Tag Archives: warning

Cristiano Ronaldo warms-up for Man United clash with 33 minute hat-trick for Real Madrid

Bring on Fergie and United! Ronaldo warms-up for Euro clash with 33 minute hat-trick for Real

By
Dave Wood

PUBLISHED:

22:39 GMT, 9 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:19 GMT, 10 February 2013

Cristiano Ronaldo fired an ominous
warning to former club Manchester United with a hat-trick as Real Madrid
warmed up for their Champions League showdown against the Red Devils
with a 4-1 Primera Division win over Sevilla at the Bernabeu.

Matches against Sevilla have proved
rich pickings for Ronaldo and it was no different tonight as he followed
up Karim Benzema's 18th-minute opener with goals in the 26th, 46th and
59th minutes as Madrid sauntered to victory .

Special one: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) is congratulated by team mates Fabio Coentrao and Raul Albiol after scoring a goal against Sevilla

Special one: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) is congratulated by team mates Fabio Coentrao and Raul Albiol after scoring a goal against Sevilla

Cool finish: Ronaldo scores his goal under pressure of Sevilla's Federico Fazio

Cool finish: Ronaldo scores his goal under pressure of Sevilla's Federico Fazio

That took his tally of hat-tricks for the Spanish giants to an incredible 20 before he was replaced in the 63rd minute as Jose Mourinho opted to wrap his trump card in cotton wool ahead of Wednesday's visit of United in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 clash.

Granada, who stunned Mourinho's men last weekend with a 1-0 win courtesy of a Ronaldo own goal, continued where they left off against the champions this evening as they trounced Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 at the Riazor.

Carlos Marchena's own goal on the stroke of half-time set the visitors on their way and Ighalo's strike six minutes after the restart doubled their advantage.

Depor then missed a number of chances to get themselves back into the game and their night was summed up when they conceded a dubious penalty – converted by Guilherme Siqueira – in the last minute and saw Manuel Pablo sent off.

'For Madrid every game is special, but on Wednesday we have to be ready to meet the challenge,' said Madrid defender Pepe, who went on late for his first action since surgery on his right ankle in early January.

'Cristiano is playing well. He is working hard and we need him to keep it up.'

Three and easy: Ronaldo completes his hat-trick

Three and easy: Ronaldo completes his hat-trick

Off and running: Ronaldo claimed his 20th hat-trick

Up and running: Ronaldo claimed his 21st hat-trick

danger man: Ronaldo with a trademark free kick

Danger man: Ronaldo with a trademark free kick

Muhammad Ali latest: Picture of legend watching Super Bowl as family deny "death" reports

Legend Ali pictured enjoying Super Bowl after his family deny he is 'close to death'

Olympic opening ceremony” class=”blkBorder” />

Ali, pictured with wife Lonnie, was very frail during his appearance at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

Warning signs: Ali, pictured with wife Lonnie, left, was very frail during his appearance at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, pictured right with Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti

Danger: Former world champion Ali last had a public health scare after the funeral of boxing great Joe Frazier

Danger: Former world champion Ali last had a public health scare after the funeral of boxing great Joe Frazier

Sunderland fans walk out in protest over season ticket holder suspended for standing

Sunderland fans walk out in protest over season ticket holder suspended for standing

|

UPDATED:

14:13 GMT, 29 December 2012

Sunderland fans have staged a revolt against their own club, after a season card holder was suspended on Boxing Day for standing.

Large numbers of fans in the Stadium of Light resisted warnings from stewards during the game against Tottenham Hotspur, and continued to stand.

One group of supporters chose to walk out of the ground completely, missing John O’Shea’s goal late in the first half.

Making a stand: Sunderland stewards tell fans to sit down at the Stadium of Light during the game against Tottenham

Making a stand: Sunderland stewards tell fans to sit down at the Stadium of Light during the game against Tottenham

Club chiefs have threatened to eject and suspend season card holders if they continue to defy stewarding staff.

