Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sunday's gossip column

Transfers Other gossip And finally


Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is plotting a move for Brazilian striker Diogo Luis Santo and is ready to offer his club Olympiakos £12m for the 21-year-old's services. (The People)

Newcastle midfielder Nicky Butt believes Michael Owen will stay at Newcastle, even though the striker's contract expires in the summer. "He's happy here, fully committed to Newcastle, and I think there could be a bit of a shock in that maybe he might stay," he says. (Various)

Manchester City and Liverpool are vying for Fulham centre-back Brede Hangeland, but will have to pay £7m for the 27-year-old Norwegian. (The People)

Everton manager David Moyes will lead a summer chase for Niko Kranjcar by bidding £14m for the Portsmouth and Croatia midfielder. (The People)

Florent Malouda says he would consider a move to Juventus after failing to impress at Chelsea since a £13.5m move from Lyon in 2007. (Various)

Tottenham manger Harry Redknapp is planning a massive overhaul of his squad in the summer and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric could be the biggest casualty, with Inter Milan and Juventus interested in the 23-year-old. (News of the World)

Redknapp will renew his interest in Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing in the summer and is planning a £15m bid. (Sunday Mirror)

Atletico Madrid have targeted Liverpool right-back Alvaro Arbeloa and could offer £7m for the Spaniard. (The People)

Portsmouth defender Sol Campbell could move to French club Monaco when his Fratton Park contract expires in the summer. (Various)

Newcastle are planning a move for former Celtic striker Henrik Larsson who is currently a free agent. (News of the World)

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce has lined up 22-year-old Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzecko as a replacement for Roque Santa Cruz. (The People)

Carlos Kameni is a target for Tottenham, Fulham and Newcastle after the 25-year-old Cameroon goalkeeper rejected a new deal to stay at Espanyol. (The People)

Steve Bruce is considering a move for 30-year-old West Brom left-back Paul Robinson, who almost joined the Latics for £1.5m two years ago. (The People)

Hull striker Dean Windass, currently on loan at League One Oldham, has said he will "jump on my bike and cycle back" to help the Tigers avoid relegation. (Sunday Mirror)

Nottingham Forest and Leicester City both want to sign Aston Villa midfielder Isaiah Osbourne on loan. (The People)


Rio Ferdinand believes Inter Milan and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is the ideal candidate to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester Untied boss when the Scot decides to call it a day. (Mail on Sunday)

Real Madrid want Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as their new boss next season and will also employ former world player of the year Zinedine Zidane to work under the Frenchman. (News of the World)

Newcastle are set to offer manager Joe Kinnear a new two-year deal at St James' Park. (Various)

Cristiano Ronaldo has been offered a new five-year deal, worth £140,000-a-week, to stay at Manchester United - even though he has three-and-a-half years left on his current £120,000 weekly deal. (The People)

Or the Portuguese winger will become the Premier League's first £200,000-a-week player if he signs a new deal at Old Trafford. (News of the World)

Former Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard has been lined up to take over as Chelsea manager when Guus Hiddink's short-term deal ends at the end of the season. (News of the World)

Rafael Benitez will finally sign a new contract with Liverpool before the second leg Champions League match with Real Madrid. (The People)

Dirk Kuyt says Benitez told him to wait until his own future was resolved before agreeing to a new deal at Anfield. (Various)

West Ham are set to be taken over by a group of Asian investors in a deal worth £90m after advanced talks took place with the club's current Icelandic owners. (Sunday Mirror)

Dennis Wise is ready to call time on his troubled reign as Newcastle executive director by quitting the club in the summer. (Various)

Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has launched a scathing attack on current owner Mike Ashley, saying he needs to take some blame for the club's current financial situation and that he should stop "acting like a cry baby". (Sunday Mirror)

Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs has been labelled as the Premier League's greatest ever player by Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho. (Sunday Mirror)

Sir Alex Ferguson says he is more interested in winning the Champions League this season than he is the Premier League. (Various)

Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn wants to bring in ex-Black Cats manager Peter Reid as director of football to assist current boss Ricky Sbragia. (The People)

Former West Ham and Charlton manager Alan Pardew is a leading contender to fill the vacant position at League One Brighton. (Sunday Mirror)


Clint Dempsey has promised to record an FA Cup final song if Fulham reach the Wembley final. The American midfielder goes by the alias 'Deuce' and says his rapping will eclipse the efforts of Liverpool players in the 1990s. "I've heard about FA Cup final songs - especially that Anfield Rap," he said. "I was thinking about hanging up my mic and retiring, but if we get to Wembley I can do better than that." (The People)

Former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy wants to make peace with manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the pair had a bitter falling when the Dutch striker was sold to Real Madrid. "I want to talk and make up, clear the air between us," he said. (Sunday Mirror)

In-form Venus seals Mexican title

Venus Williams
Venus plans to give the hat to her father, Richard Williams

Venus Williams won her second title in seven days as she beat Italy's Flavia Pennetta in the final of the Mexican Open in Acapulco on Saturday.

The American followed up last week's win in Dubai with a 6-1 6-1 defeat of second seed Pennetta on the clay.

