lundi 19 mai 2014

Anderlecht pip Standard to secure Belgian title

 Anderlecht were crowned Belgian champions for the 33rd time after a 3-1 victory over Lokeren was sufficient to pip rivals Standard Liege to the title on the final day of the season on Sunday.

Anderlecht finished the 10-game playoffs - which pits the six most successful teams from the regular competition - two points ahead of Standard who beat Racing Genk 1-0 at home.

The title marks an unlikely turnaround by Besnik Hasi who took charge after coach John van den Brom was fired in March after a ninth league defeat of the season.

Former Albania international Hasi played for Anderlecht between 2000 and 2006 and has been on the coaching staff since 2008.

Aleksandar Mitrovic converted a pass by Dennis Praet in the 19th minute to put Anderlecht ahead but the hosts then lost keeper Silvio Proto after he suffered a hand injury.

There was a brief moment of worry for Anderlecht when defender Anthony Vanden Borre was sent off for fouling Lokeren's Jordan Remacle and Hamdi Harbaoui equalised from the penalty spot.

But the tension was short lived with Lokeren also reduced to 10 men shortly after with Koen Persoons dismissed.

Anderlecht quickly restored their advantage before the hour with Chancel Mbemba netting and Praet made the points safe with a third goal in the 67th minute.

Standard's win, courtesy of an early goal from Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez, secured a place in next season's Champions League qualifiers.
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lundi 12 mai 2014

Man City crowned champions as final act unfolds

 The curtain fell on one of the most dramatic Premier League title races for years on Sunday with Manchester City acclaimed as champions while Liverpool looked on from the wings dreaming of what might have been.

City avoided any last-minute twists in a season when the lead at the top changed hands 24 times to beat visitors West Ham United 2-0 ensuring the league trophy returned to the Etihad Stadium for the second time in three seasons.

Liverpool came from behind to win 2-1 against a Newcastle United side that finished with nine men at Anfield but it proved an empty victory for manager Brendan Rodgers, captain Steven Gerrard and the rest of the deflated team in red.

Liverpool's only hope of ending a 24-year wait to be crowned champions was if City lost and they won but that outcome never looked remotely likely as Manuel Pellegrini's side dominated West Ham from the first minute to the last.

There was a massive roar at the Etihad when the final table was flashed on to the giant screens showing City with 86 points, Liverpool on 84, Chelsea 82, Arsenal 79, Everton 72, Tottenham Hotspur 69 and deposed champions Manchester United on 64.

Goals from Samir Nasri after 39 minutes and captain Vincent Kompany 10 minutes later ensured City's triumphant march to the title was completed with a comfortable victory.

City's Chilean coach Pellegrini, in his first season in England, became the first non-European to guide a team to the English title and told Sky Sports: "It's a very special time.

"My first year is not easy to get used to English football but I think I managed a great group of players.

"But big teams cannot be satisfied with one title. It's very important. Celebrate, today, tomorrow and Monday and on Tuesday start working for next season because this club and players deserve more titles."

Chelsea finished third after a 2-1 win at bottom side Cardiff City while fourth-placed Arsenal rubber-stamped Norwich City's drop into the second tier with a 2-0 win at Carrow Road.

Aaron Ramsey scored a stunning goal from an acute angle while defender Carl Jenkinson got his first for the Gunners.

Norwich and Cardiff will play in the Championship next term along with Fulham, who had already been relegated and ended 13 years as a Premier League club with a 2-2 home draw in a London derby with Crystal Palace.

The only other issue to be decided on the final day of the season was which club would finish sixth and take the final Europa League spot along with fifth-placed Everton and FA Cup finalists Hull City who meet Arsenal at Wembley next week.

Tottenham Hotspur duly clinched it with a 3-0 home win over Aston Villa thanks to first-half goals from Brazil midfielder Paulinho, a Nathan Baker own goal and an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty in what could be Tim Sherwood's last match in charge.

Manchester United would have finished sixth if they had won at Southampton and Spurs had lost but United's miserable season petered out with a 1-1 draw at St Mary's in Ryan Giggs' last match as interim manager.

A Juan Mata freekick in the second half cancelled out Rickie Lambert's opener for the Saints as United finished seventh a year after being crowned champions.

It was their lowest finish since they came sixth in 1991 and there will be no European football at Old Trafford next season for the first time since 1990.
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Inter qualify for Europe in Zanetti's San Siro swansong

 Inter Milan recovered from a goal down to thump Lazio 4-1 and secure a Europa League spot on an emotional night as captain Javier Zanetti came on to make his last appearance at the San Siro after 19 years with the club.

Inter's Rodrigo Palacio struck either side of a neat first-time finish from Mauro Icardi in the first half beofre a powerful long-range strike from ex-Lazio midfielder Hernanes 11 minutes from time gave the hosts an impressive victory.

