Tag Archives: blues

Montrose 0 Rangers 0 – match report: Ally McCoist"s men crowned Irn-Bru Scottish Third Division champions

Montrose 0 Rangers 0: McCoist's men crowned champions despite goalless draw

By
Lisa Gray, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

15:22 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

02:00 GMT, 31 March 2013

Rangers clinched the Irn-Bru Third Division title on Saturday to complete stage one of their journey back to the top of Scottish Football.

The Light Blues were held to a goalless draw at Montrose in a noon kick-off but were confirmed as champions three hours later when a Stuart Leslie penalty secured victory for Elgin over Queen's Park.

The result at Hampden means nearest rivals Queen's cannot catch the Ibrox outfit in the title race, as Ally McCoist secured his first piece of silverware as Rangers manager.

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

His side have looked unconvincing at
times this term but have done enough to force themselves over the
finishing line with several games to spare, following their demotion to
the bottom tier of Scottish football after being consigned to
liquidation in the summer and losing their top-flight status.

Rangers made two changes following last week's drab stalemate against Stirling at Ibrox for the clash at Montrose.

David Templeton and Ian Black returned
from injury and suspension respectively to start, with Barrie McKay and
Fraser Aird dropping to the bench.

Rangers were handed a tough match the last time they visited Links Park in December, leaving with a hard-fought 4-2 win.

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle has finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

This time around, they started sharply
with efforts from Robbie Crawford and Lee McCulloch blocked in quick
succession, before Kyle Hutton eventually rifled wide.

Templeton tested the goalkeeper when
he collected a Kane Hemmings header before unleashing an impressive half
volley that stung the palms of John Gibson.

The winger was threatening again when
he cut inside from the left before having another crack at goal but
Stephen McNally blocked for a corner.

Templeton then turned provider for Lee
Wallace and his effort was touched onto the bar by the keeper, as
Rangers kept up the pressure.

At the other end, a Paul Watson strike from distance took a massive deflection and spun just past the upright.

Champions elect Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

A matter of time: Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

Bolstered by the chance, the home side carved out another couple of decent opportunities.

David Gray – who has netted home and
away against Gers this season – forced a save from Neil Alexander,
before Alan Campbell glanced a header inches wide.

Montrose should have taken the lead
through Martin Boyle but his back post header was off target when he
should have had the net bulging.

The home side picked up where they
left off in the second half when Gray pounced on a poor clearance from
Emilson Cribari and lashed narrowly over the crossbar a minute after the
restart.

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Rangers had a good chance of their own when Wallace's cut-back found Hemmings and his shot forced a decent save from Gibson.

Montrose thought they had taken the lead when they had the ball in the net after 65 minutes.

Alexander fumbled an awkward cross
that fell for Terry Masson. His shot was saved but the keeper could not
hold that ball, which was turned into the empty net by Boyle.

But the goal was disallowed by referee Kevin Clancy for a foul on Alexander.

It looked to be a controversial
decision and a let off for Rangers, whose celebrations came later in the
day as they made the trip back to Ibrox and took a major step in their
road to recovery.

Coventry City deducted 10 points

Sky Blues falling down! Crisis club Coventry deducted 10 points by Football League

By
Paul Collins

PUBLISHED:

15:54 GMT, 28 March 2013

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UPDATED:

15:54 GMT, 28 March 2013

Coventry City have been deducted 10 points after entering administration.

The deduction leaves the Sky Blues in 15th place in League One.

A statement from the Football League read: 'The Football League can confirm that Coventry City Football Club have been deducted 10 points, in accordance with its rules and regulations.

Tough task: Steven Pressley (left) recently took over as Coventry manager

Tough task: Steven Pressley (left) recently took over as Coventry manager

'This Sporting Sanction has been implemented with immediate effect. Coventry City have seven days in which to appeal.

'The League has now begun discussions with the administrator aimed at achieving a sustainable future for the club within The Football League.'

Coventry had earlier reached a short-term agreement to play their three remaining home games this season at the Ricoh Arena.

Amid an ongoing row between the Sky Blues and Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), who manage the stadium and claim to be owed over 1.3million in unpaid rent stretching back 12 months, the npower League One outfit last week placed a non-operating subsidiary of the club into administration.

That subsidiary, Coventry City Football Club Limited, held the lease and licence for the Ricoh Arena, covering permission to play home matches at the stadium as well as the rental of the club shop and offices, which have already been emptied, with all staff having moved to their Ryton training ground.

Up against it: The Sky Blues have been deducted 10 points

Up against it: The Sky Blues have been deducted 10 points

It sparked speculation and uncertainty over where City would play their remaining home fixtures this term, starting with tomorrow’s visit of league leaders Doncaster.

But a statement released this morning read: “Coventry City Football Club Holdings Ltd are pleased that an agreement has been reached with ACL and the administrator that enables us to play our last three remaining home matches at the Ricoh Arena.

'We apologise profusely to our fans about the confusion surrounding these fixtures and are delighted that this has now been resolved.

