Tag Archives: heavy

Fed Cup: Laura Robson and Johanna Konta dish out whitewash as Great Britain thrash Bosnia

Robson and Konta dish out whitewash as Britain thrash Bosnia in Fed Cup opener

By
Steven Donaldson

PUBLISHED:

15:20 GMT, 7 February 2013

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UPDATED:

15:43 GMT, 7 February 2013

Great Britain started their Fed Cup Group One campaign with a resounding 3-0 win over Bosnia in Eilat, Israel.

Anne Keothavong defeated Dea Herdzelas 6-4 6-2 in the first rubber before British No 1 Heather Watson claimed a 6-3 6-4 victory over Anita Husaric to set up a 2-0 lead.

Laura Robson and Johanna Konta then finished things off with a comprehensive 6-0 6-0 whitewash of duo Jelena Simic and Jasmina Kajtazovic as Britain completed a perfect start.

Konta and Robson speak to captain Judy Murray

Laura Robson

All smiles: Judy Murray clearly enjoyed Laura Robson and Johanna Konta's doubles victory in Israel

High five: Konta and Robson celebrate with British team after their doubles victory on Thursday

High five: Konta and Robson celebrate with British team after their doubles victory on Thursday

The Pool B games had been delayed after heavy rain yesterday, which meant Great Britain could only begin their tournament today.

However, it did not disrupt their preparations as they started off in the best possible style ahead of tomorrow's scheduled meeting with Portugal.

On form: British No 1 Heather Watson (above) and team-mate Anne Keothavong (below)

On form: British No 1 Heather Watson (above) and team-mate Anne Keothavong (below)

Anne Keothavong

Flying the flag: British fans watch the action at the Municipal Tennis Club in Eilat

Flying the flag: British fans watch the action at the Municipal Tennis Club in Eilat

Neil Ruddock Celebrity Big Brother bath time

Did the water jump out when you got in, Razor Bath time for Ruddock in the Celeb Big Brother house

By
Paul Collins

PUBLISHED:

15:50 GMT, 7 January 2013

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UPDATED:

15:50 GMT, 7 January 2013

Who knows what Neil Ruddock's motives for going into the Celebrity Big Brother house were, but we hope losing a few pounds is somewhere on his list of priorities.

There's no doubt 'Razor' has earned the right to treat himself now that his playing days are behind him. But he's clearly treating himself a little too often.

The former Millwall, Tottenham and Liverpool defender has joined Frankie Dettori and host of other celebs hoping to win cash for their chosen charity.

He's big Big Brother contestant: Ruddock in all his glory, heading for a bath

He's big Big Brother contestant: Ruddock in all his glory, heading for a bath

This is not the first time that the 44-year-old has ventured into the world of reality television since he hung up his boots in 2003. Ruddock appeared on 'I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!' in 2004.

While his television career has introduced his loutishness to a wider audience, Ruddock's behaviour gained him infamy in the footballing world in his mid-90s hey-day.

On the pitch, Ruddock was famously involved in a scuffle with Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, while he broke both of Cantona's United team-mate Andrew Cole's legs in a challenge in a reserve match in the same year.

One question: Is Ruddock really big, or is that bath really small

One question: Is Ruddock really big, or is that bath really small

Off the pitch, Razor earned himself a reputation as a heavy drinker and
womaniser during a career which spanned 17 years and took in eight
clubs.

Never the slimmest in his playing days, Ruddock has swelled to a size surely even he would have gawked at back in his prime. Maybe a spell away from the fridge will do him good.

Slim pickings: Ruddock cut a leaner figure in his playing days

Slim pickings: Ruddock cut a leaner figure in his playing days

Rafa Benitez says Chelsea will pounce on any title slip-ups

We're ready to pounce! Rafa says Chelsea will capitalise on any slip-ups at the top

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Rafa Benitez claims Chelsea are ready to pounce if Manchester United slip up in the title race.

Benitez is starting to believe they can pull off a spectacular title challenge in the Barclays Premier League after their stunning 8-0 win over Aston Villa.

Chelsea are 11 points behind the league leaders with a game in hand and is convinced they will close the gap over a heavy Christmas schedule.

Blue is the colour: Chelsea smashed Villa 8-0 and their manager says they are ready to pounce on any slip-ups

Blue is the colour: Chelsea smashed Villa 8-0 and their manager says they are ready to pounce on any slip-ups

Blue is the colour: Chelsea set a Premier League record with their seven different scorers against Villa

They travel to Norwich today before
fixtures against Everton and QPR ahead of their FA Cup third round tie
at Southampton on Jan 5.

