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Millwall 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2 – match report – Chris Maguire scores in stoppage time

Millwall 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2: Lions tamed at the last as Maguire eases Owls relegation fears

PUBLISHED:

21:08 GMT, 9 April 2013

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UPDATED:

21:08 GMT, 9 April 2013

Chris Maguire grabbed a last-gasp winner to fire Sheffield Wednesday away from the drop zone and send Millwall to Wembley on the back of a defeat.

The Lions, who face Wigan in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, got off to the perfect start when Jimmy Abdou scored after just 63 seconds.

But Wednesday equalised through Miguel Llera's free-kick before the interval, and substitute Maguire struck in stoppage time as the Owls moved six points clear of the bottom three.

Twit-too: Chris Maguire struck late on to seal all three points for Sheffield Wednesday at Millwall

Twit-too: Chris Maguire struck late on to seal all three points for Sheffield Wednesday at Millwall

Twit-too: Chris Maguire struck late on to seal all three points for Sheffield Wednesday at Millwall

MATCH FACTS

MILWALL: Forde, Dunne, Shittu, Beevers, Lowry, Chris Taylor, Abdou, St. Ledger, Saville, Easter, Hulse. Subs: Maik Taylor, Batt, Henry, Woolford, Keogh, Jack Smith, Adam Smith.

SHEFF WED: Kirkland, Buxton, Gardner, Llera, Pugh, Lee, Olofinjana, Prutton, Helan, Lita, Howard. Subs: Bywater, Taylor, Semedo, Maguire, Jermaine Johnson, Mattock, McCabe.

Referee: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands)

Latest Championship results, fixtures and table

It brought an end to Millwall's three-game unbeaten run and means they are not out of the woods themselves yet.

But for the time being they can focus on Wigan and potentially 90 minutes from a place in Europe.

They are unlikely to find the Latics as charitable as Wednesday, who conceded the opener with the first attack of the match.

Chris Taylor was allowed to cut in
from the left wing, charge into the penalty area unchallenged and
deliver a low cross for the unmarked Abdou to bundle home at the far
post.

It was recalled midfielder Abdou's
first home goal for the Lions, five years since he joined, and the
perfect way to stake his claim for a Wembley appearance.

Millwall were certainly not playing like a team with their minds elsewhere, though, and continued to bombard Wednesday's goal.

Rob Hulse burst into the area but could not get round Owls keeper Chris Kirkland, and Shane Lowry fired narrowly wide.

Bright start: The hosts took the lead after just 63 seconds through Jimmy Abdou

Bright start: The hosts took the lead after just 63 seconds through Jimmy Abdou

Hat trick: Miguel Llera got the Owls back on track before half-time with a cute free-kick

Hat trick: Miguel Llera got the Owls back on track before half-time with a cute free-kick

Latest Championship table

Wednesday had barely threatened in the
opening half hour, apart from a close-range effort from Steve Howard
which was well saved by David Forde.

But five minutes before half-time they drew level through Llera, who curled a 25-yard free-kick around the wall.

Forde appeared to have the shot covered, but the ball bounced in front of him, over his hands and into the net.

Taylor could have put Millwall back
into the lead on the stroke of half-time but his backheel from Lowry's
cross flew straight at Kirkland.

The Lions had a let-off moments after
the interval when a half-cleared corner fell to David Prutton on the
edge of the area and his shot was cleared off the line by Lowry.

Both sides had chances late on with
Jermaine Easter firing wide and Kirkland denying Taylor and Sean St
Ledger with fine saves, while referee Phillip Gibbs waved away some
strong Millwall penalty appeals after Seyi Olofinjana appeared to
handle.

Wednesday sub Jermaine Johnson should have put the visitors ahead 10 minutes from time but fizzed his shot narrowly wide.

However, the winner came deep into
four minutes of stoppage time when Maguire hooked in Danny Pugh's corner
to seal a valuable three points.

Ali Carter has UK Championship title in his sights after beating Mark Joyce

Ali has diet for success: Carter has his eyes on UK Championship title

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UPDATED:

00:45 GMT, 5 December 2012

Ali Carter reached the World Championship final in May on a diet fuelled by carrot juice, but curry and beer could carry the Crohn's disease sufferer to UK glory in York.

