Tag Archives: headlines

Luis Suarez handball: Graham Poll"s verdict

Suarez can't be held responsible for his handball, even if he owned up the ref's call would have stood

By
Graham Poll

PUBLISHED:

21:58 GMT, 6 January 2013

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UPDATED:

21:59 GMT, 6 January 2013

Luis Suarez has form when it comes to cheating. But in the latest incident to attract negative headlines the Uruguayan striker was blameless, scoring what proved to be the winner in the FA Cup clash at Mansfield Town.

Handball remains the only offence in law which must be deliberate for a free-kick to be awarded – if the referee sees it.

*LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF SUAREZ'S HANDBALL BELOW AND GRAHAM WILL RESPOND TO THE BEST DEBATED COMMENTS ON MONDAY AFTERNOON

Instinct or intent Luis Suarez handled the ball before he scored for Liverpool

Instinct or intent Luis Suarez handled the ball before he scored for Liverpool

Another view: Suarez bats the ball back into his path before firing it home

Another view: Suarez bats the ball back into his path before firing it home

No chance: Alan Marriott is helpless to prevent Suarez netting the Reds' second of the tie

No chance: Alan Marriott is helpless to prevent Suarez netting the Reds' second of the tie

Rolled in: Suarez tapped the ball into an empty net

Rolled in: Suarez tapped the ball into an empty net

However, there are occasions when the
officials may see a handball they do not believe to be deliberate,
though penalise the offender because they have gained too great an
advantage from the ball hitting the arm.

The Suarez goal was just such an
incident which is why I am sue referee Andre Marriner did not see the
contact, rather than judge it to be accidental. Replays certainly showed
his view was obscured.

To be clear, Suarez sees the ball
rebound from the Mansfield Town goalkeeper, Alan Marriott, and tries to
get his arms out of the way; the ball hits his right arm and drops
kindly for the striker to tap the ball into the empty net.

Complaints: Mansfield players were unhappy with the decision to allow the goal

Complaints: Mansfield players were unhappy with the decision to allow the goal

The celebration, the commonly known
kiss of the wrist, was in no way an indication to opposing fans that he
had cheated, as was asserted by the ESPN commentary team.

Having known he gained from the
handball there have been suggestions that he should have told Marriner,
but I do not believe that would have made any difference – other than to
improve the Uruguayan’s tainted image.

Referees give what they see and stick
with those decisions. The images of Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler asking
Gerald Ashby to change a penalty award at Highbury are still clear – but
the penalty stood.

Trademark: Suarez kissed the inside of his wrist, as he does to celebrate his goals

Trademark: Suarez kissed the inside of his wrist, as he does to celebrate his goals

There was a period when after such
incidents referees in Germany's Bundesliga asked a player if he had
handled the ball. If the player took the opportunity to admit his guilt,
the goal was ruled out.

If, on the other hand, he denied it,
he could be suspended with the use of video evidence. This would not
need a law change to be introduced here – just a change of disciplinary
code from the Football Association.

Perhaps an overspill from his days
playing in Germany, Miroslav Klose did exactly that when playing for
Lazio in Serie A last year. As a result, the referee disallowed the
goal.

Confession time: Miroslav Klose admitted to handling the ball to score during a Serie A match in September, and the referee Luca Banti duly disallowed the goal

Confession time: Miroslav Klose admitted to handling the ball to score during a Serie A match in September, and the referee Luca Banti duly disallowed the goal

There are of course two other
options; Liverpool could have allowed Mansfield to score straight from
the restart, or the referee could have looked at a replay of the
incident.

As neither of those are likely to
happen in the foreseeable future why not allow the offender the option
to confess and improve everyone’s opinion of modern day professional
footballers

Either Manchester City or United will win the Barclays Premier League title: Gary Neville

The title is now a two-horse race and both are from Manchester

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UPDATED:

23:19 GMT, 8 December 2012

My gut feeling assessing the Manchester derby on Sunday is to say that this is just another three points in a long season.

I want to argue that, in my years of
fighting for titles and having watched several races unfold, Sunday's
result will not have a pivotal influence on the eventual outcome.

I would add that it is far too early to judge and that there are too many twists and turns to come.

