Tag Archives: danger

Six Nations 2013: Manu Tuilagi vs Mathieu Bastareaud

When Tuilagi clashes with opposing centre Bastareaud… the noise will be heard from space

By
Chris Foy

PUBLISHED:

22:19 GMT, 18 February 2013

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UPDATED:

06:05 GMT, 19 February 2013

As Stuart Lancaster's England prepare to face off against France in the RBS Six Nations match this weekend, Sportsmail examines one of the key clashes to look out for at Twickenham.

England centre Manu Tuilagi has a contrasting style to his opposite number Mathieu Bastareaud, but the fact that both of these magnificent players relishes the rough and tumble makes this a clash of the titans.

Battering ram: Manu Tuilagi

Clash of the titans: Mathieu Bastareaud

Clash of the titans: Mathieu Bastareaud (right) and Manu Tuilagi (left) are set to go head-to-head

Manu Tuilagi

Story: Born in the village of Fatausi-Fogapoa, but bred in the Leicester Tigers academy. Was forced to play with older kids for fear of injuring those his age.

They just weren't big enough.

Style: Brings the beaches of Samoa to west London. Seeks contact like a homing missile and relishes physicality.

If there is an easy way round he will find a way through. Most dangerous when smiling.

Danger man: Tuilagi relishes the physical battles in the centre of the field

Danger man: Tuilagi relishes the physical battles in the centre of the field

Head to head

Weakness : Reputation for indiscipline in defence. Not the world's slickest passer. Refuses to roll up his socks.

Controversy: The fifth and final act of England's World Cup meltdown came when Tuilagi decided to jump off a ferry in Auckland after a day out 'celebrating' with the boys.

Mathieu Bastareaud

Story: Born into a football family but quickly became the star of the youth academy at French third division side SU Massy.

Style: Fleet-footed step and change of pace belies his massive frame and many chins. Capable of enormous defensive hits and more mobile than he should be.

Weakness : Would be a front-row prop in any other era so fades in the final minutes and his defence on his outside foot can be exploited.

In the mix: Bastareaud powers through his France team-mates during training

In the mix: Bastareaud powers through his France team-mates during training

Controversy: Caused a diplomatic incident in 2009 when he claimed he was assaulted by five men in Wellington, forcing the Prime Minister to apologise.

It turned out he was drunk in his hotel room and injured his face when he fell over.

Jamie Redknapp: Arsenal should pay Theo Walcott what he wants

Weekend Watch: Walcott is the real deal, just pay him and play him

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UPDATED:

22:34 GMT, 30 December 2012

Star Man: Theo Walcott

There were some typical frustrations from Theo Walcott on Saturday and I'm told some Arsenal fans were shouting 'sell him.' Are they mad Don't get wrapped up in a debate of where he plays, just let him play. And get him that new contract. Pay him what he wants.

Star attraction: Theo Walcott holds the match ball after scoring a hat-trick for Arsenal against Newcastle United on Saturday

Star attraction: Theo Walcott holds the match ball after scoring a hat-trick for Arsenal against Newcastle United on Saturday

Ba a bad loss

Newcastle have a lot of injuries and Cheick Tiote seems to have lost his hunger. Demba Ba has been carrying them. Take away his 13 league goals and they are in deep trouble. But with that get-out clause, no wonder Chelsea are interested. He'll be a great buy for them.

In the window: Demba Ba, scoring here for Newcastle against Arsenal at the weekend, is attracting interest from Chelsea ahead of the transfer window

In the window: Demba Ba, scoring here for Newcastle against Arsenal at the weekend, is attracting interest from Chelsea ahead of the transfer window

Impossible Bale

Did he dive, or didn't he I get six re-runs at Sky to make up my mind, our commentary team might get a couple working live. The referee gets one and I think they are guessing, as if tossing a coin. This time, referee Martin Atkinson was wrong. But Gareth Bale is so fast, they have my sympathy.

Frustration: Martin Atkinson books Bale for diving, earning him a one match suspension for accumulating five yellow cards this season

Frustration: Martin Atkinson books Bale for diving, earning him a one match suspension for accumulating five yellow cards this season

Sure on Shawcross

The saying in football that you can sometimes have your best games when you are not playing was prevalent at Stoke. They missed the organisational skills and ability to sense danger of their captain Ryan Shawcross. He's a good defender who will improve, too.

Commanding presence: Ryan Shawcross (centre) has impressed for Stoke so far this season

Commanding presence: Ryan Shawcross (centre) has impressed for Stoke so far this season

Keep cool with Paul

I like Paul Lambert, but he will need cool heads all around him now. The Aston Villa board need to back their manager in the window and the supporters have to hold their nerve. Most importantly, the players need to liven up and stop using their age as an excuse.

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

Osman's the man

He’s 31 and he’s English — and wasn’t it delightful to see Leon Osman going toe to toe with Juan Mata yesterday I was looking forward to seeing the Spaniard, who is having a wonderful season. But Osman (right) was every bit as good. He’s terrific for Everton.