Williams has now won 41 career titles, and 20 of her last 21 matches.

"I started the week very tough, I had such difficult matches - three three-setters in a row, each more difficult than the last," said Williams.

"I think I deserved this win tonight. I played hard all week and tonight my serve and my game all came together.

"I loved coming to Mexico and winning my 41st title here. I hope to be back next year to defend it."

Pennetta, playing in her sixth straight Acapulco final having won the title in 2005 and 2008, said: "What happened to me? Venus Williams is what happened to me.

"The number five player in the world is what happened to me!

"She was just playing so strong, serving so well, it was hard to fight against her power. I didn't feel I played badly, she just overpowered me."

Spain's Nicolas Almagro beat second seed Gael Monfils of France 6-4 6-4 to successfully defend the men's title.

Casey storms to Match Play final

Paul Casey
Casey has led 81 of the 82 holes he has played this week

Paul Casey has become the first Englishman to reach the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship after victory over Ross Fisher.

Casey will face 2006 winner Geoff Ogilvy in the final after the Australian beat Stewart Cink 4&2.

In the all-English semi-final Casey led Fisher all the way but did not wrap up the win until a birdie at 17.

Casey and Ogilvy will play the 36-hole championship match on Sunday and are scheduled to tee off at 1440 GMT.

Casey now has the chance to become the first Match Play champion to never trail in any match in the entire week and he has remarkably led 81 of the 82 holes he has played.

Fisher was only one behind before his game came apart.

He took four shots to get down to the par-five 13th green, and was lucky to escape with a halve when he twice went into the desert around the 14th green and took double bogey.


Ogilvy sank three birdies and an eagle in the last four holes as he pulled away from Cink for the victory.

The 31-year-old Australian holed a 13-foot birdie putt at 14, and at the 343-yard, par-four 15th he stuck his tee shot six feet from the pin and made his eagle putt.

He closed it out at the par-three 16th, landing his tee shot within 12 feet of the pin as Cink was right of the green and when Cink's chip rolled past the pin, the American conceded Ogilvy's birdie.

"Thirteen through 16, I didn't miss a beat," said Ogilvy.

"Really good up-and-down on 13, then 14 and 15 and 16 were just the way you want to play the last three holes of any match."

Cink, who was thumped 8&7 by Tiger Woods in last year's final, will play Fisher for third place in Sunday's 18-hole consolation final.

Only one Englishman had previously reached the last four of this event, with Ian Poulter appearing in the semis in 2005, but Fisher and Casey set up the head-to-head with impressive wins earlier in the day.

Casey's 4&3 win over American Sean O'Hair and Fisher's 2&1 victory over US Ryder Cup hero Justin Leonard ensured there would be an English finalist on Sunday.

Casey always looked comfortable against O'Hair as he went six up after 10 holes, continuing his run of never having gone behind in a match this week, and he claimed the victory at the 15th hole.

I played well and I've held my own against some of the best players in the world so it's been good

Rory McIlroy

In the last quarter-final to go out, Fisher was two up after 15 holes on Leonard but the American closed the gap with a birdie two at the 16th.

Leonard piled on the pressure at 17 with an approach shot from 190 yards to eight feet from the hole but Fisher responded by sending his second shot to eight feet from a fairway bunker 178 yards out.

Putting first, Leonard missed, leaving Fisher to hole out to win the match.

Northern Irishman McIlroy's hopes of glory came to an end after he lost 2&1 to Ogilvy in the quarter final.

The 19-year-old was in a philosophical mood after playing in his first tournament as a professional in the United States.

"I can take a lot out of this week," said McIlroy, who prior to Saturday had knocked out Louis Oosthuizen, Hunter Mahan and Tim Clark, who had beaten Tiger Woods in Arizona.

"I played well and I've held my own against some of the best players in the world so it's been good."

It was tight until the 11th when McIlroy found the desert off the tee on the way to a bogey six while the Australia birdied.

A birdie at the 13th to win the hole reduced the deficit to one hole and McIlroy managed a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-three 16th to extend the match, only for Ogilvy to close him out at the 17th.

Swann defends umpiring referrals

Graeme Swann talks to Ramnaresh Sarwan
Swann was England's most successful bowler with 3-92

England's Graeme Swann defended the controversial umpire review system after three lbw appeals were referred on the third day of the fourth Test.

The off-spinner collected two wickets via third umpire Daryl Harper as the West Indies finished on 398-5, 202 runs behind England's first-innings score.

Swann said: "While it's there we intend to use it to our advantage.

"In Jamaica we weren't happy with it, we thought were on the rough end of a couple of decisions."

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has sanctioned a trial use of technology during the five-Test series in the Caribbean, although both teams have, at times during the series, appeared confused by its regulations.

Opener Devon Smith and middle-order batsman Brendan Nash were both dismissed via referrals from on-field umpires Aleem Dar and Russell Tiffin off Swann, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul was controversially given out to a ball which Hawk-eye predicted would have missed the stumps off James Anderson for 70.


Third umpire Harper does not have access to television tools such as Hawk-eye or Snickometer and his role is as an advisor, with the on-field officials authorising the final decision.

