Tag Archives: surface

Millennium Stadium to get new plastic pitch in time for 2015 Rugby World Cup

Artificial pitch to be laid at Millennium Stadium in time for 2015 World Cup

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UPDATED:

16:01 GMT, 16 December 2012

Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium looks set for a new plastic pitch in time to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The troublesome turf at Millennium Stadium is currently being replaced several times a year and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) think an artificial surface would solve the problem.

The steep stands in Cardiff block the sunlight and ground-staff have had well-publicised problems in trying to prepare suitable pitches.

The steep stands at the Millennium Stadium block the sunlight

The steep stands at the Millennium Stadium block the sunlight

Ground-staff have had problems preparing a suitable playing surface

Ground-staff have had problems preparing a suitable playing surface

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis told the Sunday Times an artificial pitch ‘is being given serious consideration. We are looking at the implications.’

A layer of stone, a thick black rubber shock pad and a covering of artificial green yarn 5cm deep with an in-fill of black rubber crumb make up the proposed new surface.

The International Rugby Board have approved the surface with the only sticking point for the WRU being whether it can handle the heavy equipment used for music shows, which provide a good source of revenue.

The Millennium Stadium hosts Welsh rugby internationals including Six Nations matches

The Millennium Stadium hosts Welsh rugby internationals including Six Nations matches

Traditionalists are unhappy that an artificial pitch removes bad bounces and the need for teams to change or adapt their style for the conditions.

The Twickenham pitch was relaid during the close season with a proportion being synthetic turf.

Saracens will move to their new home Allianz Park in February and will become the first team to stage professional rugby on an artificial pitch.

SARACENS LEADING THE WAY

Mouritz Botha of Saracens catches the ball during the Heineken Cup

Saracen’s new 20million stadium Allianz Park will host the first professional rugby union match to be staged on a non-grass surface on February 16 when the home side entertain Exeter Chiefs.

The RFU invested in the new ground in Barnet to give England a place to train should their normal fields be frozen.

The length of the grass yarn has been set by the IRB, and also by FIFA for football purposes, at 50mm. 300 tons of sand is laid to stabilise the surface before 30mm of rubber crumb infill is added.

Installation costs are 530,000 including 100,000 for the first replacement of the grass yarn after 10 years.

An artificial surface is a lot cheaper to maintain than real grass as it just needs to be brushed twice a week to loosen the rubber crumb.

England hit by second injury blow as Steven Finn doubtful for final India Test

Double blow for England with Finn set to join Broad on sidelines for final Test

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UPDATED:

09:42 GMT, 12 December 2012

Steven Finn gave England a huge worry
ahead of Thursday's crucial final Test here on Wednesday morning when he was
unable to train because of a disc strain in his lower back.

Finn had been unable to play in the
first two Tests because of a thigh injury but returned in Kolkata in
place of the out of sorts Stuart Broad and bowled brilliantly in
England's famous win.

Injury blow: Steven Finn was unable to take part in net practice

Injury blow: Steven Finn was unable to take part in net practice

England will assess the Middlesex man's condition in the morning but he must be a big doubt for a game in which Alastair Cook and his men have the chance to win England's first Test series in India for almost 28 years.

And with Broad officially ruled out of the fourth Test with a recurrence of the heel injury he sustained in a warm-up game at the start of this tour the potential absence of Finn could not have come at a worse time.

Tim Bresnan, innocuous in the first Test, is the most likely replacement for Finn but Graham Onions, who has been on the outside looking in all tour, is another potential choice. England will certainly not want to go into the Test with a fitness question mark over one of only two seamers in their line-up.

The pitch here at the VCA Stadium just outside Nagpur looks a good one, certainly not the raging turner many predicted, and it could well be that England now regret sending Stuart Meaker back to play with their Performance Squad in Pune. It could turn out to be the kind of flat but abrasive surface that would have suited the rapid Meaker.

There also remains a possibility that England will again change a winning side and bring in Jonny Bairstow for Samit Patel. Alastair Cook, the England captain, refused to back Patel when asked if he would play.

'Samit played in the first game in that second spinner role but with Monty coming in and doing fantastically well, clearly his chances with the ball have been limited since then,' said Cook. 'We will try to pick the team that we think gives us the best chance of winning this game.'

Missing: Stuart Broad has been ruled out by heel injury

Missing: Stuart Broad has been ruled out by heel injury

Cook was in relaxed but businesslike
mood as he assessed his side's chances of making history
with a third successive Test win in a country where it is famously hard
for visiting sides to prosper.

'On the eve of any Test I'm nervous
but there's a lot of excitement today too,' said Cook. 'It's an
incredible situation we find ourselves in and we've played some really
good, tough cricket to get here. We are keen as a side to continue that
here.'

England's recovery after their heavy
first Test defeat has astounded many but Cook insisted he always knew
his side had it in them.

'I've been pleasantly surprised with
the character we've shown. I think I said after Ahmedabad that if we
played to our potential we could get back into this series but the way
we have done that has really pleased me,' he said.