Great season: Leon Osman of Everton is starting to realise his massive potential

Great season: Leon Osman of Everton is starting to realise his massive potential

Why sell Frank

It’s not because he’s my cousin, more that he makes such a difference to Chelsea . . . what are they doing letting Frank Lampard go Like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are symbols of Manchester United’s success, Frank (right) is such a top pro in that dressing room.

Food for thought: Lampard's double in an excellent performance at Goodison Park may prompt the Chelsea hierarchy to rethink not offering him a new contract in the summer

Food for thought: Lampard's double in an excellent performance at Goodison Park may prompt the Chelsea hierarchy to rethink not offering him a new contract in the summer

Team of the season (so far…)

4-3-3: Begovic (Stoke, right); Zabaleta (Man C), Williams (Swansea), Shawcross (Stoke), Baines (Everton); Carrick (Man U), Michu (Swansea), Mata (Chelsea); Bale (Spurs), Suarez (Liverpool), Van Persie (Man U). No Cazorla or Fellaini, but I couldn’t fit them in. Sorry!

Alastair Cook victim of no DRS again but sensible batting should see England home – Lawrence Booth

Lawrence Booth: Lack of DRS costs Cook again but calm heads will see England home

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UPDATED:

11:28 GMT, 16 December 2012

As this series reached boiling-point deep in the heart of central India, tempers inevitably frayed. England fumed quietly over the erroneous dismissal of Alastair Cook, India more volubly after Jonathan Trott was given not out as Ishant Sharma appealed in vain for caught behind.

Later, Ravi Ashwin warned Trott about the risk of backing up too far while he was bowling to Ian Bell – and India’s off-spinner was well within his rights. It wouldn’t be right to call their ensuing chat entirely cordial.

The upshot after four days of this slow-burning Test match is that England are a session and a half – perhaps two sessions – of sensible batting away from making history.

Victim of a poor decision: Alastair Cook was given out again when DRS would have shown it not to be out

Victim of a poor decision: Alastair Cook was given out again when DRS would have shown it not to be out

The pitch at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium has come in for some stick ever since Sharma’s first over of the match on Thursday morning, when the ankles of India’s captain and wicketkeeper MS Dhoni were in far greater danger than his midriff.

But it has produced a game that has rewarded those in it for the long haul. Maidens have come and gone – the 100th of the Test was racked up today – and batsmen have been challenged to work harder than they ever have done for their runs.

Landmark: England batsman Jonathan Trott celebrated a half century

Landmark: England batsman Jonathan Trott celebrated a half century

No one was quite sure whether England’s first-day 199 for 5 was good, bad or indifferent. And no one can be quite sure what will happen on day five. If the Test has taken a torturous route to its present position, we have at least been presented with the possibility of a last-day thriller (even if that receded slightly in the last hour).

For this, we can partly thank the absence of the Decision Review System: had it been in situ, Alastair Cook might still be batting. Instead, after grinding his way to 13 in the 30th over, he was triggered for the second time in the match by Kumar Dharmasena, given out caught behind off Ashwin after he appeared not to edge it.

Cook benefited from the lack of DRS both in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, but the argument that these things even themselves out has worn thin in a series full of umpiring errors. It’s not even true. Today, as Cook dragged himself off after scoring 562 runs at 80 in a series that will always be synonymous with his efforts, the England captain was presumably cursing that particular piece of homespun sporting wisdom.

Nick Compton, too, was given out wrongly, though in his case the mistake would have merely led to some Tippex in the scorebook. After nicking Pragyan Ojha into his pads, he was caught in the gully: so it should have been ‘c Kohli b Ojha 34’ rather than ‘lbw b Ojha 34’.]

Never settled: Kevin Pietersen was bowled after leaving a straight ball

Never settled: Kevin Pietersen was bowled after leaving a straight ball

Kevin Pietersen never settled, repeating Trott’s first-innings misjudgement when he played no shot and lost his off-stump to Ravindra Jadeja, and India’s blood was pumping when Trott aimed a loose cut at Sharma on 43.

India appealed, but Dharmasena said not out, a decision that was backed up by the Snickometer. Cue a melee, in which the enraged Sharma – had Trott blown him a provocative kiss – was joined by Virat Kohli in giving England’s No 3 a piece of their mind. The umpires told Dhoni to cool it, and Kohli was still chuntering away when play stopped for drinks two overs later.

Were the players furious with Trott, or subconsciously angry with their own board, who insist the modern game is better off with errors that go uncorrected

Either way, it was immaterial: according to the technology that is now used only for the amusement of TV viewers, Trott had not nicked it. And now he set about calming English nerves with the help of his Warwickshire team-mate Ian Bell, who owes his side an innings.

At stumps, England were feeling better about life than they had been at 94 for 3. But this series has contained too many surprises for anyone to condemn the Test to a draw just yet.

