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Serbia U21 0 England U21 0 (agg 0-2): Match report – Three Lions qualify for Euro 2013

Serbia U21 0 England U21 1 (agg 0-2): Mass brawl and racist chanting mars Young Lions' victory

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UPDATED:

19:59 GMT, 16 October 2012

England Under 21s claimed their place at Euro 2013 amid unsavoury scenes during their qualifying play-off in Serbia.

Players appeared to be pelted with missiles after Connor Wickham struck in injury time of the second leg to book England's trip to next summer's finals in Israel.

Supporters came onto the field, scuffles broke out and England's Danny Rose was sent off after the final whistle. He reacted angrily by kicking away the ball and appeared to indicate he had been racially abused as he left the pitch.

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Brawl: Violent scenes marred the end of what was a great night for the Under 21s

Brawl: Violent scenes marred the end of what was a great night for the Under 21s

Brawl: Violent scenes marred the end of what was a great night for the Under 21s

Match facts

Serbia Under 21: Aleksic, Kosanovic, Medojevic, Gudelj, Rodic, Causic, Lazovic (Malbasic 59), Milivojevic, Ninkovic (Markovic 74), Kojic (Despotovic 59), Mudrinski.

Subs not used: Kirovski, Petkovic, Milunovic, Jojic.

Booked: Kojic, Gudelj, Medojevic, Milivojevic.

England Under 21: Butland, Smith, Dawson, Caulker, Rose, Zaha (Sterling 76), Lowe, Henderson, Ince, Sordell (Lees 62), Delfouneso (Wickham 89).

Subs not used: Amos, Bennett, McEachran, Townsend.

Sent off: Rose (90).

Booked: Rose,Caulker,Smith,Zaha,Delfouneso.

Goal: Wickham 90.

Attendance: 10,000

Referee: Huseyin Gocek (Turkey).

Steve Wigley, one of the England coaching staff, also appeared to become caught up in the trouble as the players left the field.

The ugly scenes overshadowed another fine display of defensive resilience from England.

Stuart Pearce's men recorded a sixth
clean sheet in seven outings to hold out the Serbs on a wet and windy
night at the Mladost Stadium in Krusevac.

Marvin Sordell hit the post early on
but, until Wickham came off the bench to stroke into an empty net late
on, the game was largely about England's defensive effort.

Serbia had shown from the outset they
intended to be more positive than they were in Norwich last week and,
with Nikola Ninkovic coming into the side, they had a much greater
cutting edge.

But it was England who had the first serious opportunity as Sordell hit the woodwork after nine minutes.

Captain Jordan Henderson found the
Bolton forward with a superb through-ball but Sordell cracked his shot
against the near post after neatly cutting inside Slobodan Medojevic to
create space 12 yards out.

Targeted: Rose reacts to gestures from the crowd after being handed his marching orders

Targeted: Rose reacts to gestures from the crowd after being handed his marching orders

Targeted: Rose reacts to gestures from the crowd after being handed his marching orders

Serbia goalkeeper Branimir Aleksic
looked uncertain throughout but escaped punishment after spilling a
Henderson corner and was then fortunate to earn a free-kick as Craig
Dawson jumped to reach a Wilfried Zaha free-kick.

The hosts showed their danger as
Nemanja Kojic found space down the right and pulled the ball back for
the livewire Ninkovic, who shot tamely at Jack Butland.

Luka Milivojevic flashed a volley wide after a Nemanja Gudelj throw-in was only partly cleared by Steven Caulker.

Heads up: Rose and Caulker both played their part on a nervy evening in Krusevac

Heads up: Rose and Caulker both played their part on a nervy evening in Krusevac

Heads up: Rose and Caulker both played their part on a evening in Krusevac

Serbia went closer as Henderson's
headed clearance from Darko Lazovic's free-kick found its way to
Ninkovic at the far post but his shot went across goal and wide.

Aleksic had another lucky escape as
Dawson beat him to a Rose free-kick on the edge of the area but the
England defender could not keep his header on target.

Lazovic found room on the edge of the
England box but his attempt to curl a shot into the top corner was
easily dealt with by Butland.