'Everybody realises how big and
important this game is. When we're out there we have to take that
emotion out of the game and make sure we fully focus on what we have to
do. We know how hard we have worked to get here and we have to do it
again now but we have to remain as calm as we can be. We can't get
carried away now. We are here to do a job. We have a great chance and
we're desperately keen not to let that chance go.'

But they will have to succeed again
without their vice-captain with Broad ruled out of this match and quite
probably the rest of this leg of the tour.

'Stuart is out of this Test and we'll
assess him over the next day or so to see if he has a chance of playing
in the Twenty20s,' said Cook.

'It's the nature of sport that some
people have good tours and others don't and unfortunately Stuart hasn't
this time. He's had injuries and illness and he hasn't quite been able
to get into this tour which is frustrating for him and disappointing for
us as a side but we all know the class of Broady and that he will be
back.

Broad has had a miserable trip,
suffering injury and illness and being dropped after going wicketless in
the first two Tests, but he would definitely have returned if Finn is
ruled out of this game. The worry for England now is that they will be
going into their most important game of the year without either.

Martin Samuel: Being good at football is not an act of provocation

Being good at football is not an act of provocation

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UPDATED:

10:03 GMT, 12 December 2012

Say you could win a thousand pounds, right here, right now, and all you had to do was hit a bloke on the nose with a 2p coin from 20 yards.

Chances are, you couldn’t do it. It is quite hard to throw a 2p with any accuracy. It isn’t a cricket ball. Copper is quite light, but the surface area of the coin relatively large, meaning there is resistance and wind factor, plus your target is moving.

All things considered, if your financial well-being depended on a tuppenny vice you would end the day as poor as you started it.

Ready, aim, fire: Manchester United players were pelted with missiles as they celebrated the win over City

Ready, aim, fire: Manchester United players were pelted with missiles as they celebrated the win over City

Abuse: Wayne Rooney was subjected to a torrent of bile by City fans as he prepared to take a corner

Abuse: Wayne Rooney was subjected to a torrent of bile by City fans as he prepared to take a corner

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So, there was in all likelihood significantly more to Rio Ferdinand’s injury, struck by a missile thrown by a member of the crowd in the Manchester derby, than mere dumb luck. The law of averages would have been at work, too.

For if the same prize was up for grabs but you could have a hundred shies with that 2p piece, well, the balance of probability would produce a different set of figures.

And looking at the footage from behind one goal on Sunday, Ferdinand would not have needed to dodge a single coin after Robin van Persie scored Manchester United’s winning goal, but a whole monetary shower.

At one stage in the second half, Wayne Rooney goes to take a corner from the left. Clearly visible is a hail of tiny missiles as he stands, back to the fans, ready to restart the play. And it is this bit of footage that kills, dead, the idea that player provocation played any part in the events of Sunday.

Rooney wasn’t taunting the home fans, he didn’t even turn to them. Met with the standard sea of angry, contorted faces as he went to take his kick, he merely rounded to face the game and got on with his job. So there was no excuse, no mitigation beyond hatred and jealousy.

A section of modern football supporters do not need a trigger to demonstrate their brutal irresponsibility. And celebrating an emotional late goal isn’t a trigger anyway.

A caller to the BBC’s 606 phone-in show on Sunday attempted to shift the blame for the events at the Etihad Stadium on to Manchester United’s players, for the way they responded to victory.

Incredibly, he was indulged by Alan Green, who allowed him his platform unchallenged, and even supplied a supporting anecdote.

He recalled the way Gary Neville once ran the length of the pitch at Old Trafford away from his team-mates, to celebrate a late winner, from Ferdinand, in front of Liverpool’s fans in the away end. Green was appalled by this. He painted a very moralistic portrait of how he would react, if he was ever in Neville’s position.

Cut: Rio Ferdinand was struck by a 2p coin, splitting the skin above his eye and drawing blood

Cut: Rio Ferdinand was struck by a 2p coin, splitting the skin above his eye and drawing blood

Cut: Rio Ferdinand was struck by a 2p coin, splitting the skin above his eye and drawing blood

Provoked, much: Gary Neville famously celebrated late United winner in front of Liverpool fans

Provoked, much: Gary Neville famously celebrated late United winner in front of Liverpool fans

Which, of course, he won’t be. None of us will. For what Green neglected to mention in his recounting of the incident, was the song the Liverpool supporters had been singing about Neville for much of that match, to the tune of London Bridge Is Falling Down, implying that he enjoyed a sexual relationship with his mother.

We can’t print it here and this is a pity, as to appreciate the full horror, one really needs to spell it out.

Those with vivid imaginations and strong stomachs may wish to deduce more from the fact the final word rhymes with glitter. Now we’re getting there.

So Green, and others, can pontificate and judge, but until they have had several thousand people inserting their name where Neville’s is, they have no clue how they would react to an event as vindicating and cathartic as a last-minute winning goal.