'We can now look forward to playing current league leaders Doncaster on Friday 29th March in the hope of doing the double over them.

'Moving forward we hope that we can continue a constructive dialogue with ACL with the aim of securing a sustainable future for the club at the Ricoh Arena.'

The final line of Coventry's statement suggests the club's long-term future may still lie at the venue, which is jointly owned by the Alan Edward Higgs Charity and Coventry City Council.

The lengthy row centres around Coventry's refusal to pay an annual rental fee of 1.28m, the highest in both League One and the Championship by some considerable distance, while also bemoaning the fact they do not get access to 100 per cent of matchday revenue.

After negotiations collapsed, Coventry and hedge fund owners Sisu found themselves in the High Court in London last Friday battling against an application for administration submitted by ACL.

That initial hearing was adjourned, just hours after City placed their non-operating subsidiary into administration – although insisting it is business as usual as Coventry City Football Club (Holdings), which they claim holds the crucial 'golden shares' which provide membership to the Football League and FA, operates as normal.

ACL on Tuesday returned to the High Court and asked for their own application for an administration order to be dismissed.

They claim to have it on good authority from the Football League and the Football Association that Coventry's 'golden shares' do in fact still lie with Coventry City Football Club Ltd, which has already gone into administration, hence the withdrawal of their application.

All eyes are now on the Football League, who are yet to make an official verdict on the matter, with Coventry appearing to face the prospect of a 10-point deduction.

The Sky Blues are currently 10th in League One, five points off the play-offs, with a 10-point penalty certain to end their promotion hopes for this term.

Premier League dog football fans: Chelsea supporter Max the mongrel from Mitcham, Surrey

Hit the paws button… meet Max the mongrel from Mitcham, a barking mad Chelsea fan

By
Lee Bryan

PUBLISHED:

13:15 GMT, 11 March 2013

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UPDATED:

14:11 GMT, 11 March 2013


Barking mad: Chelsea fan Max the mongrel

Barking mad: Chelsea fan Max the mongrel

Chelsea supporter Max the mongrel could receive a prize that most Blues fans would bite your hand off for… a season ticket at Stamford Bridge.

The barking mad Blues supporter was nominated in Britain’s first ever canine footballer supporter competition launched by sports website TVBet.co.uk to find the most devoted dog football fan.

Max is glued to the television every time Chelsea come on and he even predicts the score by barking before kick-off.

Like many other Chelsea fans, Max barks when he sees Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger on screen but he goes crazy when celebrating a goal.

Max’s owner Terri Crockett said: 'Max loves the Blues and his favourite players are Frank Lampard and John Terry.

'He loves watching the game on the telly and even predicts the scores by barking before the kick off.

'He’s not always spot on, he does tend to be a bit optimistic before a game and usually predicts we will win six-nil.'

The competition has already received dozens of entries after promising a season ticket for the winning dog – as well as one human.

A spokesman for TVBet.co.uk said:
'This contest has lifted the lid on the phenomena of the dog football
fan. We knew there were a lot of doggie football supporters out there
but in all honesty we had no idea how many.

'But
if the response to our contest is anything to go by there must be
hundreds if not thousands of dedicated canine football fans out there.
Many of them as devoted to their teams as their owners are.'

Good to be a Gooner: Arsenal supporter Ginny

Good to be a Gooner: Arsenal supporter Ginny

Royals through and through: Reading fan Cassie

Royals through and through: Reading fan Cassie

No 1 fan: Aston Villa supporter Luna

No 1 fan: Aston Villa supporter Luna

He added: 'Our
contest is the first ever to celebrate Britain’s secret army of doggie
football fans. From now on our furry fans no longer have to cower in the
shadows. They can get right out onto the pitch where they belong.

'Everyone
has a Tintin and Snowy story, or maybe a Dorothy and Toto tale. This
contest proves that the love between one man and his dog can only be
strengthened by their shared devotion to a football team. It’s a
beautiful thing to behold.'

Aston Villa fan Luna Davies, whose owner Rob is now based in Holland, is another dog fan entered in the competition.

Luna's owner said: 'She’s got claret and blue running through her veins. It’d mean a lot to her to be able to visit Villa Park. She lives for the Villa.

'I’d love it if they made Luna their lucky mascot. Lord knows they need a bit of luck this year. She’s well trained and wouldn’t foul the hallowed Villa Park turf before a match.'

Arsenal may be enduring a tough season, but six-year-old border terrier Ginny Smith still loves to watch the Gunners play.

Ginny's owner Sharon said: 'Ginny loves her footy and is glued to the telly every time Arsenal are on.

'She has always growled when Alex Ferguson comes on the screen and she also turns her nose up at Tottenham.'

But, unlike Ginny, Arsenal fan Lenny, a five-year-old Dachshund, prefers watching international football.

Lenny's owner James said: 'Lenny loves to sit on the armchair and watch his beloved Arsenal. But when it comes to international matches he reverts back to his ancestral home and supports Germany. He gets very grumpy if they ever lose.'