However, Harper's advice at the Kensington Oval prompted West Indies coach John Dyson to speak to match referee Alan Hurst during the final session of the day.

"It's a system that will have people arguing over it but people have always argued about lbw," Swann told BBC Sport.

"It's not very nice when a decision has been given and it's referred - you desperately don't want it taken away from you.

"As a bowler I have been complaining for years about lbws I don't get. The odd one here and there I'm not going to complain about."

Hiddink retains title ambitions


Man United's title to lose - Hiddink

Guus Hiddink has warned Manchester United that his Chelsea side can still win the Premier League title after their 2-1 home victory over Wigan.

The win lifts the Blues into second, seven points behind leaders Manchester United, who have played a game less.

"I'm realistic and we have to win our games," said Chelsea's manager.

"United are in a good seat but as long as we have a possibility and it is not decided, we will fight and that is what the team showed again against Wigan."

Wigan caused us lots of problems

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink
The Dutchman, who is also coach of the Russian national side, has guided Chelsea to three consecutive wins since agreeing to manage the club until the end of the season.

"As long as the team is keeping up this fighting spirit, we keep on going for the things that can be reached," added Hiddink, whose side secured their win with a late Frank Lampard goal.

"The team reacted well after we conceded.

"It is always difficult to get into the next game after playing at European level in midweek.


"But Wigan deserve a lot of respect for the way they played. they are hard-working and disciplined and play decent football. They caused us lots of problems.

"They scored the equaliser but the reaction of our team was good in getting the winner in the 90th minute.

"When you are dominating in the first period we like the game killed. But I am happy and satisfied with the win."

Benitez relies on Man Utd slip-up


Missed chances frustrate Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez conceded his side's 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough left them relying on leaders Manchester United slipping up in the run-in.

The Reds missed a number of chances at The Riverside and stay seven points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's side, having played a game more that the champions.

"Before the game, it was very difficult - after the game it is more difficult," Benitez said of their title chances.

"It depends on United, but it will be more difficult, clearly."

Boro, who had not scored a league goal in 526 minutes of football prior to Saturday, were gifted the lead when Xabi Alonso deflected Stewart Downing's corner into his own net.

My advisers are in contact with the advisers of the owners, so maybe they will have a conversation and we will see if we can progress

Rafael Benitez

And Tuncay swept in Jeremie Aliadiere's low centre to double Boro's lead after the break.

Liverpool enjoyed a lot of possession and created numerous chances and they would have won the game by half-time but for the heroics of Boro keeper Brad Jones who saved well from Nabil El Zhar, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel.

"It is very clear, in the first 30 minutes, we had five chances and you have to take your chances," continued a clearly frustrated Benitez.


"After the own goal, we still had chances. If you want to win, you have to score.

"It has been a problem during the season and on Saturday it was the same."

Benitez denied that his contract negotiations, or the imminent departure of Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry had any bearing on the result, but revealed his future may be resolved soon.

He said: "My advisers are in contact with the advisers of the owners, so maybe they will have a conversation and we will see if we can progress."

England indiscipline angers Johnson


Johnson furious at England indiscipline

England manager Martin Johnson said his team's indiscipline cost them the chance to beat Ireland at Croke Park.

Johnson's side clawed themselves back to within a point but again played 20 minutes with 14 players after the sin-binning of Danny Care and Phil Vickery.

"I'm trying to keep my cool," Johnson told BBC Sport after the 14-13 loss.

"It's very annoying. I've just told the guys that it has cost us a Test match. All that work you put in to try to win a game is gone, wasted."

Scrum-half Care's yellow card in the 69th minute, for a shoulder charge on Marcus Horan, was particularly galling as, at that stage, Ireland only led 11-6.

Johnson erupts at Care sin-binning

But Ronan O'Gara's penalty pushed them two scores clear and the outside-half's kick proved crucial after Delon Armitage crossed over for a try with two minutes remaining.

It is not the first time in this Six Nations that England have had to play with a man disadvantage.

They were made to play 20 minutes of the defeat by Wales with 14 men and had two players sent to the sin-bin during the opening win over Italy.

"It's not one individual doing it all, it's a number of individuals at key moments," added Johnson.

"We work on discipline all the time. One of the fundamentals of the game is not to be penalised.

"Once you get behind on the penalty count, the referee and touch judges are on your back and things like the Danny Care sin-binning happen.

"We lost the game by a point and gave 18 penalties away. When the penalty count gets twice as high as it should be then you're going to lose.

"I think we were a bit nervous in the first 20 minutes and we didn't build much pressure in the first half."

Steve Borthwick revealed that Johnson was "clearly angry" in the dressing room after the match and the England captain said his team needed to quickly learn from their mistakes.

"He was clearly angry, as are all the players and the coaching staff," said the Saracens lock.

Indiscipline cost us - Borthwick

"We give far too many penalties away and it's difficult to win Test matches when you're giving away kicks at goals and being yellow carded.

"If there was an easy fix (to our indiscipline) then we would do it. Quite clearly we need to learn as it's undoubtedly costing us Test matches.

"We know we let ourselves down. I think the players are facing up to it."