The 33-year-old Essex man has been struggling to stay on top of his condition for the last decade, and has recently ditched pills due to the fear they would cause him long-term health problems.

However, Carter has no problem sinking pints, providing they are low in wheat and gluten, and mild curries go down a treat with the two-time Crucible runner-up.

Going through: Ali Carter on his way to victory over Mark Joyce

Going through: Ali Carter on his way to victory over Mark Joyce

Now he has the williamhill.com UK Championship title in his sights after knocking out world No 1 Judd Trump's conqueror Mark Joyce 6-2.

Former world champion Shaun Murphy, in-form Basildon potter Stuart Bingham and Welshman Matthew Stevens were also winners at the Barbican Centre as the quarter-final line-up began to take shape.

Going by the wayside and out of the tournament were a despondent Graeme Dott and his fellow Scot Stephen Maguire, along with Marco Fu.

With a curry house just over the road from the tournament venue, Carter, a trim cueman who is also a keep-fit fanatic, does not need to look hard for a curry fix.

Inspired by Peter Ebdon, who has committed to a strict vegan diet in recent seasons, Carter downed glass after glass of carrot juice in Sheffield this year, and reported it had a hugely positive impact on his well-being.

Not going to plan: Mark Joyce looks on as he goes out to Carter

Not going to plan: Mark Joyce looks on as he goes out to Carter

'But I wouldn't necessarily go out and buy myself some carrots and stick it in a juicer,' Carter said. “It was just something Peter was doing, I was part of it and we were all having a laugh and it was good.

'I've stopped red meat, which I like, dairy, wheat and gluten. When I'm at home I eat well, salads and fish. I eat curries if they're not too spicy and not too much cream, but it's just a nightmare.

'A curry and a lager, yeah. But I try to get in the gym and keep myself trim. I don't live on curry and lager, believe it or not.'

Such an indulgence would make Carter sound like a caricature of an old-school snooker player, yet life on a busy sporting tour inevitably means he spends much of his year living out of a suitcase and eating in restaurants.

It makes dealing with Crohn's disease, which also afflicts Manchester United and Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher and causes inflammation of the bowels, particularly difficult.

Carter thought about retiring a year ago, and said after seeing off Joyce: “I don't feel that well presently.

Eyes on the ball: Carter on his way to victory

Eyes on the ball: Carter on his way to victory

'I'm looking forward to better days to come with my stomach.'

In the quarter-finals, Carter will tackle Bingham, who was terrific in seeing off Maguire 6-4 this evening, firstly going 4-2 ahead before being hauled back to 4-4 and then responding with a break of 120 followed by a match-clinching 54.

Bingham, due to marry fiancee Michelle at the end of the season, has taken the Australian Open and Premier League titles this year and amassed over 150,000 in prize money.

This is an outstanding opportunity to land silverware in one of snooker's premier events, and Bingham said: 'A lot of my success has been overseas and to do it in the UK is massive.

'I'm very happy with my game. I came up against a really good opponent today and came through. I'm over the moon with the result.'

Stevens was also a 6-4 winner, surviving a gruelling match against Hong Kong's Marco Fu.

Stevens, now 35, won the UK title in 2003 but had not reached the quarter-final stage again until now. He will face John Higgins or Mark Davis next.

He said: 'I'll have to play a lot better than that if I'm to go any further.'

Murphy impressed this evening in a 6-2 win over his fellow former world champion Dott.

The 30-year-old world number four had a total clearance of 130 in a victory that sets up a quarter-final against Mark King or 17-year-old Luca Brecel, who knocked out Ricky Walden last night.

Dott was dismayed by his own performance, with the 35-year-old Scot saying: 'I just don't think I'm the same player I was. I don't think there's anyone else in the top 16 that can play as badly as I can play.

'It's not good enough.'

Dott, Crucible champion in 2006, added: 'Hopefully it's not just because of my age. I'd don't know if I've had it. Maybe I'm finished.'

The Larkhall man was quick to stress that did not mean he would be retiring, adding: 'Maybe it's just a bad patch but it doesn't feel that way.'

