Sunday, January 3, 2016

FOOTBALL: Arsenal go clear at top, relief at last for United

Arsenal go clear at top, relief at last for United

Toby Davis, Reuters

Arsenal and Manchester City showed they have the stomach for a title fight on Saturday with the Premier League leaders sinking Newcastle United 1-0 and Manuel Pellegrini's men launching a late comeback to beat Watford 2-1.

There was celebration at last for Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal as his team ended a dismal six-game league streak without a win by defeating Swansea City 2-1.

Arsenal's victory was scrappy and nervy but Laurent Koscielny's 72nd-minute winner was enough to move them two points clear at the summit after Leicester City's surprise push faltered with a goalless draw at home to 10-man Bournemouth.

Manchester City underlined their credentials as Arsenal's main challengers and although they looked forlorn for much of the game at Vicarage Road, they showed their mettle in the closing stages.

Trailing 1-0 to Aleksandar Kolarov's own goal, Yaya Toure volleyed home superbly in the 82nd minute and Sergio Aguero headed the winner moments later to wrap up a precious win that kept them three points behind the pacesetters.


Substitute's Partey piece sends Atletico top

Tim Hanlon, Reuters

Substitute Thomas Partey scored his first La Liga goal as Atletico Madrid beat bottom club Levante 1-0 to go top of the table on Saturday while Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw at Espanyol.

Hosts Atletico lacked a finishing touch in front of goal until Partey struck nine minutes from the end with a shot that squirmed away from keeper Diego Marino.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both hit the woodwork as Barcelona drew with Espanyol.

Barca set a Spanish record of 180 goals in all competitions in 2015 but their normally prolific attack drew a blank against their local rivals who were strong in the challenge, especially in the first half, and succeeded in disrupting their play.

Elsewhere, Charles and Raul Albentosa gave mid-table Malaga a 2-0 victory over fifth-placed Celta Vigo.


Benitez supports 'serious kid' Rodriguez
Kieran CANNING, Agence France-Presse

Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez has backed star playmaker James Rodriguez after the Colombian was followed to the club's training ground by police accused of speeding at up to 200 kilometres an hour.

Madrid sports daily AS published photos and a video of an unmarked police car following the top scorer at the 2014 World Cup to the entrance of the club's Valdebebas training ground on Friday.

However, Benitez hinted Rodriguez will be involved when Madrid travel to Valencia in a crucial La Liga clash on Sunday.

"Evidently, we are talking about a private matter. James is a good kid, he is serious, he has given us his explanations about what happened and there is no more to say," Benitez said on Saturday.

"I repeat he is a serious kid and what we have to do is wait and see."


Pogba says Man Utd was holiday compared to Juve

Agence France-Presse

French star Paul Pogba says his time at Manchester United was like being on holiday in comparison to the work he has to do at Juventus.

Pogba, who has helped Juve win three consecutive league titles since controversially quitting United in 2012, made the remark in a wide-ranging interview with Turin daily La Stampa in which he also tips Argentinian team-mate Paulo Dybala as a future winner of the Ballon d'Or.

"People need to know that nothing at Juve is easy," Pogba said. "There is a different culture of work compared to elsewhere. I was at Manchester: it seemed like being on holiday.

"Here we work so much. All these titles, we didn't steal them. It was by working right to the end."


Gerrard eyes Liverpool coaching return in 2016

Agence France-Presse

Liverpool great Steven Gerrard could return to the club in a coaching capacity as early as this year, he revealed in a British newspaper interview published on Saturday.

Gerrard, 35, left Liverpool for the Los Angeles Galaxy last year, but he has been training on Merseyside during the Major League Soccer close season and is now eyeing a role on Jurgen Klopp's coaching staff.

"I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think it will probably be my last year as a player," the former Liverpool and England captain told the Daily Telegraph.

"I am basically available from November, December 2016. Everyone in the football world will know I am available and hopefully I will be 75 percent into my coaching badges."