Wenger starts to fret over Europe


Wenger concerned about chase for fourth

Arsene Wenger has been forced to admit for the first time that Arsenal are in real danger of missing out on qualification for the Champions League.

"I'm concerned," said the Gunners boss after Saturday's 0-0 draw at home to Fulham. "This is a big blow to us."

Arsenal are five points off Aston Villa in fourth spot and have failed to score in their last four Premier League games - their worst run in 15 years.

That gap will be eight points if Villa beat Stoke at home on Sunday.

Arsenal are also in danger of being overtaken by sixth-placed Everton, who moved to within two points with a 2-0 win over West Brom.

"We lacked always a bit of sharpness to take our chances and our passes weren't quick enough to give them real problems," said Wenger, whose Arsenal side have been involved in the Champions League each season over the last 10 years.

"I don't think it was a 0-0 game because both sides created chances, but we had weaknesses both defensively and offensively.

"Our goalscoring record has dried out over more than five games.

"There are plenty of reasons. One of them is certainly psychological, but overall it's hard to assess what is tactical, what is technical and what is psychological.

"The more I speak about it, the more there is a problem.

"I don't think it's about us only trying to score the perfect goal - the perfect goal is only when the ball touches the net."

Irish battle to win over England

Ireland: (3) 14
Tries: O'Driscoll Pens: O'Gara (2) Drop: O'Gara

England: (3) 13
Try: Armitage Con: Goode Pens: Flood, Armitage

By Lyle Jackson

Mark Cueto of England is tackled by Ireland's Tommy Bowe
Mark Cueto of England is tackled by Ireland's Tommy Bowe at Croke Park

Ireland maintained their Grand Slam challenge by scraping a hard-earned victory over England at Croke Park.

Ireland skipper and man-of-the-match Brian O'Driscoll powered over for their only try in the 57th minute.

But with Ronan O'Gara landing only two of his six kicks at goal, Ireland were helped by the sin-binning of England prop Phil Vickery and back Danny Care.

England were left to rue that indiscipline after Delon Armitage's late try and Andy Goode's conversion.

So a relieved Ireland remain the only unbeaten side in the championship, with Declan Kidney's men on top with six points, followed by Wales and France on four each.

The exciting finish was in stark contrast to an untidy opening, dogged by spells of scrappy, unattractive play with possession continually being kicked away.

Ireland had the better of the possession but fly-half O'Gara was uncharacteristically wayward with two penalties before landing a third in the 29th minute after England strayed offside.

England applied a bit of pressure just before half-time and got level with a simple Toby Flood penalty from close in front of the posts after securing lineout turnover.

The second half was more enterprising affair, although it started with another penalty failure by O'Gara as his effort struck a post.

However, the Munster man lifted the Dublin crowd with a fine drop goal soon afterwards.

There was momentary concern for Irish skipper O'Driscoll after a nasty-looking clash of heads with Riki Flutey.

After treatment, O'Driscoll was able to continue but the Leinster centre was soon flattened again by a late bodycheck by full-back Armitage who escaped a yellow card.

Ireland began to mount some sustained pressure on the English line and signalled their ambition by declining penalty goal opportunities in favour of lineout ball.

Under pressure, England were warned about infringements and Wasps prop Vickery was sin-binned in the 55th minute for not allowing Ireland to release the ball quickly.

The home side remained camped yards from the try-line and O'Driscoll powered over in the 57th minute - the skipper's 35th try in 91 Tests for Ireland, only for O'Gara to miss the conversion.

England tried to hit back quickly and a try looked on when replacement Matthew Tait made a darting break, but he failed to get the pass to the well-positioned Mark Cueto.

However, England reduced the deficit to just five points when Armitage assumed the kicking duties from a groggy Flood to land a well-struck penalty.

But as against Italy and Wales in their previous two games, indiscipline once again cost England.

Replacement Care was given a yellow card after shoulder-charging Marcus Horan, with O'Gara rediscovering his kicking form to slide the penalty between the posts.

But there was further drama in store as replacement Goode kicked the ball through for Armitage's try.

It gave England a chance of stealing an unlikely victory but they ran out of time to mount another meaningful attack.

Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll (capt), P Wallace, L Fitzgerald; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Best, T Court, M O'Driscoll, D Leamy, P Stringer, G D'Arcy, G Murphy.

England: D Armitage; P Sackey, M Tindall, R Flutey, M Cueto; T Flood, H Ellis; A Sheridan, L Mears, P Vickery, S Borthwick (capt), N Kennedy, J Haskell, J Worsley, N Easter.
Replacements: D Hartley, J White, T Croft, L Narraway, D Care, A Goode, M Tait.

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)

Hadden upbeat about title chance


Highlights - Scotland 26-6 Italy

Frank Hadden believes the 26-6 victory over Italy - Scotland's first in three outings - could force his side into the Six Nations title race.

"I feel we are back in the championship now," the coach told BBC Scotland. "It is going to be a very tight championship after France beat Wales.

"We could do with a good result against Ireland and that could make for an interesting couple of weeks.

"People said you need one win - a roll starts with just one win."