Golden touch: City forward David Silva celebrates scoring in the 6-1 derby win at Old Trafford last season

Golden touch: City forward David Silva
celebrates scoring in the 6-1 derby win
at Old Trafford last season

Either of these sides are capable of
putting a 10- or 15- game unbeaten run together. And either team could
be struck down with injuries.

There is so much more to be played out. Remember, it was just over a year
ago, in October 2011, that Manchester City beat Manchester United 6-1 at
Old Trafford and the headlines the day after were 'Power Shift' and
'This Will Herald A New Era'.

More from Gary Neville…

Gary Neville: Chelsea's players must be living on a knife-edge
24/11/12

Gary Neville: Brave, ruthless, relentless: Ronaldo redefined football
17/11/12

Gary Neville: Why Manchester City are still searching for their own identity
10/11/12

Gary Neville: Nine great reasons why RVP can become a Manchester United legend
03/11/12

Gary Neville: Why both Chelsea and Manchester United would accept a 1-0 win at the Bridge
27/10/12

Gary Neville: AVB deserves a second chance… good managers – and some great ones – have failed before
20/10/12

Gary Neville: Rooney is in the same mould as Robson, Adams and Keane
06/10/12

Gary Neville: A lack of belief is all that separates the London rivals
29/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But seven weeks later, when City lost at Chelsea, another headline read: 'Title Race Blown Wide Open'. Normally I would use those examples to demonstrate how quickly our perceptions of the title race can change.

But then my mind goes back to that
dramatic last day of the season, to Sergio Aguero's injury-time goal, to
the United players looking bemused and downcast at the Stadium of Light
and to City's ecstatically celebrating the title – on goal difference.

I said in April last year, before that climax to the season, that it would be Sir Alex Ferguson's worst nightmare to lose a title race on goal difference and that he had always emphasised to us the importance of winning a game 3-0 or 4-0 once we were in control, precisely because of that possibility. And I remember Sir Alex congratulating City immediately after they had won the title, but then saying: 'This will never happen again.'

On Sunday, those United players that were at the Stadium of Light, who experienced the bitterness of losing the title, will be reminded of that: it can never happen again. Because although we can overstate the importance of individual games, when it came down to it, the goal difference City accrued in October last year at Old Trafford proved crucial.

And those United players will receive another reminder from Sir Alex that, were they to lose at the Etihad Stadium, they would again be knocked off the top spot by City – on goal difference. And that's why this game has become the most important fixture in English football.

Low point: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson leaves the pitch after losing 6-1 against City

Low point: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson leaves the pitch after losing 6-1 against City

I've seen both United and City nine times this season and there is nothing to choose between them.

The title race is between these two. I don't see any other team with the mental strength, durability and character that these clubs possess. They haven't been at their best yet and if there's one thing I would want to see on Sunday it's a step up in quality so that it is a magnificent game that befits the Premier League's strongest clubs, with exciting attacking cancelled out by concentrated defending.

But make no mistake, these are the best teams in England right now.

United have been better in attack, they have had more creative play and are more unpredictable.

But City have been more resolute defensively, grinding out results without the flair of United but with more stability. So Roberto Mancini will want to see that spark again to ignite his team. He would want to see Edin Dzeko, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasir firing again.

And Sir Alex, with most of his defenders fit, would want to start keeping clean sheets, to see his side become difficult to beat and pick up 1-0 wins rather than the 4-3 victories.

No love lost: Ferguson clashes with City manager Roberto Mancini (right)

No love lost: Ferguson clashes with City manager Roberto Mancini (right)

But do I think that if United win, City will have suffered a crucial blow in retaining their title No.

And if City win, does that mean they will go on and win the League No.

The reason why it's impossible to call between these two is because of that mentality they now show.

Last season, City made good the mental deficit they had always had when competing against United, that feeling that they would always fail at the last. The 6-1 win at Old Trafford, the crucial 1-0 win at the Etihad in April which put them back on top of the table and finally winning the League has given them a psychological strength that only a title win can provide.

Now both sides have a level of mental strength unmatched by the teams around them. You can see it in the early-season form. Whether it be in United's ability to
come from behind or City's knack of winning when not at their best, they
have demonstrated courage to stay in games and ability to grind out
results.