If thousands of people were insulting you and, mid-sentence, an event happened that silenced those voices and caused them great upset, might you not revel in it, just a little

And might you not, as Neville did, jump high in the air in pure elation and run towards the tormentors, gripping your Manchester United shirt and holding its badge out in defiance, while emitting a roar of pure rage

In John Carpenter’s film Escape From New York, a kidnapped President played by Donald Pleasence finally gets his revenge on the preening gangland overlord who captured and tortured him (see below). As he guns him down, he screams in mockery and vengeance the words he was made to recite under duress: ‘Aay, number one! You’re the Duke, you’re the Duke! You’re ‘A’ Number 1.’

Carpenter wanted to show the savage inside every man. That goal against Liverpool brought out the darker side of Neville. Pushed to his limit, he reacted. Yet players did not start this war.

John Carpenter’s Escape From New York

Being good at football is not in itself an act of provocation. Nor is scoring a goal and celebrating it.

Some of us would like to see more smiles and less snarls when this happens, because Sir Alex Ferguson gets easily as much grief as his players but always reacts to a Manchester United goal with untrammelled glee, but as long as no scorer deliberately instigates a riot, then all’s fair.

On Sunday, United celebrated in front of their own fans, who happened to be adjacent to a Manchester City section. There was nothing provocative in what they did, unless winning a contentious derby match late is now reclassified as incitement.

Maybe if the scores are tied, or close, with 10 minutes to spare, the referee should blow early to prevent anybody getting overwrought.

The reaction of Phil Jones has been mentioned by some City supporters, and it is true the defender did run the length of the pitch to join the celebrations, looking at the home fans and gesturing for them to now be quiet; but a couple of observations.

First, Jones was deep on the right, and United’s little party took place high on the left. So the idea that Ferdinand was hit by a coin because of something Jones was invisibly doing on the other side of the field is preposterous.

Second, Jones had spent the bulk of the match, 85 minutes, on the substitutes’ bench where, one imagines, he had heard and felt the full force of hatred from the home support. Might this be why he was a little more caught up in the moment than usual

Nobody goes to Paddy Crerand for the impartial take on United, but his outrage during a radio interview when confronted with a lot of mealy-mouthed questions that appeared to place the blame on the visiting players was understandable.

Yet this is not about United and City or United and Liverpool. This is not about any individual club at all. Only a fool believes that what happened on Sunday is not repeated, in varying degrees of intensity, around the country each weekend.

Reaction: Phil Jones has been accused after he ran to join his delighted team-mates

Reaction: Phil Jones has been accused after he ran to join his delighted team-mates

Reaction: Phil Jones has been accused after he ran to join his delighted team-mates

This is about players and fans. It was United under attack this week, it could be City on the receiving end in the return fixture later this season.

(When Ferguson recalled the venom recently directed at his players in the derby and at Chelsea, he conveniently forgot that a City player had been hit by an object thrown at Old Trafford in 2009.)

And what is the crime these young men have committed They’re good at football. They can put the ball in the net. They achieve the point of the game. They possess the dedication, the discipline, the work ethic and talent, to stand on the pitch and perform.

And when they do, apparently, their skill is too provocative for some tastes. What a perverse little society we have become.

Handball’s plight proves legacy talk is a sham

So, as predicted, it meant nothing. Handball, volleyball, water polo, all the other team sports that Great Britain embraced during the Olympics, entering inferior home teams so we could pointlessly tick boxes for participation, have ended in a funding dead end.

A policy that rewards success and starves failure was always going to splutter out this way.

What was the point of starting a handball team from scratch and taking up a place that could have gone to a stronger, deserving nation if the journey ended after 2012

This was a gimmick; a publicity exercise; an act of sporting theft, considering some deserving athletes will never compete in the Olympics now because Great Britain blocked the way.

It is also very harsh on administrators. If only success is going to increase funding for volleyball, then the sport has no chance of growing. Volleyball is played across 218 federations —more than football — with participation estimated at 998million 10 years ago.

No way past: GB handball teams, built from scratch for the Olympics, have reached a funding dead end

No way past: GB handball teams, built from scratch for the Olympics, have reached a funding dead end

It is fair to say the rest of the world has a head start.

Some sports are harder to crack.

Take rugby union. A small country like Georgia, with reasonable investment, could grow quite quickly on the world stage because rugby participation is limited. Georgia could not make the same impact in football because so many countries play it, and have strong development systems in place.

So when Britain got serious about track cycling it was in the knowledge that the performance ladder could be climbed relatively quickly due to lower participation numbers.

Not true of volleyball, nor even handball, played by nine times as many people as rugby. So, unless different funding rules were to apply post-Olympics, it was all pretence.

The cheerleaders will keep waving their little flags and telling us the Olympics were the days of our lives, but strip away the euphoria of the moment and much of the legacy talk is a sham. The sports were had, the athletes were had and so were you, if you thought it would end any other way.

AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT

Money matters

The pressure felt by India’s cricketers going into the fourth Test in Nagpur will be very familiar to England’s underachieving footballers.

