Giovanni Trapattoni is backing his Ireland side to handle the threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in next month’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Sweden in Dublin. While the Italian is trying to keep a positive outlook, Forde and St Ledger face a race against time to prove their fitness for the Group C meeting, meaning Keiren Westwood and Ciaran Clark may well be called upon again. It is difficult to know how much Trapattoni would have learned about the qualities of his keeper and back four given Wales were toothless in attack for long periods, indeed Westwood did not have a save to make until the 55th minute. He may well have gotten more from the game had Gareth Bale, every bit as talismanic for Wales as Ibrahimovic is for the Swedes, not been absent through injury. But, after recording a clean sheet to extend Ireland’s run of form to just one defeat in eight games, Trapattoni is prepared to back the same line-up. When asked if he would be prepared to go with the same defensive selection, he said: “Probably, for example, Ciaran Clark is a strong defender and he has a good mentality. “John O’Shea is the captain and it is possible we will go in with the same back five as we have injuries to David Forde, Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger. We could even have another problem by them, it is sometimes like that.” But he was quick to point out that cutting the supply lines to Ibrahimovic will be the most effective way of limiting his influence as the Irish look to steal a march on the Swedes and Austria in the race, with all three sides tied on 11 points, for a play-off spot. He said: “Ibra is a typical striker who scores a lot of goals. He is one of these special players like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. While Ireland were playing out a goalless bore draw against Wales in Cardiff on Wednesday night, Paris St Germain striker Ibrahimovic was sending an ominous reminder of his attacking gifts by scoring a hat-trick in his country’s 4-2 win over Norway. Trapattoni was forced into defensive alterations in Cardiff with keeper David Forde and defenders Sean St Ledger and Richard Dunne unavailable. “But, even with players like that, you have to remember the team is important. “He needs a team around him. We are one team, we all support each other and we are one on the pitch and that is our strength. “We have a good balance to our play, the players know what I am asking of them and when we need to focus and defend, we do it. “Obviously there is a lot of quality in individual players and Ibrahimovic can score in any situation at any moment, but we have a good attitude and mentality at the moment and we are confident.” Press Association
But Norwich’s club-record signing Van Wolfswinkel produced a fantastic header with a little under 20 minutes remaining to earn his new side a point. The majority of the first half was dominated by Everton as Martinez stuck to the tried and tested Everton formation and familiar players with none of his summer signings starting in Norfolk. The visitors only had a tame header from captain Phil Jagielka to show for their dominance in possession in the early exchanges before Whittaker lost the ball after needlessly dawdling inside his own penalty area, but Steven Pienaar could not capitalise and bent his shot over the crossbar. The home side finally came to life after 15 minutes when Bradley Johnson’s pass was knocked into the path of Elliott Bennett by Wes Hoolahan, but £8.5million summer signing Van Wolfswinkel’s header was deflected behind for a corner. Van Wolfswinkel was involved again moments later as he latched on to a fine long ball by Russell Martin and crossed towards Hoolahan, only for Sylvain Distin to make a diving clearance in front of the Republic of Ireland international. That period of domination for Norwich seemed to stir Everton and they again took control of proceedings with Kevin Mirallas firing just wide of John Ruddy’s right-hand post after a neat interchange with Nikica Jelavic. Mirallas again came close to opening the scoring just before the half-hour mark as his effort from Coleman’s cross was defected behind off Martin. The Toffees started to dictate the tempo as the first half drew to a close but they still could not truly test their former goalkeeper Ruddy. The Belgium international was on the end of a free-flowing move by Everton early in the second half which saw him thrash an effort in to the side netting following good work down the right by Leon Osman and Coleman, but it was Norwich who took the lead shortly afterwards courtesy of right-back Whittaker. Debutant Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s header secured a point for Norwich as four goals in 20 second-half minutes saw Everton share the spoils from a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road on the opening day of the Barclays Premier League season. After commanding much of the game Everton found themselves a goal down at Carrow Road through an unlikely Steven Whittaker goal early in the second half. Two goals in four minutes just after the hour – the first a stunning effort from Ross Barkley before Seamus Coleman converted a tap-in – looked like putting Roberto Martinez on course for a win in his first game in charge of the Toffees. Press Association The Scotland international stumbled his way through a couple of Everton challenges before opening up his body and curling a left-footed effort past Tim Howard and against the post. Whittaker then reacted quicker than any of the visitors’ defenders