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Fulham 0: Match report

Sheffield Wednesday 1 Fulham 0: Cottagers crash out at Hillsborough as Dembele heads for Spurs

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 28 August 2012

Fulham went out of the Capital One Cup with barely a flutter of resistance last night as Sheffield Wednesday maintained their impressive start to the season.

Gary Madine’s second-half penalty decided the tie but it could and should have been more emphatic.
Madine himself should have put it beyond doubt when he was clear on goal but bizarrely stopped in mid-stride, failing to realise the referee had overruled an offside flag.

Dave Jones’ side genuinely fancied themselves against Premier League opponents showing five changes. Then again, Jones also tinkered with half of his Championship side, a fact which reflected the mounting strength of a resurgent club.

Cup of shocks: Gary Madine scoring his penalty to give Sheffield Wednesday the lead

Cup of shocks: Gary Madine scoring his penalty to give Sheffield Wednesday the lead

MATCH FACTS:

To follow

Wednesday knew that another win would carry them one short of the club record of 19 unbeaten matches and duly delivered.

Jones himself went into last night’s
match undefeated since he took charge 16 games ago and Wednesday hadn’t
lost at Hillsborough for six months. Their four league and cup
encounters this season had produced 20 goals, 12 of them in favour of
Jones’ ultra-attacking line-up.

But this was markedly different from
the helter-skelter of the Football League as Fulham attempted to impose a
patient passing game. It achieved very little.

Among those left out all together was Moussa Dembele, who is set to sign for Tottenham.

All the urgency came from Wednesday in
the opening half as some of Jones’ fringe players were playing for
their places as Jones targets QPR’s Jay Bothroyd and Millwall’s Dany
N’Guessan.

Chris Maguire, making his second start since his summer arrival from Rangers, almost latched onto Jose Semedo’s clever pass.

Michail Antonio seized possession near
the halfway line and powered clear to fire a shot that forced
goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer into a full-length save.

Spot on: Madine scores his penalty

Spot on: Madine scores his penalty

But the winger should have done better
when he worked a much clearer chance for himself only to fire over.
Gary Madine might also have done better with an eight-yard header placed
too close to the keeper.

The first half resembled a practice
match. Certainly, Fulham were unimpressive, with former Wigan striker
Hugo Rodallega among those failing to make an impression.

Manager Martin Jol must have been
looking for more gumption in the second period, if only to avoid a
prospect neither side will have wanted, namely extra time and penalties.

That said, Owls boss Jones made it
clear in the build-up to the game that he was keen for cup success to go
hand-in-hand with the prospect of another promotion campaign on the
back of last season’s climb from League One.

Fulham have reached the quarter-finals
on four occasions but have never won the cup, whereas Wednesday won it
in 1991 when John Sheridan scored their Wembley winner against
Manchester United.

It was Wednesday, not Fulham, who stepped up a gear after the break to force the breakthrough.

First, Daniel Jones’ corner produced a low shot from Mark Beevers that was cleared off the line by Stephen Kelly.

Then Kelly was forced into more
desperate rearguard action, only this time he tripped Maguire. Madine
stepped up to drill his first goal of the season from the penalty spot.

On the balance of play, only one side was showing the desire to win and that was the Hillsborough club.

Fulham were harshly denied an
equaliser in the 63rd minute. Rodallega curled in a precise free kick
but Brede Hangeland was flagged for offside when he headed home from the
edge of the six-yard box.

Celtic want Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic

Celtic keen on Birmingham striker Zigic but wages could prove stumbling block

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 16 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Celtic have asked about Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic on loan but can't cover his wages.

Real Mallorca are still keen to sign the giant frontman who cost 6million from Valencia.

Zigic remains on a reported 60,000-a-week deal at the Championship club.

Wanted: Nikola Zigic is a target for Scottish champions Celtic

Wanted: Nikola Zigic is a target for Scottish champions Celtic

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Football League, Reading are to sign goalkeeper Stuart
Taylor. while Doncaster want Hull midfielder Paul McKenna, 34.