Armchair fan: Arsenal supporter Lenny gets excited when watching international football

Armchair fan: Arsenal supporter Lenny gets excited when watching international football

To enter the contest send a photo of your football fan dog and their name and age along with contact details to [email protected]

Australia set down Ashes marker… but should England be worried?

Awesome Aussies set down Ashes marker… but should England be worried

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UPDATED:

11:32 GMT, 28 December 2012

There's no getting round the fact: the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka at Melbourne was not so much a game of cricket as a demolition job.

Australia won inside three days by an innings and 201 runs, while Kumar Sangakkara had his left hand broken by Mitchell Johnson and two other Sri Lankans stayed in the pavilion, absent hurt.

With back-to-back Ashes series lying in wait in 2013, this result was what you might reasonably call a statement of intent.

Star man: Mitchell Johnson (centre) was in fine form as Australia hammered Sri Lanka in the second Test

Star man: Mitchell Johnson (centre) was in fine form as Australia hammered Sri Lanka in the second Test

But how concerned should England be After all, the Sri Lankans have always been poor in Australia: this was their 10th defeat there in 12 Tests, four of them by an innings.

And Australian pitches could not be further removed from the slow heart-breakers routinely found in Sri Lanka.

Alastair Cook may also comfort himself with the thought that, more than anything, the MCG appears to have hosted the rebirth of Johnson, who returned match figures of 6 for 89 and hit an unbeaten 92.

If anything was designed to dispel the post-Christmas blues in soggy England, it is the thought that Johnson – a figure of fun during the 2010-11 Ashes – will be taking the field at Trent Bridge on July 10. The Barmy Army will be exercising their vocal chords.

Take that: Johnson punished the Sri Lankans with the bat as well as the ball in Melbourne

Take that: Johnson punished the Sri Lankans with the bat as well as the ball in Melbourne

The success on Test debut of Sydneysider Jackson Bird may be more significant, for Australia are compiling a stock of apparently interchangeable seam bowlers – the must-have accessory for any team aspiring to regular success in the fixture-heavy modern era.

Their problem, though, is fitness: everyone keeps breaking down.

As things stand, it is fairly pointless trying to predict which of their seamers will play at Nottingham. As for their batting, Michael Clarke remains in the form of his life, with Mike Hussey not far behind.

England's best hope here is that the law of averages kicks in, as it has done for every batsman in Test history bar Don Bradman.

Solid start: Jackson Bird can be happy with his Test debut for Australia

Solid start: Jackson Bird can be happy with his Test debut for Australia

And, although there were half-centuries at Melbourne for David Warner and Shane Watson, England will also be quietly confident about getting the better of Australia's top four.

Warner and Phil Hughes, who is being rehabilitated at No 3, may be too keen to play their shots to prosper regularly in English conditions, while Ed Cowan looks no better than steady, and Watson is yet to demonstrate he has the capacity for big hundreds required at No 4.

Having said all that, Australia are now 2-0 up with one to play against a team England beat only 1-0 at home in 2011, then lost to at Galle earlier this year.

And yet a better gauge of where the two Ashes sides are will be Australia's four-Test series in India, starting in February.

England are still luxuriating in their 2-1 win. The pressure will be on Clarke's side to match them.

Football betting guide for Dec 29-30

THE BETTING SLIP: Top tips and ones to watch in our gambling guide to the weekend

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UPDATED:

11:37 GMT, 28 December 2012

If the journey through deserted streets into Sportsmail HQ over the past few days is anything to go by, Londoners love getting away during the Christmas holidays.

Chelsea and Tottenham certainly enjoyed jaunts out of the capital on Boxing Day and the pair look in the mood to prosper on their travels once again.

We're at the halfway stage of the season and predicting what will happen in the Premier League is getting harder and harder.

On the road again: Chelsea are at Everton after taking three points from Norwich on Boxing Day

On the road again: Chelsea are at Everton after taking three points from Norwich on Boxing Day

Tony's tenner

Sportsmail's Saturday punter Tony tells us where his hard-earned 10 is going.

After a couple of weeks of being absolutely useless, I’m going for a dead cert and putting a fiver on table-topping Sheffield United to be wining at half-time and full-time against League One basement-boys Hartlepool.

That will get me my money back so I'm also for 3 on DRAW/DRAW at Aston Villa v Wigan and 2 on a penalty to be awarded in the same game.

Sheff Utd – Half-time/Full-time @ Evens (Betfair)

Aston Villa v Wigan – Draw/Draw @ 17/4 (Boylesports)

Penalty in Aston Villa v Wigan @ 21/10 (Paddy Power)

But one thing is for sure: supporters of a team playing in blue will give Rafa Benitez a hard time.

The Chelsea fans unhappy with the Spaniard's appointment have piped down a bit over the past couple of weeks – 14 goals scored in three matches since the Club World Cup has helped – but he's still not a popular man in west London.

Benitez will never be flavour month at Goodison Park either and that is where the interim boss takes his in-form Blues on Sunday afternoon.