Benitez said: 'It's important when we
are we winning, and the way we are winning at the moment, that we send
the right message across.

'If we play at the level we showed
against Villa then you can always win games. Manchester United drew
against Swansea so we can make up ground and anything can happen.

'We will see how close we can be. The
main thing for us is to be consistent, play well like we did against
Aston Villa and to win games.

'It's very simple, but very difficult at the same time. Anything can happen, but we need to maintain this level of performance.

'The team and the organisation of the team is important to me. Some people see it as defensive, but I don't.

'I see it as a way of keeping the organisation of the team but it's all geared towards being attacking.'

There has also been a shift in the attitude of Chelsea fans as they soften towards Benitez.

Chelsea are opening up teams again,
scoring six against Nordsjaelland in their doomed Champions League
defence, five against Leeds in the Capital One Cup and eight on Sunday
against Villa.

He added: 'I said at the beginning and
I will say it at the end: my job is to bring the best from the players,
try to get results and try to play the best football.

I've got a plan: Rafael Benitez is refusing to rule out a title charge from his team

I've got a plan: Rafael Benitez is refusing to rule out a title charge from his team

'I'm sure the fans will appreciate
this. It's just a question of time. I think they will realise I am a
professional, I will try to do the best for the club and at the end of
the day it's the best for them because they will enjoy it.

'The fans play every game. It's the
same for the manager. Not every player plays in every game. But the fans
and the manager live every game.

Much improved: David Luiz and Fernando Torres have both flourished under Benitez

Much improved: David Luiz and Fernando Torres have both flourished under Benitez

Much improved: David Luiz and Fernando Torres have both flourished under Benitez

'I have always tried to find the right balance. The balance for me is a clean sheet and yet still attack and score goals.

'I have always had an attacking mentality, the same mentality throughout my career because I came from Real Madrid.'

Manchester City 1 Reading 0 – match report

Manchester City 1 Reading 0: Barry leaves it late to rescue champions

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UPDATED:

17:15 GMT, 22 December 2012

Gareth Barry headed a last-gasp winner as champions Manchester City denied Reading an unexpected and morale-boosting point at the Etihad Stadium.

City created numerous chances in a mostly one-sided affair completed in heavy rain but the visitors looked set to hold firm and lift themselves off the bottom of the Barclays Premier League.

But City fought to the end and Barry got on the end of a cross from David Silva to head home in injury time.

Last gasp: Gareth Barry celebrates scoring City's winner with David Silva

Last gasp: Gareth Barry celebrates scoring City's winner with David Silva

Living on the edge: A frustrated Carlos Tevez bemoans a wasted chance as it seemed City would drop points

Living on the edge: A frustrated Carlos Tevez bemoans a wasted chance as it seemed City would drop points

Match facts

Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Toure, Nastasic, Rekik (Milner 84), Barry, Javi Garcia (Dzeko 58), Y Toure, Silva, Aguero, Tevez.

Subs not used: Wright, Kompany, Lescott, Razak.

Booked: Y Toure, Aguero.

Goal: Barry 90.

Reading: Federici, Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte (Shorey 86), McAnuff, Leigertwood, Karacan (Guthrie 70), Tabb, Kebe, Pogrebnyak.

Subs not used: Taylor, Le Fondre, Hunt, Gorkss, Robson-Kanu.

Booked: Gunter, Mariappa, Leighterwood.

Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral)

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A seventh successive defeat was harsh on Reading, who after slumping 5-2 to Arsenal on Monday were much more resilient.

Under-pressure manager Brian McDermott
always knew the game was a tough assignment but was moments away from
claiming a more than creditable draw.

McDermott had made four changes with
Jem Karacan returning from injury to make his first appearance since
October while Chris Gunter, Ian Harte and Alex Pearce also came in.

It took less than two minutes for
Adrian Mariappa to collect the game's first booking as he clattered into
Carlos Tevez in an early attempt to impose himself.

Thereafter the visitors spent most of
the rest of the first half on the back foot, with Mariappa and Pearce
particularly working hard to repel attack after attack.

City could only curse their luck as they carved out several opportunities but failed to take them.

Getting to grips: Reading mostly coped well with their more illustrious opponents

Getting to grips: Reading mostly coped well with their more illustrious opponents

Blocked off: Sergio Aguero's threat was snuffled out as Reading defended manfully until the end

Blocked off: Sergio Aguero's threat was snuffled out as Reading defended manfully until the end

The hosts were so dominant that
18-year-old Karim Rekik, making his Premier League debut at left-back in
the absence of Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov, was able to get
through mostly untested.

The centre-back pairing of Kolo Toure
and Matija Nastasic, while senior duo Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott
looked on from the bench, also had a largely comfortable afternoon.

