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Manchester United 1 Reading 0 – Match report

Manchester United 1 Reading 0: Rooney grabs winner against managerless Royals

PUBLISHED:

19:21 GMT, 16 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:37 GMT, 16 March 2013

Wayne Rooney's 16th goal of the season was enough to propel Manchester United 15 points clear with just nine games remaining in the Barclays Premier League title race.

Rooney's deflected first-half effort saw off a dogged Reading outfit, who worked hard but lacked the class to fashion an equaliser.

The Royals now look certainties for relegation, sliding seven points adrift of safety with one game fewer than United to save themselves, their decision to axe Brian McDermott akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Jumping for joy: Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring for Manchester United against Reading

Jumping for joy: Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring for Manchester United against Reading

MATCH FACTS

Man Utd: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Buttner, Welbeck, Giggs, Anderson (Kagawa 85), Young (Carrick 74), Rooney, van Persie.

Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Evans, Valencia, Hernandez, Powell.

Goals: Rooney 21.

Reading: Taylor, Kelly (Morrison 88), Pearce, Mariappa, Shorey, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Robson-Kanu (Le Fondre 70), McCleary, Hunt (Blackman 70).

Subs Not Used: McCarthy, Gunter, Harte, Akpan.

Booked: Hunt, Kelly.

Att: 75,605

Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

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Thirteen points will do it for Sir Alex Ferguson's men to clinch a record 20th championship – and given one of their remaining games is against nearest challengers Manchester City, they might not even need that.

Yet taking maximum advantage of City's defeat at 10-man Everton earlier in the day was not the biggest talking point.

For that revolved around Rio Ferdinand, who rolled back the years to turn in another marvellous performance, which included claiming the assist for Rooney's winner.

The will he-won't he debate over Ferdinand's international return may not be answered for certain until Monday night, when Hodgson's squad are due to report at St George's Park.

However, there can be no doubt why Hodgson has been willing to go back on all those previous indications that he had 'moved on' from the 34-year-old.

Quite apart from the vast experience that would make Ferdinand such an unflappable presence in that vital World Cup qualifier in Montenegro on March 26, the former West Ham man also possesses an assurity in possession that few Premier League defenders of any nationality, let alone English, can match.

They all count: Rooney's shot took a deflection off Reading defender Alex Pearce before nestling in the net

They all count: Rooney's shot took a deflection off Reading defender Alex Pearce before nestling in the net

He created United's first chance for a
start with an elegant crossfield pass to Ashley Young, which the winger
controlled on the edge of the area before drilling a cross-shot just
beyond Robin van Persie, and more importantly, the far post.

Ferdinand's next incursion was the crucial one.

Nipping in to intercept Garath McCleary's poor pass, Ferdinand advanced into the open space and nipped round a static Mikele Leigertwood before feeding Rooney just to his left.

No joy: Robin van Persie tries his luck with a free kick but United failed to build on their slim advantage

No joy: Robin van Persie tries his luck with a free kick but United failed to build on their slim advantage

The striker took aim and once his
shot flicked off Alex Pearce, former Manchester City goalkeeper Stuart
Taylor had no chance of keeping it out.

Ferdinand's part was acknowledged by
the Stretford End though, along with a non-too-subtle hint that he
should reject the chance to extend his 81-cap international career.

Either side of Rooney's goal, Danny Welbeck went close on a couple of occasions and Robin van Persie tried his luck from 20 yards.

Battle: Rio Ferdinand vies for the ball with Noel Hunt as United edge to victory at Old Trafford

Battle: Rio Ferdinand vies for the ball with Noel Hunt as United edge to victory at Old Trafford

These are not the most productive of times for the Dutchman though, who has now scored once in his last 10 games.

After being thrust into the spotlight
following McDermott's controversial dismissal earlier in the week,
Eamonn Dolan became the 15th manager, including caretakers, to face the
Red Devils in their first Premier League game in charge.

Most have lost. And whilst Dolan was
not quite accepting of his fate, he seemed to have settled on a policy
of damage limitation despite Reading's position becoming even more
perilous due to earlier triumphs for Southampton and Aston Villa.

My ball: Nemanja Vidic and Noel Hunt battle during United's victory which takes them 15 points clear

My ball: Nemanja Vidic and Noel Hunt battle during United's victory which takes them 15 points clear

Only once did the visitors truly
threaten before the break, when Hal Robson-Kanu let fly with a shot
David de Gea would not have reached if it had been on target.

They should have had a chance to
equalise immediately after it though when Nemanja Vidic shoved Adrian
Mariappa over inside the box. Reading appealed for what TV replays
showed to be a clear foul but referee Lee Mason was unmoved.

United failed to profit from their good fortune, with Welbeck and Young going close either side of a wild effort from Van Persie that flew out from a throw-in.

Blow: Ashley Young's evening was cut short by injury but United held on to beat Reading at Old Trafford

Blow: Ashley Young's evening was cut short by injury but United held on to beat Reading at Old Trafford

Van Persie's loss of form seems to
have crept up unnoticed. His free-scoring ways earlier in the season are
a mere memory now, with Taylor repelling a well-struck free-kick to
keep the former Arsenal man out.

