Munster defeated Edinburgh for the fourth time this season with a dominant second-half display in a 30-3 victory at Musgrave Park. Man of the match Ian Keatley kicked 20 points, with tries in the final quarter from CJ Stander and Mike Sherry capping off the home win. A Piers Francis penalty gave Edinburgh an early lead and the Scottish team were only 6-3 behind at the break, but Keatley’s right boot pushed the hosts out of sight in the Cork rain after the interval. Press Association
Archives: September 2020
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has denied the club are in contract talks with Christian Benteke, insisting that the striker’s future will not be discussed until Villa’s Premier League survival is secured. Press Association He added: “He’s got a contract here anyway as it stands, but I think it’s important we stay in this league and do as well as we’ve been doing. As I said before I’ve never had one conversation with him regarding contracts or anything like that, he’s not that type of lad. I’m sure come the end of the season we’ll sit down and it’ll be just Chris and a few others.” Lambert also praised the development of the Belgian hitman since he joined the club last summer and says the fact that Withe’s record has stood for as long as it has is a mark of the impact the man signed from Genk in the summer has had. “If you have to go back that far it shows how good he’s been. Nobody visualised he was going to do what he has when he first came in, but the big guys been fantastic. “He’s the one that does it, he’s the one that plays the game, he’s the one that goes out there every week and he’s been a credit to himself and to the football team – that’s the main thing. I’d like to see him continue doing what he’s been doing and as for the rest we’ll see what happens.” Benteke has now scored four goals in his last four games. That run has seen Villa come away with three wins, moving them three points clear of the relegation zone in the process. A home win against Fulham on Saturday would see them move just three points below the Cottagers who currently sit in 11th. The 22-year-old Belgian’s goal against Stoke last weekend nudged him a step closer to becoming the first Villa player to score 20 league goals in a season since Peter Withe 32 years ago, but Lambert says that neither party has pushed for negotiations to begin. Lambert said: “I think the most important thing is the league until the end of the season, I heard somebody say he’s been promised a new contract but I can’t have been a part of those conversations. I speak to him all the time, not about contracts, I just tell him to keep it going really. And he’s never once mentioned anything to me about contracts.”
“I don’t think anyone could envisage what he’s been through, unless they have themselves. It puts everything in perspective. “The 19th minute of applause (Petrov’s squad number is 19) at the games is fantastic, from home and away fans. “I’ve known him since he was 19 when I first played with him and never in a million years did I think anything like that would happen to him, he’s such a fit lad. “Thankfully, he’s doing great. He did a little bit of work with the fitness guys the other day. It’s great that he’s on that road. “When he comes into the building I’m pretty sure everyone will have a thought in their head, thinking ‘my God, he’s done that’ about what he’s been through. You wouldn’t be human otherwise. “It puts things into perspective and the lads love to see him, which is nice.” Petrov is now in remission having undergone chemotherapy following his diagnosis in March last year. Having spent much of the last 13 months fighting his own battle away from the club, Petrov is now able to increase his presence around Villa Park and the club’s Bodymoor Heath training base. He will cheer on his team-mates from the stands when Villa face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday and Lambert, who played with Petrov at Celtic, realises the effect his inspirational captain is having. “First and foremost it’s great that he’s in remission and as he said, he’s going to try to live a normal life,” said the Scot. Press Association Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert admits club captain Stiliyan Petrov is still inspiring his battling side as the Bulgarian midfielder continues his battle with leukaemia.