Victory! England players celebrate their winner, moments before the ugly scenes unfolded

Victory! England players celebrate their winner, moments before the ugly scenes unfolded

Victory! England players celebrate their winner, moments before the ugly scenes unfolded

After a brief hold-up when one of
several flares lit by Serbian fans found its way into Aleksic's goal
area, the hosts continued to press as Ninkovic beat Adam Smith but fired
wide from distance.

Further efforts came in from Kojic and Milivojevic as Serbia ended the first half on top but Butland was not tested.

England had a scare early in the
second period as Kojic broke clear but Smith got back well to cut him
off and was harshly booked for his trouble.

Ninkovic went close again after the ball fell to him outside the area but his swirling effort was well pushed put by Butland.

Spot on: Dawson scored the winner for England in the first leg at Carrow Road

Spot on: Dawson scored the winner for England in the first leg at Carrow Road

Ninkovic turned provider as he picked
out Filip Malbasic with a fine ball but England were relieved to see the
substitute flagged offside after Ognjen Mudrinski took a needless
touch.

Thomas Ince broke clear as England
mounted a rare attack but Zaha stumbled as he latched onto his cross and
was bemused to be booked for diving.

Aleksic went forward as Serbia had a
late chance from a free-kick but England broke away through Ince, who
slid in Wickham, prompting the mayhem that followed.

Roaring success: The Young Lions are through to the Euro 2013 finals in Israel next summer

Roaring success: The Young Lions are through to the Euro 2013 finals in Israel next summer

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Serbia U21 0 England U21 0 (agg 0-1): Match report – Three Lions qualify for Euro 2013

Serbia U21 0 England U21 1 (agg 0-2): Mass brawl and racist chanting mars Young Lions' victory

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UPDATED:

18:47 GMT, 16 October 2012

England Under 21s claimed their place at Euro 2013 amid unsavoury scenes during their qualifying play-off in Serbia.

Players appeared to be pelted with missiles after Connor Wickham struck in injury time of the second leg to book England's trip to next summer's finals in Israel.

Supporters came onto the field, scuffles broke out and England's Danny Rose was sent off after the final whistle. He reacted angrily by kicking away the ball and appeared to indicate he had been racially abused as he left the pitch.

Brawl: Violent scenes marred the end of what was a great night for the Under 21s

Brawl: Violent scenes marred the end of what was a great night for the Under 21s

Match facts

Serbia Under 21: Aleksic, Kosanovic, Medojevic, Gudelj, Rodic, Causic, Lazovic (Malbasic 59), Milivojevic, Ninkovic (Markovic 74), Kojic (Despotovic 59), Mudrinski.

Subs not used: Kirovski, Petkovic, Milunovic, Jojic.

Booked: Kojic, Gudelj, Medojevic, Milivojevic.

England Under 21: Butland, Smith, Dawson, Caulker, Rose, Zaha (Sterling 76), Lowe, Henderson, Ince, Sordell (Lees 62), Delfouneso (Wickham 89).

Subs not used: Amos, Bennett, McEachran, Townsend.

Sent off: Rose (90).

Booked: Rose,Caulker,Smith,Zaha,Delfouneso.

Goal: Wickham 90.

Attendance: 10,000

Referee: Huseyin Gocek (Turkey).

Steve Wigley, one of the England coaching staff, also appeared to become caught up in the trouble as the players left the field.

The ugly scenes overshadowed another fine display of defensive resilience from England.

Stuart Pearce's men recorded a sixth
clean sheet in seven outings to hold out the Serbs on a wet and windy
night at the Mladost Stadium in Krusevac.

Marvin Sordell hit the post early on
but, until Wickham came off the bench to stroke into an empty net late
on, the game was largely about England's defensive effort.

Serbia had shown from the outset they
intended to be more positive than they were in Norwich last week and,
with Nikola Ninkovic coming into the side, they had a much greater
cutting edge.

But it was England who had the first serious opportunity as Sordell hit the woodwork after nine minutes.

Captain Jordan Henderson found the
Bolton forward with a superb through-ball but Sordell cracked his shot
against the near post after neatly cutting inside Slobodan Medojevic to
create space 12 yards out.

Serbia goalkeeper Branimir Aleksic
looked uncertain throughout but escaped punishment after spilling a
Henderson corner and was then fortunate to earn a free-kick as Craig
Dawson jumped to reach a Wilfried Zaha free-kick.

The hosts showed their danger as
Nemanja Kojic found space down the right and pulled the ball back for
the livewire Ninkovic, who shot tamely at Jack Butland.

