Monthly Archives: January 2017

EFL: Saints ousts Liverpool; United enters final over Hull

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The League Cup will have less of a rivalry factor after Liverpool was ousted from the tournament by Southampton while United, also defeated, enter the final fixture on aggregate advantage over Hull City.

Claude Puel’s Southampton will play at Wembley with two fully deserved victories over two legs against Liverpool — the latter coming from Shane Long’s late winner at Anfield.

Defending a 1-0 lead from their first leg home victory, the Saints already threatened to put the tie out of Liverpool’s reach inside the first 45 minutes. However, Dusan Tadic’s close-range shot was blocked by keeper Loris Karius and captain Steve Davis blazed another great chance wildly over.

There was little Liverpool could do as they raised the tempo in front of the Kop in the second half. Daniel Sturridge wasted their two best chances, while the hosts also had a late penalty appeal turned down when substitute Divock Origi tumbled under Jack Stephens’ challenge.

But Southampton broke clear in the closing moments and Long finished convincingly from Josh Sims’ pass to win the game by 1-0.

It was the first final Southampton reached in this competition since 1979, and they will meet Manchester United, all without conceding a goal in the process.

Manchester United, on the other hand, had a 17-match unbeaten run ended with defeat at Hull City but will still enter the final thanks to a Paul Pogba strike.
Despite a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, the Red Devils did not have the influence they had in their home after making five changes to the team.

The inevitable followed, and Tom Huddlestone put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot after four players had tangled in the area, with the key offense being Marcos Rojo’s pull on Harry Maguire’s shirt.

However, Hull hopes were all but dashed when Paul Pogba poked through the legs of Maguire and into the bottom corner from 10 yards.

Rojo headed against the bar for United and the Tigers’ Oumar Niasse also struck the woodwork before he turned in David Meyler’s cross to set up a tense finale.

United held on regardless, and former Chelsea boss Mourinho could move level with Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson on four League Cup wins at Wembley on 26 February.

Sergio Ramos sets sight on double after Copa del Rey defeat

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Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos insisted that his club will continue to aim for major trophies this season.

The Real Madrid captain said that he was disappointed Los Blancos was foiled in their quest for a treble this season after their elimination from the Copa del Rey by Celta Vigo.

Celta defeated Real away by 2-1, and tied 2-2 with the European champions at home, advancing to the Copa del Rey semi-finals by 4-3 on aggregate.

“It’s a tough loss and we are sad,” Ramos said. “We tried but it was not to be and we nevertheless have to be proud of our performance.”

“It’s hard to be eliminated but it’s better that it has happened now than in a month’s time. Now we must move on, show the same attitude and improve from our mistakes.”

“The Champions League and La Liga remain the most important competitions.”

Real have won just one and lost two of their last five games in all competitions, with a 2-1 league defeat at Sevilla on mid-January that ended their impressive unbeaten run at 40 games.

“We know that our unbeaten run was not going to be eternal,” Ramos said. “It’s obvious that we’ve had a great first half of the season and we are not worried.”

Federer edges past Wawrinka into Australian Open final

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Roger Federer will compete for his 18th grand slam singles title after his triumph against fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in a short but tense five-set Australian Open semi-final at the Rod Laver Arena.

Federer, 35, who last won a major at Wimbledon in 2012, won 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 across three hours and five minutes.

Although the Swiss Maestro was returning from a six-month lay-off to rest his left knee, there was no sign of any lingering aftereffects as the 17-time grand slam winner cruised to three early break points before converting his first set point, on Wawrinka’s serve, right on the 12th game.

Federer broke for the second time at 2-3 in the second set, and a frustrated Wawrinka smashed his racquet in two over his left knee and, after the set, left the court with a trainer for treatment to his other knee.

In some way, it helped as Wawrinka came back superbly to win the third set in 26 minutes, and the 31-year old broke Federer in the ninth game of the fourth set to take the match to a decider.

Federer went courtside for treatment too, before coming back fighting and breaking Wawrinka in the sixth game as the US Open champion double-faulted on break point.

An unyielding Federer went on to complete a stunning victory to the delight of the majority of fans in Rod Laver Arena.

“I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Federer. “I felt like everything happened so quickly at the end, I had to check the score.”

“I never ever in my wildest dreams thought I’d come this far in Australia. It’s beautiful, I’m so happy.”

Federer Is now the oldest player to reach a Grand Slam final since Ken Rosewall did so at the 1974 US Open at the age of 39.

While his current unprecedented run in the grand slam event had seen him defeat two top-10 players — Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori before reaching the semi-final, his arch-rival Rafael Nadal could be the one meeting him — in a battle potentially reminiscent of their golden days — in the grand final for the tennis major trophy.

League Cup semi-final preview: Liverpool vs Southampton

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Southampton holds a slim 1-0 lead heading into their semi-final replay against Liverpool, but will be without key defender Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk limped out of the Saints’ 3-0 win over Leicester City last weekend with an ankle problem.Jack Stephens, an England Under-21 international could feature if Van Dijk is deemed unfit.

Club manager Claude Puel says he has no fears going into the second leg at Anfield even as Southampton aims for a first cup final since 2003.

“Of course, it is special to play at Liverpool but I think it will be an exciting game,” Puel said. “It is important for all of the players, the squad, to play this game with a positive attitude. It will be dangerous and not good to just defend and try to preserve this lead.”

On the other hand, while Liverpool has been stumbling slightly in the Premier League, the return of defender Joel Matip could make a crucial difference for the Reds.

Matip was included in the provisional Cameroon squad for the Africa Cup of Nations but was one of seven players to say they did not want to play. While FIFA could impose a ban on players on such grounds, Matip had since been cleared to play.

However, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp could also see that as the Merseyside club stumbles in the Premier League race, so does their enthusiasm for the other trophies declines too.

“You cannot just give up on a season when it still holds so many possibilities,” Klopp said. “We are in two cups and we must fight for a place in the Champions League. We are still close enough to fight for nearly everything. Is anyone really saying that if we cannot be champions we cannot enjoy the season?”

“We can improve on last season and that’s what we should all be aiming for. That is what I would regard as taking the next step. And if this is a long-term project, obviously that means we need to make a few steps. As long as we keep developing, that’s fine for me.”

Prediction:
Liverpool (2) – (0) Southampton