Hadden played down any pressure following suggestions that defeat to Italy - in what many considered the wooden spoon decider - would have made it difficult to retain his job.

"For me personally, I certainly did not notice," he said.

Hadden happy with untidy win

"I have been a professional coach for 10 years now and there's pressure all the time.

"The minute you succumb to that pressure is the minute you lose your focus."

Hadden admitted that it was difficult to gauge his side's progress from the defeats by Wales and France considering Italy's particular style of play.

"It's hard to say as it can be very untidy against a rush defence," he said.

"You don't get the same kind of rhythm that you do against a sliding defence, as we had in Paris.

"What you tend to get is a lot of slower ball, but you can cut right through and we had two or three opportunities that we did not capitalise on and I think that would have made it a really interesting scoreline."

Hadden was looking forward to the visit by Ireland.

"We're delighted to be playing them at home as they are playing exceptionally well," he said.

"But they are an entirely different kettle of fish than playing against Italy, who are always awkward to play against.

It just feels good to be out there playing, getting opportunities

Scotland try-scorer Simon Danielli

"They hold on to the ball for long periods and their defence always puts you under pressure, but on a couple of occasions we looked like we knew how to unlock their defence."

Scotland wing Simon Danielli scored a fine try in a man-of-the-match display.

"I thought we really deserved it," he said after his first international score for five years.

"Obviously, when you've had a run of injuries and there's really good the strength in depth, you've just got to bide your time. I was fortunate to get the opportunity and really pleased.

"The forwards were really good today, they gave the backs some space.

"I've had quite an injury-prone season, so I'm fairly fresh. I've just played six or seven games. It just feels good to be out there playing, getting opportunities."

Djokovic battles to Dubai victory

Novak Djokovic
Djokovic wins his first tournament of the year in Dubai.

World number three Novak Djokovic overcame David Ferrer 7-5, 6-3 to win the Dubai Championships.

The Serb edged out the Spanish fourth-seed in an entertaining, tight match.

Djokovic made hard work of the first set and dropped eight straight points when serving at 5-3 up before winning eight of the next nine to take the set.

The Serb led the second set 4-1, but Ferrer pulled it back to 4-3 before a double-fault left Djokovic to serve out the match, winning with an ace.

More to follow.

Mowbray refuses to budge on style


Mowbray promises to keep playing football

West Brom manager Tony Mowbray promised his side will stick to their passing principles even if it means the Baggies will be relegated to the Championship.

"Some people judge you on results, I judge teams on the way they play," said Mowbray after his bottom-of-the-table side lost 2-0 away at Everton.

"I want to keep our stadium full and people wanting to come and watch us.

"I know what is right, and if you get relegated, take it on the chin. We will play exactly the same next season."

we were expected to be in the relegation zone and we are.

West Brom manager Tony Mowbray
West Brom have won only two of their last 11 games, and are four points away from fourth-from-bottom Middlesbrough.

"I've been asked if we are up for the fight," added Mowbray. "But you will never see a scraping, spitting, fighting, muscular team from me. You will see a team that passes and moves.

"Lack of fight? What does that mean. Is it how many fouls you give away?

"I'm more concerned about whether a striker can hit the target and how good we are on the ball. Those are the things we work at on the training ground."

But Mowbray did concede his side needed to find a succession of victories if they are to avoid relegation, a pattern of results that so far has been beyond West Brom this season.


"We have to get some sort of form now, maybe winning four or five," said Mowbray.

"It will be difficult against teams like Arsenal on Tuesday, but we have Stoke and Bolton at home back-to-back and they are the games we have to win.

"We must get belief and confidence. But we were expected to be in the relegation zone and we are."

Chelsea 2-1 Wigan

By Owen Phillips

Frank Lampard
A relieved Lampard celebrates his last-gasp winner

Frank Lampard's last-gasp header broke Wigan hearts to send Chelsea second in the Premier League table and keep alive their lingering title chances.

Oliver Kapo seemed to have earned the visitors a point with a late goal of his own, turning in Maynor Figueroa's teasing cross with eight minutes to go.

But with full-time almost up Lampard looped a header past Chris Kirkland.

John Terry's spectacular mid-air volley had put the Londoners ahead despite Wigan dominating the early exchanges.

Wigan boss Steve Bruce side will wonder how they failed to take something from a game after a fine opening 20 minutes in which they were much the better side.


The Latics harassed and harangued a hassled-looking home side at every move and they had three glorious chances to go ahead.

Blues keeper Petr Cech made a wonderful save to deny Paul Scharner who ran through unopposed after a sweeping counter-attack involving Mario Melchiot and Amr Zaki.

A scrambling Ashley Cole then did well to clear Titus Bramble's towering header off the line.

Terry then somehow managed to clear the follow-up effort from Charles N'Zogbia as he raced back towards his own goal.

Such was Wigan's early threat that both Terry and Alex were also cautioned in those opening 20 minutes.

But with a Wigan goal seemingly inevitable, suddenly Chelsea, who have yet to lose to Wigan in eight Premier League matches, came to life.

John Terry (l) celebrates his goal with Jon Mikel Obi
Mikel (l) races to congratulate skipper Terry on his superb volleyed opener

Didier Drogba fizzed a shot across goal and moments later Jon Mikel Obi had a fierce 20-yard effort tipped over by Kirkland.