Luka Milivojevic flashed a volley wide after a Nemanja Gudelj throw-in was only partly cleared by Steven Caulker.

Heads up: Rose and Caulker both played their part on a nervy evening in Krusevac

Heads up: Rose and Caulker both played their part on a nervy evening in Krusevac

Heads up: Rose and Caulker both played their part on a evening in Krusevac

Serbia went closer as Henderson's
headed clearance from Darko Lazovic's free-kick found its way to
Ninkovic at the far post but his shot went across goal and wide.

Aleksic had another lucky escape as
Dawson beat him to a Rose free-kick on the edge of the area but the
England defender could not keep his header on target.

Lazovic found room on the edge of the
England box but his attempt to curl a shot into the top corner was
easily dealt with by Butland.

Victory! England players celebrate their winner, moments before the ugly scenes unfolded

Victory! England players celebrate their winner, moments before the ugly scenes unfolded

Victory! England players celebrate their winner, moments before the ugly scenes unfolded

After a brief hold-up when one of
several flares lit by Serbian fans found its way into Aleksic's goal
area, the hosts continued to press as Ninkovic beat Adam Smith but fired
wide from distance.

Further efforts came in from Kojic and Milivojevic as Serbia ended the first half on top but Butland was not tested.

England had a scare early in the
second period as Kojic broke clear but Smith got back well to cut him
off and was harshly booked for his trouble.

Ninkovic went close again after the ball fell to him outside the area but his swirling effort was well pushed put by Butland.

Spot on: Dawson scored the winner for England in the first leg at Carrow Road

Spot on: Dawson scored the winner for England in the first leg at Carrow Road

Ninkovic turned provider as he picked
out Filip Malbasic with a fine ball but England were relieved to see the
substitute flagged offside after Ognjen Mudrinski took a needless
touch.

Thomas Ince broke clear as England
mounted a rare attack but Zaha stumbled as he latched onto his cross and
was bemused to be booked for diving.

Aleksic went forward as Serbia had a
late chance from a free-kick but England broke away through Ince, who
slid in Wickham, prompting the mayhem that followed.

Roaring success: The Young Lions are through to the Euro 2013 finals in Israel next summer

Roaring success: The Young Lions are through to the Euro 2013 finals in Israel next summer

RFL chief defends eight team play-offs after Smith outburst

RFL chief defends eight team play-offs after Smith outburst

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UPDATED:

12:41 GMT, 19 September 2012

The Rugby Football League have
launched a defence of the Super League play-off system following
criticism from Warrington coach Tony Smith.

The former England boss has called
for a re-think of the top-eight system after two one-sided play-offs in
the opening round and claimed that the views of the Super League coaches
were being ignored by the governing body.

Concern: Hull thrashed Huddersfield in the play-offs

Concern: Hull thrashed Huddersfield in the play-offs

However, those comments have been challenged by the RFL's director of standards and licensing Blake Solly, who said Smith had not raised any concerns through official channels or at recent coaches' meetings.

'The top-eight play-offs were introduced for the 2009 season during Tony's tenure as the RFL's technical director and there has been little, if any, opposition to the system from the Super League clubs since then,' said Solly.

'Only last September the clubs voted 13-1 to retain the top-eight format, with the only dissenting voice coming from one club which had concerns about ClubCall.

'The play-off format is now in its fourth year and has continued to evolve.

'Few people at the outset would have predicted that a team finishing fifth at the end of the regular season would go on to win the Grand Final, as Leeds did last year.

'The format has been so successful that the NRL in Australia have adopted it this season.

'There were some one-sided scores last weekend but how do you mitigate against form or individual performances in specific fixtures

'For example, Tony's own club Warrington were soundly beaten by St Helens on Saturday and they finished the competition in second place. Nobody could have predicted that result.'

Smith also claimed the Super League coaches do not have a voice and said the sport was 'suffering because of poor lines of communication', views which Solly strongly rejects.

'We have met the Super League coaches as a group on two occasions this year and will meet them all again in December,” he added.

'These coaches' meetings have resulted in a number of positive initiatives, for example the introduction of the early-guilty plea for players referred to the RFL disciplinary tribunals.

'At the most recent meeting in May the entire agenda was handed over to the coaches and Tony led the meeting.

