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Carl Frampton stops Kiko Martinez to claim European title

Frampton wins European title and becomes first man to stop Martinez with dominant win

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

23:44 GMT, 9 February 2013

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UPDATED:

01:13 GMT, 10 February 2013

Carl Frampton sent out a chilling message to the super bantamweight division by becoming the first man to stop Kiko Martinez and rip the European title from the stunned Spaniard in Belfast.

Frampton, 25, had twice seen a meeting with the champion postponed when Martinez pulled out and had promised to make his adversary pay the ultimate price.

And he did just that, knocking the 26-year-old out with a bludgeoning right hand in the ninth round.
Martinez is no stranger to Ireland having stunned Bernard Dunne inside one round in Dublin six years ago and he had promised to silence the fervent home crowd once again.

Champion: Carl Frampton stopped Kiko Martinez in the ninth round to claim the European title

Champion: Carl Frampton stopped Kiko Martinez in the ninth round to claim the European title

Frampton meanwhile delivered a
career-best performance in September when disposing of two-time world
champion Steve Molitor in six rounds.

But the Canadian was clearly past his
best on that occasion and Martinez, who shares a trainer with world
middleweight champion and namesake Sergio, was expected to pose an
altogether tougher test.

And so it proved as he went in search
of his younger opponent in a cagey first round. Frampton, content to
box on the back foot, landed the first meaningful punch with a solid
left hook to the body.

Martinez was quick out of the blocks
in the second stanza, forcing the home favourite back on to the ropes.
While Frampton stuck to the game plan for the most part, boxing at range
and picking his punches; when he did engage at close quarters, he was
given a sharp reminder of the visitor's knockout power.

Team: Frampton celebrates with his manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan

Team: Frampton celebrates with his manager Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan

Frampton picked up the pace in the
subsequent round, delivering impressive combinations before withdrawing
to the outskirts of the ring.

By the middle of the fourth session, a
bad cut had opened up under Martinez's left eye and Frampton
immediately set to work with his right hand. But the Spaniard remained
dangerous, landing a solid left jab, perhaps sensing that his days were
numbered, only to be pinned against the ropes as Frampton sensed the
finish.

Although Martinez continued to stalk
his prey in the fifth, Frampton was proving more and more elusive,
slipping and sliding out of range as he moved further ahead on the
scorecards. A quieter sixth round followed but Frampton upped the pace
again as the fight entered its second half.

Martinez, whose cut opened again, was more reluctant to come forward and the Belfast favourite landed several plum shots.

Finally: Frampton had twice seen his meeting with the Spaniard postponed

Finally: Frampton had twice seen his meeting with the Spaniard postponed

Frampton was drawn into a toe-to-toe
brawl at the start of the eighth round but slipped on to the back foot
as the session progressed, allowing him to pick his shots with unerring
accuracy.

Martinez had shown exactly why he had
always heard the final bell when he shipped several huge shots at the
start of the ninth but his resistance proved futile when a huge straight
right left him floundering on the canvas.

The Spaniard rose unsteadily but
after staggering back towards his corner, the referee waved the fight
off. Frampton, who was ahead on all three scorecards by four rounds
(twice) and two rounds on the third, extends his unbeaten record to 16
professional contests.

Frampton, who will likely return to
Belfast on May 11, potentially in a final eliminator for the IBF world
title, said: 'I can't remember much about the [knockout] punch. It was a
decent shot.

'I proved I've got a good chin. I
could feel his power but he didn't hurt me. He didn't make my legs
wobble but you can see from face that he hits hard.

'He's not been wobbled before but I
took him out. The plan was to box from the outside but when we traded, I
felt I got the better of him.

'I want to be a world champion. I
feel the buzz and its getting better. The best man won on the night but
he's a tough man. I was hitting him and he was coming back.'

Gerd Muller receives Lionel Messi"s signed Barcelona shirt

Special delivery! Muller receives gift from gracious Messi after Barcelona striker breaks German's goalscoring record

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Muller had held the record since 1972, when the man affectionately known as ‘Der Bomber’ fired in 85 goals while at Bayern.