Injuries to the likes of Daniel Agger, Kolo Toure, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique at various stages of the season have resulted in a lack of consistency in terms of those named in the back four. While they have lost only three league matches and are scoring a lot of goals, particularly at home, Brendan Rodgers’ side are not averse to letting one slip in at the other end. They have kept a clean sheet only once in the last dozen games but Mignolet refused to blame uncertainties in defence. “All the players who are there are professional enough to deal with that,” said the Belgium international, who has enjoyed an impressive start to his Anfield career since arriving from Sunderland in the summer. “All the defenders here are very organised, motivated and concentrated. “We need to do a job. It doesn’t matter as a keeper who is in front of me. “I work day in, day out with the lads. I know what they can do and it doesn’t affect me whether the defenders change.” Mignolet would obviously like to improve his personal record but insists that is not the priority. “You want to keep clean sheets – that is what I am there for – but you are just one part of the team,” he added. “It’s what you look forward to before a game starts but if we keep winning 4-1 until the end of the season I’ll be a happy chappy. Press Association “The most important thing is to try to win the game.” With Steven Gerrard missing with a hamstring injury Liverpool head into an important game at Tottenham on Sunday without their influential captain. However, the Reds goalkeeper expects others to raise their game and take on added responsibility. “We have other leaders in the team as well,” he said. “We have a decent enough squad to deal with injuries, to cope with those kind of things. “I am sure someone else will be ready in the dressing room if the gaffer asks him to play. “Every game we go into hopeful of getting three points. We will go to Tottenham and be positive.” Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet insists regular defensive switches have not been the cause of the Reds’ failure to keep clean sheets.
Press Association Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed he will be staying with Southampton as manager. The Argentinian’s future has been cast into the spotlight after the resignation of executive chairman and close ally Nicola Cortese. He left the club on Wednesday and, with Pochettino having previously said he would leave if Cortese did, it remained to be seen if he could carry out his threat. But Pochettino faced the media on Thursday afternoon and claimed a change in situation meant he would not be leaving. “I want to show my gratitude to Nicola Cortese. I believed in him, he brought me here, my staff and my family. I am full of gratitude to him,” he said. “Eight months ago when this happened we were finishing my first season and I did say that if he left there would be no sense for me to stay. “The new situation is different. We are in the middle of our new project. Nicola knows of my decision to stay; I have spoken to him. I am fully committed to the staff, the players, the club and it would make no sense to leave in the middle of our path.” The Barclays Premier League outfit announced in a statement on Wednesday night that Cortese’s resignation had been accepted and that their owner Katharina Liebherr had taken on the role of non-executive chairman, with the search having begun for a new chief executive officer. Cortese’s departure has thrown the future of stars like Luke Shaw into doubt. But Pochettino vowed no player will leave the club during the January transfer window without his authority. “I want to make one thing clear: no-one is for sale at Southampton, no-one,” he said. “And I believe the same thing. No player that I don’t want to leave will leave this club.” Pochettino said he wants to honour the remaining 17 months of his Southampton contract, although he admitted it is too soon to say for sure at this point whether that will happen. “It’s very hard to say at the moment, I think it’s very soon to say about that,” said Pochettino. “But when I signed with Nicola, and we signed a number of players, I’m 100 per cent committed to the two years of my contract and I’m 100 per cent committed to those players. “I have a contract and a responsibility to that.” Pochettino said new chairman Liebherr has given him and his staff her full backing. The 41-year-old said he expects Liebherr to appoint someone to handle transfers specifically, as she searches for a chief executive officer to replace Cortese. “I met her for five minutes today,” Pochettino said. “She told me we have her full support, she wants the club to be stable, and that we need to look forward to the future. “It’s still too soon to talk about this (who deals with transfers), we will see in the future how the tasks are unfolded at this club, who does what at this club. “I’m sure the club will designate a person to speak to about all of that.” Revealing Cortese backed his decision to stay at the club, Pochettino said he does not know exactly why the executive chairman resigned. “What’s quite clear is I have a very good relationship with Nicola Cortese,” he said. “He agrees with my decision to stay and there’s nothing more I can say about that right now. “He only asked me for one thing and that’s to try to win on Saturday. “I don’t know (why he decided to leave), it’s quite difficult to say, I found out yesterday as you did about his decision. “Of course it has surprised me quite a bit, the same as the people involved with this club, and I knew nothing about his departure.” Manchester City are among clubs being linked with a big-money offer for teenage defender Shaw. But Pochettino said he is not aware of any official bids. He added: “It’s clear that Luke Shaw has a contract, and that’s a question for the new chairman.