Archive | January 29, 2015

Jordon Mutch signs for Crystal Palace….

Jordon Mutch

Crystal Palace have signed midfielder Jordon Mutch from Queens Park Rangers for an undisclosed fee, BBC reports. The 23-year-old has agreed a four-and-a-half year deal at Palace to end his short stay at Loftus Road, having only joined Harry Redknapp’s side in August 2014 from Cardiff City. Mutch made 11 appearances in all competitions for QPR. He started his career at Birmingham and moved to Cardiff in 2012, featuring 60 times for the Welsh club. The former England Under-21 international helped the Bluebirds secure promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history before switching to QPR.

Crouch and Whelan sign new Stoke deals….

Stoke City have confirmed that Peter Crouch and Glenn Whelan have extended their stays at the Britannia Stadium by a further two years, FourFourTwo reports. Peter Crouch and Glenn Whelan have penned new two-year contract extensions with Premier League club Stoke City. The duo’s new terms will see them remain at the Britannia Stadium until 2017. News of Crouch’s new contract will be particularly pleasing to Stoke fans, after the striker was repeatedly linked with a move to QPR. Stoke manager Mark Hughes told the club’s official website: “We’ve been talking to both players for a while and it’s pleasing that both want to stay and be a part of what we are striving to achieve at the club. “They are both fantastic professionals who had contributed a great deal to Stoke City long before I joined the club and have continued to do so. I’m delighted they are staying with us for at least another couple of years.” Chief executive Tony Scholes added: “Players like Glenn and Peter are very much the backbone of our squad and we’re delighted they have committed to spend at least another two years with the club. “They have both proved to be fantastic signings for Stoke City. The experience they bring to bear on the side, both on and off the pitch, cannot be under-estimated and they still have so much to offer.” Former England international Crouch moved to Staffordshire in August 2011 and has gone on to score 28 Premier League goals for the club. He took to Twitter to express his happiness at his new deal, posting: “Delighted to have signed an extension with @stokecity loved my time here so far looking forward to playing a part in coming years #SCFC.” Midfielder Whelan has also proved to be a valuable member of Stoke’s first team since joining from Championship club Sheffield Wednesday in January 2008. The Republic of Ireland international helped the club achieve promotion later that year, and has continued to gain regular action following Hughes’ arrival as the successor to Tony Pulis.

AFCON 2015: Guinea progresses by drawing lots….

Guinea will play in the African Nations Cup quarterfinals after qualifying instead of Mali by the drawing of lots at a ceremony in Malabo on Thursday, Supersport reports. Lots were drawn to determine second place in Group D after both countries finished level after their three opening round matches. Ivory Coast won the group. Three successive 1-1 draws for both teams meant they could not be separated by points, their head-to-head result, goal difference or goals scored. Guinea will now play Ghana in Sunday’s quarterfinal in Malabo at 1600GMT. “The gods of football fortune smiled on us. It has been a long road up to now,” Amara Dabo, financial director of the Guinea Sports Ministry, who participated in the draw, told Reuters. A representative from both countries drew a ball each from a bowl with Mali’s football association president Boubacar Diarra going first and pulling out the one that placed them third in the group and out of the running. Dabo then drew the ball that confirmed his side in second place behind group winners Ivory Coast. “Unfortunately we have to split up two teams that are even, perfectly joined, but we had no other choice but to proceed to the drawing of lots,” said CAF president Issa Hayatou at the draw in Equatorial Guinea. It was only the third time in African Nations Cup history that a draw had to be conducted to separate two teams after the group phase. Previous drawing of lots in 1972 and 1988 favoured Congo and Algeria.

McLaren unveils new car….

McLaren MP4-30

McLaren have officially unveiled the car that Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will race in 2015, the Honda-powered MP4-30, Formular 1 reports.
According to the Woking-based team, the new machine, which also features a revised red, black and silver colour scheme, is a ‘thoroughly refined evolution’ of their 2014 car with some ‘exciting new technical DNA’. The MP4-30 has been extensively developed over the winter, with McLaren saying that their engineering department – which was boosted by the arrival of renowned aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou from Red Bull last September – had gained the conviction to embark on a number of changes of direction. The result, according to McLaren, is a solid base package which will offer up a number of new development paths for their engineers, aerodynamicists and drivers to pursue during the season. Images of the new machine show a refined nose-box section (to comply with new regulations on nose height and shape), slim rear-end packaging (particularly around the gearbox) and tightly contoured bodywork under which Honda’s brand-new RA615H Hybrid power unit is installed. Although admitting that their partnership with Honda is still ‘a work in progress’, McLaren are confident that the Japanese manufacturer, with whom they won eight world titles and 44 Grands Prix between 1988 and 1992, has ‘the know-how, expertise and the muscle’ to make rapid progress and keep pushing development all season long. Speaking about McLaren’s first Honda-powered car in 23 years, Ron Dennis, the McLaren Group’s chairman and CEO, commented: “Although our renewed alliance (with Honda) began again many months ago, the launch of the McLaren-Honda MP4-30 marks the start of a lengthy journey. “We’ve come a long way already and, although there’s a lot of work to do before we can expect to repeat the level of success we enjoyed together 25-or-so years ago, it’s already clear that there’s enormous synergy and potential in our partnership, and I’m positive that, together, we’ll get to where we want to be: winning Grands Prix and eventually World Championships as McLaren-Honda.” Yasuhisa Arai, Honda’s senior managing officer, shared Dennis’ enthusiasm about both the new car and the reforged partnership. “As you can see with the new MP4-30, we’ve dedicated ourselves as one team with McLaren to creating a new car that compromises on nothing – either power or aerodynamics. “Yet, in the midst of the excitement, both myself and our engineers are 100 per cent focused in both Sakura and Milton Keynes to prepare for Jerez and beyond. We’re confident that the technology is there, and I’m looking forward to see how it will perform. “We’re about to commence a long season, with numerous challenges, but Honda is determined to face them head-on. After all, we’re here to drive Formula One’s technology forward and give our fans a thrilling ride.” The MP4-30 is expected to make its track debut at the start of pre-season testing in Spain this Sunday.