Chuffed: Gerd Muller said he was 'happy and proud' to receive the gift from Lionel Messi

Chuffed: Gerd Muller said he was 'happy and proud' to receive the gift from Lionel Messi

Class: A close up of the signed shirt, saying: 'With my respect and admiration. A hug.'

Class: A close up of the signed shirt, saying: 'With my respect and admiration. A hug.'

But the ever-graceful Messi’s first thought upon breaking the record was for the man he had surpassed.

The 25-year-old sent his beaten adversary a signed Barcelona shirt with the message: ‘For Gerd Muller, with my respect and admiration. A hug. Leo.’ scrawled into the yellow No 10 on the back of the jersey.

Muller was delighted with the gift Messi has shipped to him, and said he was ‘happy and proud’ to be the recipient of such a gesture from 'the best player in the world'.

How many Lionel Messi poses with his four Ballon d'Or trophies

How many Lionel Messi poses with his four Ballon d'Or trophies

Familiar sight: Lionel Messi celebrates another goal against Malaga

Familiar sight: Lionel Messi celebrates another goal against Malaga

The Bayern reserve team coach, who was a truly fearsome striker for club and country during his playing days, watched Messi’s unparalleled goalscoring run last year earn him another record earlier this month: a fourth Ballon d’Or crown.

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell believes that Muller’s goalscoring record was a driving force for the Argentina captain in his bid to score as many goals as possible.

He said that Muller’s prolific performance 40 years ago was ‘a great motivating factor and stimulus for Leo.’

Prolific: Messi took the record from Muller, who scored 85 in 1972

Prolific: Messi took the record from Muller, who scored 85 in 1972

Samit Patel scores hundred in Mumbai warm-up

Patel stakes strong claim for No 6 spot with century in Mumbai warm-up

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UPDATED:

08:23 GMT, 1 November 2012

Samit Patel cemented his claims to a Test return by completing his maiden England century against India A at the Brabourne Stadium on Thursday morning.

As this first tour match moved towards a near inevitable draw by lunch on the final day, England's priorities were exclusively to ensure best preparation for the four-match Test series ahead.

They have two more opportunities to do so, here in Mumbai in another three-day fixture and then in Ahmedabad against Haryana before the first Test starts there on November 15.

Fine knock: Patel scored a century on day three of the warm-up match in Mumbai

Fine knock: Patel scored a century on day three of the warm-up match in Mumbai

SCORECARD

Click here for a full scorecard from Mumbai

Patel (104) for one will move forward with confidence and hopes high, as will Yuvraj Singh – who took his wicket tally to four, after snaring his old adversary Kevin Pietersen on Wednesday, as England reached 396 for eight in reply to 369 all out.

Yuvraj, continuing his comeback to the world game after his recovery from lung cancer, added the wickets of Matt Prior (51) and then Patel himself on the way to figures of four wickets for 74 runs.

Staking a claim: Patel is now the favourite for the No 6 spot in the Test side

Staking a claim: Patel is now the favourite for the No 6 spot in the Test side

Staking a claim: Patel is now the favourite for the No 6 spot in the Test side

Cameo: Prior was at his swashbuckling best

Cameo: Prior was at his swashbuckling best

Much was made of the home selectors' decision to pick no specialist spinner for this match, thus depriving England of the opportunity to attune themselves to the challenge which will await them courtesy of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in the Tests.

But part-timers Yuvraj and Suresh Raina – both better-known as batsmen – nonetheless shared England wickets in an innings underpinned by a stand of 169 between captain Alastair Cook (119) and Patel.

That fifth-wicket partnership finally ended on Thursday morning when the captain succumbed at last, caught behind pushing forward at Ashok Dinda.

Cook batted for almost six-and-a-half hours, faced 269 balls and hit 14 fours.

There were the same number of boundaries in Patel's century, from 161 deliveries, a career milestone acknowledged by an understated raise of the bat in the direction of his team-mates.

Patel was by then joined by a typically fluent Prior, who produced a series of trademark cuts on his way to a run-a-ball half-century before edging an attempted drive at Yuvraj to Raina at slip.

Patel fell in the same over, nowhere near the pitch but going through with an attempted drive nonetheless and simply chipping a catch to cover.

Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann therefore had a handy chance for some batting practice, until the latter was yorked by R Vinay Kumar.

Kevin Pietersen scores 23 on return for England

Pietersen scores 23 on first return for England with the bat as Finn ruled out through calf strain

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UPDATED:

09:18 GMT, 31 October 2012

Kevin Pietersen marked his much-anticipated return to England colours with a frenetic innings which came to an appropriate end at the Brabourne Stadium.

Pietersen, batting for his adopted country for the first time since his summer of discontent and subsequent reintegration for this tour, hit a six over long-off and three fours in a near run-a-ball innings of 23 – before falling to his old adversary Yuvraj Singh.

India A captain Suresh Raina was the man hit for six, and duly replaced himself with Yuvraj – a batting all-rounder, infamously dubbed a 'pie-chucker' by Pietersen on England's last Test trip here four years ago.

Brief cameo: KP made 23 from 24 balls against India A in Mumbai

Brief cameo: KP made 23 from 24 balls against India A in Mumbai

Ruled out: A thigh strain has curtailed Finn's involvement in Mumbai

Ruled out: A thigh strain has curtailed Finn's involvement in Mumbai

England forthcoming matches in India

Tour match in Mumbai (November 3)

Tour match in Ahmedabad (November 8)

First Test – India v England, Ahmedabad (November 15)

Second Test – India v England, Mumbai (November 23)

Third Test – India v England, Kolkata (December 5)

Fourth Test – India v England, Nagpur (December 13)

There follows three Twenty20 and and five ODI matches.

Pietersen responded by trying to
assert himself against a cricketer who has become one of his favoured
Twitter sparring partners.

But Yuvraj, continuing his comeback in
the world game after recovering from lung cancer, had the last laugh on
Pietersen this time when he moved smartly to his left to complete a
return catch.

Yuvraj was all smiles again soon
afterwards when Ian Bell edged him to slip – and in mid-afternoon on day
two of three in reply to 369 all out, England were 136 for four thanks
mainly to half-centuries from Jonathan Trott (56) and captain Alastair
Cook (50no) and their stand of 95.

England lost their first wicket with
just two runs on the board when Nick Compton endured a false start to
his prospective international career, with a third-ball duck.

Twenty-nine-year-old Compton, grandson
of the great Denis, is being pencilled in by many as likely replacement
for the retired Andrew Strauss as new Test captain Cook's opening
partner on this tour.

But he will first need a substantial
innings or two under his belt before the opening Test in Ahmedabad on
November 15 – and today, he got no such thing.

Compton left his first two deliveries
from Ashok Dinda, the second notably close to off stump, and was
persuaded to push defensively forward at the third only to edge behind
to Wriddhiman Saha.

Back in the fold: KP made his return with the bat after being dropped

Back in the fold: KP made his return with the bat after being dropped

Back in the fold: KP made his return with the bat after being dropped

Cook and Trott were then in no
particular hurry as they sought to avoid any more early dramas and
reattune themselves to requirements in their first innings for eight
weeks.

They reached lunch in good health, and
Trott completed his 91-ball 50 with a cut for his ninth four from the
seam bowling of Parvinder Awana in early afternoon.

Soon afterwards, though, he
uncharacteristically lost concentration – going back rather than forward
to a Raina off-break, to be bowled and set the stage for the Pietersen
show.

James Anderson had earlier done his
best to hasten that moment too, by giving England the perfect start when
he had R Vinay Kumar lbw with an inswinger first ball to end the India A
innings without addition.

England this morning confirmed that
fast bowler Steven Finn will play no further part in this first tour
match because of the thigh strain he suffered while bowling just four
overs on day one.

Straight out, Compton: The England hopeful faced just three balls on day two

Straight out, Compton: The England hopeful faced just three balls on day two

Chris Eubank Jnr beats Ruslans Pojonisevs 80-72

Eubank Jnr continues good start to pro career with comfortable victory over Pojonisevs

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UPDATED:

22:41 GMT, 13 October 2012

Chris Eubank Jnr won every round against Latvian journeyman Ruslans Pojonisevs to maintain his unbeaten start to his fledgling career.