'The play-offs didn't feature on the coaches' agenda at that meeting. Tony has had ample opportunity to raise any concerns he has about the play-offs but hasn't done so, which makes his comments this week all the more surprising.

'I speak to Tony on a regular basis and, like all my colleagues at the RFL, am more than happy to sit down with him at any time to discuss any issues he may have.'

World Twenty20: England beat Pakistan in final warm-up

Briggs and Dernbach star with the ball as England beat Pakistan in final World Twenty20 warm-up

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UPDATED:

08:55 GMT, 19 September 2012

England dug in with the ball to pull off an unlikely 15-run victory despite mustering only 111 all out against Pakistan in their second and final ICC World Twenty20 warm-up match.

Once again, after their well-chronicled struggles in a 3-0 Test series defeat in the United Arab Emirates last winter, England's batsmen had no answer to the wiles of Saeed Ajmal (four for 14) at the P Sara Oval.

But Danny Briggs (three for 15) and Jade Dernbach (three for 14) ensured England kept chipping out wickets – even without the rested Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan – and eventually restricted Pakistan to 96 for nine.

Two good: England won their second warm-up match

Two good: England won their second warm-up match

Awkward bounce, spin and swing were
available, and after beating Australia by nine runs on Monday, England
sneaked home again to head into the defence of their world title with a
perfect two-from-two warm-up record.

Luke Wright top-scored with just 38 as they struggled after choosing to
bat first on a tricky surface. The No 3 managed to operate at just over a
run-a-ball, a feat which proved beyond the rest of the top five.

England were unable to gather momentum, wickets falling from the outset
against Pakistan's spinners and then in a heap – in the space of eight
balls – to go from 106 for five to be all out in the final over.

The difficulties began when Alex Hales mis-swept Hasan Raza to short
fine-leg in the third over, and the slow left-armer soon had Craig
Kieswetter caught at deep midwicket.

Below par: England struggled with the bat

Below par: England struggled with the bat as Luke Wright (above) top scored with 38

Below par: England struggled with the bat

Eoin Morgan mustered double-figures but did not convince before falling
to only the third delivery from Ajmal, edging an attempted cut behind.

Wright and Jonny Bairstow had to eke out what they could in what turned
out to be an important fourth-wicket stand of 34 as England went nine
overs at one stage without a boundary.

It was not, in fact, until Bairstow had been yorked by a Yasir Arafat
inswinger that new batsman Jos Buttler squeezed a four fine of third-man
off the same bowler from only the second ball he faced.

Wright was gone soon afterwards, though, holing out to long-off when Mohammad Sami went full.

Old foe: Saeed Ajmal was on top form for Pakistan

Old foe: Saeed Ajmal was on top form for Pakistan

It therefore fell to Buttler and Samit Patel to push England at least
into three-figures, which they managed comfortably before Ajmal returned
to take three wickets in four balls in the penultimate over as Stuart
Broad and Steven Finn made ducks.

In Pakistan's reply, Kieswetter missed an obvious stumping chance off
only the second ball of the innings from Briggs. But it cost nothing,
Mohammad Hafeez swinging the slow left-armer to deep square-leg, where
Bairstow took a neat catch.

Briggs had a second wicket in his third over, drawing Imran Nazir out of
his ground and turning the ball past the outside-edge for an easy
stumping.

Patel replaced Briggs and struck with his first delivery, spinning one back through left-hander Nasir Jamshed's defences.

Having a ball: Broad (above), Briggs (below) and Dernbach all impressed with the ball for England

Having a ball: Broad (above), Briggs (below) and Dernbach all impressed with the ball for England

Having a ball: Broad (above), Briggs (below) and Dernbach all impressed with the ball for England

It still seemed to be Pakistan's great advantage that they knew they had only a meagre total to chase.

But Broad outwitted Asad Shafiq with a slower ball, clumped to mid-off,
and the England captain then had Shahid Afridi caught-behind with some
extra bounce.

England had successfully narrowed the equation back in their favour,
thanks largely to Broad's remarkable economy – he, like Briggs, even
bowled a maiden – when the charge should have been on.

The outcome nonetheless remained too close to call until Dernbach had 20
runs to play with in the final over, and managed to concede only four
for two more wickets.