Preston winger
Danny Mayor, 21, is expected to join Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield want Derby striker Nathan Tyson, 30, as they face losing Jordan Rhodes.

Peterborough are giving a trial to
Waterford striker Sean Maguire. while Bristol City have signed former Celtic
defender Mark Wilson, 28 and Coventry have signed Motherwell's Steve
Jennings.

WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIPS: Ronnie O"Sullivan beats Matthew Stevens 17-10 to make Crucible final

Unstoppable Rocket makes fourth Crucible final: O'Sullivan bids for another title

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UPDATED:

20:50 GMT, 5 May 2012

Ronnie O'Sullivan put the Crucible on retirement alert again as he powered into the Betfred.com World Championship final and warned he was ready to quit snooker.

The three-time champion will take on Ali Carter tomorrow and on Monday after both men posted convincing semi-final victories.

O'Sullivan crushed Matthew Stevens 17-10 and Carter was a 17-12 winner against Stephen Maguire, to set up an all-English battle for the title.

This tournament has already seen the sport's most successful player of modern times, Stephen Hendry, call time on his career, and now crowd favourite O'Sullivan says he is seriously considering following the Scot into a life beyond the green baize.

Title in sight: Ronnie O'Sullivan beat Matthew Stevens to make the final

Title in sight: Ronnie O'Sullivan beat Matthew Stevens to make the final

'I don't intend to stay in the game long, even though I feel in a lot better place,' O'Sullivan said.

'I've made that decision and this might – I'm not saying it is – be my last time in this tournament.

'I might consider having a good long break, a couple of years off or whatever. I've weighed up the pluses and the minuses and I'm quite comfortable with that decision.

Crowd pleaser: O'Sullivan salutes the crowd as he makes the final

Crowd pleaser: O'Sullivan salutes the crowd as he makes the final

'There's no better way for me than to have a good run at Sheffield and get to the final and if I win it, great, absolute bonus.

'I've had a fantastic time and it's got to come to an end sooner or later. I don't want to drag it out too long. I always said I'd like to go out on a high and getting to this final has been great. I'd love to go on and win it now.

'I'm not saying it's a guarantee but I think now is as good a time as ever. I know it might seem crazy but people close to me know what's going on. I've not been afraid to show how I feel. I feel in a good place to be able to say that. I've weighed up lots of things.

'Sometimes you've got to live life a little bit, maybe do a little bit of Strictly Come Dancing.'

To give O'Sullivan's remarks a little context, today's was the latest of many retirement threats to have come from the 36-year-old Essex cueman, the first having been made while he was still a teenager.

What is certain is that O'Sullivan is brimming with desire and belief in Sheffield this year. His work with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters has produced a focused sportsman with impressive drive.

Come the final, Carter will be hoping for a more favourable outcome than he experienced in 2008, having been soundly beaten 18-8 then. It could easily be one-sided again though.

On the way to the final: O'Sullivan cruised to a 17-10 win over Stevens

On the way to the final: O'Sullivan cruised to a 17-10 win over Stevens

O'Sullivan made a slow start against Stevens this morning before picking up his performance after the mid-session interval, and the consolidation of his overnight six-frame lead meant he returned for the evening session with a handsome 15-9 cushion.

Stevens bit into that large advantage with a 116 break, missing the yellow when a crowd-pleasing total clearance looked inevitable.

The spectators did not need to wait long to see the table cleared in one visit though, with O'Sullivan sinking all the balls in a supreme 130 run to move one frame away from the final.

Well done: Matthew Stevens congratulates Ronnie O'Sullivan

Well done: Matthew Stevens congratulates Ronnie O'Sullivan

And the end for Stevens' fine fortnight was not long in arriving, O'Sullivan having breaks of 35 and 26 in securing another visit to the title match.
On hearing of O'Sullivan's retirement warning, Stevens said: 'I hope he does (retire).

'I can't see him doing it, but you never know with Ronnie. If he did retire as world champion, what a perfect way to do it.

'But I think he loves the game too much – he loves the buzz out there, no matter what he says.

'But if he does go, then it's good for all the other players.'