And with the Blues suddenly looking like the side that so impressed in the opening quarter against Juventus in midweek, Terry put them ahead with a spectacular scissor-kick volley.

The England skipper readjusted his feet and leapt in the air to send a crisp strike past the unfortunate Kirkland via a crucial deflection off Emmerson Boyce.

Terry's fellow centre-half Alex then saw his close-range strike blocked by Kirkland.

Another opportunity fell to Lampard, whose attempted dinked finish was well blocked by the excellent Kirkland.

Lampard then shot wastefully at Kirkland and Terry fired well wide from 12 yards.

The second half promised more of the same as Bramble acrobatically cleared Drogba's goalbound effort after a delightful reverse pass from Lampard.

But Chelsea's failure to kill teams off, which has seen them score just 11 goals in their last 10 league matches, almost came back to haunt them.

Scharner sent a flying header well over the bar and Zaki curled a chance wide from 20 yards.

And with Chelsea starting to get twitchy, Wigan capitalised.

Maynor Figueroa tricked his way down the left flank and his low cross was forced home at the near post by Kapo despite Cech's best efforts.

But with the game in injury-time, a long ball into the box was flicked on by Michael Ballack and Lampard leapt above Melchiot to nod the winner and close the gap on leaders Manchester United to seven points.

Chelsea: Cech, Mancienne (Quaresma 81), Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Mikel, Lampard, Kalou (Belletti 75), Anelka, Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Ivanovic, Di Santo, Malouda, Ferreira.

Booked: Alex, Terry, Mancienne.

Goals: Terry 25, Lampard 90.

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Bramble, Boyce, Figueroa, Cattermole (Rodallega 69), Brown, Scharner, Kapo, Zaki (Sibierski 89), N'Zogbia.
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Edman, Kupisz, Routledge, Holt.

Booked: N'Zogbia, Cattermole.

Goals: Kapo 82.

Att: 40,714.

Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's John Terry 8.53 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Arsenal 0-0 Fulham

By David Ornstein

Andrey Arshavin
Arshavin was included in an attack-minded Arsenal line-up

Arsenal's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League were dealt another severe blow as Fulham inflicted the Gunners' fifth successive league draw.

Andrew Johnson went close for Fulham before Robin van Persie's close-range header was saved by Mark Schwarzer.

Van Persie was foiled by a superb Schwarzer when in on goal and headed against the post after half-time.

Johnson headed just wide from close range before Schwarzer denied Abou Diaby and Andrey Arshavin late on.

A draw was the least Fulham deserved for a performance full of attacking ambition and dogged defensive resilience. Despite not winning on their travels all season, they have now held Liverpool, Aston Villa and Arsenal.

The visitors' point is only their third of all time away at Arsenal, where they have never won, and takes them up to seventh after Wigan were beaten at Chelsea.

Arsenal are five points adrift of fourth-place Aston Villa, having played a game more, and just two points above sixth-place Everton.

Arsene Wenger's men have now drawn four league matches 0-0 for the first time since October 1993.


There must be serious concerns for Wenger, whose side appears devoid of attacking invention and a cutting edge in front of goal.

For Wenger, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Eduardo and Emmanuel Adebayor cannot return soon enough.

Arsenal last scored a home league goal on 10 January and, perhaps with that in mind, Wenger named Van Persie, Arshavin, Carlos Vela and Samir Nasri in an attack-minded line-up.

But is was Fulham, inspired by midfielders Danny Murphy and Simon Davies and centre-half Brede Hangeland, who made by far the brighter start.

Manager Roy Hodgson restored a fit-again Johnson to his starting XI and, partnered by the in-form Bobby Zamora, he caused Arsenal's centre-halves no shortage of problems early on.

Davies had already evaded the hosts' offside trap and fired over from 20 yards before Johnson twice escaped the attentions of Kolo Toure and William Gallas inside the opening 10 minutes.

The striker scuffed his first effort across goal and well off target but, after turning Toure, flashed his second marginally wide of Manuel Almunia's left-hand post.

Robin van Persie
Van Persie was repeatedly foiled by Schwarzer and the Fulham defence

With the home crowd beginning to grow restless, Arsenal were quick to respond with an attack of their own and Van Persie saw a powerful header from Arshavin's cross tipped over the crossbar by Schwarzer.

Arsenal's lack of cohesion and predictable attacking game-plan allowed Fulham to grow in confidence and when Gallas could only clear Zamora's centre to Danny Murphy, the midfielder's drive from the edge of the penalty area fizzed just over.

Murphy's shot seemed to remind Arsenal that they were in a game and, after a neat move that ended when Nasri failed to get his shot away, they should have opened the scoring.

Arshavin sent Van Persie through on goal with an exquisite slide-rule pass but the Dutchman's right-footed strike was blocked by an on-rushing Schwarzer.

Arsenal started the second half in determined fashion and after Nasri shot narrowly wide, Van Persie headed onto the roof of the net from the Frenchman's corner.

