Tag Archives: barrage

Rafael Benitez and Clint Dempsey set for frosty receptions

10 things to look out for this weekend: Benitez and Dempsey braced for frosty welcomes as Everton set to battle at Etihad

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UPDATED:

12:57 GMT, 30 November 2012

As another weekend of Premier League action approaches, Sportsmail's Dominic King offers a break-down of things to keep an eye on.

From Rafael Benitez's latest frosty reception to Everton's bid to snatch three points at the Etihad, it's all below in our comprehensive list.

1. What type of ovation will Rafa Benitez receive

Chelsea managers travelling to Upton Park don’t tend to be warmly welcomed but the barbs are usually directed from the home end.

The Spaniard needs a win to settle things down but not even a victory in this grudge match will endear him to Chelsea’s supporters.

Not again: Rafa Benitez is set for another frosty reception when he takes his team to Upton Park

Not again: Rafa Benitez is set for another frosty reception when he takes his team to Upton Park

Banners: Chelsea fans have booed Benitez in both of his games in charge so far

Banners: Chelsea fans have booed Benitez in both of his games in charge so far

2. Home sweet home for Arsene

Arsenal’s urbane manager remains confident that this season will end with Champions League qualification being secured once more but he could do with his side producing a result and performance like the one that blew Tottenham away earlier this month.

But will the goals flow Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny (85 per cent) and Swansea stopper Gerhard Tremmel (81 per cent) have the best save percentage in the Barclays Premier League.

3 Welcome back, Clint

Players who move to pastures new after giving their all for a club are usually guaranteed a warm reception on their first return but 64 goals in 224 games for Fulham is unlikely to be enough to save Clint Dempsey from a barrage of boos when he sets foot on Craven Cottage wearing a Tottenham kit.

Get ready: Clint Dempsey is also preparing to be booed when he returns to Fulham with Tottenham

Get ready: Clint Dempsey is also preparing to be booed when he returns to Fulham with Tottenham

4. Can anyone else find the net for Liverpool other Luis Suarez

Since September 29, Liverpool’s highest scorer behind the Uruguayan is own goals. Brendan Rodgers keeps enthusing that his side’s play has been “terrific” but until some steps up to support Suarez, their difficulties will persist.

A more startling statistic is Liverpool are chasing back-to-back home wins for the first time since September 2011. Southampton, meanwhile, are chasing a first clean sheet of the season.

5. All guns blazing at the Etihad or another ‘Alamo’

When Everton last ventured down the M62 to this part of Manchester, David Moyes felt like he was “walking into a gun fight armed with just a knife”, such was the disparity and depth of talent between the two sides.

Now, though, Everton make the same journey imbued with confidence. Roberto Mancini is sure to be twitchy as he only won one game in six attempts against Everton.

Travelling band: Everton will visit the Etihad to try and take three points back to Merseyside

Travelling band: Everton will visit the Etihad to try and take three points back to Merseyside

6. Is he really Harry Houdini

After serving up a goal-less draw for starters at Sunderland, QPR fans will head to Loftus Road anticipating their first victory of the season in Harry Redknapp’s first home game.

He might be a top class manager but it will take more than just a couple of training sessions to transform QPR – or does he really have a magic wand

Houdini Harry Redknapp is preparing his team in a bid to earn their first win

Houdini Harry Redknapp is preparing his team in a bid to earn their first win

7. Which Michael will we see

Since joining Stoke, Michael Owen has been spotted more in television studios than he has on the pitch but Tony Pulis is hopeful he will recover from a hamstring problem to feature against West Brom.

The big question if he is spotted at The Hawthorns, however, is this: will his Village People-esque Movember moustache remain or will he be fresh faced again

Which Michael Owen (left) will be hoping to be among the goals for Stoke this weekend

Which Michael Owen (left) will be hoping to be among the goals for Stoke this weekend

8. Will Red Robin emulate Eric the Red

It is two decades since Manchester United completed one of the most remarkable transfers in the Barclays Premier League era when bringing Eric Cantona to the club from Leeds; 20 years on, Robin van Persie has made an assured start to life at Old Trafford following a similarly contentious move.

Will he maintain his good form in Berkshire.

9. The perfect farewell or the long goodbye

Away from the Barclays Premier League, one of the biggest narratives is David Beckham’s final game for Los Angeles Galaxy.

History has shown his last games for clubs tend to be spectacular – league championship wins with Manchester United and Real Madrid – and would you put it past him scripting a Hollywood ending in the MLS Cup

Fond farewell David Beckham is ready for his final game for LA Galaxy this weekend

Fond farewell David Beckham is ready for his final game for LA Galaxy this weekend

10. Which numbers will be the lucky ones

Every year we hear that the FA Cup has lost its old sheen and lustre but the excitement will be the same as always when the third round draw is made on Sunday afternoon. What are the odds that a real blockbuster tie will be plucked out… perhaps even a return to Anfield for Rafa Benitez

He would certainly be guaranteed a good reception then.

Arsene Wenger wants Thierry Henry on loan PLUS two more players in January

Arsenal plan January splurge as Wenger confirms he wants Henry on loan plus TWO more

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UPDATED:

19:29 GMT, 29 November 2012

Arsene Wenger has confirmed Arsenal want to sign two players in January as well as bringing back Thierry Henry for a third spell at the club.

The Gunners top four hopes are floundering having endured their worst start to a Premier League season, with fan frustrations now commonly heard ringing around Emirates Stadium on matchday.

Wenger, in his 17th season with the club, has had to face a barrage of criticism over the sale of star players almost every summer, while the quality of those bought in to replace them is often seen as insufficient.

Eyes on the marker: Arsene Wenger says Arsenal want two players next month

Eyes on the marker: Arsene Wenger says Arsenal want two players next month

However speaking to French television station Bein Sport, the 63-year-old has confirmed funds are available to strengthen when the January transfer window opens.