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists American owners Fenway Sports Group “define leadership” when it comes to running a football club. Southampton are the latest Premier League side to be thrown into turmoil by boardroom wrangling after chairman Nicola Cortese resigned following a disagreement with owner Katharina Liebherr. That is an all-too familiar scenario at Anfield where internal battles, politicking and point-scoring between former manager Rafael Benitez, senior figures and previous American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett contributed to the club being brought to its knees just over three years ago. Press Association “When you talk about leadership, they define leadership. “They have shown that in other businesses they have run (the Boston Red Sox baseball team being their other major sporting involvement) in terms of having a vision and a strategy in order to get there and allowing a manger to come in and manage that process. “They have been brilliant from a personal level and hopefully they get their rewards over the next number of years.” Rodgers and Henry may discuss the January transfer window but the manager knows the chances of bringing in real quality this month may be slim. That does not mean Rodgers does not have targets or FSG are not willing to spend the money, just that it may not be worth doing so in such a truncated period. “There are no real developments yet,” said Rodgers, who is interested in Basle forward Mohammed Salah but is not willing to pay the price his club are asking. “We have been working for a number of months on possibilities which can strengthen the team and we need to see how that goes over the next couple of weeks. “I’m not concerned. The owners have been great in terms of if there is something there to be done that will help us, then I am sure they will support that. “I just think it is one where it will be a difficult market to improve on but it certainly won’t be for a lack of trying. “We are assessing a whole raft of players, it is just a question of whether they are going to be available to bring in now.” Rodgers is looking at getting summer signing Tiago Ilori some game time on loan, however, although youngster Jordon Ibe seems less likely to be given the same opportunity despite Rodgers suggesting last month he could also be loaned out. “It is something we will look to do with young Tiago,” said the Reds boss of his 20-year-old £7million signing from Sporting Lisbon who has yet to make his debut and has featured in only three matchday squads this season. “He has come in and now knows what Liverpool is about and the standards required. “It has been difficult for him in terms of game time because he hasn’t played, but he has come in and shown the profile of player we thought he would be. “We will look to get him a loan period now. He needs to be playing. “Jordon Ibe is a boy who is in and around the squad so we are balancing him at the moment. “He has been outstanding in training having been out for a few weeks with injury. “He is a young player who is learning all the time and is in no rush to go out. “At some point we will need to get him regular game time to push him forward as he can be a great player for us for the future.” FSG bought the club when financial pressures pushed Hicks and Gillett to breaking point and while the wrangling subsequently continued in the courts, things are now on a much more even keel. Principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner are on Merseyside this week to check on their investment and take in the home game against Aston Villa. Rodgers will have discussions with them not only about strengthening his squad and the chances of securing a return to the Champions League, but also the health of the club in general. “We have regular contact anyway, this is nothing more than them coming over to look at the developments of the club,” he said. “There is no motive for them coming over only to see the club they own. “We’ll go for a meal, talk about Liverpool and that will cover everything: transfers, where players are at in their development and the overall club. “They’ve brought real strong leadership and vision, which I think is important. “They took over a club a few years back which was in disarray in terms of ownership and stability and they were one of the main principal reasons I came to the club because of the vision they had.