One seat was secured on Wednesday, with a notice reading: ‘This season card has been suspended due to persistent standing.’

Warning sign: Sunderland posted an eviction notice on one supporter's seat before their win over Manchester City on Boxing Day

Warning sign: Sunderland posted an eviction notice on one supporter's seat before their win over Manchester City on Boxing Day

Stern words, published on the club’s website said standing fans are breaking the law, outlining its responsibility to protect the safety and the view of other crowd members.

It added to confirm ‘an increasing number of complaints’ received, particularly from fans in the South Stand, and that 38 fans had been ejected to date, compared to 20 last season.

Stepping up: The fans who walked out early missed captain John O'Shea's first goal for the club

Stepping up: The fans who walked out early missed captain John O'Shea's first goal for the club

Sacking Henning Berg makes sense for Blackburn with relegation now a prospect

Chris Wheeler: Bonkers Blackburn for once display some sign of sense in sacking Berg

|

UPDATED:

12:27 GMT, 27 December 2012

From the sock to the sack.

When Henning Berg stomped out of Blackburn’s Christmas party last week after he was made to wear a stocking on his head and do a little dance, many people thought the madness at Ewood Park could not get any worse.

Never in the history of English football has one club appeared to be so utterly bonkers for so long.

Blackburn have slid sharply down the Championship table ever since Berg took the reins at the club

Singled-out: Blackburn have slid sharply down the Championship table since Berg took the reins at the club

From the arrival of Indian chicken farmers Venky’s and the snap decision to sack Sam Allardyce three years ago, to the fiasco of Steve Kean’s time in charge and now Berg’s ill-fated 10-game reign, this has been one long-running pantomime.

The bottom line is, however, that this morning’s decision to axe Berg and his coaching staff represented a rare outbreak of sanity.

Having been fiercely criticised for sticking with Kean for so long, Venky’s came to the conclusion that his replacement simply wasn’t working out.

On the day of his appointment it was announced that the 43-year-old Norwegian would be sacked if he failed to win promotion back to the Premier League.

After just one win in 10 games, and five defeats in six, he was sent packing with Rovers 17th in the Championship table. It was the logical outcome.

He had already been told to get rid of his backroom staff earlier this month. And then last week, Blackburn chief Shebby Singh revealed that they were looking at another candidate – probably former Blackburn boss Mark Hughes – who had not been available at the time of Berg’s appointment.

It wasn’t as if there were no warning signs, even before the Christmas party debacle.

After resisting calls to sack Steve Kean for most of last season the Venky's were less than loyal to Berg

Two months and gone: After resisting calls to sack Steve Kean for most of last season the Venky's were less than loyal to Berg

In fact, Berg would never have got the job in the first place had Blackburn been successful in their pursuit of several other candidates.

Tim Sherwood was the first choice, followed by Billy McKinlay. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was interested but not until next summer.

With the boardroom split over a move for Blackpool’s Ian Holloway, Berg got the final vote. He was always a somewhat awkward compromise.

He is a decent man and a Premier League title winner with Blackburn to boot. But his coaching record with Lyn Oslo and Lillestrom was not what you would call dazzling.

The team he inherited had taken Rovers to the top of the
table early this season and were third when Kean quit at the end of September,
so there is clearly potential.

We will never know how it would have worked out over time, but relegation – not promotion – was becoming the club’s main concern.

Seven years at the club as a player had no bearing as his team won just one match in his ten in charge

Henning Berg scores the first goal for Blackburn in their 4-1 win against Sheffiled Wednesday 1996/1997

Seven years at the club as a player had no bearing as his team won just one match in his ten in charge

No owners have gambled more heavily on going up than Venky’s. Jordan Rhodes, bought from Huddersfield for 8million in the summer, was one of a raft of signings designed to get Blackburn back in the top-flight.

Their team is the highest-paid in the division and it’s understood that dwindling home gates – up to 4,000 down on last season – do not even pay the week’s wages for one of their top players.