Tevez played in strike partner Sergio Aguero for City's first serious opportunity but Adam Federici rushed out to claim.

Aguero made another good run to reach
the byline but his cross evaded everybody before Javi Garcia planted a
firm header straight at Federici.

Silva played a neat one-two with Tevez
but shot wide and Aguero then teed up Tevez but Federici saved. The
ball rebounded to Tevez but his follow-up was deflected over.

A rare attack from Reading saw Karacan shoot well wide but City responded with Tevez crossing for Barry to head at Federici.

Sergio Aguero jumps over Adam Federici

Lack of goals: City's strikers are not on top form

Waiting for the breakthrough: Sergio Aguero skips over Federici as another chance goes begging

Pressure: David Silva tried to help City breech Reading's defence

Pressure: David Silva tried to help City breech Reading's defence

Silva jinked his way through the area
to create another opportunity but Reading scrambled clear as Yaya Toure
and Tevez jostled to reach his cross. Toure claimed he was impeded but
referee Mike Dean saw nothing untoward.

Pablo Zabaleta had an effort deflected over and Nastasic also missed the target as City maintained the pressure.

Aguero burst through just before the
break but Reading closed down shooting angles and Tevez could not get on
the end of his cross.

Tevez threatened after the restart but could only shoot at Federici.

Tevez tried his luck again from a
free-kick outside the area but his curling effort was pushed away from
the top corner by the Reading keeper.

Can't complain: Reading boss Brian McDermott will be pleased with the showing from his men

Can't complain: Reading boss Brian McDermott will be pleased with the showing from his men

All action: Barry fights for the ball as City refused to give up

All action: Barry fights for the ball as City refused to give up

Reading could have snatched a shock
lead when Pearce got forward to win a clear header from a Harte corner
but his effort was well wide.

City boss Roberto Mancini decided it was time for change and sent on Edin Dzeko for the mostly ineffective Garcia.

The Bosnian was quickly into the action and was millimetres away from connecting with a header after good work by Zabaleta.

Dzeko did win a clean header at a corner on 66 minutes but his attempt flew narrowly over the bar.

No you don't: Adrian Mariappa slides in to try and block Silva's effort on goal

No you don't: Adrian Mariappa slides in to try and block Silva's effort on goal

There were clear signs that the home
fans were growing frustrated with their side's ineffectiveness in front
of goal as the game wore on.

Mancini made another change as Scott
Sinclair came on for Tevez but it was Reading who next threatened as
Pavel Pogrebnyak broke and crossed for Jay Tabb.

Tabb went down after colliding with
Rekik but Dean did not feel there was a foul and nor did he see a
possible handball against Nastasic as the ball came in.

Reading grew in confidence and and
Pearce headed another good chance wide after Jimmy Kebe had won a corner
with a good break down the right.

As the game moved into four minutes of injury time, City launched a final push.

Aguero fired into the side-netting but
Barry came good as he jumped above the defence to reach Silva's ball
and head firmly past Federici.

Adrian Lewis: Darts should be in Olympic Games

We don't spend our lives down the pub, darts should be an Olympic sport, claims two-time world champion Lewis

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UPDATED:

17:25 GMT, 13 December 2012

World Champion Adrian Lewis has called for darts to be introduced into the Olympic Games.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline on the eve of the PDC World Darts Championship, Lewis insisted: 'Darts should definitely be in the Olympic Games. Can you tell me any difference between archery and darts or shooting and darts

'It's a very similar concept and both of those are in the Olympic Games. And don't forget that darts is also a hugely popular sport.'

Hat-trick: Lewis is going for his third World Championship title

Hat-trick: Lewis is going for his third World Championship title

And Lewis, who claimed the World Championship title in both 2010 and 2011, has dismissed the reputation that darts players have in certain quarters of being 'heavy drinkers' and has called on the critics of the sport to try darts out for themselves if they believe it to be so simple.

Lewis, 27, continued: 'I know people say that we are a load of beer drinkers but we are far more professional these days. These critics should come and have a go at playing darts if they think it is so easy.

'We don't spend our lives at dartboards in the pub – we are at home practising. It is one of the most skilful sports in the world and there is no reason as to why it shouldn't be in the Olympics.'

Lewis, who defended his World Title by defeating Andy Hamilton 7-3 in last year's final, is confident of his chances ahead of the tournament, and is excited by the prospect of defending his title for a third consecutive time.

At the double: Lewis claimed back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011

At the double: Lewis claimed back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011

'It would be an incredible achievement to win three in a row. To make history like that would be fantastic. I was very proud after winning the World Championship the first time, so to win it three times, and consecutively, would be great.