Whilst Rooney did fire over from long-range, the hosts gave Reading enough hope to believe an equaliser was possible.

It did not come though. And as certain as it appears United will end the season champions, Reading looked destined the finish it in the Championship.

In charge: Careataker manager Eamonn Dolan watched his Reading side suffer a narrow defeat

In charge: Careataker manager Eamonn Dolan watched his Reading side suffer a narrow defeat

We can upset champions Manchester City, insists Paul Lambert

We can cause upset at champions City, says Lambert despite growing relegation fears

By
John Curtis, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

14:55 GMT, 3 March 2013

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UPDATED:

14:58 GMT, 3 March 2013

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists he is focused on trying to plot an upset against Manchester City tomorrow evening rather than forthcoming games with fellow strugglers Reading and QPR.

Lambert knows the significance of the Barclays Premier League double-header which will follow on from the meeting with Roberto Mancini's side with Villa in the bottom three.

But he has taken enough encouragement from Villa's performances in recent weeks – including last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Arsenal – to believe they can at least compete against the champions.

Progress: Aston Villa's Chief financial officer Robin Russell is happy that manager Paul Lambert is building a youthful first-team squad

Praise: Lambert is pleased to see Villa keeping faith in him despite the relegation battle

He said: 'I felt there were signs of encouragement against Arsenal but then I've felt that for a few weeks without getting the results.

'That's the frustrating thing, when you play well and don't get results especially the games at Everton, West Brom and Swansea.

'When you have a two-goal lead at Everton and West Brom and you don't see it through, or concede a late equaliser as was the case at Swansea, it's frustrating.

'If you had taken maximum points from those games, then you'd be sitting mid-table and, against Arsenal, we should have had at least a point.'

Lambert added: 'People are asking about the Reading and QPR games and I say to them, 'so there's no point in playing Manchester City then'

'I don't view it that way. We may as well just give it to them if we think like that. We want to beat Manchester City.

Disappointment: Villa's players trudge off after their 2-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday

Disappointment: Villa's players trudge off after their 2-1 defeat at Arsenal last week

'You are there to win, regardless of whether it is City or QPR or whoever. We have to try and win. We are a threat going forward. We are not going into it just to draw or anything like that.

Villa won 4-2 at City in the Capital One Cup and Lambert felt their opponents were flattered by the 5-0 scoreline in the league meeting after a contentious penalty award.

He said: 'To go up there and beat them at any time, which we did in the Capital One Cup this season, is a hell of a result because of the players they have got.

'We also felt hard done by with the penalty they got against us in the league game when we were only losing 1-0 and in the game.

'It was never a penalty and a farce and there for everyone to see. That penalty incident at the Etihad will stick in the players' minds.

'Yes, We know how hard it is going to be. They are still a top side. They've just turned Chelsea over. They have some great players and are a top side.

Ready for action: Villa players in training earlier this week ahead of Monday's game

Ready for action: Villa players in training earlier this week ahead of Monday's game

'But I don't think we go into any game frightened of anyone. We have to take the challenge on.'

Villa are only one goal away from reaching the 1,000 mark in the Premier League.

But Lambert said: 'It will be only nice to reach that milestone if we win.

'Only if we win, does that statistic become relevant.

'There are 33 points available still and that's a hell of a lot of points to play for.

'I've said before it's going to be one hell of a ride to the end of the season, that's for sure. Never a dull moment, never is.'

Villa skipper and central defender Ron Vlaar is battling to overcome the calf injury, which forced him out of the Arsenal game.

Striker Darren Bent remains doubtful with a foot injury but keeper Shay Given has recovered from a groin problem in time to be part of the squad against his former club.

England Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan backs Andrew Strauss for mentoring role

England Twenty20 captain Morgan backs Strauss for mentoring role

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UPDATED:

14:19 GMT, 19 December 2012

Eoin Morgan gave his unqualified
support to the prospect of former England captain Andrew Strauss taking
up a mentoring role with the national team.

Morgan, who will lead England himself
in Thursday's International Twenty20 against India in Pune, knows
Strauss especially well thanks to their shared connections for club and
country.

Leading men: Andrew Strauss and England captain Alastair Cook (right)

Leading men: Andrew Strauss and England captain Alastair Cook (right)

The Irishman is a Middlesex player, as was Strauss until his retirement last summer. Morgan also began his England career under Strauss' captaincy, and believes he owes much of his development as a cricketer to the help and friendship he received from him.

Reports have suggested Strauss, whose successful tenure as Test captain ended four months ago, may be considered for a consultancy role by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

'It sounds like a great idea,' said Morgan.

Backing: England Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan

Backing: England Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan

'When I first came into the team, Straussy was captain – and the amount I've learned from him both on and off the field, things about life in general, he certainly took me under his wing.'

Morgan, taking charge of the Twenty20 team here in the absence of injured regular captain Stuart Broad, is confident Strauss could help others prosper too.

'I used him [his advice] to maximum effect.