Alan Pardew vowed to battle on as Newcastle manager after being subjected to a torrent of abuse despite seeing his side end its six-game losing run. But they were unable to build upon their lead and the visitors gained the upper hand after the break, and had it not been for a fine save by Tim Krul, who had already kept out Wilfried Zaha’s first-half effort, and a goal-line clearance from Fabricio Coloccini, they might have been back in it. But Cardiff’s hopes finally died as time ran down as Loic Remy stabbed home his 14th of the season and substitute Steven Taylor made it 3-0 to end their survival hopes. Pardew will head for title-chasing Liverpool on the final day knowing even a win there might do little to improve his standing on Tyneside. He said: “You have to be resilient in the modern day. We have lost half the Premier League managers this year – we might even lose another four or five in the summer. “It is sometimes a thankless task. It was difficult today, I’ll make no bones about that.” Opposite number Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left St James’ knowing his team will be playing in the Sky Bet Championship next season, but he was in equally defiant mood. He said: “You have just got to face the facts, don’t you? I face it head-on. I knew what I was coming into. “I didn’t make the impact I hoped for and I believed in, but that will be something for me to chew on now for a little while. “I am a warrior – I might not look like it here where I’m sitting, but I have had times in my football career when I was a player that were very disappointing. “You have just got to stand up and fight for yourself and fight for what you believe in.” The 52-year-old, who was booed by a section of the crowd whenever he stepped out of the dug-out, chose not to join the players on the pitch after the final whistle, but he is refusing to be bowed. He said: “I am frustrated a little bit, of course. Some of the criticism has been a little bit left-field and a little bit over the top, and that’s fuelled the anger here. “You have to accept that, unfortunately, when you lose six as a Newcastle manager. “They are upset, they are angry – I understand that. I apologise to them for the last six games and hopefully, we have taken a very, very small step towards them. “Coming to the sideline, I was only antagonising them and I don’t want to do that and make the atmosphere worse for the players, so it made a lot more sense to let [assistant manager] John [Carver] do that and take a seat.” Newcastle supporters repeatedly sang Hatem Ben Arfa’s name with the midfielder among the crowd after once again being left out of the matchday squad, and Pardew was forced to dismiss social media rumours that the pair had come to blows. “I have seen that. It’s an absolute load of rubbish. He came and shook my hand at the end and that was it,” he said. On the pitch, the Magpies took the lead with 18 minutes gone when, after Cardiff ‘keeper David Marshall had denied full-back Mathieu Debuchy twice in quick succession, Ameobi headed home Moussa Sissoko’s cross for what seems likely to be his last ever goal at St James’. The Magpies beat Cardiff 3-0 at St James’ Park to secure their first win since March 22, relegating the Bluebirds in the process. However, the game was played out amid a tense atmosphere as home fans, several hundred of whom walked out at two pre-arranged points in the second half, aimed chants at Pardew and owner Mike Ashley. Press Association
Press Association Chelsea came out on top in a nine-goal thriller against Everton encapsulated in two frantic goalscoring spells in either half at Goodison Park. But for all the 25-year-old’s threat, he still needs someone to provide the ammunition and that person is currently Cesc Fabregas, who more often than not found his compatriot with unerring accuracy. The first goal game from exactly that source, as the former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder threaded through a pass, catching the defence on their heels, for Costa to stride on to and dispatch past Howard. In doing so he became only the second Chelsea player to score in his first three Premier League appearances for the club after Adrian Mutu. More madcap defending saw last man Leighton Baines push out a fraction too slowly to make it obvious Ivanovic was offside – which he fractionally was – and the Serbian finished with the poise of a striker. Such was the disbelief around Goodison even the electronic scoreboard took a couple of minutes to register the second goal, and Howard looked equally confused when he came clearly two yards outside his area to catch a through-ball before falling back inside the box. A red card then would have ended Everton’s afternoon, but Sylvain Distin’s goal disallowed for offside after he followed in Romelu Lukaku’s header against the crossbar suggested there was still fight in Roberto Martinez’s side. That materialised through Mirallas’ glancing header from Coleman’s cross, which was the first time Everton had got around the back six Chelsea had employed since