Tag Archives: stalemate

Montrose 0 Rangers 0 – match report: Ally McCoist"s men crowned Irn-Bru Scottish Third Division champions

Montrose 0 Rangers 0: McCoist's men crowned champions despite goalless draw

By
Lisa Gray, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

15:22 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

02:00 GMT, 31 March 2013

Rangers clinched the Irn-Bru Third Division title on Saturday to complete stage one of their journey back to the top of Scottish Football.

The Light Blues were held to a goalless draw at Montrose in a noon kick-off but were confirmed as champions three hours later when a Stuart Leslie penalty secured victory for Elgin over Queen's Park.

The result at Hampden means nearest rivals Queen's cannot catch the Ibrox outfit in the title race, as Ally McCoist secured his first piece of silverware as Rangers manager.

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Get the party started: Rangers players pose after winning the Third Division

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

Goaless: Rangers' Kane Hemmings tussles for the ball with Cammy MacDonald

His side have looked unconvincing at
times this term but have done enough to force themselves over the
finishing line with several games to spare, following their demotion to
the bottom tier of Scottish football after being consigned to
liquidation in the summer and losing their top-flight status.

Rangers made two changes following last week's drab stalemate against Stirling at Ibrox for the clash at Montrose.

David Templeton and Ian Black returned
from injury and suspension respectively to start, with Barrie McKay and
Fraser Aird dropping to the bench.

Rangers were handed a tough match the last time they visited Links Park in December, leaving with a hard-fought 4-2 win.

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle has finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

Chalked off: Montrose's Martin Boyle finds the net only to have his goal ruled out

This time around, they started sharply
with efforts from Robbie Crawford and Lee McCulloch blocked in quick
succession, before Kyle Hutton eventually rifled wide.

Templeton tested the goalkeeper when
he collected a Kane Hemmings header before unleashing an impressive half
volley that stung the palms of John Gibson.

The winger was threatening again when
he cut inside from the left before having another crack at goal but
Stephen McNally blocked for a corner.

Templeton then turned provider for Lee
Wallace and his effort was touched onto the bar by the keeper, as
Rangers kept up the pressure.

At the other end, a Paul Watson strike from distance took a massive deflection and spun just past the upright.

Champions elect Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

A matter of time: Ally McCoist side could still become champions if Queens Park slip up against Elgin City

Bolstered by the chance, the home side carved out another couple of decent opportunities.

David Gray – who has netted home and
away against Gers this season – forced a save from Neil Alexander,
before Alan Campbell glanced a header inches wide.

Montrose should have taken the lead
through Martin Boyle but his back post header was off target when he
should have had the net bulging.

The home side picked up where they
left off in the second half when Gray pounced on a poor clearance from
Emilson Cribari and lashed narrowly over the crossbar a minute after the
restart.

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Crunch: Ian Black takes a tough challenge from Montrose's Terry Masson

Rangers had a good chance of their own when Wallace's cut-back found Hemmings and his shot forced a decent save from Gibson.

Montrose thought they had taken the lead when they had the ball in the net after 65 minutes.

Alexander fumbled an awkward cross
that fell for Terry Masson. His shot was saved but the keeper could not
hold that ball, which was turned into the empty net by Boyle.

But the goal was disallowed by referee Kevin Clancy for a foul on Alexander.

It looked to be a controversial
decision and a let off for Rangers, whose celebrations came later in the
day as they made the trip back to Ibrox and took a major step in their
road to recovery.

Andre Villas-Boas rules out January transfer spending

AVB: I won't splash cash! Spurs boss rules out January move for Moutinho, Willian or Remy

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UPDATED:

15:12 GMT, 23 December 2012

Andre Villas-Boas insists he still has no plans to enter the transfer market next month despite seeing his team fail to break down a stubborn Stoke side at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham could have moved third in the table yesterday with a win over the Potters, but they had to settle for a 0-0 draw thanks to a frustrating rearguard action from the visitors.

Despite having fit-again Gareth Bale back in the side, Villas-Boas' team rarely threatened the away goal, and Asmir Begovic's only important save came in injury time when substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson tested him with a close-range header.

January sales AVB has ruled out Spurs making moves in the transfer window

January sales AVB has ruled out Spurs making moves in the transfer window

Villas-Boas said earlier this week that there was only a slim chance that he would make new additions to his squad in the January window, and he now appears to have ruled out signing anybody despite yesterday's stalemate.

Although he has been linked with the likes of Joao Moutinho, Loic Remy and Willian, the Spurs boss says the options he has in reserve are good enough to see his team through the rest of the season.

'I don't think we need to do anything,' said the Portuguese, who was missing Clint Dempsey yesterday due to a groin injury.

'We have Clint out. He is a massive player for us. He has had a big impact. He scored 17 goals last season so we have to count on him.

'He plays striker, plays wings and plays through the middle so he gives us that option.

'(Andros) Townsend the other day had a good game. Today we had opted for Sigurdsson coming in but I think we have options.'