'I'm in good form and feel ready. I've been to a few charity and sponsors' events recently but have had a week off and practised and I feel refreshed and prepared.'

And Lewis has admitted that it would be a dream to face darts legend, Phil Taylor, in the final of the tournament at The Ally Pally.

'To play and beat Phil in the final would be fantastic. He is the greatest darts player in history,' added Lewis.

'But once you are out there, you just have to play your own game and not think too much about who you are playing.'

Taylor, 52, boasts a world record 15 World Championship wins, and has been something of a father figure to Lewis, who credits Taylor hugely with his development.

'Phil and I are great mates. We have a lot of banter but he has given me so much help over the years. I used to train with him when I was younger, which was an incredible experience for me.

'What I learnt from him was how to be dedicated to the sport. I was at his house the day after he had won the World title in 2004, and I thought Phil may have had a bit of a break and relax for a bit. But he was at that dartboard practising the morning after. That's how motivated and dedicated he is. He is simply the best.'

Aston Villa 1 Reading 0 – match report: Christian Benteke strikes late

Aston Villa 1 Reading 0: Who needs Bent when you've got Benteke Big Belgian saves the day for Lambert

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UPDATED:

02:08 GMT, 28 November 2012

Paul Lambert’s gamble on youth looked brave when he decided upon his Premier League strategy at the start of the season.

For 80 minutes, as Aston Villa made heavy weather of escaping the relegation zone, his decision looked increasingly desperate.

The former Norwich City boss stamped his credentials on the club within days of arriving in the post vacated by Alex McLeish. They were again evident as he once more omitted Darren Bent from his matchday squad.

Magic moment: Christian Benteke scored the only goal of the game with a late header

Magic moment: Christian Benteke scored the only goal of the game with a late header

Rise and fall: Benteke leaps above the defender to break the deadlock

Rise and fall: Benteke leaps above the defender to break the deadlock

MATCH FACTS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Baker, Clark, Stevens (Lichaj 24), Holman (Ireland 67), Westwood, Bannan, Weimann (Albrighton 68), Agbonlahor, Benteke.

Subs not used: Given, Ireland, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Delph, Bowery, Lichaj.

Booked: Clark.

Goal: Benteke 80.

Reading: Federici, Cummings, Morrison, Mariappa, Shorey, Robson-Kanu (McCleary 83), Leigertwood, Tabb, McAnuff, Roberts (Hunt 79), Le Fondre.

Subs not used: Taylor, Pearce, Pogrebnyak, McCleary, Harte, Gunnarsson.

Att: 28,692.

Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

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But with 10 minutes to play of an
encounter with Reading that had only added to the air of general
frustration inside Villa Park, salvation was to hand.

It came in the shape of striker
Christian Benteke, an 8million signing from Genk on deadline day who is
rapidly proving to be one of the finds of the season.

He has the raw power of a young Emile
Heskey and his fifth goal of the campaign was one the former England
forward would have been proud of.

Ashley Westwood swung a corner to the
far post and the Belgium international out-jumped his marker, Sean
Morrison, to head home a goal that may prove priceless in the eventual
outcome of Lambert’s inaugural season.

In fairness to the Villa manager, his
side had looked by far the likelier of the two to find the net. The
noise which greeted Benteke’s winner was a mixture of relief and
elation.

And possibly nowhere more so was the
victory warmly received than on the home bench. Lambert swapped dug-outs
during the summer to be closer to Villa’s core support in the Holte
End.

Although he has made the right noises
so far, those which were coming back at him were the voices of a
supporter-base that was growing increasingly tired of platitudes. After
all, this was just Villa’s third home league victory in 13 months.
Unsurprisingly then, Lambert hailed match-winner Benteke.

‘He’s been fantastic for this club,
and for the national team,’ he said. ‘He’s growing up. For his age, he’s
a strong lad with very good ability. He always seems to get a chance,
whether it’s a header or a shot. He’s becoming a real fans’ favourite.’

Weimann wonders how he missed

Bannan and Tabb scrap for the ball

Blunder: Andreas Weimann (left) missed a great chance, while Barry Bannan and Jay Tabb fight for the ball

Take that: Villa's Nathan Baker (right) dives in on Jason Roberts

Take that: Villa's Nathan Baker (right) dives in on Jason Roberts

One person who is nowhere near the description of being a manager’s favourite, however, is Bent.

Despite the fact that Villa had not
scored in four of their last eight games and were struggling in front of
goal, Lambert believed untried signing Jordan Bowery carried more of a
goal threat than Bent.