Blame for the first back-to-back home Test defeats since 2000 — India have now lost 10 of their last 16 Tests — is being placed on the riches of the Indian Premier League.

It's your fault: The IPL and its big contracts for foreigners has been blamed for India's poor form

It's your fault: The IPL and its big contracts for foreigners has been blamed for India's poor form

Earning too much and caring too little. Now where have we heard that before And, yes, it seems a compelling argument when young players who have not even faced a ball in Test cricket have already earned over 4million from the IPL.

Yet, just as with English football, it is a sweeping rationalisation. India’s problem is that the qualities in which they excel — batting and spin bowling — are among England’s strengths, too. Wickets prepared to get the best out of the home side equally suit the visitors.

The ferocity of the criticism levelled at India’s cricketers in defeat suggests it is rather simplistic to claim that the money from the IPL, like that of football’s Premier League, makes losing palatable. It just means India’s players can afford bigger gates on their houses; which they are going to need, by the sound of it.

Usual suspects in line 2020

Remember when English football stood tall against Sepp Blatter and FIFA That didn’t last long.

Now Football Association chairman David Bernstein greets the old fraud like a long-lost pal, and cosies up to his UEFA equivalent Michel Platini at every opportunity.

2020 vision: Michel Platini has announced the European Championships in eight years will be cross-continent

2020 vision: Michel Platini has announced the European Championships in eight years will be cross-continent

The FA reaction to Platini’s plan to hurl the 2020 European Championship across the continent was not a denouncement, more like an excited squeal.

‘Ooh, can we have the final and the semi-finals, Mr President Ooh please, please, please, please, please.’

Yet the only way Platini’s idea would have any worth at all is if it took the competition to the parts of Europe that have never hosted it, and probably won’t get the chance now the format has expanded to include an unwieldy 24 teams.

Cities such as Dublin, Cardiff, Glasgow, Bucharest, Tblisi, Prague or Istanbul. This, however, is the option that makes it super-expensive for supporters.

So London has a good chance of reward, as have Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Paris. You know, the usual. Not that the FA care. They tried having principles once. Turns out there wasn’t enough money in it.

Eden Hazard under fire at Chelsea

Haphazard Eden's back in firing line as Belgian fades after stunning start

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UPDATED:

00:45 GMT, 26 November 2012

When the bitching began in the Chelsea dressing room during Roberto Di Matteo’s final days in charge, Eden Hazard became one of many targets.

Yesterday the 32million man got his first warning, no longer one of the Untouchables after Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez replaced him with Victor Moses in the 71st minute.

Chelsea’s players had called Hazard out in the dressing room for his contribution against Shakhtar Donetsk when they squeaked a last-minute, 3-2 win in the Champions League on November 7.

Time to change: Rafa Benitez has a word with Eden Hazard

Time to change: Rafa Benitez has a word with Eden Hazard

Some of the big boys in the Chelsea team have been unimpressed with his work-rate in recent weeks, demanding that little bit more from the Belgium star.

No-one at the club doubts his class, particularly when he can point to six assists and four goals since his summer move from France.

He was a personal favourite of Di Matteo, picked to play every minute of the manager’s final five games in charge of the European champions.

But at the family home in Leamington Spa yesterday, Di Matteo will have watched another heavy-legged, lethargic performance from the 21-year-old winger.

The early-season form, when Hazard was creating goals and scoring them during Chelsea’s impressive burst, is long behind him.

Struggles: Hazard has not shown his best form in recent weeks

Struggles: Hazard has not shown his best form in recent weeks

On a slippery surface at Stamford Bridge, he spent 72 minutes on the periphery against the Barclays Premier League champions.

He was first off, replaced by Moses, a willing substitute when he seized his chance against Shakhtar and scored the winner with a last-minute header.

Hazard never got going in Benitez’s first game, frustrated by the balance of City’s defence whenever he was on the ball.

‘We needed fresh legs and a different approach,’ admitted Benitez.

‘We brought on Moses to play as an out-and-out winger. We want to create chances and score goals, that was the reason we made a change.’

Hazard no longer has the protection of Di Matteo, but it is down to Benitez to find a solution for a player with Hazard’s ability.

For a player with his reputation, Chelsea’s owner is entitled to expect a bit more.

VIDEO: GRAHAM CHADWICK'S PICTURES FROM CHELSEA V MANCHESTER CITY

Nick Compton scores half-century in warm-up match against Haryana

Immaculate timing from Compton as England opener scores another half-century ahead of first Test with India

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UPDATED:

12:35 GMT, 10 November 2012

Nick Compton will make his Test debut high on confidence next week after his third successive half-century for England.

As the tourists again found runs easy to come by but wickets significantly harder on the Sardar Patel B Ground's ultra-flat surface, their new Test opener-in-waiting added a second-innings 54 not out to his 74 two days ago.