We are unable to carry live pictures from the fourth Test in Nagpur due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

Rory McIlroy wins DP World Tour Championship

Double delight for McIlroy as Race to Dubai winner seals DP World Tour Championship

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UPDATED:

17:34 GMT, 25 November 2012

All week Rory McIlroy had talked about his determination to finish the season in grand style, but surely even he didn't dream of winning the DP World Tour Championship in such breathtaking fashion.

Dressed in Tiger red, what transpired on a stunning Sunday afternoon on the Earth Course was right up there with anything Tiger produced in his prime.

As expected, a wonderful battle unfolded between him and an Englishman.

Scroll down for interview video

What a year: Rory McIlroy celebrates his DP World Tour Championship and race to Dubai victories

What a year: Rory McIlroy celebrates his DP World Tour Championship and race to Dubai victories

Say cheese: Caroline Wozniacki captures McIlroy's big moment

Say cheese: Caroline Wozniacki captures McIlroy's big moment

But while world No 2 Luke Donald was troubled by a sinus infection and would finish in a tie for third, it was Justin Rose who came through to play the round of his life.

Rose's 62 not only lowered the course record by two shots, it was two better than any round he had previously played in his career.

When he signed off after one of the putts of the season on the 18th, he was two clear of McIlroy, who had just birdied the 14th.

Remember the way Woods used to sense danger and respond accordingly That power now lies with the remarkable Northern Irishman, who followed that birdie with four more to win by two strokes.

After watching Ian Poulter finish their fourballs match at the Ryder Cup on Saturday with five birdies, here he had produced a similar thrilling spree of his own. Watched by record crowds here, it made for a captivating show.

Size does matter: McIlroy gets to grips with the huge prize he scooped for winning the race to Dubai

Size does matter: McIlroy gets to grips with the huge prize he scooped for winning the race to Dubai

Big finish: McIlroy birdied the last to put the cap on a fantastic few days at the Earth Course

Big finish: McIlroy birdied the last to put the cap on a fantastic few days at the Earth Course

That's my boy: Wozniacki was there to watch Rory succeed in Dubai

That's my boy: Wozniacki was there to watch Rory succeed in Dubai

Race to Dubai – final standings

1 Rory McIlroy 4,445,925
2 Justin Rose 3,035,589
3 Louis Oosthuizen 2,567,581
4 Peter Hanson 2,435,109
5 Ian Poulter 2,079,331
6 Branden Grace 2,015,889
7 Luke Donald 1,912,004
8 Francesco Molinari 1,784,477
9 Graeme McDowell 1,566,840
10 Paul Lawrie 1,538,907
11 Nicolas Colsaerts 1,406,284
12 Lee Westwood 1,346,441
13 Matteo Manassero 1,284,926
14 Marcel Siem 1,102,673
15 Thorbjorn Olesen 1,054,682
16 Charl Schwartzel 986,270
17 Rafa Cabrera Bello 975,406
18 David Lynn 973,614
19 Jamie Donaldson 926,885
20 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 888,277

And so all the spoils went to McIlroy on the final afternoon of the European Tour season, as he claimed 838,000 for the tournament to go alongside the 629,000 bonus that was already his for winning the Race to Dubai.

'It is a great way to end a great year,' said McIlroy. 'I came here with that intention and to pull it off feels tremendous.

'It was a dream finish, managing all those birdies and a wonderful way to go into my break. Now I can really enjoy it.'

There were many shots down the stretch that were memorable but his play at the 17th and 18th holes, in particular, stood out.

Tied with Rose standing on the 17th tee, he produced a bullet of an iron shot that finished 6ft short of the flag and he holed the birdie putt.

Then, at the par five 18th, and with
the green clearly reachable in two, the 23 year old emphasised his
growing maturity by resisting the temptation to grandstand and playing
for a par five.

As it turned out, he pitched from 85 yards to 12ft and holed the birdie putt to make it a two-stroke triumph rather than one.

It was Rory's day, then, but it was difficult not to feel an ounce of sympathy for the two Englishman left in his wake.

Donald didn't need to say anything about the sinus problem that has dogged him throughout his career. You could see it in his bloodshot eyes and hear it in his voice.

He's put if off for years but no longer…he will have a sinus operation in a fortnight.

What a round: Justin Rose finished with a 62 to claim second place behind McIlroy

What a round: Justin Rose finished with a 62 to claim second place behind McIlroy

As for Rose, his experienced caddie Mark Fulcher called his man's 62 'the greatest round of golf I have ever seen in my life.'

It contained a signature finish, too, as Rose had a putt from all of 100ft at the last. About three-quarters of the way, there was a ridge the ball had to just fall over if it was to finish next to the hole.

As Rose said:'It was one of those hero or zero putts, where you look like an idiot if the ball stops just short of the ridge but thankfully it just crawled over.'

