Brazil Serie A wrap: Star duo spark Santos

17 August 2012 05:34

The return of Neymar and Ganso paid instant dividends as Santos won 3-1 over Figueirense in Brazil’s Serie A.

In their first match after returning from Brazil’s Olympic campaign, Neymar and Ganso each scored a goal as Santos came from behind to win.

Thursday’s match started in strange circumstances as first Santos defender Juan and then Figueirense midfielder Tulio were sent off with straight red cards.

But with the first half ending goalless, Figueirense took the lead three minutes after the break when striker Aloisio turned inside the penalty area, before floating a cross to the back post, which Fernandes powered past Santos’ goalkeeper Rafael Cabral.

The visitors hit back almost immediately, however, as Neymar collected a throw in, skipped past two defenders and curled his shot inside the far post in the 51st minute.

In the 77th minute, Bruno Peres gave Santos the lead before Ganso completed the win with a goal five minutes from the end.

Neymar set up the goal after he beat Figueirense’s offside trap, squaring the ball to Ganso for a simple tap-in.

Thursday’s win is only Santos’ fourth of the season as they sit 14th in the standings, while Figueirense are bottom of the league.

Vasco da Gama, who are third, missed the chance to go second on the table with a 2-2 draw with Coritiba.

Junior Urso scored the opener for visiting Coritiba in the 22nd minute.

But after Felipe equalised for Vasco four minutes into the second half, the home side looked to have won the game when Wendel made it 2-1 in the 88th minute.

However, Coritiba stole a draw with a 90th-minute goal from Everton Ribeiro.

In the other match on Thursday, a towering header by Paulo Andre in the 68th minute clinched a 1-0 victory for Corinthians over Internacional.

Copa Sudamericana wrap: Tigre trump Juniors, Liverpool advance

17 August 2012 05:17

Argentine club Tigre won their Copa Sudamericana second-round first leg 2-1 over Argentinos Juniors on Thursday.

In the day’s sole second-round match, two goals from Uruguayan Diego Ferreira helped visitors Tigre to a crucial victory at the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona, ahead of their home leg in a fortnight.

After a scoreless first half, Ferreira opened the scoring in the 52nd minute only for Juniors striker Leonel Jorge to equalise 10 minutes later.

The match looked headed for a draw until Ferreira netted the winner in the first minute of injury time.

The two sides will meet again at the Estadio Jose Dellagiovanna on August 31.

Meanwhile, Uruguayan side Liverpool booked their place in the second stage with a 5-1 aggregate win over Bolivian side Universitario.

After taking the first leg 3-0 at home, Liverpool finally made sure of their victory with second-half goals from William Ferreira and Flavio Scarone after Marcelo Escalante opened the scoring for the hosts with a penalty in the 53rd minute.

Colombian side Deportes Tolima also secured their passage into the second stage following a scoreless draw at Deportivo Lara.

The Venezuelan side lost the first leg 3-1 and failed to make in impact in their second leg as Deportes Tolima successfully held them at bay.

La Liga preview: Barcelona, Real Madrid set to dominate

17 August 2012 04:49

After last season’s two-horse race to the title, Barcelona and Real Madrid prepare to battle again on the eve of the La Liga season.

Having broken Barcelona’s three-year stranglehold on the Spanish title, Jose Mourinho’s Real loom as the favourites for what has become one of the most predictable pieces of silverware in world football.

The Portuguese saw his side claim the title by a healthy margin of nine points but perhaps more glaring was Barcelona’s 30-point gap to third-placed Valencia.

The champions kick-start their campaign at home to Valencia on Sunday with relatively the same squad as last year, aside from Sergio Canales and Fernando Gago (both Valencia), having fended off PSG’s interest in Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain.

Tottenham’s wantaway playmaker Luka Modric has provided the sole focus of Mourinho’s transfer dealings and although the Croatian is yet to sign, president Florentino Perez has shown great patience in the past and could well seal the deal at the last hour.

That aside, there has been little action from La Liga clubs on the transfer market with the higher profile deals that were completed, largely done within the league.

