



Chelsea interim boss Rafa Benitez has insisted his weakened team selection is not to blame for the Blues’ 2-1 loss to Southampton on Saturday. 

The Spaniard left the likes of Eden Hazard, Ashley Cole and Demba Ba on the bench for the clash at St Mary’s, with his side facing an FA Cup quarter-final with Manchester United on Monday before a Europa League quarter-final and another league game in the same week.

But the 52-year-old defended his decision to leave the key men out, suggesting their busy schedule means rotation is necessary and indicating the players picked still had enough ability to win.

“We have to manage the squad,” he told reporters. “We don’t have so many options in some positions. These players were [good enough to win]. 

“[Gary] Cahill and [Juan] Mata couldn’t play, so it’s not a question of whether we were resting these players in this match.

“The first half we didn’t have the intensity we were expecting. We improved in the second half and created more chances but we didn’t make the right decisions in the final third.

“It could have been different if we did much better in the first half, then we had the chances in the second half to win.”

The loss sees the west Londoners drop to fourth in the Premier League table, with Tottenham jumping above them into third and Arsenal moving just two points behind in fifth.

Despite the disappointment, Benitez believes his side are still in a good position to secure Champions League football next season, but it now fully focused on the FA Cup tie with the Red Devils.

“[To get] three points would [make it] easier,” he admitted. “But we have one game in hand and have to carry on and concentrate on Monday. 

“We cannot waste too much time thinking because we have to be ready for the next challenge. It’s another competition, another challenge. If we win we are in the semi-finals. In the league we still have a lot of games and I said it will go to until the end of the season.”

Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino, on the other hand, was delighted with his side’s display as they added to the list of top-half teams they have defeated this season. 

“Victories like those of today confirm we’re on the right path,” he said via a translator. “It’s important for the confidence of my players and the technical staff. 

“It’s important we can believe we can achieve results like today and continue to in the future.”

Macedonia confirm Pandev voted for Mourinho

By Livio Caferoglu

The governing body has confessed to accidentally ticking Vicente del Bosque’s name on the ballot paper – despite the forward’s support for the Portuguese


The Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) has admitted that it made a “technical error” after confirming Goran Pandev voted for Jose Mourinho to be crowned the 2012 Fifa Coach of the Year.

The Real Madrid boss recently revealed that he did not attend the gala dinner to announce the recipient of the award due to irregularities in determining the winner, with Vicente del Bosque pipping the Portuguese to the prize.

Pandev then fuelled further talk of a possible fix when he claimed to have voted for Mourinho, only for his selection to go down as another pick for the Spain boss, with Macedonia now admitting to an error on their part.

“When it came to the ballot paper, we contacted Pandev and he verbally expressed his preferences to us – he voted Mourinho as the best coach and gave him five points,” read a statement released by the FFM.

“When completing the slip, with no intention of changing Pandev’s vote, the box for Del Bosque had been ticked off and the fax was sent to Fifa a day later. It was a technical error.”

Regardless of the FFM’s error, the Spain coach still won 34.51 per cent of the final vote – a clear 14% ahead of Mourinho.



Giroud: Arsenal must keep their key players to compete for titles

By Matt Davis

The France international believes the north London club must hold onto their most influential players if they want to challenge for the Premier League title


Arsenal’s summer signing, Olivier Giroud, believes that the club will not start winning trophies until they stop selling their best players to Premier League rivals.

Robin van Persie’s summer departure received plenty of criticism from Arsenal fans after the board decided to sell their most prized asset to title favourites Manchester United.

Even though the club have been boosted by the contract renewals of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, the France striker believes that more money must be spent by the board in order to purchase top talent across Europe.

Giroud told Sky Sports News how Arsenal can compete for trophies: “First you need to keep your best players, that’s so important. After that, maybe you need more money.

“But Manchester United every year buy one or two players. They manage to keep their best players, I think that’s the main thing to do.”

Before making his move to Arsenal, the former Montpellier striker was linked with German league leaders Bayern Munich, but he admitted he has been happy since joining the London side.

He added: “Munich were not ready to take a decision. I was really happy to sign for Arsenal.

“Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord, Emmanuel Petit – there have been a lot of French players, so that’s why I supported this team.”