Thai Group buys Sheffield Wednesday….

Sheffield Wednesday have been taken over by a Thai consortium led by businessman Dejphon Chansiri. Chansiri, whose family owns Thai Union Frozen Group, has acquired a 100% stake in the Championship club, BBC reports. Owls chairman Milan Mandaric, who had been in charge since December 2010, confirmed earlier this month the club were in talks with potential investors. “I am very excited at the prospect of taking over control from Milan,” Chansiri told the club website.  “I believe this club has huge potential and I can assure all our supporters that I will be working extremely hard to bring the success that I already sense from my short time in your city our supporters so desperately crave. “My son Att, who was a mascot at the recent Blackpool game, is passionate about football and I know will be my inspiration in this project. “I have made the same promise to him as I do our supporters, he will not let me forget this until we are back in the Premier League.” The deal remains subject to ratification by the Football League. The takeover brings an end to Mandaric’s four-year stint as owner of the club, and although he is set to step down as chairman and as a director, he will remain at Hillsborough in an advisory role.

Defender Gabriel Paulista signs for Arsenal….

Arsenal have signed Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista for 15m euros (£11.2m) with forward Joel Campbell joining the Spanish side on loan until the summer, BBC reports. Brazilian Gabriel, 24, was ever-present for Villarreal this term and could face Aston Villa on Sunday. He said: “I had a talk with my family and I told them that it was my dream to play in the Premier League. “The fans can expect a Gabriel that on the field has a lot of will to be able to help the team win important things.” Arsenal were granted a work permit for Gabriel, who can play at centre-back or full-back, on Monday, despite the fact he is uncapped and not a European Union citizen. He joined Villarreal from Brazilian club Vitoria in 2013. Gabriel is available for selection for Arsenal’s Premier League home game against Villa. Campbell, 22, has signed a new long-term contract with the Gunners before heading to Villarreal for the rest of the season. He signed for Arsenal in 2011 from Costa Rican club Deportivo Saprissa SAD but has yet to score the Gunners. He has been loaned out to French club FC Lorient, Spanish side Real Betis and Greek outfit Olympiakos in the past.

2015 AFCON Results and Quarterfinal Fixtures….

Sat 31 Jan 2015:

Congo v Congo DR 5 pm

Tunisia v Equatorial Guinea 8:30 pm 

Sun 1 Feb 2015:

Ghana v Mali or Guinea (awaiting lots) 5 pm

Ivory Coast v Algeria 8:30 pm

*Time = Nigerian.

Yesterdays Results:

Wed 28 Jan 2015:

Cameroon 0 – 1 Ivory Coast

Guinea 1 – 1 Mali

Barca throws out Athletico from Copa del Ray….

Neymar and Lionel Messi

Barcelona overcame nine-man Atletico Madrid in a fiery Copa del Rey quarter-final to seal a 4-2 aggregate victory, BBC reports. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Fernando Torres drove Atletico level inside a minute but Neymar quickly swept home a Barca counter-attack. Atletico led again through Raul Garcia’s penalty but Miranda’s own goal and a second for Neymar left the hosts needing three to progress at the break. Gabi was sent off in the tunnel at half time and Mario Suarez saw red late on. Their dismissals were in keeping with an ill-disciplined Atletico performance and when Neymar argued with home players on his way to the tunnel at the interval, he drew a cursory point of the finger from Gabi, who did not return for the second half. Atletico midfielder Arda Turan threw his boot in a bizarre moment of anger as the game slipped away from his side and the home side’s hope had been extinguished by the time Suarez collected a second yellow card for a foul on Lionel Messi. It was Barca’s third and decisive goal on the night which seemed to ignite tempers as Jordi Alba created a tap-in for Neymar, seconds after appearing to handle a goalbound Antoine Griezmann shot inside the area. From that moment, petty fouls underlined Diego Simeone’s side’s frustration as Barca eased to a last-four meeting against either Getafe or Villarreal, who lead 1-0 from the first leg. The angry end to the night was in stark contrast to the beginning, when Torres pulled down a long ball, flummoxed former Liverpool team-mate Javier Mascherano and drove in off the post inside a minute. It was the striker’s third goal since his return to his boyhood club but Barca looked imperious on the break and when Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar combined, the Brazilian swept a classy leveller across the keeper from 12 yards. Garcia’s penalty – earned when Mascherano appeared to foul Juanfran outside the box – rekindled home hope but Miranda hooked a Sergio Busquets glancing header into his own net to dampen spirits. The breakaway goal, started by Alba’s controversial block, then arrived but little should be taken away from the Barca left-back who ran the length of the field to collect Messi’s pass and deliver a cross for Neymar to finish a blistering counter. Luis Enrique’s side are now one tie away from a fifth Copa del Rey final in seven seasons.