Jordi Alba’s move from Valencia to Barcelona typified the drain of talent away from La Liga’s also-rans.

He will slot into Tito Vilanova’s squad as he replaces Pep Guardiola as coach after four glittering years at the Nou Camp.

His 14-million-pound move looks an increasingly good bit of business after his starring role for Spain as they defended their European Championship title in Poland and Ukraine.

Add to that striker David Villa, who will be back in contention for a place after nearly 12 months on the sidelines, and Barcelona will virtually have another new signing on their hands.

They host Real Sociedad on Saturday where fans will catch the first competitive glimpse of the changes Vilanova has made to the system after a full pre-season in charge.

Meanwhile, Sevilla have prized away goalkeeper Diego Lopez from relegated Villarreal, Dutch defender Hedwiges Maduro (Valencia) and Alberto Botia (Sporting Gijon) during a busy window of transfer activity for the club.

Last year’s ninth-placed side have made wholesale changes to their squad after finishing outside the top five for the first time since 2005-06 and will look to make amends, starting at home to Getafe on Saturday.

As well as Canales (7.5 million euros) and Gago (3.5 million euros), Valencia splashed out on Sporting Lisbon’s defender Joao Pereira and Las Palmas midfielder Jonathan Viera in a bid to cover for Alba’s move.

They’ll be looking for another top-three finish and to keep pace with the top two and will be given a golden opportunity to do so away to Real on Saturday.

In other fixtures on Saturday Celta Vigo welcome cash-strapped Malaga and Mallorca entertain Espanyol.

Athletic Bilbao host Real Betis on Sunday and Levante are at home to Atletico Madrid, who should have new signings Aritz Aduriz (Valencia) and Daniel Diaz (Getafe) in their squad.

On Monday, Deportivo La Coruna welcome Osasuna in their first game back in the top flight, Rayo Vallecano do battle with Granada after both narrowly avoided relegation last season, and Real Zaragoza are at home to Real Valladolid.

Gago relishing Mascherano partnership

17 August 2012 04:23

Fernando Gago has says that he is ‘very comfortable’ playing next to Javier Mascherano for Argentina.

Argentina recorded an impressive win over Germany during the midweek internationals, with Gago and Mascherano both putting in solid displays in the centre of midfield during their 3-1 victory in Frankfurt.

“I feel very comfortable playing with Javier,” said the Valencia midfielder. “It is not the first game we have played together, we have played many times over the years and understand each other well.”

Though they ran out convincing winners, Gago admitted that Alejandro Sabella’s men took a while before settling into the game.

“We struggled a bit in the opening exchanges,” he said. “However, after 20 minutes we started to play better, we started to play with the ball more and controlled the game.

“We have to continue working and improving and we need to try and be more dominant from the beginning.”

Chantome rates PSG among Europe´s best

17 August 2012 04:16

Paris Saint-German youngster Clement Chantome believes his team are as strong as the biggest European clubs.

The 24-year-old midfielder has risen through the youth academy but, despite being a fan favourite, is having to fight some of Europe’s finest players for a first-team spot.

But Chantome would not have it any other way.

“Look, I will say the same thing I said last year, for me, who was born here in Paris, it makes me feel so good to see Paris at the same level of the others big teams in Europe,” Chantome said.

“It’s good for the club, hopefully we will keep improving to reach the objectives that the club has set itself.

“I’m really happy.”

PSG did not start their new season as they would have liked as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Lorient.

It was the second year in a row Lorient had thwarted the Parisian club at home on the opening day of the Ligue 1 season; the minnows from the north-west of France defeated PSG 1-0 last season.

It took a last-gasp Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty to rescue the draw but Chantome is not worried ahead of PSG’s next match, against Ajaccio.

“It will take a little bit of time,” Chantome said.

“We have seen against Lorient, first half was disappointing because we could not find ourselves on the pitch.

“It’s normal, we felt the same situation last year.

“There are a lot of new signings, and it is hard to play well straight away…we’ll take our time, hopefully it’ll be good as soon as possible.”