'The things I learned, if he can pass them on to younger guys coming through or the next guys in line, it will be a massive benefit for English cricket.'

Maicon backs Manchester City to be a force in the Champions League in time

After two successive European failures, Maicon backs City to become a Champions League force

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UPDATED:

09:43 GMT, 3 December 2012

Manchester City full-back Maicon is certain the club is destined for Champions League success.

City have again failed to impress in Europe’s elite competition this season and are condemned to a group stage exit for a second successive year.

But Maicon, who won the Champions League with Inter Milan in 2010, believes it is only a matter of time before the Barclays Premier League winners crack it in Europe.

A European force: Maicon believes Manchester City can succeed in the Champions League in future years

A European force: Maicon believes Manchester City can succeed in the Champions League in future years

The Brazil international said: 'There is nothing missing at City.

'It is a great club and is working to get better in the Champions League. You can see us progressing on a monthly basis.

'The club is growing all the time, and sooner or later City will win the Champions League because everyone is working for that.

'The big difference is that here you have to play in the Premier League as well as trying to do well in the Champions League. It is a very different competition.

'They are great players here, but they need more experience of the Champions League.

Getting close: Maicon says City are not far from being a very good team

Getting close: Maicon says City are not far from being a very good team

'You have to tune in to playing in Europe, as it is very different to playing in your home league.'

City face Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion in the final Group D match of their doomed campaign this week.

Although qualification is no longer at stake for either side – the Germans are already confirmed as group winners – City can still secure the consolation of a place in the Europa League.

Crashing out: City failed to get past the group stages for the second year in a row

Crashing out: City failed to get past the group stages for the second year in a row

To do that they will need to win and hope that Ajax fail to secure maximum points from their trip to Real Madrid.

Maicon said: 'We are playing for pride on Tuesday, but also for practical reasons, because we want to carry on playing in Europe, even if it is not in the top competition.

'The Europa League is important to us, so we need to try to stay in Europe until the end of the season if we can.'

Maicon is now starting to find a role at City after being hampered by a foot injury following his August arrival from Inter.

The 31-year-old has started four of the last five games and feels City’s attacking philosophy fits his game well.

He said: 'I am enjoying life in Manchester – everything’s fine. I am a family man so the first thing that is important to me I that my family is okay.

'When they are settled, as they are now, my mind is only on training.

'I am training very well, to contribute to the team.

'The team is full of quality players, and the way City play they give the full-backs the ball and get them to attack. This suits my game.

'I am only sorry that I couldn’t contribute at the start of the season because of my injury.

'Little by little I am getting back to my best, and trying to add something to the team.'

Luis Adriano suspended for Champions League game v Juventus after unsporting goal

Chelsea's Champions League hopes hit by suspension for Shakhtar striker Adriano after unsporting goal

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UPDATED:

19:13 GMT, 27 November 2012

Chelsea's slim chance of qualifying from their Champions League group has been reduced further still as Shakhtar Donetsk striker Luis Adriano has been banned for the final match against Juventus.

The striker scored a goal against Nordsjaelland when an opponent was injured, racing on to the end of a ball which Willian intended to kick off the pitch.

Confrontation: Luiz Adriano argues with a Nordjaelland player after scoring his unsporting goal

Confrontation: Luiz Adriano argues with a Nordjaelland player after scoring his unsporting goal

Rafael Benitez's side need Shakhtar to
beat Juventus in the final match of the group and overcome Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge
themselves if they are to qualify.

His ban is only for one game and has been prescribed for 'violation of the principles of conduct'.

UEFA also ordered the striker to do 'one full day of community football service'.

The goal came as part of a hat-trick as Shakhtar earned a 5-2 victory to book their place in the knockout stage.

Adriano's side must still avoid defeat against the Italian giants at home if they want to top the group.

If Chelsea are to get their season back on track after sacking Roberto Di Matteo following the 3-0 defeat to Juventus in Italy, they will need to find a solution up front.

With Daniel Sturridge injured it is
down to 50million man Fernando Torres to lead the line and he has been
in poor form all season.

Benitez was brought in as interim head coach with the aim of reinvigorating the 28-year-old striker.

Hope: Benitez is trying to revive Fernando Torres' (second left) goalscoring form

Hope: Benitez is trying to revive Fernando Torres' (second left) goalscoring form

The Spanish manager was in charge of his compatriot at Liverpool and got the best out of him.

Benitez said: 'He’s not exactly the same player now, because he was at maximum level at this time [at Liverpool].

'But I think he can come back. How
close I don’t know. It depends on the rest of the team. I’m sure he can
improve, but the team has to help him.'

Torres also has to help himself, as does Benitez, following a run of just 19 goals in 88 games for the European champions.

A slim possibility: Chelsea need Shakhtar to topple Juventus in the final match

A slim possibility: Chelsea need Shakhtar to topple Juventus in the final match

He continued: 'The first thing is to give him some confidence, instructions as to how he can do things in a different way, improve him a little bit physically.'

'You need to be stronger in defence, regain the ball easier and then you can create your own chances. That will benefit Torres. Players with mobility, quality… we can improve all these things.'