Stephen Hendry retires from snooker

Hendry calls it a day after Crucible humbling against Maguire

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UPDATED:

00:15 GMT, 2 May 2012

Stephen Hendry announced his retirement from snooker after a crushing 13-2 defeat by Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals of the Betfred.com World Championship.

Hendry said: 'I am officially retired from all professional snooker now. I decided three months ago but I didn't tell anybody. I just didn't settle at all today and I was relieved to get a frame in the end because I didn't want my last match to be 13-0.'

Crushed by his own ineptitude, the 43-year-old's features betrayed his advancing years and receding hopes as he slumped to a trouncing at the hands of his fellow Scot.

Breaking point: Hendry (left) on his way to a crushing defeat by Maguire

Breaking point: Hendry (left) on his way to a crushing defeat by Maguire

Instead of contemplating a final
session this afternoon to reach the 12th world championship semi-final
of a glorious career, Hendry was left the choice of driving home to
Scotland late into the night or joining the BBC commentary team for the
remainder of a tournament in which he had dared to dream of starring.

As abject as defending champion John
Higgins had been in their second round match, so Hendry was equally
dreadful. No shot summed up the collapse of his game more than the
straightforward pink which didn't come close to even the jaws of the
corner pocket. It would have won him the third frame and a route into
the contest.

As it was, Maguire cleaned up and
led 3-0. Whereas Hendry had stuttered to victory against Higgins,
collecting points on numerous visits, Maguire switched to cruise mode.

His potting was emphatic, his
break-building supreme, but with so little threat of being punished
should he miss, it was little surprise. /05/01/article-0-12DC3972000005DC-107_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”One of the greats: Scotland's Stephen Hendry has retired from snooker” class=”blkBorder” />

One of the greats: Scotland's Stephen Hendry has retired from snooker

When he returned from the
mid-session, it was to renewed hope among the spectators that Hendry
could summon the courage of a champion in order to extend the battle
into a third session.

Two shots later and a missed black
off its spot told them they were mistaken. Had Hendry put in this
performance in the first round rather than the quarter-finals, the calls
for the greatest snooker player of them all to retire would have been
deafening.

Consider instead that it was 11 days
ago that the seven-times world champion compiled one of the most
aesthetically pleasing maximum breaks ever witnessed at the Crucible.

And he reached the last eight with
the loss of just eight frames. He can also point to the jibbering wreck
to which Higgins was reduced at the weekend as an example of the
Crucible's ability to tear a sportsman's flesh from his bones.

Where the venue had once been as
intimate and cosy as his own living room, now it was barren and devoid
of comfort. Even the greats of the game are not immune to the Crucible's
power, it seems – the most compelling argument that the world
championship simply would not be the same test of nerve as well as skill
were it moved away from this cauldron.

Last four: Stephen Maguire cruised past Hendry into the semi-finals

Last four: Stephen Maguire cruised past Hendry into the semi-finals

Winning ugly has never been the
Ronnie O'Sullivan style, either, but it may be his only course of action
if he is to overcome the obdurate Neil Robertson and reach his first
Crucible semi-final in four years.

The Rocket spluttered in their opening session yesterday, a contrast to his smooth running thus far in the tournament.

He trails Robertson 5-3 going in to
today's decisive second day. Both men managed a break of exactly 100,
but couldn't disguise the gnawing feeling that they were facing their
hardest remaining opponent in this
world championship.

Edge of the Box: Kings of The Crucible make sure we"re all snooker loopy

Kings of The Crucible make sure we're all snooker loopy at the World Championship

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UPDATED:

07:50 GMT, 30 April 2012

Unless I am missing the point, I would suggest we are in the middle of a green baize drought (although everyone seems to be ignoring the snooker cue ban) judging from the amount of stick on ball action that is pouring out of the TV at the moment.

And the eye of the storm is of course the legendary Crucible in Sheffield where the BBC and Eurosport (in voice only, but with a lend of Auntie's graphics) are camped out to bring us a positive deluge of World Championship snooker.

Or, to put it more pointedly, as mentioned on Eurosport's commentary after Stephen Maguire went 11-7 up against Joe Perry on Saturday morning: 'Five hours, eh And these aren't even the longest matches. Wait for the quarters and semis.'