Villas-Boas is keen to offload some of his fringe players next month, with Carlo Cudicini, Heurelho Gomes, David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas and Danny Rose all potentially heading for the exit.

Wanted men: Spurs have been linked with Moutinho (left) and Remy (right)

Wanted men: Spurs have been linked with Moutinho (left) and Remy (right)

Wanted men: Spurs have been linked with Moutinho (left) and Remy (right)

Another player who may be on the move is Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel. The 41-year-old, who has been displaced by Hugo Lloris as Spurs' number one in recent weeks, has been linked with a return to former club Blackburn.

He tweeted this afternoon: 'I know there has been quite a but of speculation regarding my future. All will be revealed in next couple of days:). Happy Holidays!!!'

Lloris has a relatively easy afternoon yesterday, with Stoke rarely threatening the home goal.

Tottenham threw everything at the visitors in the final stages, but Stoke lived up to their billing as one of the best defences around by shutting out Bale, Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe.

Shut out: Spurs failed to find a way through the Stoke defence

Shut out: Spurs failed to find a way through the Stoke defence

Shut out: Spurs failed to find a way through the Stoke defence

'Stoke have one of the best defences in Europe and they are very well organised. They don't make it easy for anyone,' Villas-Boas said.

'We gave them a run for their money and our players tried very hard. Sometimes you try everything and the ball doesn't go in the back of the net. We had a go and I'm very pleased with the players.'

Alan Pardew praises Shola Ameobi

Pardew praises Ameobi 'the big man for the big occasion' as Toon struggle past Rangers

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UPDATED:

20:13 GMT, 22 December 2012

Alan Pardew hailed Shola Ameobi after seeing the striker come off the bench to fire Newcastle to a much-needed victory over lowly QPR.

The 31-year struck nine minutes from time to claim just the Magpies' second Barclays Premier League win in eight attempts with the game seemingly heading for stalemate.

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Match facts

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Anita, Tiote (Marveaux 77), Perch, Gutierrez (Obertan 60), Ba, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 61).

Subs Not Used: Harper, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Ferguson.

Booked: Tiote, Perch, Shola Ameobi.

Goal: Shola Ameobi 81.

QPR: Green, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hill, Mackie, Mbia, Granero (Wright-Phillips 56), Faurlin (Derry 78), Taarabt, Cisse (Hoilett 64).

Subs Not Used: Murphy, Diakite, Traore, Onuoha.

Booked: Ferdinand, Hill.

Attendance: 50,180

Referee: Kevin Friend

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Pardew, whose decision to replace
Papiss Cisse with Ameobi 20 minutes earlier had been booed by a section
of the 50,180-strong crowd at St James' Park, said: 'I know the crowd
weren't particularly pleased when I took Cisse, a goalscorer, off but I
just felt Shola… he's a big man and this was a big occasion and he likes
big occasions.

'It said QPR on the programme but
really it was bigger than that, I think we all knew that and he has that
calm head – he knows what is demanded here – to produce a quality goal,
and it won us the game.

'I wanted to get Shola on the pitch, and thank goodness I did because it was a really class finish.

'He could have taken the shot with
his right foot, which is his stronger foot, but to have that composure
in that area is first-class.'

Ameobi's decisive intervention came
in the nick of time and was greeted by a huge sigh of relief on Tyneside
after he ran on to fellow substitute Sylvain Marveaux's
perfectly-weighted pass before shooting left-foot across keeper Rob
Green and into the bottom corner.

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

It was no more than the Magpies
deserved after dominating throughout but it proved a rare piece of
incision with Pardew's men too often lacking craft to open up the
visitors.

Vurnon Anita forced two second-half
saves from Green, but Tim Krul also had to get down well to keep out
Djibril Cisse's effort just after the break.

The Magpies might have won more
comfortably had Green not beaten away Marveaux's late effort after a
pacy run, but Krul had to ease late nerves by plucking Adel Taarabt's
free-kick from under his crossbar in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Pardew had admitted before the game
that he would not enjoy his Christmas lunch unless he sat down with
three points safely banked, and he was delighted to be able to do so
ahead of a tough Boxing Day trip to Manchester United.

He said: 'The pudding will taste a
little bit sweeter. I feel sorry for our fans. We have put them through
the rack, really, over this last period.

'They have watched some football that
hasn't been our best. But you have periods in your tenure as a manager
and sometimes a season.

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

Pardew had admitted before the game
that he would not enjoy his Christmas lunch unless he sat down with
three points safely banked, and he was delighted to be able to do so
ahead of a tough Boxing Day trip to Manchester United.

He said: 'The pudding will taste a
little bit sweeter. I feel sorry for our fans. We have put them through
the rack, really, over this last period.

'They have watched some football that
hasn't been our best. But you have periods in your tenure as a manager
and sometimes a season.

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

'Last season, we sailed through one or two low moments but not many. This year, it's been a sustained little run.