Van Parsie came even closer soon after as his flicked header from Bacary Sagna's centre clipped the far post, but Fulham were by no means being outplayed.

Clint Dempsey and Johnson almost broke through on the Arsenal goal and Johnson saw a shot deflected onto the roof of the net before glancing Frederik Stoor's cross wide from an unmarked position six yards out.

Schwarzer repelled Abou Diaby's header and Arshavin's fierce drive as Arsenal were frustrated and left the field to a chorus of boos.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:
"We had chances to score and so did they, it was an open game. And it finished with a result that we did not want as we have dropped two points.

"We are not scoring goals and the offensive confidence of the team is not high and as a result the players are becoming a little anxious.

"The fans are frustrated and so are we are.

"We have to take the result on the chin and continue to fight."

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna (Eboue 70), Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Arshavin, Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, Van Persie, Vela (Bendtner 63).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Ramsey, Song Billong, Djourou, Gibbs.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird (Stoor 46), Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey (Gera 88), Johnson, Zamora.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Kamara, Dacourt, Kallio.

Att: 60,102

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Fulham's Mark Schwarzer with 7.67 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Celtic 7-0 St Mirren

By Martin Conaghan

Celtic celebrate
Scott Brown and Shunsuke Nakamura scored five goals between them

A Shunsuke Nakamura hat-trick helped Celtic ease to victory over 10-man St Mirren in the Scottish Premier League.

Keeper Chris Smith allowed a Nakamura drive through his grasp for the opener before Jack Ross was sent off for a foul on Scott MacDonald in the box.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink missed the penalty, but a neat finish by Nakamura and two from Scott Brown followed.

Marc Crosas' stunning volley, a curling Nakamura free-kick and a John Potter own goal ended the rout of the Saints.

Victory kept the reigning champions equal on points with leaders Rangers but reduced the Ibrox side's goal-difference advantage to four.

After six minutes played, Andreas Hinkel crossed from wide on the right after good work by Nakamura, but Smith parried wide.

Garry Brady replied immediately at the other end but watched his close-range effort sail over the bar.

Andy Dorman set up a golden opportunity after a pacey Saints attack but was thwarted by Celtic captain Stephen McManus.

The first goal of the afternoon arrived from the boot of Nakamura in the 16th minute after the Japanese midfielder blasted in a left-footed shot from 22 yards out and Smith let the ball slip over his head into the net.

MacDonald steered a 23rd minute header wide of the mark after Hinkel had crossed in from the corner flag.

Ross was sent off as the half-hour mark approached for a challenge on MacDonald in the St Mirren penalty area, but Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink fired the resulting penalty kick straight at Smith and failed to capitalise on the re-bound.

With 10 minutes of the first half left to play, Nakamura doubled Celtic's tally with a low drive after Hinkel released the ball on the edge of the St Mirren penalty area.

On the stroke of half-time, Vennegoor of Hesselink sent in a bold over-head kick that Smith smothered, then Gary Caldwell hit the bar as the home side sought to increase their goal tally.

Following the re-start, MacDonald pounced on a downward header from Vennegoor of Hesselink but blasted his volley over the bar.

Less than five minutes later, Crosas produced a stunning goal from 20 yards out to increase Celtic's lead after Aiden McGeady had worked the ball in from the left.

The former Barcelona midfielder sent in a right-footed shot from the edge of the St Mirren box that swerved its way past a stranded Smith.

The one-way traffic continued with two powerful efforts in succession from McGeady that Smith parried round each post.

In the 55th minute, Brown made it four for Celtic, completing a well-worked move down the left to strike the ball through the legs of a hapless Smith.

Just two minutes later, Nakamura sealed his hat-trick when he delivered a trademark free-kick from wide on the right following a rash challenge by Hugh Murray and curved the ball around the St Mirren wall to extend Celtic's tally to five.

The onslaught continued with Hinkel coming close in the 62nd minute and a Potter header at the other end straying wide of the target.

Brown grabbed his second of the afternoon in the 68th minute after Crosas released him to power forward unchallenged and strike low into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

St Mirren's misery was complete when Potter guided a cross into his own net with 14 minutes to play as he attempted to head clear a close-range effort from Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan:

"I enjoyed it today. It started off at a good pace and we moved the ball well.

"We got our midfielders into good areas and caused them a bit of problems.

"Obviously, when they went down to 10 men, it caused problems for St Mirren and we got more space than we would normally get against them."

St Mirren manager Gus MacPherson:

"It's always difficult when you come to Celtic Park, but when you go down to 10 men, it makes it doubly harder.

"To lose a full-back with the experience of Jack Ross, who is probably our most consistent player this season - and a defender coming to Parkhead, makes it very difficult for us.

"We'll look at the goals again, because I think quite a few of them were individual mistakes - especially the first one."

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor (O'Dea 21), Nakamura, Crosas, Scott Brown, McGeady, McDonald (Samaras 69), Vennegoor of Hesselink (Hutchinson 77). Subs Not Used: Fox, Loovens, Hartley, Flood.

Booked: O'Dea.

Goals: Nakamura 16, 35, Crosas 51, Scott Brown 55, Nakamura 58, Scott Brown 68, Potter 76 og.