England's struggle to bowl out Haryana lasted until teatime on day three of four in this final warm-up match, thanks largely to Rahul Dewan – who carried his bat for a near eight-hour 143.

In the Nick of time: Compton is finding form at the right time heading into the first Test

In the Nick of time: Compton is finding form at the right time heading into the first Test

Haryana v England

Click here for the full scorecard

But when they did complete the job, Haryana reaching 334, they still had a lead of 187 and therefore the notional option of enforcing the follow-on.

After spending almost 115 overs in the field under a hot sun and cloudless skies, it was no surprise they chose to bat again instead – and not much more of one that captain Alastair Cook, after his first-innings 97, decided Jonathan Trott (61no) could partner Compton in his place at the top of the order.

The South Africa-born pair did not look in the least trouble either, on the way to twin 98-ball 50s in a stumps total of 118 for none, to deal with a seam attack which had posed so few problems first time round on this bowlers' graveyard.

Compton's big stride in forward defence, and off-drive, is already a familiar sight after two weeks on tour – and his initial nought and one against India A and Mumbai A are becoming happily distant memories.

He helped to put England in position to bat on for perhaps half a session tomorrow, before Cook judges the time is right to again set about the tougher task of taking opposition wickets.

If Compton's batting has become increasingly assured, the same could not be said of his fielding and catching as he and others showed signs of weariness while Dewan continued remorselessly.

Century boy: Dewan carried his bat for 144 as England struggled to tidy up the innings

Century boy: Dewan carried his bat for 144 as England struggled to tidy up the innings

Century boy: Dewan carried his bat for 144 as England struggled to tidy up the innings

The Haryana opener edged short and wide of the slips more than once but mostly presented a broad bat in a 315-ball stay.

As England's stamina underwent an extreme yet appropriate test, for the challenges to come in a four-Test series, Compton floored one straightforward chance and Matt Prior, back on duty after yesterday's stomach upset, was also short of his best behind the stumps.

Among their bowlers, Tim Bresnan (three for 66) got more than most out of the surface but even he could not shift Dewan.

The Yorkshireman impressed as England's most likely wicket-taker yesterday, and got them under way again today when he had Sandeep Singh pushing tentatively forward and edging low to Cook at slip.

The captain was in the firing line three more times before lunch. But the ball evaded his grasp when Amit Mishra twice edged past slip and Dewan, on 87, did likewise off Jonathan Trott – a rare false shot in a compact and controlled tour de force.

In the wickets: Bresnan and Meaker (below) both took three scalps

In the wickets: Bresnan and Meaker (below) both took three scalps

In the wickets: Bresnan and Meaker (below) both took three scalps

Mishra was gone relatively soon anyway,
turned round by Stuart Meaker and caught behind to give the Surrey
seamer his first first-class wicket for England.

But Dewan remained to complete his sixth first-class hundred with a cut for his 14th four – earning the polite applause of the bowler, Monty Panesar, in acknowledgment.

Meaker (three for 74) got through Jayant Yadav's defences and knocked over off-stump and would have had a third wicket had Prior managed to hold a diving catch down the leg-side to see off Amit Vashisht for just four.

Compton put down Vashisht again at point off Graham Onions, a glaring miss but one which cost only five runs before Samit Patel got his man lbw pushing forward.

Dewan was then joined in a ninth-wicket stand of 62 by Chanderpal Saini, the number 10 belying the fact he was playing in only his second first-class match at the age of 25 after a debut just last week – until Meaker had him lbw, before last man Sanjay Budhwar was caught in the gully off Kevin Pietersen for nought.

There was still time to push for a morale-boosting win, all the more so after the unbroken century opening stand which followed.

Digging in: Compton and Trott have both passed the half-century mark

Digging in: Compton and Trott have both passed the half-century mark

Manchester United ace Wayne Rooney: I got lucky with penalty in Braga

I got lucky in Braga, admits Rooney after United striker bounces back from penalty howler

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UPDATED:

18:36 GMT, 8 November 2012

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney
admitted luck played a significant part as he bounced back from his
penalty miss against Arsenal by converting one in Braga on Wednesday.

Rooney has a mixed record with
spot-kicks and became the fourth United player to miss one this season
when he struck wide in United's 2-1 Barclays Premier League victory over
the Gunners at Old Trafford on Saturday.

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

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

But that did not deter him from stepping up four days later to take on the responsibility again when the Red Devils were awarded another one with five minutes of normal time remaining in their Champions League Group H clash at the Estadio AXA.

After substitute Robin van Persie's 80th-minute effort had cancelled out Alan's opener – also a penalty – for the hosts four minutes into the second half, it was an opportunity to put United in front for the first time and Rooney, who had earned the spot-kick when Nuno Coelho was adjudged to have fouled him, made the most of it by beating goalkeeper Beto with a firm shot.

The 27-year-old appeared to skid a little on the wet surface as he fired the ball in and he conceded afterwards that he had been 'a bit fortunate'.

Asked if he had had any doubts about taking the penalty, Rooney said: 'No, not at all.