'But the last five games, two wins in
the last four Premier League games, they are starting to look the right
sort of stats now.

'Now we need to back that up and get a big win against one of the big clubs, and that would really cement us into mid-table.'

Defeat on Tyneside was the first for
QPR boss Harry Redknapp since taking over from Mark Hughes, although he
admitted his side had been hanging on when Ameobi settled the game.

He said: 'I thought we were going to hang on and nick a draw. I couldn't see us winning, but we just couldn't see it through.

'I thought we could hang on for a good point to keep us going, but it just wasn't to be.'

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park

England win Test series in India for first time in 28 years

England end 28-year wait for series victory in India as Trott bats hosts into submission

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UPDATED:

12:05 GMT, 17 December 2012

England scored a famous 2-1 Test series victory over India after centurions Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell shut the hosts out to confirm the stalemate they needed in Nagpur.

Trott (143) and Bell (116no) barely had a moment's anxiety in a stand of 208 before England declared on 352 for four in the final session, with a lead of 356 which rendered an India second innings unnecessary.

It is almost 28 years since England last won a Test series here, under David Gower and when current captain Alastair Cook was a babe in arms only weeks old.

Party time: Prior celebrates victory with England back room staff

Party time: Prior celebrates victory with England back room staff

Cook has been one of the foundations
of this success, with centuries in his first three Tests after replacing
Andrew Strauss as permanent captain.

But it was Trott and Bell who today
ensured an achievement all the more notable after England's crushing
nine-wicket defeat in the first Test in Ahmedabad.

There was much reason for personal
satisfaction too – in Trott's second hundred of 2012 while Warwickshire
team-mate Bell registered his first since making 235 against these same
opponents at The Oval in 2010, and in a country where he had previously
passed 50 just once in three tours.

Cook, Kevin Pietersen and spinners
Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann had begun England's comeback in Mumbai;
then the captain was at it again in Kolkata last week, when Steven Finn
and in particular James Anderson's mastery of reverse-swing completed
England's skills set.

It was heartening that Trott and Bell
should be involved in the home straight, though, after their relative
troubles in a year which has seen England lose seven of 15 Tests as well
as their position at the top of the International Cricket Council
rankings.

After Trott's ducks in Ahmedabad and
Mumbai, he contributed significantly at Eden Gardens and here –
completing the process with a typically cussed near five-hour hundred
and also passing 1,000 runs after all in the past 12 months.

England's number three reached three
figures with a trademark boundary wide of mid-on off leg-spinner Piyush
Chawla, and celebrated with feeling.

All around him India, minus veteran
master batsman Sachin Tendulkar who was off the field with a sore neck,
wore glum faces resigned to a first home series defeat in eight years.

Bell did nothing to lighten their mood
either and, having had just one escape on 75 when a fierce cut at
Piyush Chawla was edged and put down by Virender Sehwag at slip, reached
his painstaking six-hour hundred from 293 balls.

Getting shirty: KP enjoys a beer in his shirt signed by all the players

Getting shirty: KP enjoys a beer in his shirt signed by all the players

Along the way, there had been 13 fours and a six over long-off from the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja.

Soon after that blow to bring up the
200 stand, Trott was finally gone – India's only success of the day when
he was caught at leg-slip off Ravichandran Ashwin from the 310th
delivery he faced.

He and Bell had joined forces at a
wobbly 94 for three when Pietersen was bowled shouldering arms at Jadeja
last night, and Trott's only alarm came on 106 when he missed a Chawla
top-spinner but survived the lbw appeal.

England arrived here needing only a
draw, but Cook was at pains beforehand to spell out the danger of
settling for limited ambition with stakes so high.

In the event, conditions dictated that
the stalemate would have to do on a mesmerisingly slow surface which
precluded a scoring rate much in excess of two an over throughout.

Despite its crazy-paving cracks from the outset, the VCA Stadium strip never deteriorated either.

Unwatered and unrolled for almost
three weeks before the match, the intention seemed to be to provide a
'result' pitch in the hope India's four spinners could outbowl England's
two.

If those were the expectations, it was soon abundantly clear the hosts were barking up the wrong tree.

Solitary seamer Ishant Sharma was by
far the pick of their attack in the first innings, when low bounce from
his high trajectory posed the biggest threat to England.

But after the tourists recovered from
16 for two to top 300, it was hard to see India getting far enough in
front quickly enough to apply the pressure.

So it proved as, even after a near
double-century fifth-wicket stand between Virat Kohli and captain
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they ended up declaring with a marginal deficit.

England knew then they merely needed
to bat long in increasingly benign conditions to claim the prize of a
historic series victory.

Thanks to their relentless fourth-wicket pair, it was never in doubt.