going ahead so early. Costa, put through again by Fabregras, was denied only by the outstretched leg of Howard before Eden Hazard’s cross from the byline was turned in by Coleman. But the game was far from over as a brilliant run by Lukaku took three defenders away with him to allow Aiden McGeady to pick out Naismith in space and make it 3-2. Matic’s strike then deflected in off Jagielka before Eto’o, who signed a two-year deal in the week, headed in Baines’ free-kick within six minutes of coming off the bench. Ramires’ one-two with Matic provided Chelsea’s crucial fifth and, after Mirallas volleyed against the post, Costa added his second in the 90th minute when substitute Muhamed Besic, making his debut, fluffed a backheel in the centre-circle which presented the Spain international with a run on goal. Conceding an early deficit ultimately cost the hosts, as Jose Mourinho’s side went top of the Premier League, somewhat ironically after conceding three, on goal difference. It had looked plain sailing after Diego Costa made it three goals in three matches since his £32million move from Atletico Madrid and Branislav Ivanovic’s disputed second. Kevin Mirallas’ brilliant header on the stroke of half-time gave the hosts hope, only for Seamus Coleman’s own goal to hand the initiative back to Chelsea as the madness began. Steven Naismith and Nemanja Matic traded goals before substitute Samuel Eto’o made it 4-3 against the club he left in the summer, only for Ramires to give Chelsea breathing space again and Costa to add a late second. Up until Naismith’s strike Chelsea appeared to have everything under control, with Costa showing the new attacking edge which was lacking from Mourinho’s side last season. It took just 35 seconds to dismiss fears over a suggested hamstring injury by scoring before Everton had even touched the ball from kick-off. There has been plenty of debate about some of the sums being spent by English clubs in the current window, but Costa is already looking value for money after scoring with his third shot on target this season. The Brazilian-born Spain international was a constant menace, lurking with intent on the shoulder of the last defender and regularly capitalising on Everton’s inability to bafflingly play an offside trap which cost them two goals inside 170 seconds. The visitors began with two goals in the first three minutes, but things unthinkably became even more chaotic after the break with five inside 11 minutes as both defences appeared to fall apart in the maelstrom, with the game eventually finishing 6-3. Bizarrely it could have been even worse for Everton, as goalkeeper Tim Howard could easily have been sent off for handling outside his area after just eight minutes.
But it was he who slid McGeady in behind full-back Joseph Chipolina two minutes later to square for Keane to sweep home his low cross, and he who split the Gibraltar defence with an instinctive 10th-minute pass to allow the LA Galaxy frontman to make it 2-0. Keane completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot with just 18 minutes gone after Hoolahan had been upended by Perez, and the points were secure. But for Perez, Ireland might have led even more handsomely at half-time, but any respite was purely temporary as the scoreboard ticked over with almost monotonous regularity after the restart. McClean needed just seconds to add his name to the scoresheet from Keane’s pass, and it was 5-0 with 51 minutes on the clock when the unfortunate Perez unwittingly turned the ball into his own net after denying Keane a fourth goal of his own. Perez thwarted Keane once again two minutes later, but McClean was on hand to dispatch the rebound, and Hoolahan helped himself as the hour-mark approached, waltzing through a shell-shocked Gibraltar defender to make it 7-0. He and Keane were withdrawn with 27 minutes remaining with O’Neill perhaps having one eye on Tuesday’s intensely difficult trip to Gelsenkirchen, but the result had been beyond doubt long before they headed for the showers. To their credit, Gibraltar managed to hold out without further damage for more than half an hour as the Republic threatened to eclipse Poland’s tally against them last month, although the foot was off the pedal as time ran down on an evening which ultimately proved as straightforward as O’Neill would have hoped despite his earlier caveats. Robbie Keane plundered a hat-trick as the Republic of Ireland maintained a perfect start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 7-0 demolition of minnows Gibraltar. James McClean added a second-half double either side of keeper Jordan Perez’s own goal, and Wes Hoolahan capped a fine individual display with the seventh with 59 minutes gone. Martin O’Neill’s men were expected to win the game and win it handsomely, but they did so in a fashion which will have pleased those who have bemoaned Ireland’s failure in recent years to dispose of weaker opposition so emphatically. Long before the final whistle, minds were already turning to the far more taxing proposition which awaits them