The return of club legend – and all-time leading goalscorer – Henry has been talked up by both parties, and in lavishing praise on the New York Red Bulls striker, Wenger confirmed efforts were underway to secure a second loan spell.

He said: 'This winter we will work very hard because we have some funds available. It could happen that we buy two players, but I cannot reveal the names.

'A loan [for Henry] is still a possibility, but we will still try to strengthen for the long term.

'Henry is the talent that you dream to have. He has fantastic physique, fantastic technique, a fantastic brain, all built together in one man. At the start he was not confident enough but he has gone on to show what a great player he is.'

Among those being chased by Arsenal are Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Schalke striker Klass Jan Huntelaar.

Home boy: Club legend Thierry Henry could return to Arsenal for a third spell

Home boy: Club legend Thierry Henry could return to Arsenal for a third spell

Former assistant manager Pat Rice – who still works for the club – and chief scout Steve Rowley have both watched the 20million forward in recent weeks and reported back to Wenger with glowing reviews.

Arsenal will make a starting offer of 9million when the transfer window reopens in January, but Eagles chairman Steve Parish will not let his prized-asset leave without a fight.

As for Huntelaar, the 29-year-old former Ajax, Real Madrid, and AC Milan striker has scored in both Schalke’s Champions League ties against the Gunners this season.

Former Holland striker Erik Meijer, a TV pundit whose agent Arnold Oosterveer now represents Huntelaar, believes his fellow Dutchman is bound for the Emirates in January.

‘According to the information I have, Huntelaar will be gone in the winter,’ said Meijer earlier this month. ‘Arsenal FC are the favourites to land him.’

Shopping list: Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wilfried Zaha are wanted

Shopping list: Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wilfried Zaha are wanted

Shopping list: Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Wilfried Zaha are wanted

Wenger's coffers are still boosted
from the sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United last summer, the
Dutchman leaving the Emirates in a 24million deal after his most
profitable season in north London.

His deflection to Old Trafford still
wrangles with fans, but Wenger insists his former captain still holds
the club close to his heart.

The Frenchman added: 'He texts me sometimes, We keep in touch. He tells me he still watches Arsenal games.'

Scotland 10 South Africa 21

Scotland 10 South Africa 21: Strauss at the double as hosts slump to defeat

PUBLISHED:

16:26 GMT, 17 November 2012

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UPDATED:

16:41 GMT, 17 November 2012

Scotland waited 50 minutes to find their attacking game against South Africa, but a spell of sustained pressure could not overturn an Adrian Strauss double at Murrayfield.

The Scots could not cope with a first-half physical barrage and Strauss went over after a maul before intercepting Mike Blair's pass early in the second period to help open up an 18-point lead.

Replacement scrum-half Henry Pyrgos soon crossed for the home side and sparked half an hour of relentless pressure, but the home side missed a series of chances.

Scotland forced a series of short-range penalties but failed to take advantage through a mixture of poor decision-making, some desperate defending and crucial decisions by referee George Clancy.

Over the line: The away side celebrate as Strauss scores a try with 21 minutes gone at Murrayfield

Over the line: The away side celebrate as Strauss scores a try with 21 minutes gone at Murrayfield

Andy Robinson's side had enough
chances to at least equal the three tries they scored in last weekend's
51-22 defeat by New Zealand, but they had been posted missing as an
attacking force throughout the first half, although they were not helped
by the loss of Richie Gray to a head injury.

Robinson was expecting a direct
threat from South Africa and they did not disappoint in the opening
moments with several kicks towards Scotland's left side,.

The visitors chose to kick the ball
into touch after an offside offence and looked set to drive over from
the resulting maul, but referee Clancy pulled them up for obstruction.

The tourists opened the scoring in
the seventh minute when Patrick Lambie kicked a penalty after the Scots
were penalised for holding on.

Scotland had barely been within 40
metres of the South Africa line but were level on 10 minutes when Greig
Laidlaw kicked a long-range penalty, only for Laidlaw himself to be
penalised for offside three minutes later and Lambie made no mistake
with the penalty.

Gray took a heavy hit as the South
Africa forwards quickly closed him down after a kick over the top and
the pressure told in the 21st minute when the Springboks instigated a
maul after a four-man lineout and once again drove Scotland back with
Strauss touching down.

Double: Strauss scores for a second time

Double: Strauss scores for a second time

Gray went off with concussion
immediately after the try with Al Kellock coming on. There was some
respite for Scotland as Lambie missed the conversion.

Springboks flanker Francis Louw then
burst through the home defence and won a penalty from Murray with Lambie
dispatching a simple kick to make it 14-3.

A penalty near the halfway line on 33
minutes allowed Scotland to put their opponents under serious threat
for the first time as they kicked for a lineout six metres from the try
line.

Scotland's forwards exerted severe
pressure as they looked for an opening but Clancy controversially
penalised Kellock for holding on.

Scotland survived the first wave of
South Africa attacks after the break but some slack play at both ends of
the park in the 46th minute led to them conceding a second try.

Hogg kicked well into the tourists' 22 but was too easily sidestepped by flanker Willem Alberts after chasing the ball.

South Africa quickly worked the ball
back into Scotland's half but Blair had possession under little stress
and saw his pass intercepted by Strauss. The hooker quickly got the ball
under control and ran 40 metres under the posts.

Simple: Pyrgos goes over for Scotland after captain Kelly Brown won a line-out

Simple: Pyrgos goes over for Scotland after captain Kelly Brown won a line-out

Blair was replaced by Pyrgos as Lambie converted and he got Scotland back into the game in the 51st minute.

Scotland opted to kick for touch from
a penalty and Pyrgos ran in unchecked inside of Kelly Brown to collect
the instant pass and cross over.

Scotland soon had South Africa on the
rack and were moving the ball quickly but Laidlaw inadvertently
relieved the pressure by trying to chip over the top.

The visitors could not break away though and Ruan Pienaar had a kick charged down as Scotland stepped up the pace.

Jim Hamilton was over the line at one
stage but was pushed back before he could touch down and Nick De Luca
almost broke through as South Africa defended on their line.