Unstoppable: Trott's 143 laid the foundations for England's decisive draw with India

Unstoppable: Trott's 143 laid the foundations for England's decisive draw with India

Picture dispute

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Demba Ba"s scoring streak revives Newcastle but that 7.5m release clause has big clubs circling

Good news: Deadly Demba's scoring streak revives Newcastle… Bad news: That 7.5m release clause has the big boys circling (again)

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UPDATED:

11:35 GMT, 4 December 2012

Two-goals up at half-time against 10 men and cruising to victory, the message from Alan Pardew was clear. Any niggles, strains or pulls and you’re coming off.

And so, against his normal judgement, Cheick Tiote put his hand up for the hook at half-time to preserve his weary limbs, and when Davide Santon and Jonas Gutierrez felt twinges and knocks, they made the sign to the physios and missed parts of the second half, too.

Demba Ba’s tightening of his hamstring in the last 10 minutes left Newcastle United down to 10 men for the closing moments of last night’s 3-0 win over Wigan Athletic. Caution rather than concern was the verdict of Pardew, who has his eyes on Newcastle continuing their resurgence at Fulham next Monday night. He expects Ba to be there.

Spot on: Demba Ba drills home his penalty for Newcastle to put them ahead against Wigan

Spot on: Demba Ba drills home his penalty for Newcastle to put them ahead against Wigan

Catch me if you can: Ba is joint-top of the Premier League scoring charts this season

Catch me if you can: Ba is joint-top of the Premier League scoring charts this season

Whether the Newcastle boss will have to get used to seeing his team without Deadly Demba remains to be seen now. Pardew knows he is in for an anxious six weeks.

Ba has yet to be persuaded to sign a new deal which will bury the 7.5million release clause contained in his initial contract from summer 2011.

Newcastle have been locked in negotiations with Ba’s representatives for some time, but there is understood to be a significant gap between the wage deal the club are prepared to offer and Ba’s demands.

And with that stalemate hanging in the air, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are hovering and perhaps finally ready to offer a more lucrative sanctuary to a player who has already scored 10 goals this season. And has allegedly not been playing that well.

Pardew swapped his players around last night to enable Ba to play as the central attacker in a team which blitzed Wigan after the unfortunate and harsh dismissal of Maynor Figueroa.

Fans' favourite: The St James' Park faithful are desperate to see their star man stay

Fans' favourite: The St James' Park faithful are desperate to see their star man stay

Papiss Cisse was shifted to the right, with Jonas Gutierrez well advanced on the left, and there was even the sign of Cisse and Ba combining together, communicating and reading each other’s movement. Newcastle’s opening goal originated from a terrific, instant one-two between the Senegal pair whose body language, on occasion, has not always been so positive.

Ba was on the hunt for his first hat-trick since October last year – when he delivered a message to Stoke City after they had rejected him over a dodgy medical – and was willing to shoot on the turn from the slightest gaps. He looked like a man brimming with confidence again.

No wonder Wigan captain Gary Caldwell, who was fortunate to avoid a red card for two assaults on the striker, was withdrawn at half-time.

It was a performance to alert the scouts up and down the Premier League. In a way, the best thing Newcastle can hope for is a revived Demba Ba. And we certainly saw that last night. But it’s the worst thing that can happen, too.

Pardew is confident the striker will stay. He will not be the only one at Newcastle hoping he is correct.

The Newcastle boss said: 'I have to say he has never looked me in the eye and said he wants to anything other than stay here and I hope he does.’

Proud moment: Gael Bigirimana celebrates

Proud moment: Gael Bigirimana celebrates

It’s been the land that football forgot so far this season, but this week the North East is the land of opportunity.

For Newcastle United’s younger players, it is a week to grow and reinforce their manager’s faith in them.

They will travel to Bordeaux relaxed and in considerably better shape and heart after their demolition of 10-man Wigan at St James’s Park last night.

Pardew, a place in the first knock-out round of the Europa League secured, has always said he would blood a young team in France on Thursday night.

With just a three-day turnaround, and the more important visit to Fulham to ponder on Monday night, he will leave senior players at home, rest the weary limbs which were not risked in the latter stages against Wigan, and dip into his squad.

It’s difficult to pick the team which will try and beat Girondins de Bordeaux and clinch top spot in their qualifying group. But we can expect to see Gael Bigirimana’s beaming smile once again in the Stade Chaban Delmas.

The teenager from Coventry City was joy unfounded when he scored his brilliant goal to seal last night’s win and could not wipe the smile from his face when he was greeted by coach John Carver by the side of the pitch after the game. And you could feel his delight spreading round the ground.

The majority of Newcastle fans may believe the club should have spent more, and brought in more quality during the summer, but they have still welcomed the likes of Bigirimana with open arms.

Injuries and the European campaign have forced Pardew to blood his young bloods in difficult circumstances, but it is to the entire squad’s credit that the changes and tweeks did not harm their European campaign while they were stuttering in the Premier League.

Wonder goal: Bigirimana's effort soars into the top corner

Wonder goal: Bigirimana's effort soars into the top corner

And it is on domestic duties that the fringe players have struggled to make their impact. Until last night anyway.