Michael Owen under no pressure from Stoke boss Tony Pulis

Stoke manager Pulis wary of heaping too much pressure on new boy Owen

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UPDATED:

13:17 GMT, 14 September 2012

Stoke boss Tony Pulis is mindful of putting too much pressure on new signing Michael Owen and has stressed the former England star is simply one of several options now at his disposal in attack.

The Potters completed the capture of Owen, who had been a free agent after his release over the summer by Manchester United, last week on a one-year deal and he could be set for his debut in Saturday's Barclays Premier League visit of Manchester City.

The 32-year-old striker, dogged by a catalogue of injury problems throughout his career, says he feels in good enough condition to feature and he will be assessed by Pulis ahead of kick-off.

No pressure, Michael: Stoke boss Pulis doesn't expect Owen to deliver from the outset

No pressure, Michael: Stoke boss Pulis doesn't expect Owen to deliver from the outset

While fitness is likely be a key factor in how much game time Owen gets at Stoke, he is undoubtedly one of the biggest names ever to join the Staffordshire club and there will be a considerable sense of anticipation among Potters fans about what he might deliver.

The weight of expectation on the ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle frontman is something Pulis wants to try to ease, and the manager has been keen to emphasise that Owen is very much part of a group of forwards in his squad.

'I think by bringing Michael in now, we have got different options,' Pulis said. 'We'll see how it goes – I don't want to put too much pressure on him.

'I just want him to come and enjoy his football and get fit and sharp again at a club where he knows if he plays well, he will have an opportunity.'

Pulis also has Peter Crouch, Jon Walters, Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome and Mamady Sidibe – who has not been included in Stoke's Premier League squad and might go out on loan – to call upon up front.

Of those, Walters and Jerome can also play out wide, but the flanks are another well-stocked department for the Potters and Walters has said this week he will 'relish the challenge' of trying to keep his place in the team.

Owen has been given the No 10 shirt
Pulis says he 'kept' for him even though 'loads of people wanted it',
and there has been plenty of talk about him potentially being paired
with Crouch, who he played alongside for England.

Strike partner: Owen could line up alongside Crouch

Strike partner: Owen could line up alongside Crouch

But Owen does not want to make any assumptions about what lies in store.

'I've played with Peter Crouch a number of times and we have always done well together – that's for all to see,' Owen said.

'But it would be disrespectful to say I am looking forward to playing with Peter.

'There's obviously a lot of good strikers here and there's nothing in my contract to say I'm starting every game. I have got no divine right to do so.'

Luke McCormick won"t sign for Swindon

Swindon decline chance to sign drink-drive keeper McCormick

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UPDATED:

11:23 GMT, 23 August 2012

Luke McCormick, who was imprisoned in 2008 for killing two young boys in a car crash while drink-driving, will not be signing for Swindon.

The 29-year-old goalkeeper had been training with the npower League One club after his release from Leyhill Prison earlier this year.

He was sentenced to seven years and four months in 2008 after Arron Peak, 10, and his brother Ben, aged eight, died when the vehicle they were travelling in was hit by McCormick's Range Rover on the M6 in Staffordshire in June of that year. McCormick was twice the drink-driving limit.

Banged up: Luke McCormick was jailed after killing two young boys

Banged up: Luke McCormick was jailed after killing two young boys

Football League blog

Swindon interim chairman Jeremy Wray said in May he would resign if the decision to allow McCormick to train with his club damaged its reputation.

Swindon released a statement on their official website which read: 'After careful and considered thought Luke McCormick has decided to pursue footballing opportunities away from Swindon Town FC but remains eternally grateful for the support and friendship that the club has extended towards him in recent times.

'Following his release from prison, Swindon Town offered him the opportunity to train at the club as part of his rehabilitation. The club made it clear from the outset that a full time professional contract would not be on offer for some considerable time, if at all.'

The statement from Swindon continued: 'Now that the league season has got under way and with (manager) Paolo Di Canio wishing to focus all of his attention on his first team squad, the opportunities for Luke to continue training would be restricted to the youth and development squad.

'Having considered this as an option, along with embarking upon his community project, McCormick took the decision to explore other possible options and the club wishes him well with this endeavour.'

McCormick added: 'I shall be forever grateful to Swindon Town FC for holding out a hand of friendship and offering me an early opportunity to re-integrate into society, following my release from prison.