and was on hand to roll the rebound in to the empty net and give the Canaries the lead just six minutes after the interval. Everton responded well to falling behind and equalised in superb style just 10 minutes later as Barkley hammered in his first goal for the club, arrowing an effort past Ruddy and deservedly levelling for the visitors. It did not take Everton long to establish the lead their play for much of the game had warranted. Pienaar slipped a smart ball in to Jelavic, whose shot was well-saved by Ruddy, but Coleman was following up and had the simple task of rolling home the rebound to turn the game on its head. Everton, however, had even less time to enjoy their lead than Norwich had done earlier in the game as the hosts refuse to lay down, pulling level after 71 minutes. Whittaker was again heavily involved as his speculative left-foot strike from the edge of the area turned in to the perfect cross for Van Wolfswinkel to direct a header past Howard and level the match once more. Visiting substitute Steven Naismith forced a smart save out of Ruddy from close range with Martin making a superb block from Jelavic on the follow-up and Coleman saw a late drive fly just wide as Everton did more to find a winning goal that never came.
“This is a terrific player.” Pardew now feels Newcastle are in the same situation as Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham, who have both had to fend off unwanted interest in Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale respectively. And he believes it warrants the whole transfer window regulations being looked at again. “You put him in the Suarez and Bale situation which he has found himself in,” he said. “There is a question about the window being closed before we kick off the Premier League season. “I know the Premier League asked the European leagues to do it and they wouldn’t fall in line. “But after the summer we have had, the situations we have had, with Rooney as well, it is definitely something they need to put under the microscope again.” Press Association Pardew sent Cabaye back to the north-east, believing he was not in the right mental state to do himself justice after news of the approach leaked into the public domain. In his absence, Newcastle were hammered 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium and Pardew evidently was not impressed. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew accused Arsenal of a lack of respect for not waiting until after their Premier League encounter at Manchester City before making a bid for midfielder Yohan Cabaye. “I didn’t see any reason why that needed to happen,” said Pardew. “When you do a pre-season like we have and been very thorough and prepared for three days with a team that includes Cabaye, it is tough for his head to be turned on the eve of a game. “Why they couldn’t do us the respect and the honour of waiting until Tuesday evening is beyond me.” Pardew could have asked Cabaye to play, but he felt the Frenchman, who has also attracted interest from Manchester United this summer, would have found it impossible to concentrate. “It is a very difficult situation and hard to get your head round to play a game of this magnitude,” he said. “It is pretty obvious I am upset about it.” The bid was dismissed out of hand, with Pardew insisting it falls well below Newcastle’s valuation. “I am not sure of the exact terms of it (the bid) but it is below our valuation for sure,” said Pardew.
Press Association Managers are setting a “terrible example” to players and the general public with their behaviour on the touchline, former Football Association chairman David Bernstein has claimed. “I have been involved with football for a long time and I do understand the pressures they are under but nevertheless when you look at the constant protesting on the touchline, the harassing of the fourth official and the comments afterwards, it doesn’t do anyone or the game any good. “It has been especially noticeable in recent weeks but it is an ongoing issue and it is a terrible example for their players, let alone the general public. “I think it is time managers assumed a much greater level of responsibility for their behaviour.” In the last week, Stoke boss Mark Hughes has been charged by the FA with improper conduct after being sent from the touchline against Newcastle, while Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers could be in hot water over his controversial remark after the Manchester City defeat about referee Lee Mason being from Greater Manchester. Bernstein, who stepped down as chairman in July, said video technology would help ease the pressure on referees but he did not envisage the sport’s world governing body FIFA embracing any such developments in the short term. He added: “I am a great believer that video technology needs to come in to help referees, and that would calm everybody down. “I pushed for it when I was FA chairman but it was like banging your head against a brick wall. “I think it will happen, as it did with goal-line technology, after another terrible high-profile incident, but I think it will happen later rather than sooner.” Bernstein, who was made a CBE in the New Year Honours, would not specify individual cases but said there had been a number of high-profile incidents in recent weeks where managers had been seen berating officials and behaving badly. He told Press Association Sport: “There needs to be improvements in the areas of respect. Some fantastic work has been done but there seems to be a particular problem with the behaviour of managers.