The Everton faithful remember Benitez's 'small-club' dig at the Toffees during his time in charge of Merseyside rivals Liverpool.

He was hardly towering over them back then and the gap between his current employers and David Moyes' side is just two points ahead of the live TV showdown.

Everton have won three and drawn four since losing at Reading in mid-November while the defeat to Corinthians in Japan was the only slip-up in Chelsea's last seven.

The hosts would appeal more if Marouane Fellaini was available but with the big Belgian still suspended, Chelsea look too good to ignore at 6/4 (widely available).

Tottenham sit between the pair in fourth place in the table and they also catch the eye after thumping Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Three and easy: Gareth Bale helped himself to a hat-trick as Spurs crushed Aston Villa

Three and easy: Gareth Bale helped himself to a hat-trick as Spurs crushed Aston Villa

Sunderland will fancy their chances against the north Londoners after stunning Manchester City – their third win in four games – but Spurs (11/10 with most bookies) have a flying Gareth Bale in their ranks and five away wins in the Premier League. Only Manchester United boast more.

Add in what is as close to a banker as there is on this week's coupon – League One leaders Sheffield United against bottom club Hartlepool – and Bradford at home to Rochdale.

A tenner on the four returns just over 130 with Coral.

Goals galore

The 'Premier League – best in the world' drum took another beating after the midweek Christmas crackers and we could be in for more of the same this weekend.

Take both teams to score in Arsenal v Newcastle, Everton v Chelsea, Norwich v Man City, QPR v Liverpool and Sunderland v Tottenham for a 12/1 return at Paddy Power.

Quick on the draws

New Nottingham Forest boss Alex McLeish is in for about as warm a welcome as Benitez was given at Chelsea but the Scot can get his point across against Crystal Palace.

Fulham against Swansea, Ross County v Hearts and Morton against Dunfermline also look too close to call.

A 1 yankee costs 11 and two right will get your money back, three a decent return and all four correct brings home 377 (Ladbrokes).

Doing it the hard way: Manchester United were behind three times before Javier Hernandez sunk Newcastle

Doing it the hard way: Manchester United were behind three times before Javier Hernandez sunk Newcastle

Bale offers Real value

Gareth Bale is back at the top of Real Madrid's shopping list after his hat-trick against Aston Villa with the Spanish giants reportedly tabling a 33m bid for the Spurs winger. The Welshman is 7/1 (widely available) to open the scoring against Sunderland and 5/2 (Sportingbet) to score at any time.

Same again

Manchester United came from behind to win for the eighth time this season as they broke Newcastle hearts last time out. West Brom are 7/2 (Blue Square) to score first at Old Trafford.

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0: Chelsea up to third

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0: Brilliant Blues back up to third after rout on Lampard landmark

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UPDATED:

22:21 GMT, 23 December 2012

A month ago, hate dripped from the steep tiers at Stamford Bridge as Rafa Benitez appeared on the touchline. Yesterday, the place was thrilled by eight goals. Not once did the Chelsea fans join in song to tell Benitez he wasn’t wanted here.

The last time they saw their team score this many was the final game of the Barclays Premier League season in 2010, when Carlo Ancelotti’s team walloped Wigan to celebrate the first leg of their first Double.

Landmark: Lampard (second left) scored on his 500th Premier League start

Landmark: Lampard (second left) scored on his 500th Premier League start

MATCH FACTS

Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Luiz, Lampard (Ramires 61), Moses, Mata (Piazon 74), Hazard, Torres (Oscar 67).

Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Ake.

Goals: Torres 3, David Luiz 29, Ivanovic 34, Lampard 58, Ramires 75, 90, Oscar (pen) 79, Hazard 83.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Herd, Clark, Baker, Lowton, Bannan, Westwood (Ireland 57), Lichaj (Elliott 57), Weimann, Holman (Bowery 79), Benteke.

Subs not used: Given, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Delph.

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Attendance: 41,363.

Click here for the latest Premier League table, fixtures and results

But that was Carlo, a free-wheeling and popular manager who implored his players to attack. This was Rafa, a cautious tactician, always alert to danger, who sat down after an 8-0 win to say: ‘We knew they would be dangerous in the counter-attacks.’

Emotions were all over the place as post-Japan Chelsea returned to the Premier League in emphatic style by condemning Aston Villa to the biggest defeat in their 138-year history.

They may have arrived unbeaten in six games but Paul Lambert’s team went home perilously close to the drop zone with the worst goal difference in the division.

Villa were awful but Chelsea were slick and impressive.

There were eight goals from seven different scorers but there could have been many more.

The Blues even missed a penalty but go into Christmas 11 points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand at home to Southampton.

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

In a month of Benitez, Fernando Torres
has been transformed to the point where he seems to be enjoying his
football and refused to sulk off when he was replaced.

The Spain striker opened the scoring in the third minute, rising to meet a deep cross from Cesar Azpilicueta with a majestic header from the edge of the penalty area.