Everywhere you looked, the newest recruits were coming of age. As well as Bigirimana’s goal, Shane Ferguson put in his most effective Premier League performance and Sammy Ameobi could enjoy his brief cameo.

The biggest revelation was Vurnon Anita. Pardew may have expected the Dutchman to be a sure starter in France but his superb display against Wigan as Cheick Tiote’s stand-in, make him a vital player of a heavy league programme.

Pardew said: `It has been difficult for the young players. They have come in when the experienced players have not been playing well. Anita was outstanding. I have to pay credit to him.

'He came over from the Dutch champions and must have wondered what it was all about because we couldn’t win a game because he wasn’t part of it last season. So it was great to see him on a winning side.’

And opportunities at Sunderland too, if injuries work against Martin O’Neill.

If Steven Fletcher is unable to face Chelsea on Saturday, he too will have to turn to the benchwarmers to find alternatives to his top scorer. Fletcher is the only striker to have scored for Sunderland this season.

On Sunday, at last, the Sunderland manager turned to Connor Wickham, rather than Louis Saha or Fraizer Campbell, and he was rewarded with a vastly improved performance from the England Under 21 striker. He may not have scored, but Wickham, according to his manager, put in an impressive shift.

Ray of hope: Sunderland will hope that Connor Wickham can start firing

Ray of hope: Sunderland will hope that Connor Wickham can start firing

Enough to give O’Neill the impression he was right to block a loan move out of the club, and perhaps enough to indicate he could be a Premier League striker.

Facing Chelsea as the lone striker is a considerable step up, but at least O’Neill knows he can turn to a striker who is hungry because he knows he has yet to live up to his 8million fee.

And let’s face it he has few other options who have shown they can make the step up at all from the bench so far this season.

Chelsea must fight for Rafa Benitez – Oriol Romeu

It's time to fight! Romeu issues rallying cry to Chelsea after sterile start to life under Rafa

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UPDATED:

16:24 GMT, 29 November 2012

Oriol Romeu has told his Chelsea team-mates they need to 'fight' to shake themselves out of their alarming slump after admitting it had left confidence in short supply.

The European champions stuttered to another 0-0 draw in last night's west London derby with Fulham, their sixth Barclays Premier League game without a win.

It was also their third successive match without scoring and their second straight goalless stalemate, the first time either had happened since Roman Abramovich bought the club.

Tough job: Rafael Benitez is not a popular appointment with Chelsea fans

Tough job: Rafael Benitez is not a popular appointment with Chelsea fans

Tough job: Rafael Benitez is not a popular appointment with Chelsea fans

It also made interim manager Rafael Benitez the first boss of the Abramovich era not to win either of his first two games under the Russian, results which saw Chelsea slip seven points behind Manchester United ahead of Saturday's trip to West Ham.

Midfielder Romeu, who made only his third league start of the season last night, told Chelsea TV: 'We have to keep going forward, look at the positive things and win the games and fight, fight, in each game.

'When we get the confidence, the goals will go in. I'm sure about that.

'We had two clean sheets after a long time without that happening.

'So, that's a positive thing and the only thing is that, if we score, we can win.

'We are defending well and now we have to think of attack and scoring more goals, for sure.'

Romeu was drafted in for John Obi Mikel last night, the former Barcelona youngster adding more quality in possession but without much penetration.

More misery: Fernando Torres has not scored a goal for over 10 hours

More misery: Fernando Torres has not scored a goal for over 10 hours

The 21-year-old admitted he needed to help Chelsea counter-attack more quickly if they were to create more chances.

'The counter-attack is a good point to kill the opponents and I think we can do it a bit quicker,' he said. 'And, if we can do it, we can get chances a little bit better.

'So, we will try to improve that point and obviously we have a few more points to get better.'

In fairness to Romeu, he has enjoyed only a handful of starts since Andre Villas-Boas was replaced by Roberto Di Matteo back in March, but he said:

'I'm young, I'm fit to play 90 minutes, so that's not a problem.

'The only thing you want is to play, no matter how many minutes you are on the pitch.'

Chelsea were also not helped yesterday by a sterile atmosphere at Stamford Bridge for Benitez's second match in charge.

The fans eventually made their feelings known but it was, predictably, in the form of more hostility towards the former Liverpool boss.

'We have to accept that maybe the supporters are not as happy as we would like,' Romeu said. 'But we do our job, we have to go out there and win our games.'

Doing that involves scoring goals and reports in Brazil today suggested Chelsea were negotiating a move for Metalist Kharkiv striker Taison.

The Brazilian forward was said to have travelled to London for talks with the Blues, who were also rumoured to have tracked him previously in the summer.

They did not have to look far yesterday for a striker who could make a difference at Stamford Bridge after Dimitar Berbatov's impudent performance against them.

The Bulgarian, who Fulham bagged for a bargain fee from Manchester United this summer, completely outshone opposite number Fernando Torres.