Anticipation, therefore, was high that Lambert would be able to reveal more about the surprise removal of two of his long-term lieutenants when he appeared at a weekly press conference ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Southampton. But, in an occasionally tense exchange, he was committed to keeping his counsel. “You need to appreciate that due to it being a legal investigation I can’t really comment on anything,” he said in a brief opening gambit. Pressed for further information, he went on: “I’ve given a comment and I hope you respect that. I respect you asking the question and I think you have to respect my answer. “If you want to talk about the football side of things and results I’m happy to answer.” Enquiries continued to focus on the elephant in the room, rather than the club’s relegation battle or the arrival of Saints, but Lambert stuck resolutely to his chosen path. “I’m expecting you to give me a question, but the statement I’ve given there is end of. If you want to ask me about the game, everything going on with the game and results, I’ll happily answer.” When asked, finally, whether victory over Southampton and an upturn in form following four straight defeats would make the week’s events worthwhile, he said: “I don’t think anything’s worth all this.” Villa announced this week that assistant boss Culverhouse and head of football operations Karsa had been suspended, but no explanation was given. Instead a brief statement focused on the temporary promotion of youth coach Gordon Cowans and out-of-favour goalkeeper Shay Given to Lambert’s backroom team. Press Association An ongoing internal investigation means Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is unable to shed further light on the suspension of Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa, though the Scot confirmed he has no intention of leaving the club himself. Whether he was referring to the suspensions, the investigation or simply the combative media conference was unclear. While unable to elaborate on the situation involving Culverhouse and Karsa, Lambert was in a position to reflect on his own future. A second disappointing season at the helm would be reason alone to place him on rocky ground, even without the uncertainty over his backroom team. But owner Randy Lerner came out with a rare public comment on Wednesday hailing Lambert’s “loyalty and commitment”, apparently strengthening his position as boss. And while he admits life at Villa Park has hardly been all he imagined when he arrived in June 2012, the former Norwich boss is planning on seeing the job through. “My whole intent is to be here next year and the year after,” he said. “You’ve got to do the job day to day and go from there, and that’s what I’m here to do. “(Lerner) is the owner of the club and the chairman – it’s his club and he can do what he wants – but I still have a good relationship with him. “I love it here, it’s a great club and a great fanbase. I never came here to Villa to be like this, no chance. The club’s too big to be where it is – I recognised from day one when I walked through the door. “This club should never be in the position it has been in for the last four years – never.”
“We have a responsibility to the Barclays Premier League and to the rest of the teams that we give the best we possibly can,” Pulis said. “We know our two games at home are going to be very difficult against two top teams and Fulham might still be fighting to get out of the bottom three – other teams around us expect us to put in a shift so it’s all to play for. “I hope there won’t be any let-up from the players. “I think the fact they are big games, especially the two home games which are on television as well, gives the lads the opportunity to show everyone how well they’ve been playing and they have been playing well.” Marouane Chamakh and Kagisho Dikgacoi are both trying to shake off knocks as Crystal Palace host Manchester City in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday. David Silva and winger Jesus Navas will both miss Manchester City’s trip with ankle injuries, but Yaya Toure should be available again to bolster the midfield. Toure suffered a muscle injury in the 3-2 defeat to Liverpool earlier this month but is now ready to return for the Blues. Defender Matija Nastasic, out of action since February because of a knee injury, remains out. Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has said there has never been any concern that the club would be excluded from the Champions League for breaching UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) rules. UEFA president Michel Platini has said he does not think any of the 20 clubs who are being investigated for breaches will be banned form European competition next season. City have been working closely with UEFA to try to ensure they comply with spending rules, which limit losses to 45million euro (£37million) over the last two years. Pellegrini said: “I felt here inside the club nobody feared we could be suspended for next year.” City insiders say they are confident that they will not face severe action from the European governing body. Any sanctions are likely to be made public at the end of next week. Meanwhile, Pellegrini believes Sergio Aguero’s return from injury could prove crucial as City try to push Liverpool all the way in the title race. City travel to Crystal Palace on Sunday knowing that they must win if they are to have any chance of beating Liverpool to the league title. Pellegrini said: “It is very good to have him back because I always say Sergio is a good player, he is important, he makes a difference. Always he is very important for the team.” The Eagles, who are 11th in the table, achieved their objective of survival in the top flight when they beat West Ham 1-0 last Saturday. Pulis’ side could still have a major influence on matters at both ends of the league, however, with Sunday’s match against Manchester City coming before another home game against league leaders Liverpool and a visit to relegation-battling Fulham on the final day. Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis believes the title race is still wide open and insists his players have a responsibility to the Barclays Premier League to give their all until the end of the season. Press Association