It was his seventh under the new manager and his seventh in the last six games.

‘He scores when he wants,’ sang the fans in the Matthew Harding Stand, saluting the Benitez factor without giving him credit.

This won’t bother the manager too much. He will take his satisfaction from the aggressive tempo which crushed Villa.

Stunner: Luiz hammered home a free-kick to double the lead

Stunner: Luiz hammered home a free-kick to double the lead

The back five have worked well for
Lambert since centre half and skipper Ron Vlaar was injured but Chelsea
forced them deep, creating space for Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Victor
Moses.

Villa lurched from uncertainty to
desperation. Nathan Baker escaped a strong penalty appeal when he
appeared to hold Torres and Chelsea’s second came when Chris Herd sent
Hazard tumbling.

David Luiz stepped up and scored the
free-kick, a shot which wobbled over the wall and beat goalkeeper Brad
Guzan, a good yard inside his post.

Three and easy: Ivanovic rises to head home

Three and easy: Ivanovic rises to head home

Luiz, signed almost two years ago at
the same time as Torres, has also endured an oscillating career at the
club but appears to have made significant progress under Benitez, who
used him as a deep midfielder yesterday in the absence of John Mikel
Obi, who was banned.

The role suits Luiz, certainly when
Chelsea control possession. He performed it with success against
Monterrey in the Club World Cup semi-final and was comfortable against
Villa.

There is a safety net if he takes an undue risk and loses the
ball, as he did at Leeds in the Capital One Cup, yet his team benefit
from his exuberance and unpredictability in attack.

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

It was one of those days for
Chelsea. Not only were the converted centre halves threatening Guzan in
the Villa goal but so were the unconverted ones.

Guzan produced a terrific reflex save
to beat out Gary Cahill’s shot on the spin before the interval but the
rebound popped up to his defensive partner Branislav Ivanovic to head in
the third.

Fear took hold, mistakes crept in and Christian Benteke never looked
like scoring. The only chance of any note fell to Andreas Weimann — on
the break, as Benitez predicted — in the second half.

Weimann was denied by Petr Cech, who
deflected his low shot on to the bar to protect his clean sheet, despite
the fact the contest was already over.

Joining the party: Ramires came off the bench to net the fifth

Joining the party: Ramires came off the bench to net the fifth

Frank Lampard scored the fourth with a
right-foot volley from 30 yards. It was his 190th goal for Chelsea —
three behind Kerry Dixon, who stands second in the all-time goal list
for the club — on his 500th Premier League start.

It
was also his 130th top-flight goal for the club. No one has more.
Lampard was replaced a minute later to a standing ovation. Torres was
also taken off to rest ahead of the festive fixtures which will dictate
whether this is to turn into a genuine title fightback.

Six of the best: Oscar scored from the penalty spot

Six of the best: Oscar scored from the penalty spot

With Daniel Sturridge in Liverpool for a
medical, Moses played the last 23 minutes at centre forward and the
Blues finished with a front four of Moses, Oscar, Hazard and Lucas
Piazon, an 18-year-old Brazilian making his Premier League debut.

It was a quartet with an average age
of just over 20 but Piazon wasted no time making an impact, collecting
the ball on the left, gliding inside and finding Ramires, who scored
the fifth. It was a nice pass but did not need to be laser-guided.

Seventh heaven: Hazard slams home from inside the box

Seventh heaven: Hazard slams home from inside the box

Villa were all at sea by this stage and not helped when referee Phil Dowd started to hand out soft penalties.

Herd
was penalised for a slight pull on Oscar, who picked himself up to make
it six from the spot. Hazard lashed the seventh into the top corner and
Piazon missed a second penalty after he was fouled by Ciaran Clark.
Guzan made the save.

It was a very strange afternoon for the American goalkeeper.

Ramires scored the eighth in stoppage time and the Bridge stood to rejoice. For the man they reviled as the Spanish waiter, will it be any different after eight
Relentless: Ramires scores his second in stoppage time

Relentless: Ramires scores his second in stoppage time

Rout: Chelsea move back up to third in the Premier League table

Rout: Chelsea move back up to third in the Premier League table

David Luiz in midfield is masterstroke by Rafa Benitez – Martin Samuel

Benitez moves up in the world! Blues reach final after Rafa pulls off Luiz masterstroke

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 13 December 2012

FINAL COUNTDOWN

Chelsea will now play Brazilian team Corinthians in Sunday's final. You can follow all the build up and action with Mail Online.

Chelsea
stand one game from being crowned world champions but if further proof
were needed that FIFA's Club World Cup remains a dysfunctional
tournament, here it was.

A
semi-final mismatch, played in front of a half-empty stadium with an
atmosphere so quiet it was possible to hear Petr Cech's instructions to
his defenders, is no recommendation for a competition that remains sadly
unloved, despite its best intentions.