He gave a joyous clenched fist salute when it almost went in, before heading for the practice ground.

At worst, it looked like he would be in a play-off. But then came Rory and a year that was already celebratory had just been given a glorious exclamation point.

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West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diam Diame relishing reunion with Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Ben Arfa

West Ham midfielder Diame relishing reunion with Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa

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UPDATED:

18:14 GMT, 10 November 2012

West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame is
hoping he can use his knowledge on Newcastle's key men to help the
Hammers claim a scalp when the sides meet in the Barclays Premier League
on Sunday.

Diame, 25, has impressed for West Ham
since moving to Upton Park in the summer from Wigan as Sam Allardyce's
side have defied the odds to sit ninth in the table.

Newcastle are one point and one place
below the Hammers in the standings and Diame wants to utilise his
knowledge of Senegal team-mates Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse to help
towards a win.

Impressive: West Ham's Mohamed Diame (right)

Impressive: West Ham's Mohamed Diame (right)

'After the game against Wigan, I think we needed to have this reaction against Manchester City. We did it, so now we have to maintain that and take the three points from Newcastle,' he told the club's official website.

'There are a lot of fans there and it is a big stadium. I have some friends there, both Senegalese and Frenchmen, so it's going to be a good game.

'I know Demba and Papiss very well and I also know that they have scored a lot of goals. We have to make sure we don't give them a lot of chances to score.

'They are different players, but they both work every day in front of the goal and are strikers who know how to score, so we have to try to restrict their chances.'

Midfielder Diame has also spent time playing alongside Magpies' play-maker Hatem Ben Arfa.

'I was in Clairefontaine with him so I know he is a very good player,' he said.

'He has had a lot of injuries, but he is a very good player so we have to be careful about him as well.'

Diame pinpointed the performance against Manchester City in the goalless draw at Upton Park last weekend as a yard-stick for the challenge ahead on Tyneside.

Danger man: Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle

Danger man: Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle

'We are just going to go there and try to replicate the game we played against Manchester City,' he said.

'These are the games I enjoy and I am sure it will be the same for Andy (Carroll) and Kevin Nolan as well. It is going to be a good game and we are going to enjoy it and hopefully get the three points.'

If West Ham are to win at St James' Park on-loan striker Carroll may have to find his scoring boots for the visitors.

Former Newcastle favourite Carroll is on a season-long loan at Upton Park from parent club Liverpool but is yet to find the back of the net for West Ham.

Allardyce has admitted the situation will be worse if it is playing on Carroll's mind. He said: 'I don't think he is worried. I hope he's not because the more he is, the less likely he is to get that goal that he's looking for. I'm certainly not overly concerned.

'We'd all like him to get off the mark but, as every player will tell you, our main aim is to achieve results. If you're getting results and your main striker is scoring goals, then that's fantastic, but if they're not then as long as you're getting the results then that is the most important thing.'

Much has been made of Allardyce making another return to Newcastle, a club which sacked him as manager almost five years ago.

But the 58-year-old is not setting off for a revenge mission and has accepted the reasons behind Mike Ashley's decision to remove him as manager in January 2008.

'It's a piece of history in my career that didn't quite work out as well as I'd liked it to,' he said.

'For me, it wasn't me getting bad results at Newcastle – it was a change of ownership and a decision made at the time that they wanted their own man in. I accepted that at the time and since that time has drifted by, I have no animosity towards Newcastle United at all.'

Andre Santos "sorry" for Robin van Persie shirt swap

Santos 'sorry' for RVP shirt swap but Arsenal defender will still be a fall guy

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UPDATED:

07:04 GMT, 6 November 2012

Even after apologising to Arsene Wenger and his team-mates for making that embarrassingly premature move for Robin van Persie’s shirt on Saturday, Andre Santos is unlikely to be back in Arsenal colours on Tuesday evening.

The under-fire Brazilian is in serious danger of losing his place, with Wenger considering significant changes to his defence for a hugely important Champions League encounter against Schalke.

It is not because of one error of judgment at the end of the first half at Old Trafford, when he took the bizarre decision to ask a certain former Arsenal striker for a swap; it is because of mistakes of a purely sporting nature.

Scroll down for video

Slammed: Andre Santos (left) was criticised by fans and now his manager after trying to swap shirts with Robin van Persie at half-time during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United

Slammed: Andre Santos (left) was criticised by fans and now his manager after trying to swap shirts with Robin van Persie at half-time during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United

Centre of attention: Santos was in training on Monday ahead of Arsenal's Champions League tie against Schalke

Centre of attention: Santos was in training on Monday ahead of Arsenal's Champions League tie against Schalke

A TIME AND A PLACE

One of Robin van Persie's most treasured possessions is a shirt that Ronaldo wore when the pair shared the same pitch for a UEFA Cup clash between Feyenoord and Inter Milan.

Van Persie was a fresh-faced, 18-year-old, gracing the same European semi-final as one of the game's greats.