Ryan Giggs has announced his retirement as a player following his appointment as assistant manager to new Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal. The 40-year-old made public his decision to hang up his boots in an open letter published on United’s website. Giggs is the most decorated player in United’s history having won 34 trophies in a career which saw him make 963 appearances for his only club. Press Association United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: “Ryan Giggs has been one of the greatest players ever to wear the red shirt of Manchester United. “What he has achieved will never be equalled in the English game. “In the way he played, he was the embodiment of a Manchester United player – fast, skilful, entertaining and determined to win by playing exciting football. “His progress from the ranks of the famous ‘Class of ’92’ to the most decorated player in this or any club’s history is down to his hard work, ability and attitude. “He is at the start of an exciting new chapter in his and the club’s life but now is the right moment to reflect on the achievements of the finest British player of the last 25 years.” Giggs, who made his first-team debut at the age of 17 in 1991 and also earned 64 caps for Wales, said: “My dream was always to play for Manchester United, and although it saddens me to know I won’t be pulling on a United jersey again as a player, I have been lucky enough to have fulfilled that dream playing with some of the best players in the world, working under an incredible manager in Sir Alex Ferguson, and most of all, playing for the greatest fans in world football.” Giggs’ honours included 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League successes. He has served as a player-coach over the past year and took over as interim manager for the final four games of last season after the sacking of David Moyes. United were thought to be keen to retain his services in a coaching capacity and his future is believed to have been a key part of negotiations with Van Gaal. Giggs said: “For me, today is a new chapter filled with many emotions – immense pride, sadness, but most of all, excitement towards the future. “United fans I hope will share and echo my belief that the club, the management and owners, are doing everything they can to return this great club to where it belongs, and I hope to be there every step of the way. “To the greatest fans in world football, thank you, I have loved every minute of playing for you and representing the biggest and best club in the world.” Giggs, who came through United’s youth ranks and was a member of their famous ‘Class of ’92’ group of FA Youth Cup winners, was one of the finest players of his era.
Tottenham winger Andros Townsend intends to hit the ground running when the new Barclays Premier League campaign kicks off. “So for me, our targets or objectives is to finish in the top four, and I want to help the team finish in the top four.” Pochettino has yet to bring in any new signings, with midfielder Jake Livermore being allowed to join Hull for £8million following a successful loan spell. Spurs have been linked with Algeria international Yacine Brahimi and Standard Liege’s Nigeria forward Imoh Ezekiel. “It is a big season for me. Last year was my breakthrough for club and country and now it is important I build on that and show a lot more consistency than I did last year,” Townsend said to Spurs TV. “I am 23 next week, so that will come with age, and hopefully I can build on what I did last season.” Townsend added: “I did not get much holidays, but it was important for me to make sure I was 100 per cent fit coming back to training so I can be fit and impress the manager.” Another player hoping for a fresh start under Pochettino is Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togo forward was brought in from the cold by former boss Tim Sherwood last season, scoring 11 goals. Adebayor aims to continue to impress former Saints manager Pochettino as Spurs look to improve on sixth place. “My summer was great. The most important thing is to come back and train, to work hard,” Adebayor said. “Nothing is personal – I play for Tottenham and we are a team. Press Association Having done so much to help England qualify for the World Cup, Townsend was a frustrated spectator after an ankle injury ruled him out for the end of last season, and he had to watch on as Roy Hodgson’s men laboured through a bitterly disappointing all-too-brief stay in Brazil. The midfielder did some media punditry at the World Cup before returning to London to continue his rehabilitation work, and he is determined to step things up again as new Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino puts the squad through their paces at Enfield this week.