Scotland forced a penalty and opted
for a lineout but Ross Ford was penalised for not throwing straight, in
what looked a marginal decision, and Clancy soon decided Scotland had
collapsed the scrum.

Brown's interception ensured the
Springboks' respite was brief and Scotland forced another chance after a
lineout from a penalty, but substitute Ruaridh Jackson attempted to
kick over the try line from 10 metres out and Zane Kirchner comfortably
averted the danger.

Again there was no let-up and Flip
van der Merwe paid the price for the growing number of infringements
when he was shown a yellow card in the 77th minute.

Denton almost went over from the
resulting set-piece and Scotland worked a chance on the left wing, but
Tim Visser could not hold Jackson's close-range pass and the knock-on
was called as De Luca crossed in the corner.

Hull 2 Ipswich 1 – match report

Hull 2 Ipswich 1: Jewell near brink after Proschwitz makes his marks

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UPDATED:

16:44 GMT, 20 October 2012

Nick Proschwitz's brace for Hull City pushed his side into to the npower Championship play-off spots with a 2-1 win against Ipswich Town at the KC Stadium.

The visitors survived a barrage of City chances in the first half to take the lead on 29 minutes through Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

But Ipswich were pegged back by Proschwitz's first club goal on 73 minutes, set up by fellow summer signing Ahmed Elmohamady.

Blow: Paul Jewell's side lost despite leading for much of the game

Blow: Paul Jewell's side lost despite leading for much of the game

Match facts

Hull: Amos, Rosenior (Mclean 62), McKenna, Faye (Chester 70), Dawson, Elmohamady, McShane, Olofinjana (Proschwitz 70), Quinn, Simpson, Aluko.

Subs Not Used: Oxley, Evans, Cooper, Townsend.

Goals: Proschwitz 74, 90.

Ipswich: Henderson, Edwards, Chambers, Higginbotham, Cresswell, Emmanuel Thomas, Wellens, Reo-Coker, Murphy (Drury 80), Campbell (Chopra 75),Martin (Mohsni 71).

Subs Not Used: Loach, Scotland, Hyam, Smith.

Booked: Murphy, Wellens, Henderson, Drury.

Goals: Emmanuel-Thomas 29.

Att: 15,983

Ref: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)

Click here for the latest Championship results, fixtures and table

The German striker's effort sparked a
flurry of chances for the hosts, but it was Proschwitz himself who
ensured three points with an injury-time header to give City a second
successive win.

City had a point to prove at the KC
stadium – having lost their last two home games – and they showed their
intentions in the fifth minute when Sone Aluko's corner was met by Paul
McShane, whose shot needed a scrambled clearance from Ipswich.

Aluko was gifted City's best chance
on goal after 16 minutes when defender Danny Higginbotham slipped in the
Ipswich box. However, with just keeper Stephen Henderson to beat, Aluko
fired well over.

It was City's game to dominate as
Ipswich only had a Lee Martin shot saved easily by keeper Ben Amos to
show for their early efforts.

Henderson was kept busy at the other
end by the Tigers and he needed to be quick to collect Aluko's
through-ball with Jay Simpson rushing on.

Emmanuel-Thomas then gave the visitors the lead against the run of play.

A quickly taken free-kick on the
right saw the 21-year-old given the chance to jink his way into the box
and, with no City defenders closing him down, fire into the bottom
corner.

Emmanuel-Thomas almost made it two
for the visitors, who were growing in confidence, only for Liam Rosenior
to make a last-ditch tackle to deny the shot before Daryl Murphy headed
over from a corner just before the break.

City came out firing in the second
half with two early chances, as Abdoulaye Faye's looping header was
tipped over by Henderson before Andy Dawson's long-range effort whizzed
narrowly over.

Ipswich retaliated through Martin and Nigel Reo-Coker, both of whom tested Amos with strong shots.

City brought on Aaron McLean just
after the hour mark followed by a double substitution with Proschwitz
and James Chester taking the field, and the hosts at last found vigour.

Stephen Quinn headed wide from Elmohamady's cross before Simpson fed Mclean on the right, who shot straight at Henderson.

The pressure yielded rewards on 73
minutes as Elmohamady found space on the right-hand byline to cross low
for Proschwitz, who made no mistake from point-blank range.

City should have been ahead on 84
minutes, only for Quinn's long-range effort to strike the bar before
Proschwitz shot hopelessly over from six yards.

But the German made amends in
dramatic style by meeting Elmohamady's cross in almost the final minute
of injury time to power the winner past Henderson.

Dynamo Moscow players shot with paintball guns by fans

Dynamo Moscow players shot at with paintball guns during training by angry fans

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UPDATED:

18:24 GMT, 19 October 2012


Criticism: Kevin Kuranyi has been told to pull his socks up by Dynamo fans

Criticism: Kevin Kuranyi has been told to pull his socks up by Dynamo fans

Dynamo Moscow's president has vowed to find and punish fans who shot at players using paintball rifles at the club's training ground on Friday.

'They are idiots,' Gennady Solovyov told local media after a group of fans in camouflage arrived at the club's base in the town of Novogorsk, just north of Moscow, and fired a barrage of paintballs at players and staff.

'I have no other words to describe those who could do such things. I promise I'll do my best to try to find and punish those responsible for these actions,' said Solovyov, a retired KGB general.

Dynamo midfielder Alan Gatagov said: 'I was hit in the back of the head when they shot at us. Lots of players were also hit.

'I just can't find the right words. What are we supposed to do now Should each of us hire a personal bodyguard'

Reports said fans also scattered leaflets addressed to the club's foreign players such as former Germany striker Kevin Kuranyi, Australia international Luke Wilkshire, Hungary's Balazs Dzsudzsak and Ecuador's Cristian Noboa, warning them to boost their performances or pay the consequences.

'This is the final warning. We're not going to support these losers any more,' said the leaflet, which carried a picture of Kuranyi, Dzsudzsak, Noboa and Argentina's Leandro Fernandez.