Who will have the edge: Ferguson (right) does not need to remind his players they lost the title on goal difference

Who will have the edge: Ferguson (right) does not need to remind his players they lost the title on goal difference

Even when City have suffered disappointments in the Champions League, they have been able to bounce back in the Premier League. So when they lost in the final minutes at Real Madrid, they were able to draw against Arsenal that Sunday. When they went down 3-1 at Ajax, they beat Swansea the following Saturday.

Both of these sides are capable of withstanding a setback on Sunday and coming back to win the title. But at the same time, the race is likely to be so close that this result could be significant.

Anyone who says they know who will win this is guessing. And if anyone tells you they know who will be champions after Sunday, you can ignore them.

All that we can say for sure is that last season showed these Manchester derby games have the potential to be decisive – even if it's impossible to say exactly how at this point.

Give him a hand: UEFA president Michel Platini has a plan

Give him a hand: UEFA president Michel Platini has a plan

Plantini's big idea has potential

UEFA president Michel Platini has suggested that the Euro 2020 Championship will be in a multitude of countries rather than in one or two host nations.

I think we need to hear the details before we form a fixed view as to whether it can be a success or not.

Because if it's a tournament that takes place in six different cities within an hour's flight of one another, then it could be incredibly successful.

Imagine London, Cardiff, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and Dortmund being the host cities.

That would be easier to manage for all fans and for teams than the tournaments we've been at recently in South Africa or the Ukraine and Poland and certainly more condensed than the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

But if, for political reasons, Platini ends up giving games to Istanbul, Moscow, London, Reykjavik, Lisbon and Rome, you are talking about a fad.

All of those cities would be perfectly good hosts on their own.

But the geographical spread would make it a nightmare for players and fans.

I know what I expect to happen. But let's hope that UEFA can salvage a good idea out of this.

Ian Poulter says he doesn"t need a sports

Poulter: I know how to climb the rankings… and it isn't by using a sports psychologist!

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 21 November 2012

Picture a press centre enthralled to see what happened next after Ian Poulter was asked whether he had ever thought about seeing a sports psychologist.

Heavens, It must be Poults’s obvious lack of self-belief that prompted the question. All those vital putts he leaves short at a Ryder Cup.

For a few seconds the Englishman appeared to be weighing up how he could reply politely. ‘Do you honestly think I need a sports psychologist’ he began.

Are you crazy Ian Poulter responded to questions about whether he needs a sports psychologist

Are you crazy Ian Poulter responded to questions about whether he needs a sports psychologist

‘Are you crazy Wow. I think there are people in this game who would pay me a fortune to be their sports psychologist.’

Indeed they would, given there’s hardly anyone in the history of the sport who’s got more out of his game, and is less in need of the dark science.

The 36 year old is right in his pomp just now, of course, still on a high from his stunning contribution to the miracle of Medinah and playing some of the best golf of his career. In three events since the Ryder Cup Poulter has won one, finished runner-up in another and fourth in the third.

‘It just shows what golf can be played when I focus my mind and I am going to work hard in my little head to keep the focus the same as it was at the Ryder Cup,’ he said. ‘I know I am dangerous when I have that frame of mind.’

Could it be that seeing all those UK boys dominating the top five in the world rankings and the headlines also brought out the competitor in him

'I would say that I am good friends with a lot of guys who were playing a lot better golf than I was playing, so it did spur me on,’ he admitted.

‘It told me that I was capable of playing better golf but hopefully I’ve changed that picture now and it is time to kick on from this position.’

Poulter, currently ranked 13th in the world, certainly has the chance to kick on at the tour’s grand finale, the Dubai World Championship, where the presence of every other member of Europe’s Ryder Cup team means there are oodles of ranking points on offer.

Close call: Poulter missed out on the Australia Masters after losing to Adam Scott

Close call: Poulter missed out on the Australia Masters after losing to Adam Scott

Close call: Poulter missed out on the Australia Masters after losing to Adam Scott

He then has a couple of limited field events to play before a six or seven week off-season where he will try to improve a few areas of his game in time for the Masters in April.

‘I would like to drive the ball a bit further than I do, and my mid-iron play could get a little better,’ he said.

‘Most of all I need to be a little more consistent with my putting and putt like I have been doing for the past month over a longer period. Look at Luke Donald.

'He has putted consistently well for 18 months and look what that has done for his world ranking.