The consequences of failure would be catastrophic, and that is what drove discussions as Mrs Anuradha Desai and her brothers watched yesterday’s defeat at Middlesbrough on television in Pune and sealed Berg’s fate.

For all the insanity that has epitomised their tenure, it would have been madness to keep him.

Cardiff 24 Montpellier 35: Blues out of Heineken Cup

Cardiff 24 Montpellier 35: European dream over for Blues as Williams sees red

|

UPDATED:

15:09 GMT, 9 December 2012

Fourteen-man Cardiff had their Heineken Cup aspirations ended as they fell to a third straight Pool Six defeat at the hands of Montpellier.

Teenage fly-half Rhys Patchell slotted seven penalties and a drop goal for the home side, who had scrum-half Lloyd Williams sent off after 25 minutes for a tip tackle on opposite number Benoit Paillaugue.

Pierre Berard, Mamuka Gorgodze and Timoci Nagusa all crossed for Montpellier, with the classy Paillaugue kicking 20 points.

Godzilla: Mamuka Gorgodze goes over for Montpellier

Godzilla: Mamuka Gorgodze goes over for Montpellier

The Blues' defeat adds to the gloom that has enveloped Welsh rugby, with the regions managing a collective one win from nine Heineken Cup matches to go with the national side's run of seven straight defeats.

The injury-ravaged Blues, without Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Bradley Davies and a host of others, did make a good fist of the opening quarter against a Montpellier side resting several of their first-choice names.

Patchell had the hosts on the board inside four minutes with a penalty and fell just short with a long-distance effort just seconds earlier.

But there were already early warning signs for the Cardiff scrum, an Achilles heel throughout the season.

An emphatic drive from the Montpellier pack allowed Paillaugue to slot a monster 50-metre penalty, and another strong shove gave the scrum-half his second three-pointer after Patchell had briefly put the hosts back ahead.

Patchell, showing a good degree of composure for one so young, replied with another penalty to make it 9-6 at the end of a scrappy opening quarter lacking in creativity.

No way through: Alex Cuthbert is halted by Pierre Barard

No way through: Alex Cuthbert is halted by Pierre Barard

But the Blues' hopes were dealt a major blow when Wales international Williams was dismissed.

The home crowd howled their derision at referee John Lacey, but the official was left with little choice after Williams lifted opposite number Paillaugue and dropped him on to the back of his neck after the ball had squirted out of a Blues scrum.

Paillaugue dusted himself down to level the scores from the resulting penalty, only for Patchell to again respond, this time with a well-taken drop goal.

But the home side's numerical disadvantage soon told as Montpellier built patiently through the phases to work an overlap on the left for wing Berard to cross, with the reliable boot of Paillaugue adding the conversion from the touchline.

Patchell kept Cardiff in it with yet another penalty, but when Dafydd Hewitt came in at the side of the ruck Paillaugue struck to leave the visitors 19-15 to the good at the break.

Try time: Timoci Nagusa scores Montpellier's third and final try

Try time: Timoci Nagusa scores Montpellier's third and final try

The Blues turned round with a strong wind behind them and Patchell used it to bring them within a point with a huge three-pointer from almost his own 10-yard line.

Montpellier should have made the game safe 15 minutes into the second half when Yoan Audrin picked off Patchell's pass.

The young fly-half did brilliantly to haul the winger down, but when the ball was recycled the visitors had a huge overlap, only for Gorgodze's final pass to Berard to be ruled forward.

Paillaugue did at least re-establish the four-point lead with his latest penalty, and the French side's second try followed with 14 minutes to go.

Fly-half Santiago Fernandez gathered in Paillaugue's kick to take Montpellier deep into Cardiff territory. Desperate scrambling defence kept out Berard, but Gorgodze stretched out to dot down through the ruck.

The hosts battled gamely and Patchell quickly slotted another two penalties to get the Blues back to within three points.

But Paillaugue steadied any French nerves before replacement wing Nagusa sealed the win by finishing smartly in the corner.