‘I have no problem with his attitude
in training, none whatsoever,’ said Villa’s boss, ‘I watch him train
every day. I live and die by my decisions. I’ve picked a team to win,
not to lose.’ Asked what Bent needed to do to force his way back into
his thinking, Lambert replied: ‘Train well and play well.’

Lambert named a Villa team that
contained eight players aged 23 or under in a contest that for all the
world could be labelled a six-pointer. It was the youngest average age
of a Villa side in the Premier League era.

Attrition: Enda Stevens (right) vies for the ball with Reading forward Adam Le Fondre

Attrition: Enda Stevens (right) vies for the ball with Reading forward Adam Le Fondre

Struggle: Reading's Shaun Cummings and Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor battle for the ball

Struggle: Reading's Shaun Cummings and Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor battle for the ball

They were on top for long periods. It
will be of little relevance to Lambert that had Bent been on the pitch,
the contest may have been decided far earlier.

As it was, Andreas Weimann blazed over
the best chance of the first-half. Ciaran Clark was off-target with two
near-post headers and Benteke shot tamely into Adam Federici’s arms
when well-placed.

Referee Lee Probert failed to award a
spot-kick after Adrian Mariappa’s clumsy challenge on Weimann as the
Austria forward was making his way away from goal. At the other end,
Brad Guzan had blocked from Hal Robson-Kanu during the early skirmishes.

What is this Brian McDermott looks on as the teams churned out a dull game

What is this Brian McDermott looks on as the teams churned out a dull game

Until Jason Roberts twisted and turned
his way into the area only for Guzan to block a much simpler shot with
his legs, that was about as good as it got for the visitors.

The travelling support pleaded with
manager Brian McDermott to make a change. ‘It was a good idea, making a
sub,’ he said wryly afterwards. But Noel Hunt’s introduction had little
effect. Of far more relevance was the statistic that Reading have now
conceded 16 times in the last half-hour this season. It’s a trend that
could prove costly.

‘It was not a six-pointer,’ said
McDermott. ‘It’s a game of football. Villa have 13 points, they want
more than that. We have nine and we want more than that.’

But for Benteke, Reading would have.

Is that the time Paul Lambert checks his watch

Is that the time Paul Lambert checks his watch

Salvation: Benteke's goal was the highlight of the match

Salvation: Benteke's goal was the highlight of the match

VIDEO: ASTON VILLA 1 READING 0: MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

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Sir Alex Ferguson wants Manchester United to match Liverpool"s five European Cups

I want five! Now Fergie wants to knock Liverpool off Euro perch with more Champions League wins

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UPDATED:

10:17 GMT, 8 November 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged Manchester United to match Liverpool’s
record of five European Cups after they qualified for the knockout stage.

‘In terms of the history of our club, we should have won more and I want
to win it again and get into the bracket of winners like Liverpool, our
biggest rivals, Bayern Munich and Ajax,’ said Ferguson, whose side have
won the trophy three times.

Safe passage: Manchester United made light work of Group H

Safe passage: Manchester United made light work of Group H

‘AC Milan and Real Madrid have got separated from the rest but that definitely drives me on a bit.

‘I get really frustrated when I think about the opportunities we have had to win it, but you can’t be greedy.

‘You look at my career and I have won two European Cups and the Cup-winners’ Cup and I am proud of that.’

Hunger: Sir Alex Ferguson is targeting another march on Europe

Hunger: Sir Alex Ferguson is targeting another march on Europe

Meanwhile, assistant boss Mike Phelan feels that the team provided the perfect riposte to last season's woeful group stage exit after winning four games out of four to top Group H.

'Our intention this year was to get into [the knockout phase] very quickly. We were disappointing last year – the players and staff knew that, and I think the supporters wanted a reaction to that,' he said.

Phelan admitted the way things had turned out had been surprising and suggested the 12-minute power cut hold-up while trailing 1-0 to Alan's second-half penalty had been to United's advantage.

'In the first half we were not really doing anything in the game other than keeping possession of the ball.

Back in the game: Manchester United were transformed by the introduction of Robin van Persie

Back in the game: Manchester United were transformed by the introduction of Robin van Persie

'Possibly with the way the evening panned out – with the lights going out and the heavy rain, and then us having to make a quick substitution, bringing Rio Ferdinand on – that changed things for us, with the tempo of our game going up.

'Robin was instrumental in getting us further up the field. We played a little bit more in behind their midfield once Robin came on, and obviously he took his goal really well.

'It fell to him in a very good position on his left foot, he saw the goalkeeper probably trying to get to the ball a bit too quickly, and managed to hit it into the back of the net.'