Robin van Persie can become a Manchester United legend: Gary Neville

Nine great reasons why RVP can become a Manchester United legend

PUBLISHED:

00:00 GMT, 4 November 2012

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UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 4 November 2012

Robin van Persie was fantastic for
Manchester United against his former club, Arsenal and in his interview
afterwards he said both he and Wayne Rooney were ‘9 and a halfs’ — in
other words, part-orthodox centre-forward, part attacking playmaker.

I think Robin was being polite for
television. Make no mistake, on the evidence I saw at Old Trafford,
Robin van Persie is a No 9.

This is a centre-forward who hunts on
the back of the shoulders of defenders, who moves and takes chances
with maximum efficiency.

He might have started as a left-winger
and developed into someone who played off a striker. But right now he
is a top-class centre-forward, a player who excels at playing up front
on his own.

The real deal: Robin van Persie's finishing and movement has been top quality for Manchester United

The real deal: Robin van Persie's finishing and movement has been top quality for Manchester United

For the first four to six weeks of the
season, I was seeing a bedding-in period for Van Persie. We saw
glimpses of his excellence but it was also clear that he was getting
used to playing in a new team, and they were getting used to playing
with him.

But this has been a significant week
for the Dutchman. United had two big games against Chelsea and Arsenal
and he has had a major influence on both, matches that might be seen as
defining when the season ends.

From my point of view, we are seeing the start of something that is the real thing.

I never liked using the words majestic
and silky but I will use the word clinical. Everything Van Persie does
on the football field means something; he doesn’t move without it
mattering.

Clinical: Van Persie fires the opening goal against his former club

Clinical: Van Persie fires the opening goal against his former club

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If he makes a run, it has a purpose, even if it is to drag a defender out of position.

At Chelsea last week he was involved
in the biggest moments of the game, one that United could not afford to
lose because it would have seen them fall seven points behind the
leaders.

Likewise, his performance was fantastic. His first chance fell so early but he never looked like
missing it, and with his right foot.

From then onwards, I could see that
the other United players are now seeing his runs, the changes of
direction. He organises his feet before he shoots. He also worked with
Wayne Rooney in defending. United forwards have a history of working
hard; from Mark Hughes through to Carlos Tevez and now Rooney. Van
Persie’s work ethic yesterday denoted a real understanding of what it is
to be a United forward. The successful ones are all hard-working.

When United signed him for 24million, it was not a typical buy from the club because of his age, which is 29. And yet he has left the comfort zone of Arsenal, where everyone knew what he could do, and shown United supporters that he is the finished article.

He has taken two big games by the scruff of the neck. If he does the same in the Manchester derby in a month’s time, every United fan will know they have a special player on their hands.

They are already warming to him. Eric Cantona came to United as an experienced player, but Van Persie will score more goals than Eric, whose record wasn’t bad. Ten in 13 games is a brilliant start, but I’ve got a feeling it is only just the start.

Legend: Cantona

Living up to his billing: Van Persie

Things can only get better: Van Persie will score more goals for United than Eric Cantona (left)

Arsenal are a big club and Van Persie didn’t make a move for the money. I think the reason he has joined United is to try to become a real legend of the game.

There is something about Manchester United, along with Barcelona and Real Madrid; if you do special things with those clubs, then it elevates you to a whole new level.

If Van Persie can continue like this, he has not left it too late to attain that legendary status.

This Arsenal are lacking star quality

I was disappointed with Arsenal — and I was disappointed for them.

I spent my whole career competing with them for trophies; when you said their name, you automatically thought championship contenders.

Not now, judging by the manner of their performance at Old Trafford. When I think of the great Arsenal teams under Arsene Wenger, I can’t think of one player who started at Old Trafford who would get into them.

Olivier Giroud isn’t as good as Nicolas Anelka, let alone Thierry Henry. Who would you rather have, Santiago Cazorla or Dennis Bergkamp As for the current Arsenal players getting in ahead of their old back-five, or the midfield of Vieira, Petit, Overmars and Parlour, forget it, not even close.

Chastening experience: Santi Cazorla (third right) failed to shine at Old Trafford

Chastening experience: Santi Cazorla (third right) failed to shine at Old Trafford

Arsenal’s game was always built around pace and incisive passing but I didn’t see that.

Cazorla didn’t have a good game, Giroud hasn’t settled at all and Lukas Podolski would do something good but then seem to drift away again. The 2-1 United win flattered Arsenal, to be honest.

And unlike last year’s 8-2 defeat, Arsenal can’t point to half a team missing with injuries.

Arsene Wenger has a proud record of qualifying for the Champions League for the past 15 seasons. He has experience and I trust his know-how and the spirit of the club. But even so, you have to say there is a real danger they will miss out on the top four unless there is an improvement.

Tito Vilanova says he is scared of Celtic firepower

Barca boss Vilanova admits he is scared of Celtic's threat on the counter

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UPDATED:

22:10 GMT, 22 October 2012

Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova has admitted he fears being picked off by Celtic’s pace on the counter-attack and their strength at set-pieces.