The Dutchman will probably have that jersey for the rest of his days.

Andre Santos is 29. He's a Brazil international, playing for Arsenal, with spells at Corinthians and Fenerbahce under his belt.

Why he felt the need to ask Van Persie for his shirt at half-time on Saturday confused most of us watching Manchester United's win over the north Londoners.

It also angered the Gunners faithful. Several supporters reckoned they were first with 'it was the closest Santos got to Van Persie all day' gag.

The shirt-swap is a gesture, and most would agree that football, as it takes a new battering every week, needs sportsmanship.

But there's a time and a place. When the whistle blows at the end of the game, wear what you like.

Brian Lee

The brunt of Arsenal fans’ frustrations in recent weeks, Santos is finally being held accountable for his displays.

Wenger had given serious consideration to handing Kieran Gibbs an early recall from injury before deciding on Monday morning that playing him tonight would not be worth the risk. Instead, he has identified Saturday’s clash against Fulham as the England man’s comeback game.

But Wenger was on Monday plotting another option, removing Santos from his defence in a switch that would see Thomas Vermaelen shifted out to left back and Laurent Koscielny deployed as partner to Per Mertesacker in the heart of the back four.

Santos can only hope the apology he is understood to have issued — after learning of the furore he caused when his misguided approach to Van Persie was caught on camera — is enough to secure him a place elsewhere.

On Tuesday, Wenger gave Santos a public rap across the knuckles for his behaviour, even if he did also defend him against some of the criticism.

‘I spoke about that with him but I do not want to make too big a story of that,’ said the Arsenal manager.

‘I believe that was not the right thing to do at all, but that is not an explanation of our bad performance on Saturday.

‘I don’t even understand it, but it’s interesting because Santos is a player who cares. He gives an image of himself which is not him.

'He is serious, he wants to do well. The shirt thing is a difference of culture. I can understand that an English guy doesn’t understand it. I’m French and I don’t understand it either.

'But he is completely in a different world when he does that. He understands today what it means and, believe me, he won’t do it again.’

Ill advised: Santos accosted Robin van Persie at half-time

Ill advised: Santos accosted Robin van Persie at half-time

Controversial: Van Persie left Arsenal for 24million to Manchester United in summer

Controversial: Van Persie left Arsenal for 24million to Manchester United in summer

Unhappy: Arsene Wenger let Santos know that it was inappropriate to swap shirts with Van Persie before the game was up

Unhappy: Arsene Wenger let Santos know that it was inappropriate to swap shirts with Van Persie before the game was up

Teams

Sportsmail understands the 29-year-old did not make the apology under duress from Wenger, who, privately, is said to have taken a relaxed view on the issue.

Santos, speaking to The Sun on Tuesday, said: 'I'd like to apologise to supporters who felt aggrieved by it. Did I think it would cause such a commotion Of course I didn't, otherwise I would have told Robin to exchange the shirts away from public view.

'Robin's departure to United did not turn him into an enemy for me. We remain friends and he talked about exchanging shirts, which is something players do all the time. I just want people to understand he is my friend and I wouldn't treat him differently because of the move to United.

'He approached me at half-time and at the time I did not think it would create such an uproar. I would never refrain from saying 'hi' to a good friend.

'It surprised me that people latched on to a gesture that promotes friendship and fair play. Arsene Wenger had asked the supporters to show respect towards Robin, after all.'

Given Wenger’s injury problems in wide attacking areas, with Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey out and Theo Walcott struggling with an upset stomach, Santos could yet find himself used in an advanced position.

The Brazilian is not the only Gunner guilty of defensive errors in recent weeks.

Fingers have also been pointed at Vermaelen and goalkeeper Vito Mannone, who have made costly errors.

Like Santos, Mannone is also likely to be dropped on Tuesday for the fit-again Wojciech Szczesny.

However, Wenger insists it is not
only defensively where his side have let themselves down.

‘The problems
in our defence are a bit about confidence and bad luck,’ said the
Frenchman.

‘Vermaelen is in good form physically, but you have to
accept sometimes that human beings go through periods where it goes less
well. We are more concerned about where our creativity has gone.

‘Our
defensive record is not very bad. Of course, in the three big games of
the season — Chelsea, Schalke and Man United — we made defensive
mistakes. But at the moment, we are not used to playing games and not
creating chances. That’s what we want to rectify because that is our
game.

‘We have been
criticised many times for giving chances away but we are not used to
being criticised for not creating, because we have a team that is based
on creativity.’

Tough task: Arsenal now turn their attentions to Schalke in their bid to progress in the Champions League

Tough task: Arsenal now turn their attentions to Schalke in their bid to progress in the Champions League

Star man: Santi Cazorla scored Arsenal's consolation goal at Old Trafford on Saturday

Star man: Santi Cazorla scored Arsenal's consolation goal at Old Trafford on Saturday

VIDEO: Wenger doesn't doubt Santos' commitment

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Robert Lewandowski has England in his sights: COMMENT

Pin-up adds final polish… and now Lewandowski has England in his sights

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UPDATED:

21:47 GMT, 15 October 2012

A trace of bewilderment flashed across the face of Robert Lewandowski at the Poland team hotel here on Saturday.