The 23-year-old middleweight's unblemished record now reads seven without defeat after his latest victory at Bluewater in Kent.

After making his trademark entrance to the ring by jumping the ropes, Eubank Jnr dominated from the first bell as Pojonisevs, 29, barely through a punch in the opening round.

Winning start: Chris Eubank Jr maintained his unbeaten start to his professional career with a win over Ruslans Pojonisevs

Winning start: Chris Eubank Jr maintained his unbeaten start to his professional career with a win over Ruslans Pojonisevs

The Latvian attempted to pose himself in the second stanza but he faced an uphill battle against a taller and rangier opponent.

Eubank Jnr, never afraid to take a punch in order to land his own, looked calm and assured as he stalked his adversary round the ring.

Fighting over eight rounds for the first time, Eubank Jnr stepped on the gas at the start of the fourth round as he landed with a flurry of combinations. The durable Pojonisevs withstood the pressure however but his own wild shots never looked like connecting.

In control: Eubank looked good against Pojonisevs

In control: Eubank looked good against Pojonisevs

The subsequent session followed a similar pattern with Eubank Jnr pinning the older man to the ropes but again he was unable to finish the job.

Pojonisevs had lost nine of his last ten fights but hasn't been stopped in almost two years and that looked set to remain the case as the fight entered the penultimate round. Indeed, the final six minutes were largely uneventful as the visiting fighter took the best Eubank Jnr had to offer.

After a final flurry from the young star, he was awarded the victory by 80 points to 72.

Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero score as Newcastle Jets beat Sydney FC

Heskey gets one over Del Piero as A-League new boys both score in thriller

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UPDATED:

12:32 GMT, 13 October 2012

In the clash everybody has been waiting for, new A-League signings Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero played against each other for the first time – and the Englishman won.

Both strikers scored as Newcastle Jets beat Sydney FC 3-2, leaving Del Piero still looking for his first win in Australia.

Boom: Emile Heskey scores his first Jets goal

Boom: Emile Heskey scores his first Jets goal

On top: Heskey challenges Alessandro Del Piero

On top: Heskey challenges Alessandro Del Piero

Saturday's match had the atmosphere of a final as both teams tried desperately to make a statement after they each opened their seasons with 2-0 losses last week.

The crowd of 35,419 was a regular-season record at Sydney Football Stadium.

Hey: Del Piero makes his point

Hey: Del Piero makes his point

Roar: Heskey celebrates his goal

Roar: Heskey celebrates his goal

Del Piero scored from a penalty in the 26th minute and Heskey netted in the 40th with a tidy turn and volley.

His adversary nearly notched another in the 60th minute but just shaved past the post.

Del Piero was unimpressed with the performance. He told The Australian: 'We are not happy.
'We fight, but only started to play later after we gave away a goal.

Support: Australian fans have taken to Del Piero

Support: Australian fans have taken to Del Piero

The powerhouse: Heskey rises for a header

The powerhouse: Heskey rises for a header

He added: 'I just want to take a shower now. The coach saw the game better than us.
'We will watch the video three or four times. But we did not do enough.

The Italian continued: 'It was good to score, but it wasn't enough. I want to score more goals.
'The fans were amazing. They were very good. I hope they come back.'

Steven Gerrard tells Luis Suarez to shake hands with Patrice Evra

Make peace! Gerrard tells Suarez to shake hands with Evra to set tone for United game

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UPDATED:

21:01 GMT, 22 September 2012

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will appeal to striker Luis Suarez to shake the hand of Manchester United adversary Patrice Evra and help prevent 'Hillsborough' day at Anfield being overshadowed by bad blood between supporters of the two clubs.

Gerrard, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was among 96 victims in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, believes a conciliatory gesture between Suarez and Evra – who clashed in a racism controversy last season – will set the right tone for a highly charged game that will be beamed around the world.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that 'Evra definitely plays', and he insisted: 'United have no problems with the handshakes.'