On Rooney's penalty he added: 'We were actually surprised that he took it. We thought maybe someone else would step up to take the penalty, but credit to him – he wanted to get that disappointment behind him quickly and he finished it.'

Lucky break: Wayne Rooney appeared to slip on the sodden turf when striking his penalty, but converted it nevertheless

Lucky break: Wayne Rooney appeared to slip on the sodden turf when striking his penalty, but converted it nevertheless

Lucky break: Wayne Rooney appeared to slip on the sodden turf when striking his penalty, but converted it nevertheless

Asked if any United players had
picked up injuries, Phelan said: 'Jonny Evans felt his groin a little
bit – I think it probably happened during the penalty incident. He did
start feeling his groin, so as a precaution we took him off quickly.

'With Nani I think it was probably
just a lack of games and his hamstring started to tighten up, so we
weren't taking any chances with that.'

Van Persie netted in the 80th minute, Rooney five minutes later and Hernandez in stoppage time to leave Braga stunned.

Two bites of the cherry: Javier Hernandez hit the third despite the attentions of Douglao (right) and Beto

Two bites of the cherry: Javier Hernandez hit the third despite the attentions of Douglao (right) and Beto

The Portuguese side's coach Jose Peseiro felt the final scoreline had been harsh on his team and praised them for their efforts.

'I didn't see a clear opportunity for Manchester United until 80 minutes,' Peseiro said.

'I think they played well after the lights went off and we made some mistakes, which will happen against Manchester United.

'But in this game I think my team was
fantastic – better than at Old Trafford. My team did not deserve this
result, in my opinion.'

How Tom Youngs "transformed" from a centre into an England hooker

How Leicester's Youngs 'transformed' from a struggling centre into an England hooker

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 7 November 2012

Tom Youngs had just finished displaying his fighting qualities – quite literally – when Heyneke Meyer, now coach of the Springboks, made the radical suggestion which would change his career.

The 25-year-old will be included in the England team to face Fiji in the opening QBE International at Twickenham on Saturday.

His name will appear at hooker, but three years ago he was a centre trying to break into the Leicester first team.

Fledgling: Tom Youngs has transformed from a struggling centre to an England hooker

Fledgling: Tom Youngs has transformed from a struggling centre to an England hooker

Meyer had taken charge of the Tigers and the sight of Youngs trading blows with an opposition prop convinced the South African that his future lay in the front row, not in midfield.

'Heyneke was the one who suggested the change,' said Tom, whose brother, scrum-half Ben, will be among the England replacements on Saturday.

'I captained the second team against Saracens and got in a massive brawl. He came up to me and said, “I think you've got what it takes to play in the front row. I want to make you a hooker”.

'He told me to have a think about it, but I had already made my decision and I told him that I wouldn't mind giving it a go.'

And so began what Youngs refers to as the 'transformation'.

He went on a crash course of heavy weight training in the gym, while hurriedly learning about throwing in at lineouts and the murky world of the scrum.

'It was a culture shock,' he said, at the launch of O2 Inside Line, the behind-the-scenes show from inside the England camp.

Competition: David Paice (left) is keeping a close eye on fellow hooker Youngs (right) in training on Wednesday

Competition: David Paice (left) is keeping a close eye on fellow hooker Youngs (right) in training on Wednesday

Join me: Tom's brother, Ben, had already broken into the England setup

Join me: Tom's brother, Ben, had already broken into the England setup

'I remember my first scrum – it was in a second-team game against Gloucester at Welford Road. I ran on and Coley (Dan Cole) was there to talk me through it.

'I just fired in and pushed as hard as I could. Then I gradually learned the technical bits after that.'

Youngs needed somewhere away from the Premiership to hone his new craft and bang on cue, Nottingham called the Tigers to ask if they could borrow a hooker.

Richard Cockerill sent him off as a raw apprentice and he returned as a promising front-row forward.

But it was a painful education.

'My first 80 minutes at hooker was for Nottingham, against Leicester,' said Youngs.

'Their front row was Castro (Martin Castrogiovanni), Mefin Davies and Marcos Ayerza.

'The Leicester conditioner said to me after the game that I looked like I fatigued really badly and was not running nicely. I said, “I can hardly hold my neck up, that's why!”.

'I took painkillers for the rest of the week. I was in agony! But slowly I got used to it.'

Historic: Tom (left) and Ben (right) will be only the third brothers to play for England together since the war

Historic: Tom (left) and Ben (right) will be only the third brothers to play for England together since the war

During that period, when he was finding his feet in a new position in the Championship, Ben had surged into the England team.