'They are killing Dynamo's football, get rid of them.'

Boss: Dan Petrescu is in charge

Boss: Dan Petrescu is in charge

Friday's incident was the latest in a series of protests by Dynamo fans, dissatisfied with the club's dismal results this season.

'We are certain it was a planned and organised action,' the club said on their website.

Dynamo, the country's oldest football club who have never been relegated, were bottom of the league after losing seven of eight games at the start of the season.

However, they have moved up to 13th after hiring former Romania and Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu as coach in August.

Last month, several dozen supporters arrived at the club's training ground to have what they called a 'frank chat' with the players about 'their poor attitude'.

Video images later showed the frightened-looking players, surrounded by fans, listening to the supporters' complaints for several minutes.

James Degale beats Hadillah Mohoumadi on points

Golden boy Degale made to work for points win over Mohoumadi

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

22:28 GMT, 13 October 2012

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UPDATED:

22:38 GMT, 13 October 2012

James Degale celebrated the start of what he hopes will be a new chapter in his career with a hard-fought points win over Hadillah Mohoumadi to retain his European super middleweight title.

On a night when Britain's only other Olympic gold medallist in the professional ranks was sent crashing to the canvas in Liverpool, Degale made no such mistake in front of a raucous crowd in Kent.

The 26-year-old was fighting on home soil for the first time in 12 months and looked impressive in flashes against his French opponent in what was his debut under new promoter Mick Hennessy.

In control: James Degale beat Hadillah Mohoumadi easily on points

In control: James Degale beat Hadillah Mohoumadi easily on points

A tentative opening round was punctuated by single shots from both men but Degale landed the more telling blows and started to find his timing towards the end of the stanza with some penetrating combinations.

The former British champion, whose only defeat came at the hands of bitter rival George Groves, also had the better of the second round.

Degale raced out of his corner in the third and landed a flurry of blows that looked to have Mohoumadi in trouble. But the 32-year-old had never previously been stopped and withstood the barrage.

Despite his dominance, Degale allowed himself to be backed up against the ropes too often, trading unnecessarily. He was still landing the more eye catching shots however against an opponent who was nothing if not durable.

Made to work: Degale was taken the distance by Mohoumadi

Made to work: Degale was taken the distance by Mohoumadi

Degale landed a crunching left hand in the fifth round that rocked Mohoumadi's head back but again he showed he was teak tough. Into the sixth session and Degale, whose face had reddened, appeared at times to be feeling the pace in what was his first outing since April.

The champion remained the dominant force in the opening exchanges of round seven however and caught Mohoumadi flush several times with powerful left hands.

By now the rounds were following a familiar pattern with the home favourite landing more effectively but without the cutting edge needed to end the contest early. The expectant crowd were on their feet on more than one occasion but were left with nothing to celebrate.

Mohoumadi had by now earned Degale's respect and rather than surrender, he instead maintained an impressive work rate and had even opened a small cut around Degale's left eye by the penultimate round.

The pair traded blows in a barnstorming final stanza despite Degale needing just to reach the final bell to retain his title.

He did just that, winning by unanimous decision as the judges scored the contest 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112.

Ronaldo helps Real Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano

Rayo 0 Real Madrid 2: Ronaldo shines as Mourinho's men narrow gap on Barcelona

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UPDATED:

22:21 GMT, 24 September 2012

Karim Benzema's strike and a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty ensured Real Madrid got back to winning ways in the Primera Division against a resilient Rayo Vallecano.

Benzema finished a fine counter-attack to give Real a deserved 13th-minute lead and they survived a few nervy moments before Ronaldo made the game safe from the spot midway through the second half in an encounter held over until Monday evening after a suspected act of sabotage saw the power supply cut at the Estadio de Vallecas on Sunday.

The victory was just Real's second win in five La Liga matches and the defending champions are now eight points behind frontrunners Barcelona.

Easy does it: Real Madrid celebrate as Ronaldo makes sure of the points against Rayo Vallecano

Easy does it: Real Madrid celebrate as Ronaldo makes sure of the points against Rayo Vallecano

A statement on Real's official website revealed they had unsuccessfully lobbied Spanish league chiefs to hold the match during daylight hours to avoid a repeat of the 'deplorable events' that forced the cancellation of the original fixture.

Once the action did get under way Real weathered an early barrage and could have been ahead in their first real attack, but Pepe's free header at the back post forced an acrobatic save from Vallecano goalkeeper Martinez Ruben.

The warning signs were there for Paco Jemez's side but they could do nothing as Real countered to great effect in the 13th minute.

Ronaldo released Angel Di Maria down the left and he was inexplicably allowed to cut into the area and pick out Benzema, who tapped into an empty net at the back post.

Opener: Karim Benzema sent Real on their way in their rescheduled clash

Opener: Karim Benzema sent Real on their way in their rescheduled clash

Vallecano had not learnt their lesson and only Di Maria's selfishness – the winger's shot curled wide from 25 yards when better options were ahead of him – prevented Madrid from doubling their lead, once again on the break.

Ronaldo forced Ruben to make a fine save at his near post while the Vallecano stopper rushed out to save point blank from Luka Modric, who had latched on to Di Maria's chip into the box.

Real's failure to extend their lead nearly came back to haunt them as first Iker Casillas reacted well to parry away Jordi Amat's bullet header before Mikel Labaka's follow-up effort was chested off the line by a covering Xabi Alonso.

The visitors did end the half in convincing fashion, though, with Di Maria and Benzema linking up once again, ending in the latter's strike across goal being tipped away by Ruben.

Flying high: Benzema celebrates his strike as Real narrowed the gap at the top of the league

Flying high: Benzema celebrates his strike as Real narrowed the gap at the top of the league

Vallecano started the second half in a positive fashion, although Andrija Delibasic was caught unawares when Real defender Alvaro Arbeloa's woeful backpass picked out the Montenegro striker on the six-yard line.