The Spanish giants enter Tuesday’s Group G clash as clear favourites, with maximum points from their opening matches against Spartak Moscow and Benfica.

But while the Catalans have also started their La Liga campaign in record-breaking fashion — eight wins and a draw — concerns over their defence were heightened after their 5-4 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.

Wary: Tito Vilanova is watching out for Celtic's counter-attacking threat

Wary: Tito Vilanova is watching out for Celtic's counter-attacking threat

Worried Lionel Messi (right) with Sergio Busquets

Worried Lionel Messi (right) with Sergio Busquets

And, having watched Celtic take four points from their corresponding games against the same Champions League opponents, the man who succeeded Pep Guardiola this season fears Neil Lennon’s men might again exploit their apparent Achilles heel.

‘Celtic drew at home to Benfica then won in Moscow, so they have done very well,’ said Vilanova. ‘They’ll wait for us at the back and then try to get us on the break. They have pace and will be good on set-plays.

Threat: Star man Gary Hooper

Threat: Star man Gary Hooper

‘If Celtic were able to tie with Benfica
and win in Moscow, they are doing things well. Maybe people didn’t take
into account that Celtic could go through but, with four points and two
games to come at home, they have a chance. So we’ll see how it goes.

‘They are dangerous and good aerially. They are very strong. I’m worried about Celtic being fast up front as they proved against Spartak.

‘And their good crosses — I’m really worried about that side of their game, too.

‘I like that Lennon liked our game on Saturday. I said it before, tomorrow will be a champions match and we have to win it.’

Vilanova believes that not only can Celtic qualify for the last 16 with them, there is every chance they can emulate the remarkable achievement of Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia last season by going one stage further.

‘There are four games left and we’ll
see in them which two teams can get through,’ he added. ‘No one is in,
no one is out. It is still very qualified.

‘But Celtic have already four points so, at this moment, they have a better chance than the other two sides.

‘Also, Apoel made the quarters last year when no one expected it.’

Leicester 39 Ospreys 22: Match report

Leicester 39 Ospreys 22: Brilliant Flood inspires Tigers to victory

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UPDATED:

17:45 GMT, 21 October 2012

England international Toby Flood delivered a virtuoso display as Leicester kick-started their Heineken Cup campaign with a vital victory at Welford Road.

Flood scored 24 of Tigers' points, including a decisive interception try nine minutes from time when he caught his opposite number Dan Biggar's speculative pass and raced 60 metres to score.

He also kicked five penalties and two conversions, with his fellow England internationals Manu Tuilagi (2) and Ben Youngs adding touchdowns as Leicester opened their account in Pool Two after last weekend's defeat in Toulouse.

Putting the points on the board: Toby Flood scored 24 points

Putting the points on the board: Toby Flood scored 24 points

It was rough luck on Biggar for conceding the Flood try, as he also made a high-class contribution with 17 points that included the conversion of flanker Ryan Jones' early try.

But Leicester secured an unlikely bonus point triumph with a blistering onslaught of 20 points in the last 18 minutes to leave the Ospreys shell-shocked.

The closing stages showcased Leicester at their finest, sensing an unlikely maximum points haul when they could have just settled for a hard-earned win.

Youngs, a thorn in the Ospreys' side all afternoon, continued to cajole his team-mates, and he inspired the late flourish by sprinting over for a try after Tigers' attackers made the most of a kind bounce.

High jump: Steve Mafi wins a lineout during the Heineken Cup match at Welford Road

High jump: Steve Mafi wins a lineout during the Heineken Cup match at Welford Road

And there was worse to come for the Ospreys with the last play of a gripping encounter when flanker Steve Mafi was held up short, but Tuilagi gathered possession and gleefully dived over to send a 20,000 crowd wild.

Ospreys could scarcely believe the quality of Leicester's finish, and they will head back to Wales without even a losing bonus from a game that saw them go hammer and tongs with their opponents for most of the contest.

Both teams were unchanged following their opening European fixtures, with Leicester looking to bounce back from defeat in Toulouse and Ospreys targeting another victory after a bonus point success against Treviso.

And it took the visitors just 96 seconds to breach Leicester's defence, carving them open through wing Hanno Dirksen's pace after a Youngs fumble before Jones provided a close-range finish.

On the charge: Manu Tuilagi is tackled by Ospreys Eli Walker and Andrew Bishop

On the charge: Manu Tuilagi is tackled by Ospreys Eli Walker and Andrew Bishop

Biggar converted, before the Ospreys almost struck again when full-back Richard Fussell's fifth-minute break had Tigers retreating in all directions until the move fizzled out.

But when Biggar kicked a penalty from the halfway line, Leicester were given further food for thought, trailing 10-0 little more than midway through the opening quarter.

Leicester were stung into action, and they responded promisingly through some sustained territorial pressure sparked by Youngs' slick service and some menacing midfield running by Tuilagi.

Flood opened Tigers' account with a 28th-minute penalty – the product of an Ospreys' scrum offence – and it coincided with Leicester's back division starting to make inroads.