'I was immensely proud when Ben started playing for England,' he said. 'I would come down on a Saturday to see him play at Twickenham, then play for Nottingham on the Sunday.

'Now my family are really excited at the prospect of us playing together at Twickenham.

'We played together in the back garden, with all my cousins and they are over the moon for me.'

One of the reasons Tom has made it this far is that he has learned – with help from RFU psychologist Matt Thombs – how to cope with the inevitability of making mistakes.

'I was a bit like a headless chicken,' he said. 'If I threw a “not straight” I would run into a ruck from the side and give away a penalty.

'I didn't know how to control those emotions, but Matt has helped.

'Everyone misses a lineout, everyone misses a kick. It just happens.'

What doesn't just happen is a transformation from centre to hooker, a remarkable triumph of dedication.

The reward comes at Twickenham on Saturday.

New Zealand 21 Argentina 5: All Blacks pushed all the way

New Zealand 21 Argentina 5: World champions pushed all the way by brave Pumas

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UPDATED:

10:20 GMT, 8 September 2012

New Zealand were made to work hard for victory over Rugby Championship newcomers Argentina in awful conditions in Wellington.

The All Blacks led only 6-5 after a first half littered with handling errors, but Aaron Cruden's third penalty and tries in the final quarter from wingers Julian Savea and Cory Jane secured victory.

A third win from as many games leaves New Zealand top of the table whatever the result between Australia and South Africa on Saturday, while Argentina remain on two points for the tournament.

Laying down the gauntlet: The All Blacks perform the Haka before the match in Wellington

Laying down the gauntlet: The All Blacks perform the Haka before the match in Wellington

Cruden missed an early penalty shot from wide on the left as wind and heavy rain swept the stadium, but he landed a simpler second effort 10 minutes in to put the hosts 3-0 ahead.

But Argentina responded with a try after New Zealand's Ma'a Nonu was tackled and lost the ball. A huge tackle by Savea prevented rival wing Gonzalo Camacho from crossing but as the Argentinian pack followed up, prop Rodrigo Roncero showed great power to break through the home defence on the line for his sixth try in Tests. Martin Rodriguez's conversion attempt hit the post and bounced wide.

Cruden slotted his second penalty to nudge New Zealand back in front at 6-5 in the 25th minute, after a ruck infringement by Roncero.

Strong start: Argentina scored the first try of the game

Strong start: Argentina scored the first try of the game

The All Blacks were denied a chance to open up a significant lead on the stroke of half-time when, with Victor Vito in full flow down the left wing, Marcelo Bosch produced a crucial try-saving tackle and took the flanker into touch.

That took place in the corner nearest the players' tunnel, enabling them to dash for shelter as soon as the whistle blew – and they were granted an extended stay under cover as the wild conditions led to a power cut, delaying the start of the second half after the floodlights went out.

After a hold-up of just over five minutes, the game resumed but there was no change to the scrappy nature of play and the opening 10 minutes of the second period were scoreless before Cruden booted the home side 9-5 ahead.

Captain marvel: Richie McCaw breaks a Pumas tackle

Captain marvel: Richie McCaw breaks a Pumas tackle

Strong finish: Dagg (right) and Jane celebrate

Strong finish: Dagg (right) and Jane celebrate

But they were immediately on the back foot after Rodriguez launched a deep kick-off which bounced into touch near the corner after Kiwi scrum-half Aaron Smith slipped. The Pumas won a penalty midway inside the New Zealand half, but Rodriguez missed an excellent chance to cut the deficit back to one.

New Zealand were next to threaten when Julio Cabello was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, but Cruden's penalty hit both posts. Argentina lock Manuel Carizza grabbed the rebound and hoofed it for touch, but a freakish bounce inches inside the touchline led to a chaotic passage of play which ultimately came to nothing.

A magnificent touch-finder by Rodriguez, with the outside of the foot, was out of keeping with a game in which the weather was understandably restricting the quality on show.

But the All Blacks stepped up a gear as the game neared its end and finally gave themselves a comfortable position with 13 minutes to go.

Conrad Smith drew three defenders before offloading to Nonu, who unselfishly gave the glory to Savea in the corner. Cruden's kick was a long way wide.

And Jane soon dived over for a second try after racing onto a long miss pass from Cruden which was ruled not to be forward. Cruden this time landed an excellent conversion from wide on the right to make it 21-5.

Open 2012: Rory McIlroy struggles in sand – Martin Samuel

Rory the sand boy goes into reverse as Open dream crumbles

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 20 July 2012

The fourth at Royal Lytham & St Annes is a 392-yard par four and, from its tee, Rory McIlroy put his ball to within eight feet of the hole. Unfortunately, he was still playing the third at the time but, hey, you can’t have everything.