And he was nearly made to rue his lapse in concentration a few minutes later when Benzema sprinted clear and slotted past Ruben but the referee had already blown his whistle for a Madrid free-kick in the build-up.

It was only temporary respite for a game Vallecano outfit, who fell further behind in the 70th minute when Ronaldo's cutback was handled by a sliding Jordi Amat, with referee David Fernandez Borbalan awarding the spot-kick.

Doubling up: Ronaldo added the second from the penalty spot in the second half

Doubling up: Ronaldo added the second from the penalty spot in the second half

The former Manchester United man fired home, sending Ruben the wrong way.

Ronaldo should have made the game safe moments later but embarrassingly chipped onto the bar – under pressure from Triguero Tito – from close range with the net gaping after a selfless assist from the recently-introduced Gonzalo Higuain.

It mattered little, however, as Jose Mourinho's side comfortably saw out the remaining few minutes for their first victory on their travels this season.

Ricky Burns ready for Kevin Mitchell fight in Glasgow

Quiet man Ricky not reluctant to talk of treble ahead of Mitchell showdown

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UPDATED:

23:48 GMT, 18 September 2012

He has watched the glorious home-comings of this summer’s sporting heroes with a mixture of admiration and, truth be told, horror.

A double world champion who has spent his two-year reign actively avoiding public shows of adulation, Ricky Burns would rather face a barrage of body shots with his arms tied behind his back than board an open-top bus for a victory parade.

His natural shyness should never be mistaken for a lack of ambition, of course. Having moved up last year to add the WBO lightweight title to the WBO super-featherweight crown he had clinched on a frenzied night in September 2010, Burns cannot discount another giant leap — and a chance to become the first Scot to win world belts in three different weight divisions.

Focused: Ricky Burns can't wait to get in the ring against Kevin Mitchell

Focused: Ricky Burns can't wait to get in the ring against Kevin Mitchell

For now, he is focused entirely on Saturday’s hugely testing defence against Kevin Mitchell, in front of an anticipated 10,000 fans at the SECC; the vast majority will be there to hail Coatbridge’s most feted sporting son.

Ask this most retiring of global greats about enjoying the kind of organised hoopla arranged for the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray in recent days, though, Burns looks positively mortified.

‘I am the total opposite — everybody knows I like to keep myself to myself,’ he said. ‘The training and the fighting is what I do, the fighting is the bit I enjoy.

‘After that, I like to return to normal. Would I like all that (the parades) Not at all.

‘It’s just not a big thing that appeals to me. Boxing is all I’ve ever wanted to do but, apart from the fighting, I’ve always said the publicity, all the attention I get, isn’t something I’m fussed about.’

Champ: Burns is a two-weight world champion and could be tempted by a third

Champ: Burns is a two-weight world champion and could be tempted by a third

The hype will only increase should he beat Mitchell in what could be one
of the fights of the year, with Burns conceding he might yet move on in
search of fresh challenges. Addressing the possibility of a unique
Scottish treble on the world stage, he said: ‘Now I’ve moved up to
lightweight, I can see I’m physically bigger.

‘We have spoken about it (moving up). Maybe I’ll get another year or two at this weight, a few more fights at lightweight.

‘But, if the big opportunity came at light welterweight, never say never. The bigger I get, the harder my punches are.

‘When I’m sparring, a couple of the guys are welterweights — a lot
heavier than me. But the size difference isn’t that much. If a big
fight came up at light welterweight, I’d be more than happy to take it.'

Eyes on the prize: Burns defends his title for the second time in Glasgow on Saturday

Eyes on the prize: Burns defends his title for the second time in Glasgow on Saturday

Wherever his career takes him, Burns is guaranteed to take thousands of fans with him. In a sport where a big mouth is often as important as a big right hand when it comes to selling tickets, his low-key approach to self- publicity has not done too much box-office damage.

Aware that Saturday’s bout is heading for a sell-out, he insists talk of the crowd becoming the equivalent of football’s 12th man for a home fighter is a little over the top, saying: ‘It’s only me in that ring — I’m the one taking the punches.

‘I try to block out the crowd, although I am grateful for the support I get — so I want to say a big thanks to everybody. Hopefully, I’ll do the business for them.

‘You tend to notice the crowd before and after the fight. Once that bell goes, it’s just a big blur. But it’s good to walk out in front of your own crowd, aye.

‘The crowd come into it in the later rounds, though. You can always hear certain things, even if most of it is just a blur.

Tough job: Burns is expecting a difficult 12 rounds against Mitchell in Glasgow

Tough job: Burns is expecting a difficult 12 rounds against Mitchell in Glasgow

‘If you look at it that way, it can put added pressure on you, make you feel as if you’re out there to look good. I always say, I need to win.

‘This is going to be a tough, tough fight. Kevin is a big puncher, a good fighter.

‘Since he lost to Michael Katsidis, he’s come back to beat John Murray and Felix Lora. I think his training has gone well, so the fans are in for a good fight.

‘Throughout the 12-week training camp, all I’ve been thinking about is this fight. When it’s been hard in sparring, I’ve been thinking: “Well, what am I going to do on the night”.

Battle of Britain: Burns and Kevin Mitchell are heading towards an explosive showdown

Battle of Britain: Burns and Kevin Mitchell are heading towards an explosive showdown

‘I’ve spent a lot of time in the ring thinking about the different scenarios that could happen.

‘This is the worst time, three days before the weigh-in, but I’ve still got a smile on my face just now.
‘Once the weigh-in is over, you can concentrate on the good bit.’

If that ‘good bit’ goes right on the night, Burns will be afforded a raucous reception to rival the loudest roars of this Olympic summer.

Just don’t expect to see him waving his belt from the top of a bus, float or specially chartered charabanc any time soon.

Andre Ward beats Chad Dawson

The best in the world Ward gives Dawson torrid time to retain titles

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UPDATED:

11:02 GMT, 9 September 2012

Andre Ward showed why he is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world after stopping Chad Dawson in California to retain his unbeaten record.