‘The main goals next season will be all around the majors. I’ve played well in three of them this year, three top 10s, and I’d like to get a lot closer.

'I would think coming down the stretch, if I was in contention, I’ve got a lot of self-belief in me that can hopefully get me over the line. But we will just have to see. They are hard to win, as you know.’

Star of the show: Poulter was in fine form for Europe at the Ryder Cup in Medinah

Star of the show: Poulter was in fine form for Europe at the Ryder Cup in Medinah

Poulter finished as he began, his eyes glazing over at another baffling question. An American journalist used a baseball analogy.

Seeing Poulter’s bemused response, the writer concluded: ’Living in Florida, you know baseball….’

That was enough for Poulter to knock the question out of the room for a home run.

‘I’ve never watched a full game of baseball,’ he said. ‘You want to sit there for four and a half hours eating a hot dog and a coke Really I’m sorry.

'I’ve been living in America for four years and I have never watched a full game. In fact I can’t think of many sports where I’d sit there watching for four and a half hours. Unless it was the Ryder Cup, of course.'

Hopefully, it will be a good few Ryder Cups yet before he is reduced to watching. Or playing the role of sports psychologist.

Ryan Shawcross: I want to become England regular

I'm here to stay! Shawcross wants regular England berth… despite wait for first cap

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UPDATED:

13:57 GMT, 13 November 2012

Ryan Shawcross was always confident he had what it took to get into the England squad, but now he hopes to prove he has what it takes to stay there.

Shawcross earned his third call-up to the national team for tomorrow’s friendly with Sweden and he will win his first cap if Roy Hodgson opts to give him a run-out in Stockholm.

Although he has yet to feature for the senior team, the Stoke defender admits he is starting to feel comfortable in the England set-up and is now looking to become a permanent feature at international level.

England hopeful: Shawcross has now been included in three squads

England hopeful: Shawcross has now been included in three squads

He told FATV: 'It’s always good to come away with the national team and now I’ve been a few times I’m starting to feel at home.

'If you're playing well, you get noticed. At Stoke last year, we played in Europe and that got us a few headlines.

'On a personal note, if I’m doing okay and being consistent, then I always felt that I had enough to hopefully break into the England squad and luckily enough I have done, so I want to stay in it.

'There’s a lot of experienced players ahead of me and it's up to me to perform well in training. Hopefully I can play well when I get a chance.'

The 25-year-old, who was handed his first call-up by Fabio Capello in 2010, could have had the opportunity to represent Wales but insisted chose England.

'When I was a schoolboy, I played for Wales because I went to school in Wales but when I turned 16, there was a rule that said I couldn’t play for Wales,' he said.

'But in recent months, that rule changed and I could play for Wales again. But I decided years ago I wanted to play for England and I spoke to Chris Coleman, and Gary Speed before that, and made it clear that I wanted to play for England, so there was never any choice really.'

Friendly fire: Gerrard will secure his 100th cap when he plays against Sweden

Friendly fire: Gerrard will secure his 100th cap when he plays against Sweden

Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlong in line to win place at the Masters

Fourteen-year-old Chinese prodigy in line to win place at the Masters next year

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UPDATED:

14:45 GMT, 2 November 2012

Could a 14-year-old be playing in the Masters next year That amazing possibility has moved firmly into view after Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang opened up a five stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand.

The event is backed by Augusta National Golf Club and draws the best amateurs from all over Asia and beyond, drawn by the irresistible lure of a place in the field at the Masters that goes to the winner.

After opening with a wonderful 66, everyone wondered whether the slightly built Guan, who only turned 14 last week, would succumb to stage fright in Friday's second round. He certainly answered that one with a stunning 64 to spread eagle the field.

Unmistakable: The beautiful Augusta National Golf Club, host of The Masters, which was won by American Bubba Watson (below) this year

Unmistakable: The beautiful Augusta National Golf Club, host of The
Masters, which was won by Bubba Watson (below) in an emotional triumph this year

Unmistakable: The beautiful Augusta National Golf Club, host of The Masters, which was won by American Bubba Watson (below) this year

'My goal was to come here and win and go to the Masters but I know there is a long way to go and it will be far from easy,' said Guan. 'I'm not thinking that far ahead because I know there are so many good players here.'