Scroll down for video

Japaneasy: Chelsea cruised to a Club World Cup victory over Mexican side Monterrey in Yokohama

Japaneasy: Chelsea cruised to a Club World Cup victory over Mexican side Monterrey in Yokohama

Japaneasy: Chelsea cruised to a Club World Cup victory over Mexican side Monterrey in Yokohama

Japaneasy: Chelsea cruised to a Club World Cup victory over Mexican side Monterrey in Yokohama

MATCH FACTS

MONTERREY: OrOrozco, Perez (Osorio 58), Mier, Basanta, Chavez, Meza (Solis 83), Ayovi, Cardozo, Corona, Delgado (Carreno 83), De Nigris.

Goals: De Nigris 90+2.

CHELSEA: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Mikel, Luiz (Lampard 63), Mata (Ferreira 74), Oscar, Hazard, Torres (Moses 79).

Goals: Mata 17, Torres 46, Chavez OG 48.

Attendance: 36,648

Referee: Carlos Vera (Ecuador)

Apart from one shock in 2010 when an
African team, Mazembe, made the final at the expense of Internacional of
Brazil, this is basically the old Intercontinental Cup with a new
ballgown.

We know the only tie that really
aspires to excellence is the meeting of the champions of Europe and
South America, but the competition goes through the tortuous process of
eliminating the rest of the world first, and then makes the also-rans
play off for the dubious privilege of finishing third to eighth.
Thrilling.

Even so, from the perspective of
Chelsea and their manager Rafael Benitez, this is FIFA's problem to
resolve. They can only beat what is in front of them and on Thursday
that was Monterrey, champions of CONCACAF but currently 10th in Mexico's
first division.

Number Juan: Chelsea took the lead on 17 minutes through Juan Mata's low drive

Number Juan: Chelsea took the lead on 17 minutes through Juan Mata's low drive

Number Juan: Chelsea took the lead on 17 minutes through Juan Mata's low drive

Thinking of you: Mata paid tribute to countryman Oriol Romeu, who was ruled out for the season recently

Thinking of you: Mata paid tribute to countryman Oriol Romeu, who was ruled out for the season recently

'YOU'RE NOT WELCOME HERE'

Despite
them being fewer than 1,000 in number at the Yokohama International
Stadium, Chelsea fans could still be heard taunting interim boss Rafael
Benitez with cries for former boss Roberto Di Matteo.

Predictably, Chelsea were a
different class. Faster, stronger, more astute, the scoreline does not
reflect the reality of the contest because they had eased into training
mode long before the final whistle and Monterrey's goal came in
second-half added time.

The stickler in Benitez still
disapproved but he will have been happy with the ease of Chelsea's
progression, having fretted over jet-lag and a lack of preparation
earlier in the week. It transpired only cursory regard for the Mexicans
was required.

Rough and tumble: Chelsea were made to work harder than expected by their Mexican counterparts

Rough and tumble: Chelsea were made to work harder than expected by their Mexican counterparts

Rough and tumble: Chelsea were made to work harder than expected by their Mexican counterparts

Rough and tumble: Chelsea were made to work harder than expected by their Mexican counterparts

Benitez made one change to accommodate Monterrey's strength at playing between the lines and it won the game.

David Luiz, in a midfield role, was a
revelation. The knot of travelling Chelsea fans still expressed their
contempt for their interim manager but neutrals are increasingly
impressed.

Without doubt, Chelsea's defence is
tighter, undeniably, Fernando Torres is scoring again and Benitez's
deployment of Luiz was a masterstroke.

Considering the amount of argument,
tactical and technical, that swirls around elite football clubs, to come
up with an original plan that, once seen, looks so obvious, is no mean
feat.

Plenty have said Luiz could be a
defensive midfielder, but Benitez took that simple strategy a stage
further. He made him a defensive midfield player who attacks.

Luiz, as a central defender, is
unreliable, everyone knows that. He wants to get forward. So move him
forward, and play him in front of the back four. Yes, but it's not as
easy as that.

Deserting the defensive midfield
position is as fatal in modern football as going for a wander at centre
half. Benitez stopped playing Steven Gerrard centrally for precisely
this reason.

If Luiz was holding and went
walkabout, opponents would be straight into Chelsea's defensive line.
What to do Benitez resolved that issue with a tactical nuance. He left
John Mikel Obi as the prime holding player and gave Luiz limited freedom
to roam and create when Chelsea were in possession.

Star man: Luiz was a revelation at the heart of Chelsea's midfield

Star man: Luiz was a revelation at the heart of Chelsea's midfield

Defending, he bolstered his side's
presence and his quickness, of foot and thought, was a tremendous
positive. Yet when Monterrey's moves broke down, Luiz came into his
own, supporting the attack and playing the best passes of the game, two
of which should have ended in goals.

He may have to rein in a little
against superior opponents – like Corinthians – but this performance
felt like a lightbulb sparking over those impressive curls. This was
Luiz's perfect role. It was no coincidence that when he left the field after 63 minutes he was replaced by Frank Lampard.