The WBA and WBC super-middleweight champion had the challenger on the canvas three times before the fight was called off.

Ward, who beat Carl Froch in the Super Six final last December, consistently overwhelmed his more experienced opponent.

Main man: Andre Ward celebrates beating Chad Dawson

Main man: Andre Ward celebrates beating Chad Dawson

Dawson started brightly, keeping Ward off balance with a strong southpaw right jab in the first round, and then scoring with counter left hooks as Ward looked to press the action in the second.

And by the third he was catching his opponent with sharp left jabs and hooks, using swift footwork to throw Dawson off.

A short hook near the end of the third dropped Dawson, and another one knocked him down again at the start of the fourth.

Ward pressed the advantage in that round, nearly putting Dawson down again and pursuing him across the ring.

The challenger survived, however, and for the next several rounds some of the steam evaporated from the contest, as Dawson appeared content to keep Ward at bay with jabs and by tying him up when the two men were close.

Ward was relentless however and a sharp right hand in the ninth round buckled Dawson's knees again.

In the tenth, a three-punch combination had Dawson wobbling on his legs and a follow-up barrage knocked him to his knees.

Game over: Dawson had no plans to continue after a knockdown in the tenth

Game over: Dawson had no plans to continue after a knockdown in the tenth

Although Dawson beat the count, he signaled to referee Steve Smoger that he had had enough.

It was Ward's first stoppage win in three years, and the champion said the quality of his opponent had caused him to raise his game.

'All we did was eat, sleep and drink this guy, because you can't take a chance on someone like Chad Dawson,' he said. 'He's beaten future Hall-of-Famers.

'A lot of people in boxing are knockout hungry. Everybody wants the knock out. I tell people you can still entertain without a knockout. But a knockout is always great. That's the last piece of the puzzle in my game that I want to keep working on. This is the first step toward that tonight against a top of the line opponent.

'I took a big risk fighting the bigger man. He had the advantage in height and reach but he sacrificed the weight. In boxing you have to take a risk to get the prize.

Crash: Ward send Dawson to the canvas time and time again

Crash: Ward send Dawson to the canvas time and time again

'We showed that we can do more than win
decisions. I have another gear. I'm in my prime. I feel like I'm coming
into my own at a championship level.'

Dawson, the reigning WBC light-heavyweight champion, whose most recent win came against veteran Bernard Hopkins, said he would be returning to that weight division.

'He's a hell of a fighter,' Dawson admitted. 'He's a great champion.

'He's a lot faster than I thought he would be.He was strong too. I can't take anything away from him. He really is one of the best.

'I'm not going to hang my head low. I'm still light-heavyweight champion of the world.'

However, Ward may have eyes on that title, too.

'A move to light-heavyweight is not out of the question,' he said.

How go goalkeepers cope with physiological toll?

Life on the line: How do goalkeepers cope with the punishing psychological toll

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 24 August 2012

Crazy, you say That was the general assumption. Well, crazy or plain stupid. Once, if you were delving into the football world to ask what went on in the mind of a goalkeeper, then you had to be prepared for a barrage of one-liners.

Then came the tragedy of Robert Enke and a disturbing account of his personal turmoil by Ronald Reng in the award-winning book, A Life Too Short, and their art was cast in a different light.

Goalkeepers are different, that’s beyond dispute, and, in the modern age, where each game is recorded, replayed and analysed in minute detail, they are relentlessly exposed to criticism, even ridicule, on an impossible quest for perfection.

Blunder: The normally reliable Petr Cech cost Chelsea a goal in their 4-2 win over Reading in midweek

Blunder: The normally reliable Petr Cech cost Chelsea a goal in their 4-2 win over Reading in midweek

They must master their own minds if they are to master their craft. It is about more than stopping shots.

Some cannot deal with the stress and fail, others develop their own eccentricities to get by. But that does not stop insecurities eating away.

Sometimes they hide behind masks, sometimes they erupt furiously — like Paddy Kenny’s voicemail pursuit of Rob Green — and sometimes those insecurities get to the very best.

‘I’ve had my doubts,’ said Edwin van der Sar, looking for all the world like a man who never has. ‘Can I do it Can I achieve what people expect Can I keep a clean sheet Can I help my team

‘Say there’s a free-kick, how far do you go over from your post to help your team You know nine out of 10 will go over the wall, but if it goes over the wall it’s not your fault. What if he puts it in the other side, by the post, then it is your fault.

‘It’s all a mental game. Do I move another 10cm from the post because they have someone with a great curl I might need those 10cm, otherwise I won’t make it. Or do I focus purely on myself because if the ball goes in that side, nobody will blame me Are you going to help your team Or are you going to choose to help yourself These are the decisions you have to make all the time.

‘I read the Enke book and I could relate to a lot of things I read.’

Van der Sar’s name appears regularly in A Life Too Short because during Enke’s time at Barcelona, goalkeeping coach Frans Hoek, wanted him to play like the Dutchman and dominate the pitch beyond the confines of his penalty area.

Tragedy: Robert Enke killed himself

Tragedy: Robert Enke killed himself

‘Be like Van der Sar’ was the message. Be something you’re not. If your goalkeeping coach cannot relate, who can The manager Unlikely. The manager has his own pressures.

‘When people say, “Dave, you had a bad ’un”, they’re usually talking about my game against Norwich,’ said Dave Beasant, rewinding 20 years to a 3-2 defeat for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

‘I shouldn’t have played that day for a start,’ he added. ‘I’d been sick in the morning, but we only had a young kid on the bench so I played.

‘My head was swimming. I couldn’t concentrate and I couldn’t see properly and the physio’s giving me stuff to sniff to clear my head.’

Two shots slipped through his hands into the net and the third was tapped into an open goal after another misjudgment.

‘It can be harsh in the dressing room, but it’s man to man,’ said Beasant. ‘And there’s no-one in there who’s never made a mistake. Next week it could be one of them.