'Obviously I was disappointed at the weekend, not only to miss but to miss the target.

'I said after the game it wasn't good enough and (against Braga) I was a bit fortunate; I slipped but thankfully it's gone in so I'm happy with that.

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

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

'At the time it happened so quick, but obviously I've seen it going towards the goal and the keeper going the other way.

'I was happy with it going in but obviously I've been quite lucky with that.'

With Javier Hernandez adding a close-range finish in stoppage-time, United went on to complete a 3-1 victory that was their fourth win in four Group H fixtures and guarantees them top spot and a place in the last 16.

It was the just the latest in a host of come-from-behind wins for United this season that had certainly not looked on the cards for most of the contest in Portugal, which they had struggled to really get going in and was halted for around 15 minutes not long after Alan's goal by some of the floodlights going out in a power cut – seemingly to the visitors' benefit.

'I think we can play better football – at times it was too slow but the result is the most important thing,' Rooney said.

'I think we had quite a bit of possession, we just needed a bit more movement and speed to our play, and thankfully in the last 10 or 15 minutes, when it mattered, we got them.'

Veteran United midfielder Ryan Giggs, who came into the first XI as one of six changes from the Arsenal game, felt the introduction of Van Persie shortly after the resumption of play following the power cut was crucial.

The striker subsequently netted his 11th goal of the season by expertly guiding the ball over the stranded Beto from outside the box when the goalkeeper rushed out too soon, and Giggs can see why some of his team-mates have been drawing comparisons between Van Persie and his fellow Dutchman, the former United frontman Ruud van Nistelrooy.

'It wasn't until after we went 1-0 down – probably when Robin came on – that we started to play a little bit better,' Giggs, 38, said.

'His confidence is just sky high at the moment.

'I read last week that a lot of the players think he's similar to Ruud in the respect that Ruud used to get a chance and more often than not he'd put them away.

'That's the case with Robin at the minute; his confidence is high, we're creating chances for him and he's putting them away.'

With a maximum 12 points, United – who also currently lead the Premier League – are eight points clear of Galatasaray and Cluj in Group H, and nine in front of Braga, with two rounds of group games to go.

Dani Pedrosa wins Malaysian GP

In-form Pedrosa cuts Lorenzo's lead at top of championship after win in Malaysia

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UPDATED:

10:48 GMT, 21 October 2012

Dani Pedrosa put on a wet-weather master class to capture a rain-shortened Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday and keep the pressure on MotoGP championship leader Jorge Lorenzo after notching a fifth victory in six races.

The Spanish Honda rider was clear of the field after 13 of the scheduled 20 laps at a rain-swept Sepang International Circuit when the race was red-flagged because of dangerous conditions.

Pole-sitter Lorenzo held on to second place on his Yamaha as conditions deteriorated with world champion Casey Stoner crossing the line in third place on another Honda.

Champagne moment: Dani Pedrosa (left) celebrates winning in Malaysia

Champagne moment: Dani Pedrosa (left) celebrates winning in Malaysia

With torrential rain continung to lash the circuit, the race could not be re-started, giving Pedrosa his first victory in Malaysia as the Spaniard continued his audacious late-season title push.

The win enabled Pedrosa (307) to cut fellow Spaniard Lorenzo's (330) lead in the championship standings to 23 points with two more races remaining and a maximum of 50 points available.

Pedrosa started behind Lorenzo in what was declared a wet race but was soon breathing down the 2010 world champion's neck as the pair pulled clear of the pack.

In front: Pedrosa (right) saw off the challenge of Jorge Lorenzo

In front: Pedrosa (right) saw off the challenge of Jorge Lorenzo

The 27-year-old snatched the lead just past the scheduled halfway point and never looked like being challenged by Lorenzo as several riders behind the leaders crashed out on the slippery surface.

Lorenzo was lucky to survive a heavy wobble seconds before the race was red-flagged as his bike threatened to lose control at the hairpin before the home straight.

Australia's Stoner recorded his first podium finish since returning from an ankle surgery in August while Ducati's Nicky Hayden finished fourth, ahead of team mate Valentino Rossi.

Charlton 1 Watford 2 match report

Charlton 1 Watford 2: Zola's boys hold on despite Forestieri diving red

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UPDATED:

22:23 GMT, 2 October 2012

Gianfranco Zola will order Fernando Forestieri to change his boots after the Watford forward claimed he slipped after he was sent off for diving.

A stunning free-kick from Almen Abdi – one Zola said he would have been proud to have scored – gave Watford all three points after Ricardo Fuller cancelled out Tommie Hoban's opener.

But the visitors were forced to play all of the second half with 10 men after Forestieri received a second yellow card when Mike Dean judged he had gone down too easily in the penalty area in first-half stoppage time. The Italy Under-21 international, who was born in Argentina, had already been booked for encroachment and was duly shown a red card.