Back in the day: McCormick played for Plymouth before the crash

Back in the day: McCormick played for Plymouth before the crash

'My time at Swindon Town was an important stepping stone on the journey and I would now like to move forward in an attempt to re-establish a career in football, in addition to working within the community, alerting people as to the stupidity and dangers of drinking and driving.'

McCormick was with Plymouth when the accident occurred over four years ago, and had been returning from former team-mate David Norris' wedding in Bolton.

Arron and Ben Peak were travelling to Silverstone racetrack for a dream day out with their father Phil and three friends when their Toyota Previa people carrier was hit by McCormick's vehicle at 5.44am on June 7.

The goalkeeper had been seen drinking beer and downing shots of Sambuca at the wedding reception.

Stoke Crown Court, where McCormick admitted causing death by dangerous driving and drink-driving, was told police investigators estimated his Range Rover was travelling at around 97mph moments before the crash.

Mr Peak, from Partington in Manchester, was at the wheel of the Toyota and suffered serious injuries that left him in a wheelchair.

Plymouth terminated McCormick's contract by mutual consent after he was charged.

The club said the decision was purely a footballing one because of the quality of goalkeepers already at their disposal.

No deal: Swindon boss Paulo Di Canio

No deal: Swindon boss Paulo Di Canio

McCormick's agent Clive Hart, who has represented the player since he was 17, said Swindon had been impressed by his performance during the trial.

Hart said in a statement: 'Following Luke McCormick's excellent training period with Swindon Town he is now ready to look for a playing opportunity.

'Luke is only 29 and in excellent shape, he was one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship prior to his imprisonment in 2008.

'Employment plays a key role in an offender's rehabilitation and Luke hopes he can find himself work in the football industry to continue the work done at Swindon Town and help build a positive future for his young family.

'Luke is also committed to continued involvement with community work and organisations dealing with the dangers of drink-driving.'

Hart's understanding was that there were no restrictions on McCormick moving to any club within the UK under the terms of his probation.

Swindon interim chairman Wray had offered to resign if the decision to allow McCormick to train with the club affected its standing.

He told BBC Wiltshire in May: 'I'm not going to jeopardise the club's position on this.

'I'm not going to allow the reputation of the club, that we've worked so hard to build up, to be hurt by this.

'In terms of a principle, I absolutely would resign.'

Kevin Pietersen leads England fightback with magnificent century at Headingley

Pietersen leads England fightback with magnificent century at Headingley

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UPDATED:

18:30 GMT, 4 August 2012

A sparkling, dominant century from Kevin Pietersen put England in the box seat at Headingley and turned the tables on the much-vaunted South African pace attack.

South Africa had started the day well, Vernon Philander dismissing Alastair Cook with one that swung into his front pad in the ninth over.

Captain Andrew Strauss followed soon after, nicking a good delivery from Dale Steyn, before Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell both got out playing when they shouldn't have outside off stump.

Pietersen was a different proposition, taking the attack to South Africa and dominating the bowling from the outset. He was ably supported by James Taylor on debut, whose 34 was better than the numbers would suggest. Matt Prior came in at a tricky moment, but saw out the day in relatively untroubled fashion.

/08/04/article-2183716-14621463000005DC-322_634x380.jpg” width=”634″ height=”380″ alt=”Making a point: Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century” class=”blkBorder” />

Making a point: Kevin Pietersen celebrates his century

Imperious: Kevin Pietersen dominated the South African attack

Imperious: Kevin Pietersen dominated the South African attack

Opening up: Alastair Cook is dismissed by Vernon Philander

Opening up: Alastair Cook is dismissed by Vernon Philander

Poor shot: Dale Steyn celebrates the wicket of Jonathan Trott

Poor shot: Dale Steyn celebrates the wicket of Jonathan Trott

Decent knock: James Taylor looks dejected after playing on from Morne Morkel

Decent knock: James Taylor looks dejected after playing on from Morne Morkel

London 2012 Olympics: Helen Glover and Heather Stanning in to women"s pairs final

British pair send message to rivals with Olympic record to reach rowing final

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UPDATED:

09:06 GMT, 28 July 2012

Olympics 2012

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning confirmed their status as gold medal favourites as they stormed into the final of the women's pair in a new Olympic record time.

Roared on by a packed crowd at Eton Dorney, Glover and Stanning won the opening heat of the Olympic regatta in a time of six minutes and 57.29 seconds, beating the previous best by over four seconds.