In it for the long haul: Glasgow potter Stephen Maguire

In it for the long haul: Glasgow potter Stephen Maguire

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Indeed, you only had to look into the dark, ringed eyes set in the heavily stubbled face of Maguire to realise just how relentless this tournament is.

It was the same look, in fact, that Paul Newman had, slumped in his chair, as Minnesota Fats talced his hands and calmly suggested 'Fast Eddie, let's play some pool' in The Hustler.

That the tension is palpable is clear to see – cameras glaring straight into the faces of the players as they either stare intently along their cue at the impending shot or gaze off into the distance from their chair as their opponent works the table – and it is surely this that makes the game such compelling viewing.

No better example of this could be seen than on Sunday morning on Eurosport during frame seven of the match between Andrew Higginson and Jamie Jones.

Played as ever in a cauldron of intense silence (broken only by the splashes of educated applause from the ever knowledgeable crowd, and the loudness of Jones' roaring pink silk waistcoat back), both men made basic errors, with Higginson smiling nervously at a simple miss, and Jones gritting his teeth and banging away with his cue as he was forced to watch on from his seat.

As co-commentator Joe Johnson put it during the frame: 'If John Higgins (the defending champion lost to Stephen Hendry) can fall apart, anyone can'.

Hair-raising stuff: Ronnie O'Sullivan in his match with Mark Williams

Hair-raising stuff: Ronnie O'Sullivan in his match with Mark Williams

Meanwhile, over at the BBC, there was no way all this raw energy and tension was not going to get the full treatment.

As you'd probably expect for an event that is an enormous swathe of their output, they really laid on the drama with the heavy roller.

The tournament of course opened with a bang with Hendry's 147 accompanied by John Virgo's triumphal commentary – a moment nearly matched by the two-part harmony he and Dennis Taylor lapsed into as they exclaimed simultaneously, 'oh the cue ball' during the Peter Ebdon/Ronnie O'Sullivan game.

But just in case the action at the tables wasn't enough, the Sunday afternoon programme opened with a rather surprising pre-recorded package that dug deep into the dirt of what had gone on in the previous few days.

First there was Mark Allen's somewhat bitter 'pusher' recriminations, rebutted by none other than his own coach Terry Griffiths who referring to his charge's gift at speaking his mind, responded very straight-faced 'some people find (his comments) funny. I don't laugh at them'.

Then there was Mark Williams admitting: 'I never liked the venue, to be honest. (There are) better venues out there.'

This prompted a rather thin-lipped Barry Hearn to say: '(That) was way, way below the belt and not what I expect a former champion to come up with'.

Time for a change: Mark Williams is not a massive fan of The Crucible

Time for a change: Mark Williams is not a massive fan of The Crucible

Not exactly the keep-smiling-and-brush-it-under-the-carpet approach we often see from sporting hierarchy flogging their wares on the TV.

But frankly this isn't really an event that needs to stir up controversy to grab and keep our attention.

All it really needs is something like it had on Sunday – namely Ronnie O'Sullivan, sporting an Arnie-style Terminator quiff, blitzing Williams all afternoon, accompanied by a rhapsody of approval from Taylor who was arguably more obsessed with O'Sullivan's new cue tip than a grown man should be.

Les Dodd had seemingly 'come down from Southport' to do the job, he told us, and for several frames he couldn't quite believe how he just 'got on with it' and that he was 'so comfortable with (it)'.

Steady on there, Dennis. And here's another good tip. Keep watching the action from the Crucible.

Like those dark clouds you can probably see lingering overhead, there's still plenty more where that came from.

WEDGIES

Tuesday morning on BBC2 and it was the baffling, bungled hour of fish bowls, Spice Girls and sound lapses that was the Olympic football draw draw. Even if Gary Lineker's mic had been working, we still probably wouldn't have been able to make sense of it. His joke with the punchline 'two Peter Crouchs' may never be fully explained.