An indication of the prestige of the event is illustrated by the fact 36 different nations are represented among the 120 player field.

Guan first came to public attention last April when he made European Tour history by becoming the youngest player to play in a full-field event when he competed in the Volvo China Open. The way he is going, he will be making headlines all around the world next April as well.

At present the youngest player to compete in the game's youngest major is Matteo Manassero who, just for good measure, went on to make the halfway cut as well at the 2010 Masters aged 16.

At the United States Open last year, 14 year old Andy Zhang came through qualifying to become the youngest player to compete in a major since Young Tom Morris – a month younger than Zhang – strode on to the Prestwick links as one of 13 competitors in the 1865 Open.

If Guan manages to hold on and win this weekend, he will be younger than Zhang but older than Morris.

Teen dream: Andy Zhang at the US Open

Teen dream: Andy Zhang at the US Open

The teenagers are taking over!

Andy Zhang, another 14-year-old, became the youngest player to compete in a major championship since 1865 when he teed up at the US Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco in June.

Zhang was born in China, but made in America. A golf coach spotted him on a scouting mission in China and, at the age of 10, Zhang and his family moved to Florida and David Leadbetter’s academy.

Sadly, Zhang missed the cut at the Olympic Club after rounds of 79 and 78.

But he'll be back…

John Terry must decide whether to appeal by Thursday

Chelsea captain Terry not expected to appeal race ban as deadline approaches

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UPDATED:

16:32 GMT, 17 October 2012

John Terry has until 6pm on Thursday to decide whether to challenge the four-match ban imposed on him for racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand.

The Chelsea captain and his advisers have had two weeks to study the full written reasons of the decision by an FA independent regulatory commission.

An appeal by Terry, who was also fined 220,000, would, however, come as a surprise given that the panel labelled his defence 'improbable, implausible and contrived'.

Banned: John Terry is serving a four-match suspension

Banned: John Terry is serving a four-match suspension

It would also mean prolonging the scandal which has run for just a week short of a full year, and provided numerous negative headlines not just for the player but for the whole of English football. Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor wants Terry to accept the punishment.

Taylor said: 'I would like the situation to be ended and people learn from it and move on.

'It is a decision for John and his advisers but my preference would be now to accept what has gone on, and that things were said which shouldn't have been said.

Flashpoint: Terry was banned for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand (left)

Flashpoint: Terry was banned for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand (left)

'Sorry is the hardest word to say but we have got to learn from it and move on.

'To get reconciliation, people have to accept what they have done is wrong, and there has to be some reconciliation because it is causing the game to implode from within. It has caused division among black players and among white players.'

Those within the game will also be studying Chelsea's response closely – the club said they would wait until the end of the legal process before commenting.

Over and out: Terry retired from international football with England

Over and out: Terry retired from international football with England

They have however defended club secretary Dave Barnard whose actions in asking for a significant change to an Ashley Cole statement backing Terry's version of events was questioned by the panel.

Terry was accused of calling Ferdinand a “f****** black c***” in the 83rd minute of Chelsea's defeat at Loftus Road last October.

The panel said the Chelsea captain, 31, 'is not a racist' but were 'satisfied' his comments were used as an insult. The three-man panel said there was 'no credible basis' for Terry's claim he had only been repeating words he thought QPR defender Ferdinand had accused him of saying.

Premier League Bootroom: Robin Van Persie dare not fail at Manchester United – Martin Keown

Bootroom: Van Persie dare not fail at Manchester United

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UPDATED:

22:07 GMT, 14 September 2012

Robin van Persie saw Arsenal's performance at Anfield two weeks ago and used it to motivate himself at Southampton.

Their display against Liverpool was probably the best I've seen from them in four or five years. Van Persie will have digested the result and considered for a moment if he had made the right choice in leaving.

Three and easy: Van Persie bagged a hat-trick last tine out for Manchester United

Three and easy: Van Persie bagged a hat-trick last tine out for Manchester United

What's the score: Jamie Carragher

He will have seen the service Lukas
Podolski and Olivier Giroud are getting from Santiago Cazorla and
wondered if he had left just as Arsenal were clicking.

Winning so well
at Anfield a week after the champions went there and struggled is
impressive. It’s early days but it is possible that they could challenge
for the title.