In from the cold: Oriol Romeu (centre) was recalled to the side against Fulham

In from the cold: Oriol Romeu (centre) was recalled to the side against Fulham

Berbatov was instrumental in the visitors almost snatching their first win at Stamford Bridge for 33 years but full-back John Arne Riise came the closest to scoring.

'I should have scored at least one,' he told his club's official website. 'But I had a bad first control and the second one was a deflection and a great save.'

The first came after a lighting breakaway and Riise added: 'I ran about 90 yards so I was quite tired by the end! I tried to chest it down to take the shot but the control was too close to my body and I couldn't get a shot off, so I was disappointed.'

However, Riise was far from discouraged by a result and performance which boded well for Saturday's visit of Tottenham.

He added: 'We've got to take that momentum in the Tottenham game, and that's something that we're all looking forward to.'

Arsene Wenger responds to Arsenal fans" criticism

Wenger opts for sarcasm as Arsenal fans voice frustrations against Villa

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UPDATED:

22:20 GMT, 25 November 2012

It was short, sweet and to the point.

After Arsenal’s travelling support chanted ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ at Arsene Wenger following his late substitution of Olivier Giroud, the club’s manager chose sarcasm as a convenient escape.

Well, it was either that or criticising his own fans which is the game’s No 1 no-go area as far as football managers are concerned.

I can't look! Arsenal fans watch on dejected as their side struggles

I can't look! Arsenal fans watch on dejected as their side struggles

I can't look! Arsenal fans watch on dejected as their side struggles

‘I’ve been lucky,’ he said, ‘I’ve only managed 1,600 games and in 200 matches in the Champions League.’

As a neutral, it was difficult not to feel a tad of sympathy. Given Wenger’s monumental achievements over the past 15 years, perhaps he deserves more understanding.

Saturday’s outing at a drenched Villa Park was the Gunners’ 10th game in 34 days. Some of his players had used their spare week in that time to represent their respective countries.

This Wednesday’s trip to Everton kicks off a spell of five matches inside a fortnight. It is a hefty workload.

And Wenger travelled to the Midlands on the back of a vital home Champions League qualification game with Montpellier.

Benched: Jack Wilshere was rested by Wenger against Aston Villa

Benched: Jack Wilshere was rested by Wenger against Aston Villa

Arsenal fans howled for the introduction of Jack Wilshere after barely an hour, vocalising their criticism of the manager still further. They were right, too. This stalemate needed a touch of genius.

But equally Wenger’s explanation was sensible. After being without the England international for such a lengthy period of time, he’s using his experience to guide the playmaker through.

‘Jack’s ankle is inflamed,’ he said, ‘it’s around the scar tissue. It’s not much but the rest today will help him get rid of it.

‘Apart from that, he’s done well. But he’s not played competitively for 17 months. People forget what that means — in terms of his career, 17 months is a massive length of time.

Under the cosh: Arsene Wenger

Under the cosh: Arsene Wenger

‘But I’m happy with his progress.’

It was fair to say that Arsenal’s usual crispness of passing was lacking but Villa, with Paul Lambert watching from the stands following his one-match ban for criticising match officials, were far more solid after conceding eight goals in their last two outings.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared particularly afflicted by the hosts’ industry. But again Wenger’s comments were on the level.

‘He’s learning his trade and he’s a very talented young boy,’ he said, ‘I believe he will be a great player but at the moment he is learning his job. Basically, he’s 19 years old.’

As for Lambert, he trotted out his usual ‘We’ll be fine’ line.

He’s right, fine lines are what the game’s all about. But he’s not out of the woods yet.

If Villa’s next three matches against Reading, QPR and Stoke City don’t go according to plan, he might need his own method of self-defence.

Oh well, he could always phone Wenger for advice.

India v England first test: England fight back but face uphill struggle

England show fighting spirit but still face uphill struggle after spin assault

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UPDATED:

11:37 GMT, 17 November 2012

PICTURE DISPUTE

We are unable to carry live pictures from the First Test in Ahmedabad due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

England rediscovered their fight but still face a mountainous task to salvage a first-Test stalemate after collapsing to Indian spin on day three and having to follow on 330 runs behind.

If their position was no longer hopeless by stumps, thanks to an overdue stand of substance between openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton at their second attempt, it was still hard to argue with a consensus that they will probably lose an unequal struggle at some point over the next two days.

Pragyan Ojha (five for 45) and Ravichandran Ashwin (three for 80) bowled England out for 191, yet neither of the Indian spinners could make any inroads in 28 more overs between them when the tourists tried again and succeeded to the tune of 111 for none.

Only Cook's lbw scare, sweeping at
Ojha on 41, brought significant alarm on his way to an unbeaten 74 which
restated his commitment to leading from the front as new Test captain.

Going good: Nick Compton showed a good understanding with Alistair Cook

Going good: Nick Compton showed a good understanding with Alistair Cook

In England's first innings,
conversely, a wicket was forever imminent as Ojha and Ashwin made a
nonsense of Graeme Swann's manful attempts to chip through India on what
had appeared a lifeless surface on the first two days of this series.