Tuesday evening on Sky Sports and one of Chelsea's Nou Camp heroes Branislav Ivanovic has his night of triumph brought crashing down by reporter Geoff Shreeves in a post-match interview. 'You know that means you don't play in the final now', prodded Shreeves. If there weren't tears before…

Wednesday night on ITV and there seemed to be a surprise substitution on the cards during extra-time in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich's Champions League semi-final. An anxious looking Mark Austin was glimpsed fiddling with his jacket buttons on the touchline in the News At Ten studio.

Friday night on Sky One, and a League Of Their Own is back. And even though the show boasted all-star teams, F1 action and even Usain Bolt, it was all about Peter Crouch 'breaking out the robot' once again to the strains of Harold Faltermeyer's 'Axel F'.

CRUCIBLE 2012: Ronnie O"Sullivan to face Peter Ebdon

Ronnie to face Ebdon in Crucible opener as champion Higgins is handed Wenbo test

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UPDATED:

14:00 GMT, 16 April 2012

In form: Ebdon won the China Open at the beginning of the month

In form: Ebdon won the China Open at the beginning of the month

John Higgins will begin the defence of his Betfred.com World Championship title against China's Liang Wenbo – but the pick of the first-round draw sees Ronnie O'Sullivan face Peter Ebdon.

Ebdon beat O'Sullivan in a famous quarter-final in Sheffield seven years ago, when his slow play drew criticism and left O'Sullivan clearly frustrated.

At the age of 41, Ebdon breezed
through his qualifier last night, beating Alfie Burden 10-0, and after
winning the China Open at the start of the month he is a player in rich
form.

The clash of the former world
champions, Ebdon a one-time winner from 2002 and O'Sullivan a three-time
title holder, will take place over afternoon sessions next Monday and
Tuesday.

Higgins will begin his campaign at 10am on Saturday, day one of the tournament.

On the ball: Brecel will be the youngest player to appear at the Crucible

On the ball: Brecel will be the youngest player to appear at the Crucible

Luca Brecel, the 17-year-old Belgian who will be the youngest player to appear at the World Championship, was handed a tricky opening match against Scotland's Stephen Maguire.

Stephen Hendry, who joined Liang, Ebdon and Brecel in coming through the qualifying stage, was hoping to avoid a Saturday start as he does not return from a business trip to China until Friday.

Clash: O'Sullivan will face Ebdon

Clash: O'Sullivan will face Ebdon

However the seven-time champion will play Stuart Bingham on Saturday afternoon, and should Hendry survive that test he would face the winner of the clash between his fellow Scot Higgins and Liang.

Hendry and Higgins have never played each other at the Crucible, and Higgins is eager for that to happen this year.

World No 1 Mark Selby, who has been troubled by a back problem, was drawn to face Barry Hawkins in an all-English contest, while last year's runner-up Judd Trump will tackle Welshman Dominic Dale.

Bristol potter Trump was a qualifier last year and shocked defending champion Neil Robertson on the opening day before embarking on a thrilling run through the draw.

Australian Robertson starts against Ireland's 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, another qualifier, this year. Two-time winner Mark Williams, Wales' biggest hope for the title, was handed a clash with Chinese player Liu Chuang in the draw.

Draw for the first round of the Betfred.com World Championship, beginning in Sheffield on Saturday:

John Higgins v Liang Wenbo

Stuart
Bingham v Stephen Hendry

Graeme Dott v Joe Perry

Stephen Maguire v Luca
Brecel

Shaun Murphy v Jamie Jones

Stephen Lee v Andrew Higginson

Ali
Carter v Mark Davis

Matthew Stevens v Marco Fu

Judd Trump v Dominic Dale

Mark Williams v Liu Chuang

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Peter Ebdon

Martin Gould v David Gilbert

Neil
Robertson v Ken Doherty

Ding Junhui v Ryan Day

Mark Allen v Cao Yupeng

Mark Selby v Barry Hawkins

Portsmouth 0 Millwall 1: Classy Kane the Lions hero but outlook bleak for Pompey

Portsmouth 0 Millwall 1: Classy Kane the Lions hero but outlook bleak for Pompey

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UPDATED:

22:41 GMT, 10 April 2012

Michael Appleton admitted Portsmouth are going to need a clean sweep after a loss to Millwall made avoiding relegation almost impossible.