Lewandowski, the 24-year-old pin-up striker, seemed taken aback by the idea that he is improving. In his own mind, he has always been very good.

Asked about a quotation from Ottmar Hitzfeld, who earlier this year described Lewandowski as ‘a player transformed’, the player in question replied: ‘I’m working on a daily basis. There’s no big difference. I don’t know what else I can say.’

World on his shoulders: Robert Lewandowski is Poland's danger man

World on his shoulders: Robert Lewandowski is Poland's danger man

He may feel unaltered but in his first season at Borussia Dortmund, the striker scored nine goals in 43 appearances. Last season that jumped to 30 in 46, with a hat-trick in the German Cup final against Bayern Munich.

A player whose value was being queried in 2011, even though Lewandowski cost only €4.5m when he was signed from Lech Poznan, was in 2012 named Bundesliga Player of the Year.

Hitzfeld had his reasons. The transformation is what has grabbed the attention of rival Champions League clubs. That scoring spike is why England will watch him so closely on Tuesday night.

One of Poland’s assistant coaches, Hubert Malowiejski, who worked with Lewandowski at Poznan until 2010, confirmed the player’s innate self-confidence, and also the Hitzfeld opinion.

‘I know Robert from Lech Poznan,’ Malowiejski said. ‘Three years ago he was just a striker who could score goals. Now he can drop into the Wayne Rooney position and start combinations. And his heading has improved. He’s become a more complete player.

Head boy: Lewandowski opened the scoring at summer's European Championships

Head boy: Lewandowski opened the scoring at summer's European Championships

‘Playing in a very good team, and being in the first XI, has been very important for his progress. If he went to, say, Barcelona and was on the bench, he cannot improve.

'But in Dortmund, with a great coach and team-mates, playing in the Champions League, he is very capable with great potential.

‘Training and playing with good players every single day, that’s the reason why he is so good now. He believes in himself even more now. And he always did.’

But not everyone else did. That Lewandowski was playing at Poznan, rather than in his native Warsaw, is indicative of a not-so straightforward road to the top.

Big match player: Lewandowski has a below par record against top teams

Big match player: Lewandowski has a below par record against top teams

Famously, the Poland manager at Euro 2012, Franciszek Smuda, travelled to watch Lewandowski when he was manager of Lech Poznan. Smuda, in a quote he subsequently denied, described the journey as a waste of petrol.

The sporting director of Poznan signed the forward anyway and Smuda then picked him for Poland. It was Lewandowski’s soaring header in the opening match of Euro 2012 against Greece that gave the tournament lift-off.

He had been playing for Znicz Pruszkow at the time of Smuda’s scouting. That was in the Polish third division — Lewandowski was 18. He finished top scorer and helped Pruszkow to promotion.

Having grown up 30 miles from Warsaw in Leszno, Lewandowski had ambitions to play for Poland’s biggest club, Legia Warsaw.

He is from a sporting family — his father Krzysztof, who had been a lower division player, died when he was a teenager; his mother Iwona was a volleyball player, and is now president of the local football club Partizan Leszno.

But instead it was at Delta Warsaw in the fourth division where he began and though he made it to Legia as a teenager, it was with mainly the youth and third teams. Lewandowski was allowed to leave Legia for Pruszkow at 17.

It has been upward since. But for all the upsurge in goals in the Bundesliga, he misses chances, too, as was seen for Dortmund at Manchester City a fortnight ago. In eight Champions League games for Borussia, Lewandowski has two goals.

In Poland, there is also awareness that in 47 games for his country, only one of his 15 goals came in a competitive match — that Euro 2012 opener v Greece.

Goals galore: Lewandowski was on target in the final game before the international break

Goals galore: Lewandowski was on target in the final game before the international break

‘In games against big rivals it’s true that I haven’t normally scored,’ Lewandowski said at the start of this current international break. ‘I’m working for the team. But I’d like to score in this game.’

He does contribute more than goals, as he said. And he is usually up front on his own. Lewandowski has not always taken this quietly. He was prepared to question Smuda.

Similarly there have been dismissive comments about non-native Poland players such as Ludovic Obraniak. The relationship between the two is said to be tense, yet they are the biggest danger to England. Personal feelings may be set aside.

But only for so long. The politics over Lewandowski’s future will return — he is out of contract at Dortmund in 2014. Agent Cezary Kucharski has already been criticised by Borussia manager Jurgen Klopp over the flurry of transfer stories. Kucharski knows how it works. He is a former player; he is also an MP.