Lazio had taken the lead in the second minute with Giuseppe Biava's tap-in but that was as good as it got for the visitors.

The loudest cheer of the night was reserved for 40-year-old Zanetti, who was introduced as a 52nd minute substitute to make his 614th Serie A appearance for Inter.

He was applauded by a San Siro crowd missing the ultra fans from the Curva Nord, which has been closed for three matches following offensive chanting during last month's goalless draw with Napoli and a 1-0 defeat in the Milan derby last weekend.

In added time an Inter supporter wearing a replica shirt with "ZANETTI" on the back got on to the pitch and had to be escorted away by the defender, who spoke to the fan and was given a standing ovation by the whole ground as he did so.

Walter Mazzarri's Inter side stay fifth after the win but are now only a point behind Fiorentina, who play in a Tuscan derby at bottom side Livorno on Sunday (1300 GMT), and are guaranteed a spot in next season's Europa League.

Inter are also six points ahead of local rivals AC Milan, who visit Atalanta on Sunday (1030 GMT), Parma and Hellas Verona, who lost a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Udinese after veteran striker Luca Toni scored his 20th goal of the season with the 14th minute opener from the penalty spot.

With two games left that trio are a point behind Torino, who occupy the last Europa League place and host Parma on Sunday (1300 GMT). The defeat leaves Lazio in 10th place two points behind Torino but they could still qualify for Europe.
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mardi 6 mai 2014

Liverpool blow victory at Palace to leave title hopes hanging

 Luis Suarez and his Liverpool team mates shed tears of despair after they blew a 3-0 lead with 11 minutes remaining to draw 3-3 with Crystal Palace in an astonishing Premier League match at Selhurst Park on Monday that almost certainly ended their hopes of a first title for 24 years.

Liverpool were seemingly coasting to victory and a three-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League with goals from Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

But Palace stormed back with three late goals, with substitute Dwight Gayle scoring twice after Damien Delaney put Palace back in the game with a screamer in the 79th minute.

Liverpool's title hopes, already receding after last week's loss to Chelsea, are now hanging by an even slender thread.

They have 81 points with one match to play while City have 80 points and two games to go plus a nine-goal better goal difference than Liverpool.

City host Aston Villa on Wednesday and West Ham United on Sunday while Liverpool's remaining game is at home to Newcastle United on Sunday.

Liverpool's players slumped to the ground at the end after allowing Palace back into the game that seemed all over with just 11 minutes of normal time to play.

Goals from Allen after 18 minutes, Sturridge after 53 minutes and newly-crowned Footballer of the Year Suarez two minutes later put Liverpool into a commanding position.

Wales international midfielder Allen put Liverpool ahead when he was left unmarked following a Steven Gerrard corner and headed in for his first Premier League goal for Liverpool in his 50th league appearance for them.

Sturridge doubled the score with his 21st goal of the season with a low deflected shot eight minutes into the second half while Suarez scored his 31st goal of the season two minutes later after playing a swift one-two with Raheem Sterling to take Liverpool's goal tally this season to 99 goals.

But as has happened so often this season, Liverpool's defending cost them.

Liverpool continued to pour forward in a bid to further trim Manchester City's goal difference advantage but paid a heavy price for leaving themselves exposed to the counter-attack.

Delaney reduced the arrears with a fierce shot before Gayle brought Palace right back into the game after Yannick Bolasie, a continual threat on the break squared back to him and he swept the ball home.

The third goal came after a long ball forward and Gayle took advantage of more poor defending to equalise and complete an incredible fightback by the home side.
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lundi 5 mai 2014

Real title chances hit by home draw with Valencia

Real Madrid failed to take full advantage of slip-ups by leaders Atletico Madrid and Barcelona when they needed a Cristiano Ronaldo volley in stoppage time to rescue a 2-2 home draw with Valencia on Sunday.

A Real win would have put them level on 85 points with second-placed Barca, who drew 2-2 at Getafe on Saturday, with a game in hand but they stayed third on 83 points with three games left.

Atletico, who like Barca have two matches remaining including the meeting between the teams at the Nou Camp on the final day of the season, are top on 88 points after they lost 2-0 at Levante earlier on Sunday.

Valencia took a surprise lead in the 44th minute at the Bernabeu when Jeremy Mathieu nodded in a Dani Parejo corner before Sergio Ramos levelled with another header in the 59th.

Parejo, a former Real player, smashed in a loose ball to restore the visitors' lead six minutes later as Valencia looked to become the first team to win at both Real and Barca in the same season since Real Mallorca in 2002-03.

But Ronaldo produced a brilliant piece of skill to volley in Angel Di Maria's centre in the second minute of added time and salvage a point for the home side.
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