Try time: Flood breaks away to score Leicester's second try

Try time: Flood breaks away to score Leicester's second try

And the Ospreys could only hold out until eight minutes before half-time, being undone by a scintillating move that featured an incisive break from wing Vereniki Goneva, crisp link work by Youngs and a touchdown wide out for Tuilagi.

It was a superbly-executed try that Flood converted, but just when the Ospreys needed to regroup, they had prop Ryan Bevington sin-binned by French referee Romain Poite for a scrummaging infringement, handing Leicester a temporary numerical advantage.

Leicester ended a high-tempo half on the front foot, having hauled themselves level and looking capable of moving up another gear after recovering impressively from an uninspiring opening.

Biggar, though, struck first for the Ospreys after half-time, booting another long-range penalty before Flood cancelled out his kick with an equalising effort.

Youngs continued to test the Ospreys' defence, and a scorching break from inside his own half almost resulted in a memorable solo try, but wing Eli Walker's timely intervention thwarted Leicester.

Adam Jones then departed because of a knee problem that initially surfaced during the opening minutes, and two further Flood penalties in quick succession opened up a six-point advantage as the Ospreys floundered.

But Biggar dragged them back into contention, slotting two penalties in five minutes as he matched Flood's accuracy to tie the game up again entering the closing quarter.

The closing stages belonged entirely to Leicester, though, as Tigers cut loose with tries by Flood, Youngs and Tuilagi and confirmed themselves once again as serious Heineken Cup contenders.

Wayne Rooney must fulfil England potential, says Geoff Hurst

Rooney must fulfil his potential with England, says 1966 hero Hurst

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UPDATED:

12:47 GMT, 12 October 2012

The responsibility of captaincy will help Wayne Rooney
fulfil his potential as one of England’s greatest ever strikers, according to
1966 World Cup hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst.

While the Manchester United forward is one course to
become a legend at club level, Hurst says Rooney needs to do more to live
up to expectations for the Three Lions.

Hurst, who was immortalised after scoring three goals
against West Germany to deliver England’s sole World Cup triumph, believes however
that there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future direction of
the national team.

Much more to come: Rooney's England career has been full of frustrations, in contrast to his club form

Much more to come: Rooney's England career has been full of frustrations, in contrast to his club form

Leading the way: Being handed the captain's armband will help Rooney, according to Hurst

Leading the way: Being handed the captain's armband will help Rooney, according to Hurst

England can take a massive stride towards reaching
another finals if they take maximum points from San Marino and Poland in this
week’s pair of qualifiers.

And with recent controversies over things like Terry and
Twitter behind them, Hurst believes England have reached a turning point for
the better.

Whether it’s the competition between young players for
the places up front, the chances afforded to defenders after John Terry’s
retirement, the introduction of livewire players like Raheem Sterling and Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain to the squad, or the responsibility invested in Friday
night’s captain Rooney, there are exciting times.

There's also the 100m investment in England's future at St George's Park opened just this week.

Our Greatest Moment: Geoff Hurst (right), who scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final of 1966, with his West Ham United teammate and England captain Bobby Moore

Our Greatest Moment: Geoff Hurst (right), who scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final of 1966, with his West Ham United teammate and England captain Bobby Moore

Legend: Sir Geoff Hurst at Wembley Stadium, the scene of the 1966 triumph

Legend: Sir Geoff Hurst at Wembley Stadium, the scene of the 1966 triumph

Hurst, who averaged a goal every other game for England, pulls
no punches when talking about those who continue his goalscoring tradition.

‘Rooney has not reached the potential we saw a decade ago for England as he has
for his club,’ he says.

‘But there’s no doubt he’s a top player and he’s an
experienced one now as well. He’ll thrive on the responsibility of
being captain and respond to it. He should score a few goals on Friday night
[against San Marino] if he’s in the right mindset and that’ll do him good.’

Magical moment: Hurst (left) celebrates one of his three goals in the 4-2 extra time win over West Germany

Magical moment: Hurst (left) celebrates one of his three goals in the 4-2 extra time win over West Germany

Similarly with Andy Carroll, who also leads the line for West Ham
United, the club Hurst is most closely associated with. ‘Yes, he is going to
make his mark on the international stage but not necessarily in the short-term.

‘You should always make your judgements on today, on the
here and now, and if I was Roy Hodgson I wouldn’t be selecting him at the moment when
you have the likes of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge to choose from.

‘Carroll just needs more games under his belt. He’s been
moving around too much, first at Newcastle and then at Liverpool so he’s never
had a proper run of games. Then after joining West Ham he got injured in his
first game.

‘For those reasons, I wouldn’t play him in the England
team from the start, because I think he works better as an impact player. But
who knows, given another six months of matches at West Ham, we might be
reconsidering that.’

Your time will come: Hurst think Andy Carroll should be used as an impact sub in the England team until he gains more experience

Your time will come: Hurst think Andy Carroll should be used as an impact sub in the England team until he gains more experience

HURST ON TWITTER CONTROVERSIES

'I have no interest in Twitter – absolutely, categorically not. And it's not just because I belong to an older generation.

'There has been a lot of talk recently about limiting footballers' access to Twitter and while I think it could be controlled, you do have to be wary of taking away their freedom of speech.'