Swansea 3 Norwich 4: On-song Canaries stun Swans in thriller

Swansea 3 Norwich 4: On-song Canaries stun Swans in thriller

Press Association

PUBLISHED:

16:54 GMT, 8 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

17:21 GMT, 8 December 2012

Norwich held off Swansea's second-half fightback to extend their
unbeaten run in the Premier League to nine games with a thrilling win at the Liberty
Stadium.

The Canaries had stunned their high-flying hosts with goals from Steven
Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong and Grant Holt giving them a 3-0 half-time
lead.

High times: Norwich City striker Grant Holt

High times: Norwich City striker Grant Holt

MATCH FACTS

Swansea: Tremmel, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Dyer, Routledge, de Guzman, Ki, Michu, Graham (Shechter 68). Subs Not Used: Cornell, Bartley, Monk, Moore, Tiendalli, Agustien.

Booked: Williams,Rangel.

Goals: Michu 51, de Guzman 59, Michu 90.

Norwich: Bunn,Martin,Bassong,Whittaker (Barnett 90), Garrido, Johnson, Snodgrass, Howson, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Holt (Morison 82). Subs Not Used: Rudd, Jackson, Fox, Elliott Bennett, Tierney.

Booked: Martin.

Goals: Whittaker 16, Bassong 40, Holt 44, Snodgrass 77.

Att: 20,294

Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LATEST PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE, FIXTURES AND RESULTS

Swansea rallied through strikes from Michu and Jonathan De Guzman, but Robert Snodgrass made sure of the win with an excellent free-kick, before Michu netted again in injury time.

Both sides' excellent recent form suggested a tight encounter, but Norwich blew those predictions out of the water with a superb first-half display to punish the sluggish Swans, who were without the injured Leon Britton.

The combination of a tigerish midfield effort from the likes of Snodgrass, Jonny Howson and Wes Hoolahan, and the same trio's neat link work in attack, proved too much for their hosts to contend with.

There were warning signs inside the opening seconds as Bradley
Johnson met Snodgrass' corner to force a save from Gerhard Tremmel.

The pressure built as Swansea were hassled and harried out of their
rhythm and Howson rattled the base of the post after seizing on Ben
Davies' weak defensive header.

The Canaries took a deserved lead in the 16th minute. Snodgrass laid the
ball off to Whittaker, and the ex-Rangers man was allowed to run and
run before cutting in and firing low past Tremmel for his first Norwich
goal.

On his knees: Swansea City goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel

On his knees: Swansea City goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel

Head case: Swansea striker Miguel Michu celebrates scoring a goal

Head case: Swansea striker Miguel Michu celebrates scoring a goal

Snodgrass forced another save from Tremmel as he cut in from the right
flank, before Swansea briefly rediscovered some of the zip that had seen
them rise as high as seventh in the table.

Their first genuine goalscoring chance came after 28 minutes. Danny
Graham did well to connect with De Guzman's flicked cross, only to see
his header come back off the bar.

Michu almost lucked into an equaliser five minutes later, the Spaniard's
drive took a huge deflection off Wayne Routledge to leave Mark Bunn
stranded, but the ball spun just wide of his right-hand post.

Swansea had been building momentum, but they were stopped in their tracks as Bassong struck for the third time in four games.

Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong scores their second goal

On song: Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong scores their second goal

Ruled out: Norwich goalkeeper Bunn is fouled by Michu (9) before Shechter turns the ball into the net

Ruled out: Norwich goalkeeper Bunn is fouled by Michu (9) before Shechter turns the ball into the net

Holt hoisted a cross to the far post, where the defender rose above Davies to beat Tremmel at the German's near post.

Just two minutes later it was 3-0.
Snodgrass' perfectly delivered free-kick picked out an unmarked Holt,
who easily steered his header beyond Tremmel to cap a superb first half
for the Canaries.
Johnson almost made it 4-0 just two minutes after the break.

Angel Rangel gifted the ball to the
visitors on the edge of his own box and Howson's delightful lobbed pass
picked out his midfield partner who manufactured an outside of the foot
volley which struck the bar.