On target; Almen Abdi (centre) celebrates after scoring Watford's second goal

On target; Almen Abdi (centre) celebrates after scoring Watford's second goal

Match facts

Charlton: Hamer, Wilson, Cort, Morrison, Solly, Green (Hulse 79),
Stephens, Hollands (Pritchard 79), Kerkar, Fuller, Wright-Phillips.

Subs Not Used: Button, Evina, Wagstaff, Razak, Dervite.

Booked: Morrison,Green.

Goals: Fuller 35.

Watford: Almunia, Hoban, Hall, Neuton (Ekstrand 75), Cassetti,
Chalobah (Doyley 90), Hogg, Abdi, Pudil, Deeney (Iwelumo 90), Forestieri.

Subs Not Used: Bond, Yeates, Murray, Vydra.

Sent Off: Forestieri (45).

Booked: Forestieri, Pudil, Neuton, Abdi, Almunia.

Goals: Hoban 29,Abdi 70.

Attendance: 15,585

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

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Watford boss Zola said he did not agree with Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero's comments that foreign players are unfairly penalised by English referees and insisted Forestieri had fallen over because his studs were not long enough to cope with the slippery surface.

Zola said: 'Fernando told me he just slipped, he didn't dive. I keep telling him he has to change his boots. But he's Argentinian – he likes to play with boots with not big studs.

'It's a pity Mike saw it as a dive and disappointing for the boy as he was playing a good match.

'Because he goes to the floor many times they label him as a diver. He doesn't – he's just quicker than the opposition 'I told him I don't want him diving and if I find out he is diving he's not going to play. But he said he didn't dive, he slipped and I believed him. I will change his boots myself now.'

Charlton boss Chris Powell added: 'There's a lot of talk about simulation and referees are clamping down on it. If Mike feels that's the right decision he makes it. He blamed his studs Right, OK.' Powell blamed his side's lack of clinical finishing after Charlton created 15 chances but only scored once. Watford, by contrast, converted two set pieces and clung on despite their numerical disadvantage.

Defender Hoban, 18, making on his third senior appearance for Watford, claimed a heavily deflected header from a corner in the 29th minute, but Zola's side wasted a chance to equalise just three minutes late when Jonathan Hogg failed to capitalise from Nathaniel Chalobah's strong counter-attacking run. Charlton were level after 35 minutes, however, when Neuton failed to intercept Danny Stephens' through pass and Fuller slotted the ball calmly past Manuel Almunia.

Powell's side dominated the second half, with Bradley Wright-Phillips and Fuller both seeing chances blocked, but a moment of class from Abdi, 25, saw Watford steal victory. The Switzerland international placed a curling right-foot free-kick into the top right-hand corner after 70 minutes and rushed to the touchline to celebrate with his manager.

'It was a very good free-kick,' said Zola. 'It came as a surprise to me. I didn't expect him to be that good. I would have been very, very proud of that goal.'

Celtic"s James Forrest ready to face Aiden McGeady in Champions League

Forrest all fired up to cause a surprise and sink former hero McGeady

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UPDATED:

00:02 GMT, 1 October 2012

James Forrest can prove that he is a worthy heir to Aiden McGeady in Tuesday night’s Champions League head-to-head — as he and Celtic aim to spring another Group G 'surprise' in Moscow.

The SPL champions, having taken a point from their home opener against Benfica, head to the artificial surface of the Luzhniki Stadium in excellent form after regaining the SPL lead with an away win over Motherwell on Saturday.

Former Celtic superstar McGeady, already with an assist to his name after Spartak’s dramatic 3-2 defeat in Barcelona on match day one, is expected to be one of the main threats for the home side.

Ready to go: Celtic's James Forrest can fill the boots left by Aiden McGeady

Ready to go: Celtic's James Forrest can fill the boots left by Aiden McGeady

But Scotland winger Forrest, who has filled the role left vacant when McGeady moved to Russia in a record-breaking 9.5million transfer two years ago, is eager to impress his boyhood hero.

‘Aiden was an inspiration to me,’ said the 21-year-old, adding: ‘When I was coming through, there was Aiden and Shaun Maloney playing in my position — and it was great for me to learn from both of them.

‘They were playing in the first team, so it was ideal for me to watch and pick up a lot of things.

‘I’ve learned from Aiden and from Shaun. Now it’s about me in the first team — and I’m just going to concentrate on staying there and doing as well as I can.

‘Most of the boys here know Aiden. He’s a good attacking player and he’ll be one of their biggest threats. We know how difficult he will be to play against.’

Addressing the widespread perception that Celtic should be no more than whipping boys on their return to the world’s elite club competition, Forrest admitted: ‘Nobody gives us a chance. I think everybody expects to us to be beaten in every game.

‘But we did well against Benfica and, hopefully, we can keep surprising teams.

Heading off: Celtic manager Neil Lennon checks in at Glasgow Airport ahead of the Champions League clash with Spartak Moscow.

Heading off: Celtic manager Neil Lennon checks in at Glasgow Airport ahead of the Champions League clash with Spartak Moscow.