St Mirren: Smith, Ross, Potter, Haining, Camara, Murray (McGinn 60), Dorman (Barron 53), Mason, Brady, Thomson, Mehmet (Dargo 70).

Subs Not Used: Howard, Wyness, Hamilton, Burns.

Sent Off: Ross (28).

Booked: Thomson, Murray.

Att: 58,286

Ref: C Allan

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura 9.73 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

Australia open huge lead over SA

First Test, Johannesburg (day three, close):
Australia 466 and 51-1 v South Africa 220
Dates: 26 February-2 March Start time: 0830 GMT
Coverage: Scorecard and reports on BBC Sport website. Live on Sky Sports
Match scorecard

Thunder storm at the Wanderers Ground
Bad weather brought an early end to proceedings in Johannesburg

Australia had opened up a 297-run lead in their second innings when bad light stopped play on day three of the first Test against South Africa.

Having bowled out the home side for 220 the tourists were 51-1 when play was halted with debutant Phillip Hughes and Ricky Ponting at the crease.

AB de Villiers' 104 was the highlight of South Africa's innings, with only three players scoring over 20 runs.

Mitchell Johnson (4-25) and Peter Siddle (3-76) were the star bowlers.

Having started the day on 85-3, South Africa were in desperate need of some stability, and De Villiers provided it, spending nearly five hours at the crease before running out of partners.

Opener Neil McKenzie was soon back in the pavilion, trapped leg-before by Siddle for 36, unsuccessfully challenging umpire Steve Bucknor's decision and using up one of his team's appeals.

Two overs later it was Australia's turn to call on the third official when they thought JP Duminy had clipped a Siddle delivery to Brad Haddin, but the camera had failed.

Duminy did not hang around long, however, being caught behind off Johnson for 17, and three balls later South Africa used their last first-innings referral when Mark Boucher edged a Johnson delivery to Haddin.

Morne Morkel and Paul Harris both made brief cameo appearances before lunch as the home side's plight grew more desperate.

But Dale Steyn contributed 17 in a 52-run ninth-wicket stand with De Villiers to at least spare them the ignominy of not reaching 200.

Once he was gone, last man Makhaya Ntini stayed at the crease for 10 minutes and only contributed one run, but prolonged the innings long enough for De Villiers to reach his hundred.

Simon Katich was the Australian out before the close, caught by Boucher off the bowling of Morkel, but Australia looked comfortably in control when play ended for the day.

Uefa chief backs extra officials

Michel Platini
Platini has been pushing for further trials with extra referees for some time

Michel Platini believes the use of extra assistant referees behind the goalline will come into use after plans for trials were given the green light.

The International FA Board (IFAB) has given the go-ahead for an experimental period in a professional league with a final decision to come in 2011.

And asked if he was confident extra officials would come into use, Uefa president Platini said: "I am sure.

"The decision will be made in 2011. If agreed it will be used in Euro 2012."

This latest development comes after Fifa reported on an experiment conducted during under-19 European Championship qualifying tournaments in Slovenia, Hungary and Cyprus last year.

The IFAB is made up of representatives of the four home associations, who each have a vote, and Fifa, who have four. Any rule change needs at least six votes in favour.

The board, meeting near Belfast, also offered a way back in for goal-line technology by agreeing to a new report on latest developments.

It was put on ice a year ago but could be revived after the IFAB agreed to hear a report on latest developments by adidas and German company Cairos Technology.

However, it rejected a proposal by the Irish FA for sin-bins, and by the Scottish FA for a fourth substitute to be allowed in extra time.

Fifa also withdrew their proposal for an extra five minutes at half-time after opposition from the home nations.

Aboutrika receives BBC award

By Farayi Mungazi
BBC Sport, Cairo

The BBC African Footballer of the Year Award trophy
Aboutrika was presented with this trophy for winning the BBC award

Mohamed Aboutrika was presented with the BBC African Footballer of the Year award at a special ceremony in Cairo on Saturday.

The Al Ahly striker was a clear winner of the award after a public vote. He received the prestigious trophy from Egyptian legend Mahmoud El Khatib in front of an audience of invited guests.

"I'm very happy today with this BBC award, and I want to thank the fans for choosing me," said Aboutrika, the heartbeat of both Al Ahly and Egypt.

"It's very nice when the fans choose you because we play football to win and make them happy.

"This trophy represents my efforts for the whole of last year and I want to thank the BBC for honouring me."

The award is, indeed, recognition for a magnificent year for the 30-year-old Egyptian star.

He helped his country to win the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana and his club to take the African Champions League for a record sixth time.

Mohamed Aboutrika
Aboutrika won the BBC award by taking more than half of the votes

"Aboutrika has a special gift from God and he has a special effect on his club and country," said El Khatib, the man who brought Aboutrika to Al Ahly five years ago.

El Khatib added: "Whenever he plays, he inspires his team-mates and I believe he still has many years in front of him to become an even better player."

Aboutrika beat 2007 winner Emmanuel Adebayor, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o and Amr Zaki to win the BBC award.

He is the second Egyptian to win the award - his club and international colleague Mohamed Barakat took the honours in 2005.