in Germany on Tuesday evening, but the mission all along was to fly out there with six points safely banked, and that has been fulfilled. At the end of a week during which the publication of assistant manager Roy Keane’s updated autobiography had been by far the biggest talking point, football and the business of collecting three precious points became the focus once again. O’Neill had been at pains to stress in the run-up to the game that there would be no room for complacency even against a team made up of police officers, firefighters and students which shipped seven goals in its first competitive outing last month. Patience was very much the watch-word, but the manager need not have worried. Keane led Ireland out with 62 senior international goals to his name and by the time he left the field at half-time, the total had increased significantly. Hoolahan, who tormented the visitors from the hole behind lone striker Keane, was the architect, although his evening had started in disappointing fashion when he missed the target from a fourth-minute header after being picked out unmarked by Aiden McGeady. Keane struck three times inside 12 first-half minutes to wrap up a second successive Group D victory before he and his team-mates had even broken sweat to leave the visitors in tatters. The Ireland skipper, winning his 136th cap, has now scored 65 senior international goals, only three fewer than West Germany star Gerd Muller, whose haul of 68 came in just 62 appearances for his country. Press Association
Swansea skipper Ashley Williams is confident Garry Monk’s high-fliers can take the next step and beat the Barclays Premier League’s big boys on a regular basis. Press Association “It’s great for the team to take that next step,” Williams said after goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bafetimbi Gomis had overturned Alexis Sanchez’s opener and moved Swansea above Arsenal in the Premier League standings. “The next step is to have the confidence to beat the big teams and we’ve done really well in doing that this season. “There was a period when you felt the squad was confident but thinking ‘We’re quite good but can we win these games.’ “But we work hard and prepare well, so why not? Obviously we’ll have tough times in the season but we feel now that we can really make a mark, show what we’re about and go up against teams like Arsenal.” With some of the league’s biggest clubs showing signs of struggle this season it has been suggested that this could be the campaign when a smaller team breaks into the top four and qualifies for Champions League football. Southampton are the nearest challengers to leaders Chelsea right now, four points adrift in second position, and West Ham and Swansea both occupy the top five places above the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton. But central defender Williams admits he is unsure whether Swansea can sustain a top-five position and he is just focusing on having a strong season. “We haven’t put a target on it to be in the top whatever, we just want a good season.” Williams said. “There will be a couple of teams who will break into the top eight and I definitely want to see where we can go. “I’m 30 and I don’t want to waste another season. I loved playing in the Europa League last season because I never thought in my career I would have the chance to play in Europe but to me it felt like a wasted season. “We were trying to stay up and it’s not what we’re used to here, it’s not what the club or the city’s about. “We don’t just want to stay in the Premier League as we’ve been here for a number of years. “We feel we’ve got the quality and work ethic to be in the top half at least and we’re not here to just try and survive.” Williams believes the team has developed under Monk’s tutelage this season with the rookie manager adding defensive steel to the side’s traditional passing and possession game. Everton’s former Swansea boss Roberto Martinez criticised his old club for their approach following a recent goalless draw at Goodison Park saying it was not the style of play he recognised from his days at the Liberty Stadium, but Williams said it was proof that every player knew their job. “The gaffer’s plan was to work on the defensive side of things first and then the attacking side,” Williams revealed. “What you saw in the Everton game was everyone understanding their role and even though we went down to 10 men we did what we needed to do. “We know people said ‘same old Swansea’ and had figured out to play against us so we made a conscious effort to change that.” The Welsh club moved into the top five with their 2-1 comeback victory over Arsenal at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday afternoon and belief is growing that they can better their best Premier League finish of ninth place two seasons ago. Swansea have now claimed two big scalps this season – they also won 2-1 at Manchester United on the opening day – and Williams says upsetting the big clubs could be the key to them sustaining an impressive start to the campaign.