Suddenly, the Sardar Patel Stadium was
a snakepit as – in reply to 521 for eight declared – England lost four
wickets for 69 runs this morning and then, despite Matt Prior's best
efforts, their last three by teatime.

Prior responded to a critical
situation with determination, interspersed with his instinct for
counter-attacking strokeplay, but could not turn the tide.

England had endured successive
wicketless mornings while Virender Sehwag and then double-centurion
Cheteshwar Pujara piled on the runs.

They never looked likely to continue the sequence with bats in their hands.

Kevin Pietersen's comeback innings
following his successful 'reintegration' was fretful throughout, rarely
in his crease as he sought to stop Ojha dictating events.

The result appeared reckless rather than effective – from the outset.

He could easily have been out twice
before adding to his overnight six, up the wicket in the first over and
having to dive back as the ball bounced off his pad to silly-point, and
missing another from out of his ground which thankfully also beat
Mahendra Singh Dhoni down the leg-side.

A brief illusion of permanence
followed until Ojha knocked out middle-stump as Pietersen played inside a
delivery which turned sharply from wide on the crease round the wicket.

England's collective solution to last
winter's failings against spin, broadly, has been to ditch the sweep and
play much less from the crease.

Solid: England captain Cook (left) oversaw a good fightback

Solid: England captain Cook (left) oversaw a good fightback

Ian Bell has taken the 'remedy' to
extremes, however, and paid the price instantly when he was up the
wicket to Ojha and went through with an attempted lofted drive only to
depart embarrassingly for a golden duck – caught at deep mid-off.

Cook crossed and survived the hat-trick ball.

But soon afterwards Ashwin lured him into a drive and had him edging some spin low to slip, where Sehwag took a neat catch.

Prior was dropped on three after clubbing a full-toss from Ashwin to Zaheer Khan on the square-leg boundary.

Samit Patel had no such luck. He got
past the initial spin threat but was then lbw to one perhaps sliding
towards leg when India finally introduced frontline seamer Umesh Yadav.

Prior and Tim Bresnan closed out the session, and began the next with promise in a stand of 47.

But Bresnan, understandably playing
low in defence, was undone by rare extra bounce as Ojha picked up his
fourth wicket – caught at gully.

Stuart Broad announced himself by
hitting Ojha over midwicket for four first ball; then when Ashwin
returned, he took 13 of the 14 runs off his first over back, including a
six over long-on from the crease.

But England's first-innings resistance
was short-lived, Broad lbw to one from Zaheer that again might have
beaten leg-stump, and then Prior last out missing an inside-out drive at
Ojha.

It seemed then that the tourists were
on the fast track to defeat, until Cook and Compton revived hope that
they could yet head for Mumbai next week 0-0 with three to play.

Mario Balotelli new haircut during Italy squad training

Balotelli displays hair-raising new barnet in training with Italy (but it looks a bit too much like crazy paving to us, Mario!)

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UPDATED:

18:10 GMT, 12 November 2012

Mario Balotelli's had his troubles at Manchester City in recent weeks… but now there's a fresh talking point: his new haircut looks like crazy paving.

City could be ready to part ways with the controversial striker after dropping him for Sunday's clash with Tottenham. Mancini opted to start Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez with Balotelli not even earning a place on the bench, where Edin Dzeko and even 20-year-old midfielder Abdul Razak got the nod. Dzeko then repaid his manager's faith by slamming home the winning goal after his introduction in the second half.

Balotelli now has a chance to get away from Mancini and City for a couple of days as he trains with the Italy squad ahead of Wednesday's friendly with France.

Trim: Mario Balotelli shows off his new haircut during training with the Italy squad on Monday

Trim: Mario Balotelli shows off his new haircut during training with the Italy squad on Monday

National service: Balotelli will hope to put his recent misery with Manchester City behind him

National service: Balotelli will hope to put his recent misery with Manchester City behind him

Hair-raising: Stephan El Shaarawy proves that dodgy barnets run rife through the Italy squad

Hair-raising: Stephan El Shaarawy proves that dodgy barnets run rife through the Italy squad

The 22-year-old striker will hope to start for the Azzurri in Parma and show Mancini what he's been missing.

Balotelli and Mancini have always had an uneasy relationship but that has become increasingly obvious in recent weeks with Balotelli visibly angry with his boss after being hauled off in the stalemate at West Ham on November 3.

Since then he has introduced the 22-year-old as a substitute in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Ajax last Tuesday, and was then dropped completely against Spurs.

Mancini was told at his first meeting with new sporting director Txiki Begiristain last week that it will be a quiet January transfer window for the club unless he can raise funds first by selling players.

Inter Milan and AC Milan are both interested in taking Balotelli, who is valued at 22million by City. The Italian has been Mancini's fourth choice behind Aguero, Tevez and reluctant 'super-sub' Dzeko.