Van Persie knows he must not fail at Manchester United. He left Arsenal because he wanted to win trophies and it will be unthinkable for him if Arsenal win one this season and United don’t.

It must be a massive motivation for him and it showed against Southampton. Having missed a penalty, he could see the negative headlines. So he had to make amends. He’s taken responsibility for his team already because of his personal mission to win something. He has to make sure he’s scoring and that his team are winning and doing better than Arsenal.

Van Persie looks like an inspired signing for United, who have bought the finished article, the outstanding player in the Premier League last season. If he hadn’t been there in the last two games, they would have struggled.

People used to goad the Arsenal fans by saying they were a one-man team but Manchester United don’t look much different.

Patience of a Santi: Arsenal are building a new team under Arsene Wenger

Patience of a Santi: Arsenal are building a new team under Arsene Wenger

How the big men match up: The Premier League's tall players

It's unusual for a new signing to
start so well — normally there is more of a bedding- in period. But he
was in such a rich vein of form that the switch doesn’t matter.

He’s clearly enjoying playing with Paul Scholes. Wayne Rooney has been the United talisman since Cristiano Ronaldo left and you don’t ever want him out injured. But Van Persie’s presence means his absence is not a crisis.

Not many players who have left
Arsenal in their prime have gone on to be hugely successful. Think of
Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit, Alex Hleb. But Van Persie will want to
emulate Patrick Vieira, who also left at 29 and won a host of trophies
in Italy.

TALL ORDER

Manchester City can expect an aerial bombardment from Peter Crouch and Stoke, but they are well equipped to deal with it.

When you look at the starting XIs for the last round of fixtures (right), you can see they are one of the biggest teams in the Premier League with six players over 6ft: Joe Hart (6ft 5in), Vincent Kompany (6ft 4in), Joleon Lescott (6ft 2in), Aleksandar Kolarov (6ft 1in), Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko (6ft 3in).

PRAYING FOR PEACE AT QPR

There is so much riding on the game at Loftus Road between QPR and Chelsea after what happened between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand last season.

Chelsea have started well but they did last season, too, and then unravelled after the defeat at QPR. They need to avoid a repeat. More importantly, it is vital that everyone involved — players, staff, fans — should treat each other with respect.

We should be talking about football after the game, not another unsavoury incident. The players must set the right tone, even though passions will, as ever, be running high for a local derby.

Bootroom: The weekend's matches

Bootroom: The weekend action

Chelsea"s Eden Hazard v Reading

Haz he had a good 'un Chelsea's Belgian star shines again

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UPDATED:

21:28 GMT, 22 August 2012

After hitting the headlines on his Premier League debut against Wigan, Eden Hazard was expected to deliver a repeat performance on Wednesday night.

And the Belgian international did not disappoint as he caused the Reading defence no end of problems.

Here, Sportsmail looks back at his best moments.

2 MINUTES… After showing neat control, Eden Hazard comes close to scoring his first Chelsea goal. He receives a pass from Juan Mata but his shot flashes narrowly wide of Adam Federici’s post.

Eden Hazard controls the ball early the game

17 MINUTES… Hazard strikes again! His quick feet are too much for Reading’s Chris Gunter, who brings him down in the box. Frank Lampard smashes home the penalty.

Eden Hazard of Chelsea goes down in the area to earn the penalty which gave his side the lead

90 minutes… Federici is up for a corner in an attempt to equalise. It backfires as Fernando Torres takes possession and releases Hazard, who cooly sets up Branislav Ivanovic to score.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard charges forward

James Anderson: We didn"t need this stand-off. The selectors must do what"s best for the team

We didn't need this stand-off. The selectors must do what's best for the team

PUBLISHED:

22:50 GMT, 11 August 2012

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UPDATED:

22:56 GMT, 11 August 2012

Kevin Pietersen's comments after the second Test against South Africa at Headingley raised issues that have dominated the headlines.

The story took another twist when Kevin put a video on YouTube in which he made himself available for all forms of England cricket and we can only hope that is the end of the story for now.

Frankly, as players, all this has been a distraction we could well do without as we approach a massively important final match at Lord’s, one we must win to retain our hard-earned status as the No 1 ranked side in world cricket.