History: Patrice Evra (right) and Luis Suarez (left) clash at Anfield last October

History: Patrice Evra (right) and Luis Suarez (left) clash at Anfield last October

The feud continues: Suarez snubs Evra's hand at Old Trafford in February

The feud continues: Suarez snubs Evra's hand at Old Trafford in February

When Gerrard was asked if he would speak personally to Suarez about the pre-match ritual, he was unequivocal. 'Yes,' said the 32-year-old Anfield skipper. 'My advice to him would be to shake hands and move on. Suarez will make his own decision, of course. But I'd like to think he would want to move on himself.

'Those two players could be the key. The handshakes are going to be at the beginning of the game and they've got a responsibility to start the day off on a good note.'

The clubs and police forces from both cities have been working flat out to ensure an emotional occasion is not overshadowed by provocative chanting, either towards the 1958 Munich air crash, which killed eight United players among the 23 victims, or Hillsborough.

'If it's a fantastic match, if there is a handshake before the game and there's no vile chanting, it will be a great advert to everyone around the world,' added Gerrard. 'There are going to be millions watching so it's a great opportunity to send out the right message from the fans, from the players and from the game itself.'

Big day ahead: Steven Gerrard (left) in training ahead of the match on Sunday

Big day ahead: Steven Gerrard (left) in training ahead of the match on Sunday

Decision to make: Suarez at Melwood

Decision to make: Suarez at Melwood

It is the first fixture at Anfield since the report into the disaster confirmed that Liverpool fans were not to blame. But Suarez and Evra's simmering feud last year led to the Uruguay striker being banned for eight matches after he admitted saying 'Negrito' to the United player, a word he claimed was not meant in a hostile context.

Liverpool officials believe Suarez is prepared to shake Evra's hand before kick-off but Gerrard does not want to take any chances, given that the forward gave a similar impression before the fixture in February only to perform a U-turn and walk past Evra.

If Suarez defies the wishes of his club and his captain, there will be questions about his future given the strength of feeling from Liverpool's American owners that there must be closure after last season's PR disaster.

Ferguson has written a letter to United supporters entering Anfield today while Merseyside Police have pledged a zero-tolerance policy towards fans who make offensive chants or gestures.

Emotional day: Sunday's match will be the first at Anfield since the explosive revelations on the Hillsborough disaster were revealed earlier this week

Emotional day: Sunday's match will be the first at Anfield since the explosive revelations on the Hillsborough disaster were revealed earlier this week

Captains Gerrard and Nemanja Vidic will release 96 red balloons to commemorate the Hillsborough victims while the crowd, which will include Liverpool's former manager Kenny Dalglish, will also see United ambassador Sir Bobby Charlton lay a wreath. A fans' mosaic at the stadium will promote 'Justice for the 96'.

Pep Guardiola leaving won"t help Real Madrid – Jose Mourinho

Guardiola's departure won't help Real, claims Madrid boss Mourinho

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UPDATED:

17:06 GMT, 1 May 2012

Pep Guardiola's decision to step down as Barcelona coach at the end of the season will change nothing for Real Madrid, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has claimed.

In his first public comments since Guardiola announced he was taking a sabbatical, Mourinho, whose Real side are on the brink of taking Barca's La Liga crown, said the decision should be respected and even sent his adversary a hug.

'The Guardiola case is a personal decision,' Mourinho said.

Last stand: Pep Guardiola (left) announced his departure last week

Last stand: Pep Guardiola (left) announced his departure last week

'It's his, he is the one who knows, he is the one who knows why, he is one who has to comment on it, he is the one who has to do what makes him happiest at any given time.

'I have been a coach for 12 years and for me I will be annoyed in June when I don't have any matches as I will miss training and playing, playing and training.

'But everyone is the way they are and you have to respect and accept that and hope that they really do find enjoyment because the most important thing in life is to enjoy it.

'”If for him enjoying life means withdrawing from football for a while then so be it and I send him a hug.'

It was an unusually conciliatory performance from the normally combative Portuguese, who has a habit of getting under the skin of the club where he was an assistant coach when Guardiola was a player in the late 1990s.

No change: Jose Mourinho (right) insists Guardiola's decision means little

No change: Jose Mourinho (right) insists Guardiola's decision means little

Matches between the two sides since Mourinho arrived in 2010 have often been torrid affairs, when the often sumptuous football on display has been overshadowed by brawling and accusations of refereeing bias and racist abuse.