Michu gave Swansea a route back into
the game as he slotted into the far corner from Davies' low ball across
the box in the 51st minute.

Hots hot: Swansea's Danny Graham battles for the ball with Russell Martin

Hots hot: Swansea's Danny Graham battles for the ball with Russell Martin

On the run: Swansea City's Nathan Dyer skips past Bradley Johnson

On the run: Swansea City's Nathan Dyer skips past Bradley Johnson

The Spaniard almost turned provider for Graham, and Bunn had to make a sharp save to deny the striker with Norwich starting to show signs of nerves and the game bearing little resemblance to the opening 45 minutes.

Those nerves only increased as Swansea got back within a goal on 59 minutes. Nathan Dyer outpaced Javier Garrido down the flank, and when his cross was not cleared De Guzman volleyed in.
Graham could have levelled eight minutes later but Garrido did superbly to intervene as the striker ran in on goal.

His replacement Itay Shechter had the ball in the net soon after as Bunn failed to hold the ball under pressure from Michu, but referee Howard Webb ruled the Spaniard had fouled the keeper.

Michu then headed wide as he made a trademark late arrival into the box, before Norwich doused Swansea's fire with their fourth of the afternoon.

Ashley Williams was adjudged to have hauled down Holt, but was only booked by Webb despite clearly being the last man.

Snodgrass stepped up to curl home a beautiful strike from the resulting free-kick and secure the points for Norwich, meaning Michu's second in injury time was not enough for Swansea.

Feet first: Danny Graham battles for the ball with Javier Garrido

Feet first: Danny Graham battles for the ball with Javier Garrido

Man of the moment: Norwich manager Chris Houghton

Man of the moment: Norwich manager Chris Houghton

West Ham 3 Chelsea 1 match report: Carlton Cole, Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga heap pressure on Rafa Benitez

West Ham 3 Chelsea 1: Rafa's revolution in tatters as Blues' winless steak extends to seven games

|

UPDATED:

15:09 GMT, 1 December 2012

Rafael Benitez's Chelsea nightmare continued as West Ham hit back to inflict his first defeat in charge and extend his winless start as interim manager.

Already the first boss of the Roman Abramovich era not to oversee a victory in his opening two games under the Russian, it got worse for Benitez at Upton Park this afternoon as the Blues made it seven Barclays Premier League games without maximum points.

Juan Mata appeared to ease the pressure on the former Liverpool boss by ending the European champions' five-hour, 34-minute goal drought after 13 minutes.

Sealing the deal: Modibo Maiga ensures the three points for West Ham

Sealing the deal: Modibo Maiga ensures the three points for West Ham

At full stretch: Rafa Benitez has claimed just two points from a possible nine

At full stretch: Rafa Benitez has claimed just two points from a possible nine

Match facts

West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Collins, Reid, O'Brien, Tomkins (Taylor, 46), Noble, O'Neil (Diame 46), Nolan, Jarvis, Cole (Maiga 87). Subs not used: Spiegel, Spence, Fanimo, Moncur.

Booked: Noble.

Goal: Cole 63, Diame 86, Maiga 90+1.

Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Moses (Marin 78), Hazard (Oscar 73), Mata, Torres. Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Bertrand, Romeu, Piazon.

Booked: Cech, Mikel.

Goal: Mata 13.

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

Attendance: 35,005.

The latest Premier League table, fixtures and results

But the visitors squandered several
chances to score again and were deservedly made to pay through a
controversial Carlton Cole equaliser and goals from substitutes Mohamed
Diame and Modibo Maiga.

West Ham fans taunted Benitez with,
'You're getting sacked in the morning', while the torrent of abuse from
Chelsea supporters also continued.

There were early warning signs for
Chelsea today, with a defence reshaped by David Luiz's suspension
failing its first real test in the 10th minute when a straight free-kick
from James Collins sailed over everyone to Winston Reid, whose header
across goal was scrambled to safety by Cesar Azpilicueta.