The fall-out from Terry’s racism controversy has created
a hole in England’s defence that will be difficult to fill, but Hurst dismisses
the argument that the Chelsea player’s experience can be replaced like-for-like
by that of Rio Ferdinand, one of many players nurtured in West Ham’s excellent
Academy.

Instead, England should be looking to younger options like Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Micah Richards to move forward.

‘The Terry situation has created an opportunity for all
the young players in the England squad because you have to ask the question
with Rio Ferdinand as to whether he’ll be around and able to play in two
years,’ says Hurst.

‘Now Roy Hodgson may choose to use senior players like
Ferdinand in the qualifiers, but then if they’re getting on in age they might
not be around for the actual finals.

‘He needs to cover his back by making sure the young,
up-and-coming players are given the chance to be in the squad and also given a
bit of time on the pitch.’

Limited opportunities: Hurst believes Rio Ferdinand's England career isn't necessarily over, but that young players must be brought through

Limited opportunities: Hurst believes Rio Ferdinand's England career isn't necessarily over, but that young players must be brought through

But for the young players just joining the England squad,
that time on the pitch need not be before they’re ready.

For all the buzz and excitement surrounding some of the fledgling players in the squad, Hurst insists that their potential could be wasted if thrown into international action too soon.

‘They need to be brought on for ten or 15 minutes towards
the end of the game, when it’s won,’ says Hurst. ‘You always have to fast-track
players into the national team and we continue to see it with the likes of
Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

‘The trouble is that these young players are thrown
straight into games where a place in the World Cup is at stake and in my
opinion unless they’re absolutely outstanding – like someone like Pele at the
age of 17 – then they’re not fully prepared.

‘It wouldn’t have happened in the past. In international
football, you only have the players together for three days and they’re all
important games when you’re trying to reach the World Cup. You can’t fast
track.’

Prospect: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should not be rushed into regular England duty, says Hurst

Prospect: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should not be rushed into regular England duty, says Hurst

One major investment in England’s future – the St
George’s Park training complex near Burton in Staffordshire – opened its doors
this week with great fanfare and a royal seal of approval.

As well as providing a permanent base for the England teams to train and prepare for their matches, the centre will also teach good practice to coaches of youth teams up and down the land.

Hurst admits such a hi-tech facility seemed light years
away when he was starting out in the game, but believes that with it, the
English game can start to mould the kind of technically flawless players seen in
Spain, Germany and South America.

Grand opening: Centre chairman David Sheepshanks at the entrance to the new 100m St George's Park training complex near Burton, which opened this week

Grand opening: Centre chairman David Sheepshanks at the entrance to the new 100m St George's Park training complex near Burton, which opened this week

Good investment: Hurst believes that the whole country should buy into the new St George's Park centre

Good investment: Hurst believes that the whole country should buy into the new St George's Park centre

‘It is absolutely magnificent and everyone should buy
into it,’ he says. ‘It should be very beneficial to all who use it, especially
the England teams.

‘It is the same in any sport, you need the proper
facilities. During the Olympics, Sir Chris Hoy was saying how before they built
the Manchester Velodrome, they were training in parks and on disused railway
tracks. And look at the strength of British cycling now.

‘Hopefully we can see the same kind of benefit for
English football. It is chiefly about coaching the coaches – about getting them
up to the right quality.

'I was very fortunate during my early playing days at
West Ham to have a great teacher and mentor in Ron Greenwood. He was a great
coach and it’s no wonder there were three West Ham players in the 1966 team.

‘There was no training ground when I joined West Ham but
Greenwood used the common sense approach and found one at Chadwell Heath, where
they remain today. You need that base and those familiar surroundings.

Manager and Mentor: Hurst's football education was chiefly thanks to Ron Greenwood, his boss at West Ham and later England

Manager and Mentor: Hurst's football education was chiefly thanks to Ron Greenwood, his boss at West Ham and later England

‘I always say that we grew up in the medieval times
compared to now – we never had the rehabilitation and the equipment. It’s
marvellous and it’s how it should be.’

But will the new centre actually produce the talented players to
help England re-assert themselves at the pinnacle of the game Well, according
to Hurst, the country is overdue another Golden Generation.

‘Obviously Spain and Germany are ahead at the moment in
terms of technical ability, but I believe these things happen in cycles.

‘You will have years where a number of exceptional
players all break through at one – look at the Manchester United Class of 1992
or the West Ham team of Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick.

‘As long as we work hard to develop these players, there
will be a time for England when a glut of world class players come through.’

In the meantime, England will be looking for a glut of goals against San Marino on Friday night as they continue on their journey to Brazil.

Sir Geoff Hurst was speaking ahead of Friday's FA Community National Awards Ceremony, presented by McDonald's. To find out more about the awards and this year's winners visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/kickstart

WEST HAM ARE ON THE UP, SAYS HAMMERS LEGEND HURST

Though revered right across the country for his World Cup final goals, Hurst is remembered with greatest affection at West Ham United, where he scored 180 times in 411 league appearances.