Mourinho famously poked the man Barca have chosen to replace Guardiola, his long-term assistant Tito Vilanova, in the eye during a melee at the start of this season.

The Portuguese was asked whether Guardiola's departure, after four years and 13 titles including two Champions Leagues triumphs and three La Liga crowns, would benefit Real.

He also appeared to confirm he would stay on next season amid speculation he might leave two years into a four-year deal.

'I don't know why it would benefit us,' Mourinho said.

Party time: Real Madrid are on the brink of winning the La Liga title

Party time: Real Madrid are on the brink of winning the La Liga title

'Real Madrid is Real Madrid, Real Madrid will continue along its own path, Real Madrid has its own decisions to make.

'My decision to continue at Real Madrid has nothing to do with who is the coach of any other team.

'It doesn't appear to me that Barcelona has people on its board of directors without talent, quite the opposite.

'If they have decided that Vilanova is the ideal person to be the next coach for sure they are doing it with conviction.'

Mourinho said Real would continue to respect Barcelona as they had always done.

'Knowing with absolute certainty that next season, however much our other (La Liga) opponents improve, Barcelona will be our great rival for the Spanish title,' he said.

'For us it changes nothing.'

Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0 – match report

Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0: Relegation fears for McLeish as injuries add insult to injury

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UPDATED:

16:22 GMT, 21 April 2012

Aston Villa denied former manager Martin O'Neill a winning return in the home clash with Sunderland.

O'Neill was greeted with boos from Villa fans, despite three top-six finishes with the midlands club, after walking out on the club on the eve of last season.

Alex McLeish's side deserved their 15th draw of the campaign and former Villa midfielder Craig Gardner was sent off in stoppage time for his second bookable offence.

Welcome back: Martin O'Neill was returning to Villa Park, and was up against his old adversary from his time with Celtic in Scotland

Welcome back: Martin O'Neill was returning to Villa Park, and was up against his old adversary from his time with Celtic in Scotland

MATCH FACTS

ASTON VILLA: Given, Cuellar, Collins (Hutton 43), Baker, Lichaj, Albrighton, Herd, Ireland, N'Zogbia (Bannan 83), Agbonlahor (Heskey 48), Weimann. Subs not used: Guzan, Warnock, Gardner, Carruthers.

SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, O'Shea, Turner, Kilgallon, Bardsley, Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner (Campbell 80). Subs not used: Westwood, Bridge, Vaughan, Ji, Meyler, Kyrgiakos.

Booked: Bendtner, Gardner

Sent off: Gardner

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

Villa, who included six academy
products in their line-up, enjoyed the better of the possession for
lengthy spells despite having to reorganise after injuries to James
Collins and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

But they lacked a cutting edge in
front of goal despite the efforts of 20-year-old Andreas Weimann to
unsettle the Black Cats back four.

It was Sunderland who created the
better opportunities particularly in the second half when Villa appeared
to tire and Stephane Sessegnon was a threat.

But poor finishing and some whole-hearted defending by the Villa back four kept them at bay.

Villa began promisingly and came
close to taking the lead inside the first 60 seconds. Agbonlahor charged
down a clearance from Simon Mignolet from Phil Bardsley's back pass.

Weimann was first to react to the rebound and Mignolet turned aside his chip shot.

Agbonlahor, without a goal in 18
Premier League games, looked lively and his goal-bound shot struck
Matthew Kilgallon and flew over his own crossbar.

Old face: Craig Gardner spent the early part of his career at Villa... and was sent off here

Old face: Craig Gardner spent the early part of his career at Villa… and was sent off here

Mignolet was the busier of the two
keepers in the early stages and he tipped a low drive from Charles
N'Zogbia around the post. Weimann appealed in vain for a foul after he
appeared to be clipped by Michael Turner just outside the box.

The home side continued to look the more threatening and Agbonlahor had a shot blocked by Turner on the edge of the box.

Weimann forced his way through two challenges before firing into the side netting.

Rough and tumble: The game was a hard-fought affair, rather than one lavished with real quality

Rough and tumble: The game was a hard-fought affair, rather than one lavished with real quality

Rough and tumble: The game was a hard-fought affair, rather than one lavished with real quality

Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner squandered a good chance to put the Black Cats ahead seven minutes before half-time.