World Twenty 20: Luke Wright and Steve Finn help England beat New Zealand

All Wright on the night as mighty Finn keeps England's World T20 title defence alive

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UPDATED:

13:37 GMT, 29 September 2012

Luke Wright and Steven Finn starred in a much-improved all-round performance as England beat New Zealand by six wickets to put the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 crown back on track.

After Wright's runs and Finn's wickets at Pallekele, Stuart Broad's team are likely to need another success against hosts Sri Lanka when they return on Monday if they are to book a trip back to Colombo for the semi-finals.

Finn took three for 16 and then Wright (76) engineered a well-drilled chase – achieved with seven balls to spare – meaning England have at least given themselves a second chance after their defeat against West Indies at this same venue two days ago.

Big hitter: Luke Wright's innings was the backbone of England's successful run-chase

Big hitter: Luke Wright's innings was the backbone of England's successful run-chase

England v New Zealand

Click here for a match scorecard

Finn perhaps completed the hardest and most telling half of the equation, as only James Franklin (50) cut any ice for the Kiwis.

But Wright made sure, with a 33-ball 50 containing three fours and three sixes.

Finn took two with the new ball, including danger man Brendon McCullum, and then returned in the 17th over to see off another of the Kiwis' best hitters Ross Taylor.

New Zealand won the toss but were soon minus opener Martin Guptill, lbw to a swinging yorker from Finn.

Attacking intent: Eoin Morgan hit 30 off 38 balls

Attacking intent: Eoin Morgan hit 30 off 38 balls

England's strike bowler then picked
up the prize wicket of McCullum, making room to hit him over the ring to
the short off-side boundary but succeeding only in edging down to
Wright at third-man.

Graeme Swann, operating in his
accustomed post-powerplay role, immediately had Rob Nicol mistiming a
slog-sweep into the hands of deep midwicket.

/09/29/article-2210387-15433EF2000005DC-461_634x336.jpg” width=”634″ height=”336″ alt=”That's out: Craig Kieswetter's disappointing tournament continued with four off 14 balls” class=”blkBorder” />

That's out: Craig Kieswetter's disappointing tournament continued with four off 14 balls

They remained conservative until
Franklin took 16 runs, including a big hit over midwicket for New
Zealand's first six, from Briggs' final over.

With five to go, the total was therefore 96 for four – with Taylor and Franklin established.

Finn did for the former, who clumped a
pull straight to deep midwicket, and in the same over his aggravating
party piece of knocking over the stumps in delivery denied Franklin a
perfectly-struck and well-deserved four past mid-off – umpire Asad Rauf
signalling dead-ball.

Franklin stayed the course, though,
for his 33-ball half-century as he and Nathan McCullum did enough in the
final three overs to narrow England's advantage.

It was tighter still after Craig
Kieswetter went for just four from 14 balls at the start of the reply,
bowled when he missed a sweep at Daniel Vettori.

Memorable day: Steve Finn (left) recorded his best T20 figures of three for 16

Memorable day: Steve Finn (left) recorded his best T20 figures of three for 16

Alex Hales had taken 16 off Tim
Southee's first over but then went on the charge to McCullum and missed
an off-break, which hit leg-stump.

Wright was joined by Morgan, and the third-wicket pair barely put a foot wrong in a stand of 89 in 10 overs.

They were unfazed by the task in hand, and took the time available to them to build up the required momentum.

On a pitch favouring spin, they
allowed New Zealand's frontline slow bowlers to concede only 42 runs in
eight overs – but made sure they took toll of pace.

On the offensive: James Franklin added some impetus to New Zealand's innings, scoring 50 off 33 balls

On the offensive: James Franklin added some impetus to New Zealand's innings, scoring 50 off 33 balls

The run rate never spiralled thanks
to fine placement, by Morgan in particular in his near run-a-ball 30,
and at least one successful big shot in each over.

Wright drove especially well – and
when the hapless Southee returned for his second attempt, England's
number three hit him for one six to bring up the hundred and a second
high over wide long-on to pass his own 50.

Morgan eventually fell – very
well-caught by a diving Doug Bracewell off Kyle Mills at long-on – and
Wright followed him, holing out to cover in the penultimate over.

But there was no longer any doubt
about an outcome which ensures England will defend their only
International Cricket Council title to date with at least a degree of
honour.

US OPEN 2012: Andy Murray beats Marin Cilic

Scrapper Murray recovers from slow start to beat Cilic and reach US Open last four

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UPDATED:

01:02 GMT, 6 September 2012

Maybe it was the rare sight of Ivan Lendl taking his cap off and scowling, maybe it was the arrival of Pippa Middleton at courtside, but something happened to bring Andy Murray back from the brink.

The 25-year-old Scot was in desperate trouble in the second set of his US Open quarter final when both these things came to pass, and they coincided with him roaring back to defeat world No 13 Marin Cilic.

From the dire straits of 6-3, 5-1 down when he could barely get the ball in the court, Murray fought back to win 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-0 in three hours to keep his Grand Slam dream alive.