Fernando Torres was dropping into
midfield to get involved with mixed results but it was the return of his
striking instincts that helped Chelsea end their longest goal drought
of the Abramovich era.
The Spaniard burst in behind onto Victor Moses' 13th-minute through ball
and coolly cut it back for Mata to sidefoot home easily,

Benitez kept his promise not to
celebrate the first goal of his reign, which did not spare him chants of
'One Di Matteo' and 'You're not welcome here' from the visiting fans,
along with the ubiquitous 'Rafa Out' banner.

On a run: West Ham won against Chelsea for the first time since 2003

On a run: West Ham won against Chelsea for the first time in the Premier League since 2003

In the ascendancy: Mohamed Diame blasts West Ham's second of the game

In the ascendancy: Mohamed Diame blasts West Ham's second of the game

Chelsea should have given their
supporters something else to cheer about, Moses horribly mis-hitting his
20th-minute finish from Ramires' pass.

And after Carlton Cole – in for the
injured Andy Carroll – saw a shot blocked, Ramires and Torres blew a
four-on-two break, the latter skying his finish to spark the inevitable
“What a waste of money” chants.

West Ham were also causing problems
and thought they had equalised in the 33rd minute through Kevin Nolan's
close-range overhead kick but referee Martin Atkinson controversially
chalked it off for a push.

Happy Hammers: Players mob Carlton Cole after he came back to haunt his former club

Happy Hammers: Players mob Carlton Cole after he came back to haunt his former club

Lean on me: Carlton Cole fends off Branislav Ivanovic to nod West Ham level

Lean on me: Carlton Cole fends off Branislav Ivanovic to nod West Ham level

Mata could have made it 2-0 in the
40th minute when he fired Moses' cutback too close to Jussi Jaaskelainen
and saw his follow-up blocked by Joey O'Brien.

The home side had the final attempt
of the first half when Petr Cech was booked for punching the ball clear
outside his area the goalkeeper redeeming himself by tipping Nolan's
header over the bar from the resultant free-kick.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce had seen
enough by the break, sending on Matt Taylor and Diame for James Tomkins
and Gary O'Neil after what could only have been a half-time roasting.

No mistake: Juan Mata beats Jussi Jaaskelainen from close range to put the visitors ahead

No mistake: Juan Mata beats Jussi Jaaskelainen from close range to put the visitors ahead

Pointing the way: Juan Mata fired Chelsea ahead after 13 minutes

Pointing the way: Juan Mata fired Chelsea ahead after 13 minutes

Both had the desired effect, Carlton
Cole's header from just inside the box sailing over before he got in the
way of Diame's effort.

Chelsea's defending became more
desperate, Branislav Ivanovic getting a vital touch to prevent Carlton
Cole turning in Nolan's pass after Cech went AWOL.

An equaliser looked only a matter of time and it arrived in the 63rd minute in controversial fashion.
Matt Jarvis' cross looped up off Azpilicueta and Carlton Cole climbed
all over Ivanovic to nod it in, Chelsea's protests only resulting in a
booking for John Mikel Obi.

Celebration time: Victor Moses joins Fernando Torres and Juan Mata after the latter's goa

Celebration time: Victor Moses joins Fernando Torres and Juan Mata after the latter's goa

Mayhem ensued and Jarvis tested Cech
before the visitors surged down the other end, Torres scuffing a
glorious rebound chance straight at Jaaskelainen after the keeper saved
from Eden Hazard.

Mark Noble was booked for clattering
into Ramires and Mata almost added further punishment when he hit the
inside of the post with a brilliant free-kick.

Moses appealed in vain for a penalty
under Taylor's challenge and Hazard failed to chip Jaaskelainen after
the keeper threw the ball straight to him.

The drought goes on: Fernando Torres was once again a shadow of his former self

The drought goes on: Fernando Torres was once again a shadow of his former self

Oscar immediately replaced the Belgian but West Ham were still on top and Moses soon departed for Marko Marin.