Harry Kane’s sharp turn and shot into the bottom left corner in the 37th minute from the edge of the box decided the game and left Pompey nine points from safety with only 12 available.

On target: Kane wins it

On target: Kane wins it

Match facts

Portsmouth: Ashdown, Rocha (Futacs 45), Halford, Pearce, Rekik, Allan, Etuhu, Norris, Ward, Maguire, Varney. Subs not used: Harris, Scapuzzi, Mwaruwari, Magri.

Millwall: Taylor, Smith, Robinson, Lowry, Craig, Henry, Wright, Abdou, Barron, Kane, Keogh. Subs not used: Forde, Dunne, Batt, Feeney, Mason.

Booked: Lowry.

Scorer: Kane 37.

Referee: Mark Halsey.

Attendance: 15,837.

Appleton said: ‘I’m realistic and know
we’re going to have to win four games and, unless we do, we’re going to
have to look at playing in another division. There needs to be fresh
impetus into the football club.

‘There will be good times ahead but it’s not going to be easy.’

Kane warmed up for his goal on 18 minutes, turning on the right
side of the box before shooting straight at Pompey keeper Jamie Ashdown.

But he made no
mistake with the goal — his seventh since Kenny Jackett brought him to
the club on loan from Tottenham in January, in a shrewd deal that may
just keep Millwall up.

Portsmouth pressed for a goal before and after going behind.

In the fifth minute Millwall’s Maik
Taylor made sharp stops from Chris Maguire’s shot just inside the box
and Luke Varney’s close-range rebound.

Mixed emotions: Kenny Jackett (left) and Michael Appleton

Mixed emotions: Kenny Jackett (left) and Michael Appleton

Maguire headed on to the bar with four minutes left and Taylor pulled off another smart save to deny Kelvin Etuhu late on.

And Pompey now need a miracle to avoid playing League One football next season.

Millwall assistant boss Joe Gallen was full of praise for on-loan goalscorer Kane, after a tireless performance from the 18-year-old and his strike partner Andy Keogh.

'I don't want to talk him up too much because he's decent,' said Gallen.

'He's a very good finisher, very good all-round game and we're thankful to Tottenham for letting us have him.

'I think he's going to score lots of goals in his future. He loves football, he loves training – he gets annoyed when we pull him away from finishing training because we're worried he's going to get a thigh strain.'

Asked about a permanent move for Kane Gallen added: 'He's got the lot. We've got to try and make sure we get some points and then we can concentrate on next season. It would be great if we could.

'We're very close to staying up, but not yet there.'

Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis injured

McNamara's plans dealt a blow after Burgess and Ellis pick up injuries

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UPDATED:

10:32 GMT, 2 April 2012

England coach Steve McNamara will not be able to see two of his players in action throughout his three-week stay in Australia after Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis were condemned to lengthy spells on the sidelines.

McNamara landed down under last week on a fact-finding mission but in the first game he took in, Burgess' South Sydney against Ellis' Wests Tigers, he saw the former pick up a knee injury and the latter a foot problem.

Both players' respective clubs have confirmed how long the internationals will be out for, with Burgess set for six to eight weeks on the sidelines and Ellis three months with a broken foot.

Blow: Sam Burgess injured his knee at the weekend

Blow: Sam Burgess injured his knee at the weekend

It is the second time in as many seasons that former Bradford man Burgess has injured his knee, having been forced to miss all but four games of the 2011 season with a similar problem.

'It's disappointing to lose Sam for a period of time, especially considering the effort he's put in to get where he is now,' coach Michael Maguire said.

'Knowing Sam as I do now, I'm certain that he will do everything he can to get back on the field as early as possible, and in the best shape possible as well.'

Gareth Ellis of the Tigers leaves the feild with an injury during the round five NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs

Sam Burgess of the Rabbitohs is seen with ice on his knee after injuring his knee during the round five NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs

Hobbling off: Gareth Ellis (left) and Sam Burgess were both injured

Ellis' injury almost certainly ends his chances of enjoying a clean sweep of player of the year awards with Wests.

He has been handed the accolade in each of his three seasons so far, but is cutting short his stay by a year to link up with Hull in 2013.