Press Association Hull midfielder Robert Snodgrass has been ruled out for six months with a dislocated kneecap. Tigers manager Steve Bruce revealed the extent of the injury ahead of the club’s Europa League qualifier against Lokeren in Belgium on Thursday, a club spokesman confirmed. And it could get worse for Snodgrass who is due to undergo scans to investigate possible ligament damage. Snodgrass was one of Bruce’s big summer signings, joining from Norwich for £7million. The 26-year-old pulled up with a suspected twisted knee in the first half of his side’s 1-0 Barclays Premier League win at QPR on Saturday. Snodgrass wrote on Twitter: “Gutted ….!!! But I will work as hard as I can to come back fitter and stronger.”
A lapse in concentration saw Spieth three-putt the 12th as Mickelson birdied the 13th and the six-shot lead was suddenly down to four. But Spieth responded with a superb long-iron approach on the 13th and although he missed from 14 feet for eagle, the resulting birdie took him five clear with five holes to play. Rose closed the gap once more with a birdie on the 14th seconds before Mickelson joined him on 14 under by holing out from a bunker on the 15th for an eagle, the roar causing Spieth to back off his par putt on 14. However, Spieth responded once more with a birdie on the 15th to become the first player ever to reach 19 under par in the Masters and that effectively made certain of the win. The star pairing of McIlroy and Woods had failed to produce the early fireworks they needed to get into contention and Woods had more pressing concerns after appearing to hit a hidden tree root when playing his second shot out of the pine straw on the ninth. “A bone kind of popped out and a joint went out of place but I put it back in,” Woods told CBS after just this third appearance of 2015. “Considering where I was after Torrey Pines and Phoenix, to make the complete swing change and rectify all the faults and then come here and contend, I am proud of that.” Woods hit just two fairways in his closing 73, but finishing joint 17th was still a vast improvement on his 82 in Phoenix and withdrawing injured after 11 holes at Torrey Pines. The 21-year-old is the first player since Ray Floyd in 1976 to lead outright from start to finish, as well as becoming the second youngest champion ever behind Woods. Now ranked second in the world, Spieth is just five months older than Woods was in 1997, having almost become the youngest ever champion when he led by two shots after seven holes of the final round on his debut last year. World number one Rory McIlroy, needing to win to complete the career grand slam, had to settle for fourth place on 12 under par after a flawless closing 66, with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama fifth and Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson sharing sixth. “If someone had told me I would finish 12 under at the start of the week I would have taken it and sat back and seen where I finished,” McIlroy admitted. “Jordan started fantastically well and has kept his foot down and been really impressive.” Rose twice got within three shots of Spieth on the front nine thanks to birdies on the first and second and bogeys from Spieth on the fifth and seventh, the latter coming after Rose conjured up a remarkable pair after twice tangling with the trees. Spieth had said after his third round he could not rely on his short game to secure a first green jacket, but an excellent pitch from just short of the eighth green set up a birdie that Rose could not match. And when Rose three-putted the ninth Spieth had the comfort of a five-shot lead with nine holes to play, with Mickelson another shot back having also bogeyed the ninth. Spieth took another massive step towards the title with a birdie from 20 feet on the 10th and saved par after a wild tee shot on the 11th to maintain a six-shot lead over Rose and Mickelson – who had also birdied the 10th – with seven holes to play. Having already set new 36 and 54-hole scoring records, Spieth also equalled the 72-hole record of 18-under set by Tiger Woods in 1997 after a bogey on the 18th, finishing four shots clear of Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson . Spieth’s total of 28 birdies beat the previous best of 25 set by Mickelson in 2001, his last of the week on the 15th also making him the first player ever to reach 19 under par in the Masters. Press Association American Jordan Spieth claimed his first major title in historic fashion with a commanding wire-to-wire victory in the 79th Masters at Augusta National on Sunday.