Although Chelsea enjoyed some pressure, they were almost undone when Noble sent Jarvis clear and Cech came to the rescue again.

Ashley Cole did likewise from the resultant corner, nodding Reid's header off the line but West Ham were not to be denied.

Caught out: Petr Cech reacts to his yellow card after handling outside the area

Caught out: Petr Cech reacts to his yellow card after handling outside the area

With four minutes remaining, a
throw-in found its way to Carlton Cole, who laid the ball off to Diame
to drill home and it got worse in stoppage time when fellow substitute
Maiga followed up after Taylor's shot was parried.

Torres had the final say with a header that was saved but it was already too late.

Watching brief: Sam Allardyce and Rafa Benitez look on as Cesar Azpilicueta tackles Joey O'Brien

Watching brief: Sam Allardyce and Rafa Benitez look on as Cesar Azpilicueta tackles Joey O'Brien

Eden Hazard under fire at Chelsea

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

|

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

Nani set to leave Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson "amateur" blast

EXCLUSIVE: Nani set for Old Trafford exit after Fergie blasts 'amateurish' winger

|

UPDATED:

16:51 GMT, 2 November 2012

Manchester United winger Nani looks set to leave Old Trafford next summer after manager Sir Alex Ferguson took him to task for throwing away his team's Carling Cup tie at Chelsea on Wednesday night.

Nani's future at United has been in some doubt since talks over a new contract collapsed during the summer.

And now the Portuguese winger has told friends that he feels there is little chance of a reconciliation after Ferguson blamed him for conceding possession in the run up to Chelsea’s equaliser in the last minute of normal time on Wednesday.

On the way out: Nani in training at Carrington on Friday morning with the Manchester United squad

On the way out: Nani in training at Carrington on Friday morning with the Manchester United squad

Ferguson was publicly critical of Nani for his error after the game, saying he should have run the ball to the corner flag. United – 3-2 up at the time – went on to lose 5-4 in extra-time.

Now a source close to Nani revealed: 'There was an argument between Ferguson and Nani after the game.

'Ferguson told him that losing the ball like that was an amateurish thing to do and that a really great player would never have done that.

Final warning: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson takes training on Friday morning

Final warning: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson takes training on Friday morning

'Nani was already told that if he ever did it again then he would be on his way.'

It is understood that Nani has felt for some time that his place in Ferguson’s plans is under threat and has told friends that he expects to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season.

The official line from United is that the door is still open for the 25-year-old in terms of a new contract but not at the 130,000-a-week level he has been hoping for.

Bust-up at the Bridge: Fergie blamed Nani for the defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday night

Bust-up at the Bridge: Fergie blamed Nani for the defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday night

HSBC Champions shows golf faces hurricane alert over appearance fees – Derek Lawrenson

HSBC Championship shows golf faces hurricane alert over fees

|

UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 29 October 2012

Imagine you're in charge of sports sponsorship for a major global bank. You choose to invest in golf and you lavish some 200million on the sport in the last decade.

Your loyalty is duly recognised by the major golfing tours who convey on your ground-breaking event in China the status of a world championship event.

And yet, for this year’s tournament, which begins on Thursday with a 4.6m prize fund, the list of absentees includes Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who were both in the country playing an exhibition match but have opted not to prolong their stay.

Nice payday: Rory McIlroy beat Tiger Woods at an exhibition match in China on Monday

Nice payday: Rory McIlroy beat Tiger Woods at an exhibition match in China on Monday

How would you feel No doubt Giles Morgan, the man in question, will be diplomatic at the HSBC Championship this week. After all, the tournament has drawn 15 other Ryder Cup players from Europe and America, plus other stars such as Open champion Ernie Els.

But perhaps a clue as to how he is really feeling came at a KPMG business forum recently in which he didn’t mince his words.

He talked about an erosion in the spirit of the game, and made some sharp comments about the ‘enormous appearance fees’ that sponsors are routinely asked to pay.