Bought to their knees: Fernando Torres' bright start to the second half finished off Monterrey's challenge

Bought to their knees: Fernando Torres' bright start to the second half finished off Monterrey's challenge

Bought to their knees: Fernando Torres' bright start to the second half finished off Monterrey's challenge

Benitez may have found a radical and realistic solution to the Lampard succession conundrum. It was an option, he admitted.

'I know David from Benfica, where he
was playing centre back, left back, right back, midfield, in many
positions,' Benitez said.

'I knew they were quick and intricate
in that area between the lines, with players coming in from the left,
so I wanted to put someone in there who could stop them.

'David is quick, can regain the ball a
lot and, at the same time, play passes to our players. We needed energy
in there, and David is a good passer with good energy. He did well.'

Darvin Chavez

Job done: Chelsea wrapped up victory when Darvin Chavez diverted the ball into his own goal

Job done: Chelsea wrapped up victory when Darvin Chavez diverted the ball into his own goal

It took Luiz four minutes to turn up
on the edge of Monterrey's area and have a shot, and two more to play
arguably the finest pass of the game to give Eden Hazard a chance one on
one, which he squandered.

Luiz also hit a great ball to Torres
shortly before half-time but by then Chelsea were a goal up and in
charge, and his failure to make the most of it was not greeted with the
usual anguish.

The English side's opener came from a
quite exquisite move, involving a backheel by Hazard that put in Ashley
Cole, who squared for Juan Mata to finish.

Time to smile: Rafael Benitez was relaxed on the touchline as his team earned their place in the final

Time to smile: Rafael Benitez was relaxed on the touchline as his team earned their place in the final

From there, Monterrey were as good as done. The three minutes after half-time ended the game as a contest.

Just 17 seconds after the restart,
Chelsea went further ahead. Hazard broke down the left flank and found
Torres, whose shot was deflected past goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco.

Little more than two minutes later a
superb Torres cross picked out Mata, who cut the ball back only for
central defender Darvin Chavez to bundle it into his own net.

Chavez said before the game that he
hoped Premier League scouts would be watching; after that debacle he
must have been thankful the game went live only on the BBC HD channel.

... and most of the local support got behind him, though those from London cheered for Di Matteo

… and most of the local support got behind him, though those from London cheered for Di Matteo

... and most of the local support got behind him, though those from London cheered for Di Matteo

Monterrey coach Victor Vucetich, who
had predicted, rightly, that Chelsea would score, knew the size of his
task. Monterrey played in Blackpool's colours, but there the resemblance
ended. Blackpool would have given Chelsea more of a game.

'We had to play a perfect match to win today,' Vucetich said. 'We knew Chelsea were much stronger.'

Even so, Monterrey scored, in injury
time after Cole appeared to knock off for a late supper and Aldo de
Nigris travelled down the right unchallenged before finishing smartly
across Cech.

Those that know Benitez say as much
time will be spent revisiting that little lapse as glorying in the
performance that preceded it. He knows from bitter experience that one
chance, against the run of play, can decide this tournament – as it did
for Sao Paulo against Liverpool in 2005 – and if he wants to parlay his
interim appointment into a permanent one, the first stage is to
demonstrate he is a manager who wins the big matches.

'When I talk about a winning mentality, always it is the little details that make the difference,' he said.

'It's not easy with a new manager,
six days and two games, but now the team knows what we want to do. They
have more confidence and are enjoying their football.

'They have to think about winning in style and they have to keep their concentration for 90 minutes.'

If it was as easy as that, of course,
Chelsea would not be on their fourth manager in two and a half seasons.
Then again, if they could play Monterrey every week, Claudio Ranieri
would still be in the job.

VIDEO: Watch Graham Chadwick's latest video blog of the Blues in Yokohama…

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VIDEO: Rafa is pleased with the team's performance…

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Kevin Kilbane retires from football

Former Ireland and Everton star Kilbane retires from football after stint at Coventry

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UPDATED:

00:55 GMT, 8 December 2012

Former Republic of Ireland international Kevin Kilbane has announced his retirement from football.

The 35-year-old has ended his career with League One Coventry City.

Kilbane was named Coventry captain when Andy Thorn signed him on a free transfer but in the summer Kilbane has now decided to call an end to his nine-club, 710 club and international appearances career.

Retired: Kevin Kilbane has quit football

Retired: Kevin Kilbane has quit football

The midfielder, who made his debut aged 18 for home-town club Preston North End in 1998, returned after nearly a year out with the back injury which ended his international career and a record consecutive run of 66 competitive games, two years ago.

He said: 'I know it’s the right decision for me, and my family, and, if there is one consolation, I’m pleased it has been in my hands. A lot of good friends haven’t had the privilege because injury has ended their careers.

'When I think back to the sacrifices I have made over the years, particularly representing my country, I don’t regret them.

'Most importantly, after too many nights, weeks and months away from them, I want to be near my family. It’s time to put me and the family first now.

'I would like to thank the directors, coaching staff, players and supporters at Coventry City Football Club for my brief time at the Club and wish them all the best for the future’.