McIlroy’s tee to green on that occasion was a lovely little chip that could have saved par had he sunk the putt; which he didn’t. Significantly, it could have been worse. In ending up left on the fourth tee from a second shot beginning in rough on the right side of the third fairway, McIlroy got lucky.

Just six inches away was some real heavy-duty vegetation, wild and deep, the sort that needs an industrial strimmer not a pitching wedge. With the wrong bounce or a couple more rolls McIlroy’s round could have been over almost before it had begun. So he caught a break; or, it might be argued, delayed the inevitable.

Get me out of here: Rory McIlroy struggled in the bunker on the ninth

Get me out of here: Rory McIlroy struggled in the bunker on the ninth

For the first three holes, he was charmed. He went right from the second tee but was sitting on top of some long grass weighed down by rain, with a view of the green. Then he played the same shot on the third. Again he was fortunate with his lie. In attempting to steer his ball around the low hanging branches of a fir tree he over- compensated and ended up on the wrong hole. Still, no harm done.

And then Royal Lytham pulled its sodden green rug from beneath McIlroy’s feet. If the rough could not beat him, the bunkers would: and how. Between the sixth hole and the 17th, the Northern Irishman found sand on five separate occasions, dropping a total of six shots as a result.

The Beatles sung of 4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire; there are only 205 here but it is enough, more than on any other Open course and, at times, McIlroy seemed to be getting a very personal guided tour.

Fairway bunkers, greenside bunkers, little pots, imposing faces carved from earth and resembling a fairground wall of death, Lytham has it all and McIlroy tested its full variety.

Heavy overnight rain had made the challenge more extreme, with casual water or simple saturation leaving balls plugged. Traditionally, bunkers do not present the test to the tournament professional that they do the ordinary club player. The control and finesse of the pros can make sand look easy. Lytham is different, however.

If the rough set McIlroy up, the sand finished him off. Every bunker appearance cost a shot; on the ninth it cost two.

Tough day: Rory McIlroy struggled during the second day of The Open

Tough day: Rory McIlroy struggled during the second day of The Open

Start at the sixth where McIlroy’s round began to unravel properly. He had balanced the bogey at three with a birdie at four, but his game was growing increasingly erratic and beyond salvation. He missed the fairway left, this time quite deeply into the rough, and his approach shot found a bunker, short, to the side of the green. He got out first time but well short of the flag and a shot was dropped.

He hit back instantly with a birdie on the par-five seventh but it was to be the world No 2’s last red number of the day.

The ninth was where, by McIlroy’s admission, it went irretrievably wrong. A pretty par three, just 165 yards long, but enclosed on three sides by a necklace of nine bunkers, McIlroy found one to the left. He stood over his ball, heard the click of a mistimed camera shutter, backed off, asked its owner for a little care.

He returned to the address position, at which point a nearby lorry driver slipped his vehicle into reverse, the beep, beep, beep of the warning signal clearly audible over the silence of the obedient gallery. /07/20/article-2176554-14250513000005DC-426_634x410.jpg” width=”634″ height=”410″ alt=”Gloomy outlook: McIlroy is left hoping for a miracle at Royal Lytham” class=”blkBorder” />

Gloomy outlook: McIlroy is left hoping for a miracle at Royal Lytham

He flopped out on to the fairway of the 14th and an attempt to use the benefit of a free drop due to waterlogged sand on the 17th failed dismally as McIlroy’s ball plopped and plugged, necessitating another sideways play.

Each mishap cost a shot. Each shot lost pushed McIlroy farther away from the leading pack. It was not a Masters-style meltdown but it was certainly a little dribbly around the edges. There was to be no McIlroy charge at Royal Lytham this time, just the steady squelch, squelch of a sodden retreat.

McIlroy’s problem on days like this is that he seems to be missing a strategy. Tiger Woods may have played conservatively on Thursday but his plan to ‘play the spots’ — hitting targeted areas that avoided trouble — accounted for the three under par that keeps him in contention for a weekend assault.

Too often McIlroy seems just to play a shot and deal with the consequences. Neither aggressive nor conservative, he let stuff happen to him, rather than dictating. McIlroy has spoken of getting deflated quite easily, too, and there may have been an element of that. He set a target of 65 for today’s round but it will take some of the greatest golf of his brief career to conjure that score from the debris of this round.

One errant shot, which struck a spectator and bounced out of bounds, cursed his round on Thursday, yet this was more damaging for being no fluke.

McIlroy needed no accomplice to make a mess of his card second time out; at five over for the day it was, disturbingly, all his own work.