‘As a title sponsor you pay for the prize fund, which is what the players win,’ he said. ‘When you are then asked to pay additionally, it feels like a biting of the hand that feeds — and I do not believe that is sustainable.’

Going home: Woods has opted not to play in the World Golf Championship event at Mission Hills

Going home: Woods has opted not to play in the World Golf Championship event at Mission Hills

Morgan closed his remarks with an ominous warning: ‘There is a storm coming, and I beg the game of golf to discuss and consider.’

Now yes, the game could discuss and consider, and conclude: why feel sorry for a banker, and particularly when it comes to a fast buck Surely they understand more than anyone how the free market works

The trouble is, such thinking ignores the salient point: that if huge sponsors such as HSBC start having second thoughts, the remarkable resilience the sport has shown in the global downturn will begin to erode.

Like Hurricane Sandy, this is a storm that needs to be taken seriously.

More from Derek Lawrenson…

World of Golf: Rose blooming, so let’s not rake over the coals
22/10/12

Derek Lawrenson: Overpaid Most earnings aren't on a par with Rose's fortune
15/10/12

Derek Lawrenson: It's a Turkish delight as eight greats battle it out for big bucks
08/10/12

Derek Lawrenson: Why we should be saying Yanks for the memories to gracious losers
01/10/12

Derek Lawrenson: McIlroy a victim of trash talk in American press ahead of Ryder Cup
24/09/12

Derek Lawrenson: Westwood at fever pitch to boost his holiday funds by $10million
17/09/12

Derek Lawrenson: Now Tiger has the chance to rewrite McIlroy's story
10/09/12

Derek Lawrenson: Old heads or long hitters Your wildcard call, Love
03/09/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Will Rory just do it

Is Rory McIlroy about to move from Titleist to Nike in a 10-year deal worth 156million The much-discussed rumour certainly sounds plausible, and I must say I have enjoyed the gossip as much as anyone, about Lance Armstrong finally getting the boot so they can afford Rory, that ‘industry insiders’ say it is a done deal, and so on.

But does anyone actually know anything other than that it sounds right On the US Golf Channel website a reporter with a good contacts book summed it up perfectly: ‘Here is what we do know: speculation is running rampant that McIlroy will sign a contract to adorn the swoosh logo. Here is what we don’t know — everything.’

Meanwhile, in the Duel at Jinsha Lake exhibition, the men from Titleist might have allowed themselves a wry smile as McIlroy shot 67 to beat the current Nike poster boy Tiger Woods by one.

Author Clarke stays out of the rough

Leading sports stars have a choice to make when it comes to their memoirs. Do they tell the whole truth or a sanitised version of it

Perhaps it is not surprising, with the Ryder Cup captaincy just around the corner, that Darren Clarke has leaned firmly towards the latter with An Open Book (Hodder & Stoughton, 20).

During the course of its 300 pages it becomes clear the title is a pun on his Claret Jug victory at Royal St George’s last year rather than an unexpurgated version of his tumultuous life.

A life less ordinary: Darren Clarke (right) with actors Adrien Brody and Andy Garcia in China last week

A life less ordinary: Darren Clarke (right) with actors Adrien Brody and Andy Garcia in China last week

Which is a shame, given we’re talking about one of the game’s most fascinating characters.

That said, there is plenty to enjoy here. Skilfully ghost-written, it builds to an exciting climax, with lots of fascinating background detail about that unforgettable triumph at Sandwich when he defied all the odds.

The chapter detailing the part played by sports psychologist Bob Rotella in getting Clarke in the right frame of mind is particularly good.

He also writes movingly about the death of his first wife, Heather, from breast cancer.

Quote of the week

‘When you look at the Race to Dubai you always want to be up there but deep down I know Rory is going to be very hard to catch.’

Congratulations to the Swede Peter Hanson on defeating Rory McIlroy in China on Sunday, but beating Rory to the Order of Merit Given Hanson is still trailing by more than 650,000 with four events to go and McIlroy is playing in the last three, his pessimism looks well-founded.