‘What’s important is that anything like that stays in the dressing room. You need your manager to back you when he leaves the dressing room.

‘Our manager was Ian Porterfield and he didn’t say a word to me that day, but I’m back home, watching News at Ten, and it more or less said I’d been sacked.

‘The manager had been put in a corner by the media and didn’t know how to handle it.

‘My confidence was shot. I wasn’t even confident of walking in the street. I stood out anyway because of my height and I thought everyone would be saying, “There’s that goalkeeper who has been sacked”.’

Beasant went on loan to Grimsby, where he performed well and was back in the Chelsea team before the end of the season . . . after Porterfield had been sacked.

Jim Leighton was another scarred by his boss when dropped ahead of the FA Cup final replay in 1990 after a poor display in the first game.

A decade later, he revealed in his book, In the Firing Line, how he would never be able to forgive Sir Alex Ferguson.

‘Ferguson’s decision shattered me,’ said Leighton. ‘What also soured me was his lack of support both before and after that event.

‘He distanced himself from me when I was trying to pick up the broken pieces of my life and never offered any encouragement.’

This week, at Stamford Bridge, Petr Cech and Adam Federici made mistakes on a par with Beasant’s.

Fumble: Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici has made two mistakes in as many games in the Premier League

Fumble: Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici has made two mistakes in as many games in the Premier League

For Federici it was a second in five days, yet Reading manager Brian McDermott backed him unequivocally. ‘I’m not concerned about him at all,’ said McDermott. ‘He’s got a fantastic mentality. He’s not overwhelmed by the Premier League.’

Has he Can you be sure These days, the biggest clubs might have a support network including life coaches and psychologists but players are still reluctant to commit.

Team selection makes a goalkeeper vulnerable. There’s only one place and if the manager doesn’t like you, tough. Sound familiar, Heurelho Gomes Paddy Kenny

With this in mind, few confess. What if it gets back to the manager or races around football’s grapevine. Before you know it, you have confessed your way on to the dole. What kind of therapy is that

‘There’s a misconception that all footballers are very confident, but it is the opposite for most,’ said David James, writing in The Observer in March.

‘It is a great irony that in a game where we routinely talk of confidence on the pitch, psychological support off it is so appallingly neglected.

‘When I was going through a bad time at Liverpool I approached the club for some support. Back then, I was told, “Shut up and deal with it”. Sadly, I don’t think football has moved on from that position.

Lack of support: David James (centre) felt goalkeepers were not given the help they required

Lack of support: David James (centre) felt goalkeepers were not given the help they required

‘Even when clubs are forward-thinking enough to invite a sports psychologist into the fold, players are apprehensive. They are too worried about what their team-mates and management will think.

‘Will everyone think I’m mad What if he tells the manager about me What if it jeopardises my position in the team’

Goalkeepers are more likely to bottle it up, take it home and be hard on themselves (or their families) after a disappointing day in the goalmouth.

Millwall’s Maik Taylor is 40 now and far more skilled at handling these raw emotions than he was in his early days at Birmingham and Fulham, when he might stew for days after a poor performance.

‘I could be in a foul mood,’ said Taylor. ‘I’d sit there, not really wanting to speak and I’d like to watch the goals again. Maybe I could have moved someone into a better position. If it’s my mistake, I’d want to understand why.

‘Our errors lead to goals. You can cost your team and you don’t want to, but on the pitch you have to put mistakes to one side. You can take a lot of flak out there but, if you dwell on them, one mistake can become two or three.’

If you happen to love a goalkeeper, it can be even worse. ‘It doesn’t matter to me if the team win or lose as long as Maik has a good game and doesn’t feel bad about a goal,’ admitted Taylor’s wife, Zoe.

‘He learned to deal with it better as he
got older, but when you’re young, you’re looking for a long-term
career, every game feels like a gamble where you have to play well to
secure a future.

‘There’s no margin for errors.

‘I’m a midwife and I know what it’s like to have a bad day. I’d joke with him and say, “Did anyone die” or “It’s only a game”, but it’s also your livelihood and security.

Foul mood: Maik Taylor

Foul mood: Maik Taylor

‘One mistake on live television or a few days’ bad press and your name is dragged around. It doesn’t do you any favours in the long term and some of the fans can be vile. I’ve sat in the stands and heard some awful things. Even if I’m watching the telly and Maik concedes a goal, I’d plunge into silence because I’d know exactly what he’s thinking.

‘Sometimes I feel he’s so lonely out there. There’s no-one around him and no-one can make him feel better about making a mistake. And that hurts badly.’

Conversely, former Norwich keeper Bryan Gunn found his goalmouth a place of comfort after the death of his daughter Francesca.

‘I played at Blackburn in October 1992,’ said Gunn. ‘At the time, my daughter was dying of leukaemia and we lost 7-1. We had kept the news really close but within three or four days she had passed away.

‘For me and the players, we had lost three points, but we were all suffering from something else.

‘I made a crucial decision to get back playing as soon as I could and two weeks later ran out at Carrow Road, against QPR.

‘I ran into a goalmouth I had probably run into two hundred times before in my life, but I still remember the warmth and appreciation of the crowd that day. There was a different feeling inside me that day. We won 2-1.’

Despite that, he was still unsure when the youth-team coaches at Norwich suggested converting his son, Angus, from a midfielder to a goalkeeper.

‘I said, “You’ll have to ask his mother if she can live with another goalkeeper”,’ said Gunn. ‘It’s an individual discipline and you have to have a soulless mentality.

‘I thought I had a strong mentality when I started out, but that was in the days before every game was on TV.

‘Sometimes there was only the local pressman there. As I got older, I started to think about it more, going into games wondering if I might get dropped if I made a mistake because there was agood young goalkeeper to take my place and the manager might be influenced by bad press.’