Made it: Andy Murray reached the last four with a tough win over Marin Cilic

Made it: Andy Murray reached the last four with a tough win over Marin Cilic

After finishing he was able to relax and see who his next opponent would be in his second straight semi-final at Flushing Meadows — whether it would be a rematch of his epic two clashes with Roger Federer at Wimbledon this year or a less expected contest with Czech powerhouse Tomas Berdych.

Either way he has two days to compose himself after making what was an awkward assignment against the 6ft 6in Croat look exactly that.

Murray was bafflingly poor until his dramatic revival after the match was moved to the Louis Armstong Stadium following earlier rain. It is a court he has struggled on before and it doubtless did not help that it was not even half full at the start, his mood matching the flat atmosphere.

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

Troubled times: Murray struggled to get to grips with the court and his opponent in the early stages

The danger signs were immediate, especially the odd manic grin at his box and the curse that this surface was ‘10 times’ fast than that of the Arthur Ashe. The feet that moved so fluently in a brilliant fourth round performance were anchored to the floor.

Cilic’s early break was clawed back but when Murray was broken immediately again he hurled his racket into the concrete.

When two double faults saw him go behind early in the second you feared the worst, and so clearly did Lendl, who never shows emotion at courtside but now removed his headgear. At 1-5, another dismal break conceded, it looked a very long way back, but there was always the memory of the 2010 Australian Open semi-final, when he turned round another bad start against the same opponent.

Slumped: Cilic fell apart in the final two sets as Pippa Middleton cheered Murray on (below)

Slumped: Cilic fell apart in the final two sets as Pippa Middleton cheered Murray on (below)

Pippa Middleton watches Andy Murray

Cilic is utterly inscrutable but can get very nervous inside, and by the time Pippa arrived courtside, Murray was getting fired up and hauling him in.

Even then there were dramas as three unforced errors saw the world No 4 go 2-4 down, before a few errors from the other side helped him back and he ran away with it 7-4.

Slowly but surely, Cilic’s game began to collapse with Murray now darting around the back court and starting to work his backhand beautifully. Only two more games were conceded.

Castleford 26 Catalan Dragons 46

Castleford 26 Catalan Dragons 46: Tigers suffer sixth successive defeat

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UPDATED:

16:45 GMT, 2 September 2012

Ryan Hudson, Nick Youngquest and Stuart Jones all scored tries on their farewell home appearances for Castleford but it was not enough to prevent their team going down to a sixth successive Super League defeat.

Tigers captain Danny Orr, another man playing his last match at the Probiz Coliseum as he edges closer to retirement, also got on the scoresheet with three goals but the Catalan Dragons were in no mood for sentiment as they cruised to victory.

Full-back Clint Greenshields and winger Damien Blanch both scored hat-tricks as the French side secured their first away win for two months to reclaim fourth place in the table, while the Tigers are in serious danger of collecting the wooden spoon in coach Ian Millward's first season.

Rugby League

Trailing 40-12 after an hour, Castleford rallied to score three tries in the final quarter to add respectability to the scoreline.

There was also an impressive performance from reigning Man of Steel Rangi Chase on only his second appearance in almost three months while hooker Daryl Clark showed some nice touches on his comeback after spending more than three months on the sidelines with a knee injury.

But the Catalans, who gave a debut to forward Antoni Maria, always looked a class apart, despite the absence of the injured Leon Pryce.

It looked so easy for the visitors from the moment second rower Setaimata Sa put centre Vincent Duport through a yawning gap in the Castleford defence for the opening try after seven minutes.

The Dragons then demonstrated their counter-attacking brilliance when second rower Louis Anderson picked up a loose ball 20 metres from his own line and combined with Daryl Millard, Greenshields and Scott Dureau to get Blanch over in the other corner for his first try.

Hudson kept the Tigers in touch when he won the race to Orr's grubber kick and Jones took Chase's pass to stretch out for a try but the visitors were always in control.

Castleford's cause was not helped when scrum-half Jamie Ellis went off with an arm injury midway through the first half and their suspect defence cracked three more times more before the break.

Dureau picked out Sa with a pinpoint kick, Greenshields raced over for his first and Blanch shrugged off Lee Mitchell's weak tackle to grab his second try on the stroke of half-time.

Greenshields then scored his second try, courtesy of an inside pass from Bosc, nine minutes into the second half and he completed his hat-trick six minutes later after supporting a break from Duport.

With Dureau taking his goal tally to six from seven attempts to make it 40-12, Castleford were staring at a heavy defeat but they were in no mood to roll over.

Orr and Hudson combined to get Youngquest over at the corner before a superb pass by Chase created a try for Grant Millington, who then turned provider for full-back Richard Owen to score the Tigers' fifth try four minutes from the end.

Orr failed with his last two conversion attempt and the Catalans had the final say when Blanch sprinted down the touchline to complete his hat-trick and Dureau kicked his seventh goal.