And the East End legend believes his beloved former club are looking strong on their Premier League return.

'There's no question about it, we've made a very good start to the season,' he says. 'It was vital that West Ham got that good start because we had four or five matches that we should have looked to win first up.

Local Hero: Hurst in action for West Ham at Upton Park in 1971

Local Hero: Hurst in action for West Ham at Upton Park in 1971

'We were fortunate with that coming up from the lower division to the Premier League.

'Sam Allardyce is a manager with experience of managing teams in the bottom half of the season and I believe he uses all the right modern techniques.

'The signs are encouraging despite Arsenal putting us in our place on Saturday. I believe West Ham will comfortably finish in mid-table.'

And if the Hammers do keep their Premier League status, they can continue plans to swap traditional home Upton Park for the nearby Olympic Stadium, something Hurst fully supports.

'I'm categorically in favour of West Ham moving to the Olympic Stadium. It's a must if we have any aspirations to be a Premier League club.

'It was the same with England and the old Wembley when people were complaining that the Twin Towers would be ripped down but you've got to move on.

Revered: Geoff Hurst (left), Bobby Moore (centre) and Martin Peters were the West Ham trio who helped England win the 1966 World Cup

Revered: Geoff Hurst (left), Bobby Moore (centre) and Martin Peters were the West Ham trio who helped England win the 1966 World Cup

'There will be some of the die-hards at Upton Park saying it’s a bad idea to move out of the heartland but I’ve cut the grass there, painted the stands and played there and I say we have to move on.

'You can’t stand still in life and it’s the same with football.'

Brendan Rodgers: Liverpool are not scared of playing a Anfield

Rodgers dismisses claims of home hoodoo and hopes to restore fear factor at Anfield

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UPDATED:

14:20 GMT, 6 October 2012

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers admits he is not entirely sure why the team's home record has been so poor in recent times, but insists there is no major 'psychological' problem with his players at Anfield.

Thursday's 3-2 Europa League defeat to Udinese means the Reds have now gone five games in all competitions without a win on their own turf, with their only victory there this term coming in a qualifier for the continental tournament against Belarusian outfit FC Gomel.

Liverpool also struggled at Anfield last season under Rodgers' predecessor Kenny Dalglish, taking maximum points in just six of their 19 home Barclays Premier League matches.

It is something Rodgers finds difficult to comprehend, but he has stressed the players are working hard to address the issue and is not convinced they are suffering any kind of stage fright.

Confidence trick: Brendan Rodgers will hope to restore some home comforts

Confidence trick: Brendan Rodgers will hope to restore some home comforts

Speaking ahead of the home clash against Stoke, Rodgers said: 'Sometimes it is just a confidence factor, and you also have to imagine that when any team comes to Anfield, it is one of the biggest games of the (visiting) players' lives.

'Playing at home is certainly not a distraction. I think to play at Anfield is a real honour and a privilege and the support we get from the crowd is incredible.

'The backing we get every time we play there is fantastic, so it is just one of those statistics there is no explanation for.

'What you have to do is just try to work very hard. We have performed well there this season – in the Europa League (qualifying) game we have won, and we have come close in a number of the Premier League games and should have won.

'Obviously it overspills into last season as well, but psychologically, there is nothing there for me (in terms of a problem).

'We have just got to get the results – hopefully we can get some wins there and perform well for the rest of the season.'

Reality check: Liverpool react to Sebastian Coates' own goal

Reality check: Liverpool react to Sebastian Coates' own goal

Following his appointment as manager over the summer, Rodgers has had a mixed start to his tenure at Liverpool, with the team accruing only five points from their opening six league fixtures.

He has been trying to introduce a dynamic, aesthetically-pleasing style of play at the club which is in sharp contrast to the direct approach Stoke are associated with.

It is hard to deny that the Potters have impressed in terms of the way they have adapted to life in the Premier League since their promotion in 2008, achieving consistent mid-table finishes under boss Tony Pulis.

Rodgers has nothing but praise for his opposite number and feels Stoke do not get the credit they deserve.

'No matter what brand of football you play, playing against any team in this league is difficult, and Stoke are certainly one of those teams,' Rodgers said.

'I have great respect for Tony and the work he has done. He has taken Stoke a long, long way from the time he went in there.

Famous win: Udinese celebrate victory at Anfield

Famous win: Udinese celebrate victory at Anfield

'He got them promoted and they are now very much an established team at this level.

'There is no right or wrong way to play football – at the end of the day, it is about getting results.

'Tony has his way of working and I don't think they get enough praise for the actual football they do play.

'They do play some good football, but obviously, they have a stigma about playing a slightly longer game.

'You have to work as a team and defend against that, and then bring your own style to the game.'

Meanwhile, Rodgers has spoken of how highly he rates Reds defender Daniel Agger, who has signed a new long-term contract with Liverpool.

'Daniel is a terrific player and I am absolutely delighted he has committed himself. It's a big boost for everyone connected with the club,' said Rodgers.

'He's one of the best centre-backs in world football. His balance, his reading of the game, his defensive qualities and his ability to bring it out from the back is outstanding.'