Star man: Kilbane was a well-established member of the Ireland setup

Star man: Kilbane was a well-established member of the Ireland setup

Sky Blues director Steve Waggot said: 'Kevin has been a great professional throughout his career and we would like to thank him for his services to the Club and wish him all the very best in whatever he decides to do in the future'.

Kilbane, who made 110 appearances for Ireland, behind only Shay Given and Robbie Keane, will initially concentrate on a media career and will join the Irish Daily Mail as a weekly columnist from today.

He will also work with BBC 5 live. Kilbane has UEFA A and B licences and has not ruled out a return to coaching after a brief stint with Hull City reserves last season.

He also plans to increase his profile as patron of the Downs Syndrome Association and is writing his autobiography in aid of the charity.

Varsity Match: Oxford 26 Cambridge 19 – match report

Oxford 26 Cambridge 19: Dark Blues stage second half comeback to claim Varsity hat-trick

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UPDATED:

16:30 GMT, 6 December 2012

Oxford staged a thrilling fightback to claim a hat-trick of Varsity Match victories at Twickenham.

The Dark Blues looked down and out when they trailed 19-6 early in the second period, but three tries in 16 minutes from full-back Sam Egerton, flanker James Harries and substitute Charlie Marr left Cambridge crestfallen.

Marr added one conversion and a 78th-minute penalty to seal the deal, while centre Cassian Bramham-Lawl booted two first-half penalties after Oxford lost their captain John Carter through injury.

Wing Andy Murdoch scored Cambridge's solitary try just before the interval, with full-back Rob Stephen kicking four penalties and a conversion.

Comeback kings: Oxford Captain John Carter (centre) lifts the Varsity Trophy

Comeback kings: Oxford Captain John Carter (centre) lifts the Varsity Trophy

Joy and despair: Oxford's Sam Egerton celebrates victory with his team mates as the Cambridge players look dejected

Joy and despair: Oxford's Sam Egerton celebrates victory with his team mates as the Cambridge players look dejected

Diving for the line: Sam Egerton dives over the line to score a try

Diving for the line: Sam Egerton dives over the line to score a try

Good start: William Smith and his Cambridge side got off to the better start in the game

Good start: William Smith and his Cambridge side got off to the better start in the game

Breakaway: Andrew Murdoch of Cambridge breaks through to score their first try

Breakaway: Andrew Murdoch of Cambridge breaks through to score their first try

Coventry City given 21 days to pay rent and could face winding up order

Coventry given until Boxing Day to pay rent to Ricoh bosses and could face winding-up order

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UPDATED:

20:11 GMT, 5 December 2012

Coventry City have threatened to pull out of the Ricoh Arena altogether if a row with their landlords over unpaid rent is not settled.

The Sky Blues have been issued with a statutory demand to pay arrears by Arena Coventry Ltd (ACL) and could be wound up on Boxing Day if no agreement is reached.

A stand-off has ensured between the two parties over an annual 1.28m levy which Coventry City say they cannot afford.

Empty: Coventry City have 21 days to pay their 1.1million unpaid rent

Empty: Coventry City have 21 days to pay their 1.1million unpaid rent

They have failed to pay the
outstanding bill since last season when the problem first surfaced amid
calls from them to the landlords to reach a compromise.

And now ACL have issued the statutory demand which could see the club put out of business altogether unless the
outstanding arrears are met.

ACL claimed they are owed 1.6m in
total. Should the club fail to meet the deadline, they would have to
declare themselves insolvent and face closure.

A statement from ACL read: 'Following
the refusal of Coventry City Football Club, and its’ owners SISU, to
pay outstanding rent the ACL board has issued a statutory demand to
Coventry City Football Club.

'This is not a course of action the
ACL board wanted to take. However, the behaviour of SISU, the owners of
CCFC, has left the board with no choice but to issue this demand.'

But the club has hit back over the
demand, saying: 'We are disappointed by ACL’ s actions to issue a
demand, rather than, as we had requested, sitting down with us to
negotiate a level of rent which the club can afford and which is in line
with the rent paid by other clubs.

Ceased: The club stopped making payments to the Ricoh Arena bosses 10 months ago

Ceased: The club stopped making payments to the Ricoh Arena bosses 10 months ago

'For reference, ACL has been charging
CCFC an annual rent of 1.28m which we understand is both the highest
in League One and the Championship.

'We understand the average annual
rent is less than 170,000 and that the average in the Championship is
290,000. All other clubs which rent their stadia get full access to 100
per cent of match-day food, beverage and car parking revenues.

'The club’s objective in requesting
these negotiations has the aim of bringing about a state of commercial
normality. It is unsustainable for CCFC to be put at a severe financial
disadvantage to its’ peers.

'In addition to defraying ACL’s
match-day costs, the club has been subsidising ACL’s general overheads
ever since the Sky Blues started playing at the Ricoh Arena, amounting
to many millions of pounds over seven years.

'The club remains committed to the
city and the people of Coventry. However, its viability depends on it
finding an alternative home ground where it can afford to play.'