‘We had a really good performance against Motherwell, but we know it’s going to be a different game in Moscow.

‘All the players are back — and I think the gaffer has said it’s the best he’s seen a Celtic team play at Fir Park.

‘It’s hard to say before the game if a point would be a good result. We’re just going to go over there in the right frame of mind.

‘We’ve played on an artificial surface a few times. We played on it in Helsinki, while we’ve also trained on it a few times.

‘Possibly it will suit our style of play — but you also have to remember Spartak play on it every other week.’

Impressive as Forrest was on Saturday, he was outshone by the remarkable Kris Commons, a creative spark who surely must be named in Scotland’s squad for the World Cup double-header away to Wales and Belgium; it is hard to think of a convincing football case for excluding probably the best player in the SPL.

Familiar face: Aiden McGeady is getting ready to go up against his former team

Familiar face: Aiden McGeady is getting ready to go up against his former team

Forrest said: ‘His skill at the first goal was tremendous and I thought he played very well. He’s back to the best form of his first season with us.’

There was further encouragement for Celtic last night from their opponents’ camp, with Spartak boss Unai Emery apparently harbouring concerns about the form of his his centre-backs.

The Spanish coach has little confidence in Juan Insaurralde and Sergei Bryzgalov, despite the pair helping Spartak to a 3-1 away win at 10-man Amkar Perm on Saturday.

And while Emery may be toying with the idea of making changes for tomorrow night’s clash, Celtic boss Neil Lennon has been told he can pull off a notable result in Russia if he adopts the same ‘pressing’ tactics Amkar did.

Gianluca Nijholt, son of former Motherwell defender Luc, faced Spartak in Amkar’s Star Stadium, having just joined the Russians from Utrecht last month. And the Dutch midfielder saw nothing for Lennon to fear and revealed that a post-match talk with his compatriot Demy de Zeeuw brought Emery’s own fears out into the open.

‘I spoke with Demy and he said that the coach (Emery) had to put certain guys in the team that he did not want to play,’ said Nijholt.

‘Spartak did not look very good in defence. The centre backs (Insaurralde and Bryzgalov) did not look stable and made a lot of mistakes.’

Singapore Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel sets fastest time in both practice sessions

Vettel sets the pace as Hamilton finishes fifth in second Singapore practice session

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UPDATED:

15:34 GMT, 21 September 2012

Sebastian Vettel doubled up in practice to post the fastest times in both of Friday's sessions for the Singapore Grand Prix.

In the initial 90-minute run reigning champion Vettel edged McLaren's Lewis Hamilton by just 0.049 seconds around the five kilometres of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

The duo were in a class of two as their rivals were left trailing at the end of a session that started in daylight, went through dusk and finished under the 1,500 halogen lamps that ensure darkness is kept at bay.

Leading the way: Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the first practice

Leading the way: Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the first practice

In session two it was a slightly
different story as Red Bull's Vettel was comfortably out in front by
0.311secs, closing with a lap of 1:48.340, over two seconds faster than
in FP1.

That, however, was due to the use of
the supersoft tyres in FP2 that no team employed earlier on, and proving
what a sizeable difference they make on such a bumpy surface.

Instead of Hamilton as second
quickest it was team-mate Jenson Button who took the honour of falling
in behind the 24-year-old German eager to prove there is life in Red
Bull's championship challenge.

Out in front: Vettel had the best first practice

Out in front: Vettel had the best first practice

Vettel has mustered just one victory
so far this campaign, and that way back in April in Bahrain, since when
has been clinging on in the championship race.

In particular two alternator failures
in Valencia and last time out in Italy have seriously undermined his
hopes, casting him 39 points adrift of the championship leader in
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard had to settle for third
fastest, just over half a second behind Vettel, whose team-mate Mark
Webber was fourth, 0.624secs off the pace.
As for Hamilton, quickest early on and who set the initial pace on the
supersoft rubber, the 27-year-old was three quarters of a second down in
fifth.

Hot on the heels: Lewis Hamilton was second fastest in practice

Hot on the heels: Lewis Hamilton was second fastest in practice

Force India duo Paul Di Resta and
Nico Hulkenberg, who gave wind the Silverstone-based team were on the
rise on Italy, again look strong on this track.

The duo, a fraction under a second
behind Vettel, were split by just 0.039secs, with Di Resta just getting
the edge on his German team-mate.
Another German in Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was eighth quickest ahead of
Ferrari's Felipe Massa and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, with Michael
Schumacher in 11th and almost two seconds adrift in his Mercedes.

The lights are on: Jenson Button works his way round the Singapore track

The lights are on: Jenson Button works his way round the Singapore track

As for Kimi Raikkonen, in the hunt
for the title at 38 points behind Alonso even though he has yet to win a
race this season, the Finn is seemingly in no man's land at present on
this circuit, finishing two seconds down on Vettel.

Williams' Bruno Senna was the only
casualty of the two sessions, clipping a wall and spinning, causing a
red flag and an eight-minute delay.