After many years of isolation and vulnerability, there are some things only a goalkeeper will understand and this is where the ‘Goalkeepers’ Union’ comes in. It is a fabled brotherhood of the gloved, where everyone looks out for each other, although Kenny’s delight at Green’s torment this week suggests the union may be in ill health.

Perhaps it was a myth all along.
Enke’s book tells how he struggled to understand the ferocious intensity
and apparent unfriendliness of Uwe Kamps when he first moved to
Borussia Monchengladbach.

Costly: Robert Green's opening day mistake led to Swansea scoring the first of their five goals against QPR

Costly: Robert Green's opening day mistake led to Swansea scoring the first of their five goals against QPR

Kamps was first choice, fighting to keep his place ahead of the talented youngster signed from Carl Zeiss Jena and the survival instincts kick in when a professional competitor feels under threat.

Birmingham City’s teenager Jack Butland spoke with fresh-faced enthusiasm of the ‘GK Union’ ahead of his England debut (the 2-1 victory against Italy), earlier this month, promising Joe Hart years of friendly competition.

‘If we end up fighting for the No 1 spot, we’ll still be friends,’ he said: ‘Only one person can wear the shirt. If I’m on the bench, I’m going to support him. I wouldn’t try to hinder anyone’s performances for my own benefit. It doesn’t work like that.’

But not all keepers are so inclusive. Jens Lehmann could not work in a cosy relationship, as Manuel Almunia and Oliver Kahn discovered.

In the past goalkeepers like Bruce Grobbelaar and John Burridge repelled the occupational hazards with eccentric behaviour, performing bizarre exercise routines and engaging with the crowd.

Burridge was at Crystal Palace when he started to throw somersaults after his team scored. He once scaled the posts to perch on the crossbar.

There are fewer showmen these days. Goalkeeping is more serious and scientific, in step with the rest of the game. The individuals now channel their obsessions.

‘David James is a complex guy and we had
a love-hate relationship,’ said David Coles, goalkeeping coach for
James at Portsmouth and later for Rob Green at West Ham. ‘There were
days when I would walk off the training ground distraught.

Been here before: Green was at fault at the World Cup in 2010 when he cost England a goal against the USA

Been here before: Green was at fault at the World Cup in 2010 when he cost England a goal against the USA

‘He would rip into me if he was angry. He would wear me out mentally and physically, but I had to stay with him.

‘Everything had to be just right. He would sit for hours studying his game and had his own psychological programme.

‘If he made a mistake, he knew.

‘I saw him play out of his skin in a goalless draw at Nottingham Forest and next day I told him he was magnificent. “Colesy,” he said. “My kicking was s***”.

‘He was never happy, but I wish I could bottle his desire to keep the ball out of the net and give it to the schoolboys.

‘Rob Green’s psyche is unbelievable, even after that mistake in the World Cup. We dealt with that in one day on the training ground and never mentioned it again.

‘There were days when it would raise its head. We went to Ipswich in pre-season and he got horrendous stick, but he played out of his skin. He came off, looked me in the eyes and said, “That showed ’em”.’

Psychology is vital. Brentford
goalkeeper Richard Lee became so riddled with self-doubt he almost quit
the game before deciding to learn more about his brain and the way it
influences performances.

Lee’s lowest ebb followed a mistake
during Watford’s 4-1 defeat in the Championship play-off semi-final at
Hull, in 2008. Having lost the first leg 2-0 at home, Watford scored
first at the KC Stadium, but Lee came out for a high ball, missed a
punch and Nicky Barmby made it 3-1 on aggregate.

Book worm: Richard Lee struggled after making a mistake but eventually put his experiences into words

Book worm: Richard Lee struggled after making a mistake but eventually put his experiences into words

It is by no means the worst blunder you will see from a goalkeeper, but it would not leave him alone.

‘It was a feeling of guilt,’ said Lee. ‘I felt the weight of those fans who had travelled to Hull, and Watford fans in general who were hoping to make it back to the Premier League.

‘It was a dreadful feeling.

‘I went on holiday in a zombie-like state, feeling numb with all the negative thoughts inside my head.

‘I didn’t want to play football. My whole life had been dedicated to this game. I’d rarely go out, I’d rarely do things a normal 23-year- old did, and yet I felt like this, like half of Watford disliked me, even though I tried to do my best.

‘The thing is, most people were fine with me, but I’d chosen the mindset that I was the most hated man in Watford, which I’m sure I wasn’t. It’s funny how the mind works in that way.

‘I woke up every morning that summer feeling guilt and it was no surprise I started the season as third choice. I just wanted out.

‘Aidy Boothroyd got the sack, Malky Mackay came in and I told him I didn’t want to play any more.’

Mackay talked him out of it, but it was Lee who took decisive action by delving into books, attending seminars and getting into neuro-linguistic programming.

He took control of his fears and rebuilt his career at Brentford.

Role model: Edwin Van der Sar

Role model: Edwin Van der Sar

‘It changed my structure of thinking,’ said Lee. ‘I was able to let go of the negative emotion and come back to one simple emotion. I can only give what I can give.

‘Then you can look in the mirror and be proud.

‘The results have been phenomenal. As a goalkeeper I felt an enormous amount of pressure, but it was an internal creation. It was only because that was the way my mind worked.

‘When I played against Man United in an FA Cup semi-final (for Watford) I had this idea that I was filling in for Ben Foster, Ben had helped us get there and what would people think of me if we lost.

‘But you can flip it. I could be telling myself, I’m going to look back on this day when I’m 50 and tell everyone I played in an FA Cup semi-final live on BBC with all these people watching.

‘If we win I could be playing at Wembley.

‘Now I look back on the Hull game with pride. I played a good season and even that game was a good game apart from that mistake.

‘It’s a shame we lost and a shame we didn’t go up, but one mistake, one moment doesn’t define you.

‘A great game doesn’t make you a great person and a bad game doesn’t make you a bad person.’

Lee has written it all down in a book called Graduation, which young goalkeepers might want to slip into their glove-bag.

It sounds like they will need all the help they can get.