The stand-off between Kevin and the England Cricket Board over his future availability was not something we needed going into a big Test series.

Sublime innings: Kevin Pietersen hit 149 at Headingley

Sublime innings: Kevin Pietersen hit 149 at Headingley

Nor, when we have a must-win game,
was it ideal to see some of the things that have been said. To me it’s
all been going on too long. I’m sure the two parties will have had a lot
of discussions. All the players want is this to be put to bed so we can
concentrate on the game.

It does seem bizarre that, just a
week after Kevin played such a great innings, people have speculated
that he might not even be in the squad for the Lord’s Test.

More from James Anderson…

No other batsman in the world could have done what Pietersen did
04/08/12

James Anderson: We're determined to stay top and I will lead from the front
14/07/12

James Anderson: Winning at The Oval was our tribute to tragic Tom
23/06/12

James Anderson: Sitting out an England Test will never be an easy ask
09/06/12

James Anderson: It can get fierce but don't kill off our aggression
26/05/12

James Anderson: It's so good to see the skipper come through his tough trot in style

19/05/12

James Anderson: If I stay fit, I might just get near to Botham's record haul of wickets
12/05/12

James Anderson: Even the Sri Lankans admit nobody spins it better than Swann
07/04/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

With regard to selection, it would
obviously be a big decision to leave him out, even more so now after his
apparent U-turn, but the one thing the selectors and management will do
is take it all into consideration and do the best for the team as a
whole.

I’m sure all the ECB want — and the
coach and the captain — is for the team to play to their potential this
week. And they will not want anything to disturb that, in particular the
preparation from tomorrow up until Thursday morning.

Going into the match without Kevin
wouldn’t be ideal because, as everyone who saw the knock last week will
know, an innings like that is invaluable.

At the same time, no player is ever bigger than the team.

Kevin talked about having issues
within the dressing room. What’s frustrating is that this was,
literally, the first we knew about it. Kevin has mentioned nothing to
us. From the time Kevin first announced he was quitting one-day cricket
and why, we have tried to get on with things the best we could, even
though there has been a lot of speculation.

Stand off: Pietersen is at loggerheads with the ECB

Stand off: Pietersen is at loggerheads with the ECB

All I’d say is that to be successful as we have the past few years, you need all 11 players pulling in the same direction.

England have coped with players going
in the past. When Kevin quit one-day cricket, Ian Bell stepped up at
the top of the order. In T20s there was a hole and young Alex Hales
filled it brilliantly. Senior players also seem to pull together and up
their game.

Leaving aside all possible distractions, this is a hugely important game for us.

We worked hard for the No 1 Test
ranking and if we were to lose it to South Africa at Lord’s, it would
feel like we let it slip too easily after not long enough at the top.

Off the boil: England have lost five out ten Tests this year

Off the boil: England have lost five out ten Tests this year

I can’t put my finger on why we
haven’t kept our form since beating India 4-0 last summer. It could be
that, having chased something so hard for so long, we suddenly found
ourselves with nothing left to chase and that, once we got to No 1,
teams played against us with a different mentality.

We were the ones being chased. We
gave a much improved performance at Headingley and with better luck in
the first innings might have pulled off victory.

Importantly, Stuart Broad showed what
a match-winning bowler he can be. But even if we do win we’ll need to
have a serious think about how we play our cricket and how to keep on
improving.

Ravel Morrison joins Birmingham on loan from West Ham

West Ham bad boy Morrison snapped up by Birmingham

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UPDATED:

14:11 GMT, 6 August 2012


On the move: Ravel Morrison

On the move: Ravel Morrison

West Ham midfielder Ravel Morrison has joined Birmingham on loan.

Blues boss Lee Clark has snapped up the controversial 19-year-old in a bid to boost his Championship promotion campaign.

The former Manchester United youngster joined the Hammers in January for a fee that could rise to 1million but has a chequered off-the-field history.

Morrison, whose United contract was due to expire at the end of the season, stunned Sir Alex Ferguson by demanding a huge new contract despite making just three first-team appearances.

Ferguson expressed his exasperation with the talented but troubled teenager, describing his demands as 'unrealistic'.

Morrison hit the headlines for the wrong reasons again in February when he was fined 7,000 by the FA in response to a homophobic remark made on Twitter.