City may delay buying until the summer, when they have a better chance of landing A-list targets Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Daniele de Rossi.

Just warming up: Italy's squad jog in training ahead of their friendly against France on Wednesday

Just warming up: Italy's squad jog in training ahead of their friendly against France on Wednesday

The former Inter striker was courted by cross-city rivals AC just last week. Balotelli
left Inter under a cloud and AC Milan's chief executive Adriano
Galliani expressed his 'love' for the controversial forward.

He said: 'I have a profound love for Mario Balotelli, but many loves in life don't always end well.'

Out in the cold: Balotelli was dropped from Manchester City's team that beat Tottenham on Sunday

Out in the cold: Balotelli was dropped from Manchester City's team that beat Tottenham on Sunday

Scarface: Gianluigi Buffon

P.S. Forget Tony Montana, Buffon is Scarf-face!

GIanluigi Buffon was spotted on Monday sporting a T-shirt featuring a print of legendary screen gangster Tony Montana from the film Scarface.

Italy's veteran goalkeeper is a legend of the game, having helped his country lift the the World Cup in Germany in 2006.

The 34-year-old keeper has amassed 123 caps for Italy over a brilliant career playing for Juventus and Parma.

So you could say he's been there and got the T-shirt.

And we like this particular T-shirt… only we're not so sure the rest of the outfit works with it.

Tony Montana's most infamous moment came as he uttered the immortal words 'say hello to my little friend' before machine-gunning a rival gang who had broken into his mansion to assassinate the drug lord, only to meet a grisly death himself.

So what we're not convinced of is whether Montana would ever be spotted carrying a man-bag and wearing a rather nice-looking scarf to keep out the November chill.

Less Scarface and more Scarf-face then, Gianluigi.

Australia 18 New Zealand 18: Epic stalemate sees Wallabies end Kiwis winning streak

Australia 18 New Zealand 18: Epic stalemate sees Wallabies end Kiwis winning streak

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UPDATED:

14:38 GMT, 20 October 2012

New Zealand's 16-match winning streak was brought to an end with a nail-biting 18-18 draw against a brave and undermanned Wallabies outfit in the third Bledisloe Cup Test at Suncorp Stadium.

While there were no tries, neither side left anything in the tank in a physically and emotionally draining match in front of a bumper crowd of 51,888.

Play continued for several minutes after the final siren and New Zealand's Dan Carter had the opportunity to win the game and stretch his team's streak to a record 17 games.

But his dropped goal attempt was wide of the mark, meaning an 80-minute penalty-fest between the two trans-Tasman nations would end in stalemate.

Hard-fought: Israel Dagg is tackled by Nick Phipps

Hard-fought: Israel Dagg is tackled by Nick Phipps

Rank outsiders before the match, Australia started with intent and felt the benefit of the boot of Mike Harris (five from five for the match) to claim a richly-deserved 12-6 lead at the interval.

Taking advantage of some uncharacteristic All Blacks mistakes – including a yellow card to Tony Woodcock on the half-time whistle – the home nation barely put a foot wrong in the first 40 minutes.

But turnovers began to creep back into their game after the break as a frustrated New Zealand moved to whittle away their advantage.

At 15-9 up after Kurtley Beale's long-range penalty for the Wallabies, Michael Hooper earned himself a 10-minute spell in the bin following a late challenge on Aaron Smith – and New Zealand duly capitalised.

Turning up the heat on Australia, Carter (six from eight) reduced the arrears with the ensuing penalty – and then added another three points to tie things up on 67 minutes.

Under the cosh: Dan Carter came in for close attention

Under the cosh: Dan Carter came in for close attention

Four minutes later, the All Blacks took the lead for the first time when Adam Ashley-Cooper spilled a high ball, allowing Carter to kick his sixth penalty from right in front.

But the Wallabies levelled again with Harris' fifth penalty as they pushed to send retiring skipper Nathan Sharpe out on a winning note. But that result wasn't to be.

The Kiwis were incensed that Hosea Gear's 23rd-minute effort was chalked off after a superb counter down the left flank.

Harris and Gear were charging towards the ball and the former saved the day with a tap-down – although replays suggested he may not have got a finger on it at all.

Any suggestions this was going to be treated like a dead rubber were extinguished inside the opening minute.

Going to ground: Pat McCabe is tackled by Richie McCaw

Going to ground: Pat McCabe is tackled by Richie McCaw

In an indication of the intensity the game would be played at, an onrushing Ashley-Cooper charged down the second kick of the game – and his pressure would have paid off had the ball sat in play.

It threatened to boil over at times in the first period, with Scott Higginbotham likely to face sanction for what appeared to be a headbutt on New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw.

Australia dominated possession at stages of the first half and went closest to a try in a long, searching but ultimately fruitless 19th-minute foray.

They were not helped by the inevitable addition of one more to the long list of wounded Wallabies – Sitaleki Timani trudged off in the 21st minute, replaced by Kane Douglas.