Diego Costa charged for alleged stamp….

Costa and Can clash after the alleged stamping incident

Diego Costa has been charged for violent conduct after an alleged stamp following the Capital One Cup semi-final with Liverpool on Tuesday, BBC reports. The Chelsea striker, 26, faces a three-match ban for his challenge on defender Emre Can during the 1-0 victory. The Spaniard could miss Saturday’s league match with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge if he is found guilty. He has until 18:00 GMT on Thursday to respond to the Football Association’s charge. He is being charged for the first of two alleged stamps that were not seen by referee Michael Oliver. He also appeared to stand on central defender Martin Skrtel in the Liverpool penalty box in the second half. The first-half incident involving Can took place close to the technical area and prompted an angry response from the Liverpool player. Reds manager Brendan Rodgers said at his post-match press conference: “He could easily hurdle over the young player and he directs his studs right on to his ankle, which could’ve been nasty.” Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said after the game that he feels the Brazil-born Spain international is being targeted unfairly. The Blues, who won 2-1 on aggregate, will face Tottenham in the final at Wembley on Sunday, 1 March.

Mali and Guinea AFCON fate to be decided by lots….

Lots will decide whether Guinea or Mali reach the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals after a draw in Mongomo. Modibo Maiga’s header from Abdoulay Diaby’s cross in the second half left Mali and Guinea with identical records, having drawn each of their games 1-1. The drawing of lots has been postponed until Thursday, having originally been pencilled in for Wednesday evening. Guinea had taken the lead when Kevin Constant coolly dinked home a penalty given for handball by Salif Coulibaly. Mali should have levelled immediately but Seydou Keita’s penalty was saved, after Baissama Sankoh was penalised for handball. However, neither side was able to find a winning goal on an uneven pitch. The all-important draw will now happen in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) hotel in Malobo at 4 pm Nigerian time, during a meeting of the competition’s organising committee. The names of the two teams will be placed into two balls, before an official is invited to pick one ball – inside which will be the name of the team that has qualified for the quarter finals as group runners-up and will face Ghana on Sunday afternoon. The last time lots were drawn to decide a team’s qualification in this tournament was in 1988 when Algeria profited at Ivory Coast’s expense.

Williams and Sharapova for 2015 Australian Open Final….

Serena Williams will face Maria Sharapova in the final of Women’s Singles of 2015 Australian Open after the pair won their semi-finals in straight sets in Melbourne, BBC reports. World number two Sharapova won an all-Russian contest against Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-2. Williams, the top seed, converted her ninth match point to beat fellow American Madison Keys 7-6 (7-5) 6-2. Britain’s Andy Murray takes on Czech Tomas Berdych in the first men’s semi-final at 08:30 GMT. Williams, 33, capped a fine performance with a dramatic ending as she saw seven match points slip by at 5-1, before converting her ninth with an ace and a scream in the following game. Keys, 19, matched Williams for power but not always control as the 18-time Grand Slam champion edged a tight match over one hour and 24 minutes. The world number one, a five-time champion in Australia, recovered from 3-0 down to force a tie-break and clinched it with a big serve. A fired-up Williams bounced up and down in delight at the baseline, and powered on with a break at the start of the second as she began to dominate the Keys second serve. Williams flipped a brilliant forehand winner around the net post on her way to breaking again at 4-1 and eventually closed out after that gripping seventh game. Sharapova, the 2008 champion, had earlier needed one hour and 27 minutes to beat 10th seed Makarova for the sixth time in six meetings. The 27-year-old coped well on serve after saving two break points in a testing 10-minute opening service game, easing into a 4-1 lead. Makarova, 26, hinted at a comeback when she broke for 4-3 but Sharapova responded immediately and served out the set after 48 minutes. When she hammered away a backhand for the double break at 3-0 in the second, there was no way back for Makarova. Sharapova made it six games in a row, saving two more break points at 4-1, to seal a place in her 10th Grand Slam final. The Russian has a 2-16 record against Williams and has not beaten the American since 2004. “I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam, no matter who I’m facing and whether I’ve had a terrible record – to say the least – against someone,” said Sharapova. “It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.”