Collins lost possession and allowed
McClean to make a clear run into the Villa area. His cross picked out
the unmarked Bendtner but the Danish international headed over the bar.

Collins limped out of the action
after 43 minutes to be replaced by right-back Alan Hutton with Carlos
Cuellar moving into the centre of defence.

Weimann should have done better when
he shot into the side netting at the start of the second period after
seizing Albrighton's first time pass.

Still struggling: Villa's big summer signing, Charles N'Zogbia, once again failed to make an impact

Still struggling: Villa's big summer signing, Charles N'Zogbia, once again failed to make an impact

Agbonlahor was troubled by his
shoulder injury and after 48 minutes was replaced by Emile Heskey.
Gardner became the first player to be yellow-carded a minute later for
bringing down Herd.

McClean missed the best chance of the
game after 55 minutes. Larsson made a run to the by-line and McClean
was first to react to his low cross but from six yards out he hooked the
ball over the bar.

Bendtner became the second Sunderland player to be booked for chopping down Albrighton.

Marching orders: Gardner was sent off after earning a second yellow card from referee Anthony Taylor

Marching orders: Gardner was sent off after earning a second yellow card from referee Anthony Taylor

Ireland came to Villa's rescue when
he cleared a shot on the turn from Bendtner off the line then Larsson
shot over at the far post.

Bendtner had the ball in the net
after 76 minutes but was judged to have strayed fractionally offside
before converting Larsson's cross although it was a tight call.

McClean had an injury-time header
saved by Given from another Larsson centre. Gardner was sent off for his
second yellow card after a foul on Albrighton.

Alex Ferguson is the bestr says Marcello Lippi

Even Italian icon Lippi sees United boss Fergie as the Godfather

There are young managers, old managers, track-suited managers, suited-and-booted managers, managers who play mind games, motivational managers and philosophising managers who baffle the opposition with tactics.

But there is only one Godfather. There is only one Sir Alex Ferguson.

Who says None other than Marcello Lippi, the first man to lead teams to both Champions League and World Cup glory. Well, even the greats need someone to admire.

Leading the way: Sir Alex Ferguson is still going strong at 70

Leading the way: Sir Alex Ferguson is still going strong at 70

The former Juventus and Italy boss is actually something of a committed Scot-ophile, revealing that he had once recommended striker Kenny Miller to a number of Serie A clubs.

His respect for old adversary Ferguson goes deeper than mere appreciation of his native land, though.

It owes everything, in fact, to the Manchester United manager’s remarkable quarter-century at one of the world’s most demanding clubs.

Discussing the prominence of a number of senior citizens in prominent coaching positions around Europe, 63-year-old Lippi said: ‘The old school They are not that old.

Triumph: Ferguson receives the FIFA Presidential Award from Sepp Blatter

Triumph: Ferguson receives the FIFA Presidential Award from Sepp Blatter

‘Alex Ferguson, maybe. He did not have a happy birthday, no

‘But if you want to talk about managers it is very difficult. It is hard to compare managers because every single manager has a different way of working.

‘There are some managers who are good about matters on the pitch, there are others who are good about talking about the philosophy of the game, others who are strong in the psychological aspect of the game.

‘I would not like to compare old managers with young managers. There is room for everyone.

‘What I will say is, it is different if you are a manager at a club when you are in the middle of the table and you can play without pressure, or if you are a manager who has to pick a team to play every three days in a lot of competitions and have a lot of players involved in international duty.’

Main attraction: Marcello Lippi (right) conducted the Scottish Cup draw

Main attraction: Marcello Lippi (right) conducted the Scottish Cup draw

Ferguson falls into that latter category, most certainly, and his sheer longevity at the summit of the European game — regularly winning domestic titles and trophies, in addition to two Champions League triumphs and a couple of close-run things in the world’s richest club tournament — provokes awe even from guys who have won the lot.

Lippi said: ‘Would it ever happen again, someone serving 25 years at such a big club That would be very, very difficult. It is unlikely to happen. In Italy it would be impossible.

‘It is true that there is only one Alex Ferguson.’