Glover and Stanning controlled the race from the outset, leading the field by a half a length at the 500 metre time-check before pulling smoothly clear to beat the United States crew by a length.

Easy does it: Great Britain's Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover set a new Olympic record

Easy does it: Great Britain's Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover set a new Olympic record

The defending Olympic champions Romania came a surprise third and will have to negotiate the repechages to reach Wednesday's final.

Glover and Stanning reacted to being pipped into silver place at the 2011 world championships by dominating the women's pair this year, winning gold at all three of this summer's World Cup regattas.

If they can continue that run of success into Wednesday's final they will become Britain's first ever female Olympic rowing champions.

Here we go: Helen Glover gets ready to compete in the women's pair at Eton Dorney

Here we go: Helen Glover gets ready to compete in the women's pair at Eton Dorney

Saturday's performance sent out a powerful message of intent to the rest of the field, with heat two winners Australia coming home in a time four seconds slower than the British crew.

New Zealand, who beat Glover and Stanning by eight hundredths of a second to win the world championships last year, trailed home unconvincingly behind the Australians.

Royal Ascot 2012: Black Caviar wins Diamond Jubilee Stakes

As good as advertised: Black Caviar holds on to win Diamond Jubilee Stakes

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UPDATED:

14:57 GMT, 23 June 2012

Black Caviar preserved her astounding unbeaten record with a narrow triumph in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Australian sprinting sensation secured her 22nd consecutive victory with a dramatic head defeat of Moonlight Cloud.

Wonder mare: Luke Nolen and Black Caviar were as good as advertised

Wonder mare: Luke Nolen and Black Caviar were as good as advertised

Diamond Jubilee result

Royal Ascot 3.45

1 Black Caviar (L Nolen) 1-6 Fav

2 Moonlight Cloud (T Jarnet) 5-1

3 Restiadargent (M Guyon) 40-1

14 ran Also: 33-1 Soul

4th Non Runner: 2

It was a remarkable finish, however,
as regular jockey Luke Nolen, who had looked in supreme control from
the outset, appeared to ease down his mount close to the line.

The 1-6 favourite still held on for a famous victory after a short wait for the photo-finish.

More to follow…

Paulo Sergio"s sad exit: Hearts boss quits after contract talks break down with Romanov

Sergio's sad exit: Hearts boss quits after contract talks break down with Romanov

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UPDATED:

23:37 GMT, 7 June 2012

Paulo Sergio quit Hearts on Thursday – just 19 days after leading them to an historic Scottish Cup victory over Hibernian.

The Portuguese coach, who only took over from Jim Jefferies at the outset of last season, walked out on the Gorgie outfit after being unable to strike a deal over a new contract.

Out: Paulo Sergio left Hearts after contract talks broke down

Out: Paulo Sergio left Hearts after contract talks broke down

The Tynecastle club will now begin looking for their 10th manager since being bought over by Vladimir Romanov eight years ago.

Former Sporting Lisbon manager Sergio, 44, had cast doubts over his future shortly after the thumping 5- 1 victory over their city rivals at Hampden last month.

Happier times: Hearts paraded the Scottish Cup

Happier times: Hearts paraded the Scottish Cup

With controversial owner Romanov determined to cut costs, the contract which was being offered to Sergio fell short of his expectations.

First-team coach Gary Locke will remain at the club, but it is expected that Romanov will look to bring in a replacement for the Portuguese from further afield.

Jose Couceiro, a former colleague of Sergio's who masterminded Lithuanian side Kaunas' victory over Rangers in the 2008-09 Europa League qualifiers, is thought to be one name under consideration.

Moving on Suso Santana and Mehdi Taouil celebrate the Scottish Cup win over Hibernian

Moving on Suso Santana and Mehdi Taouil celebrate the Scottish Cup win over Hibernian

The overwhelming feeling among Hearts fans, however, will be one of bitter disappointment after the man who brought them their eighth Scottish Cup victory was not given the chance to build on that success.

Sergio's Tynecastle tenure coincided with a particularly turbulent period at the club, with players suffering a series of wage delays.

A statement on Hearts' website said: 'The club had been hopeful recent negotiations with Sergio would have a successful conclusion, but he has opted not to extend his stay at Tynecastle.'