Spain dumped out, GB beat UAE

30 July 2012 00:01

Spain have been dumped out of the London Olympics football competition as Great Britain proved too good for United Arab Emirates.

Honduras, though, produced the shock of the tournament as striker Jerry Bengtson fired his side to a 1-0 win over Spain at the Sports Direct Arena.

The 25-year-old’s seventh-minute header, his third goal in two games, ensured that the Spaniards, whose senior team are reigning World and European champions, will go home early following an opening defeat by Group D leaders Japan.

In an ill-tempered encounter, Iker Muniain hit the post and substitute Rodrigo the bar amid a second-half Spanish onslaught, but the Central American side battled heroically to keep Luis Milla’s star-studded side at bay.

Bengtson got the game off to a sensational start when he climbed high to power Roger Espinoza’s driven cross past Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.

Spain gradually worked their way into the game, with Chelsea’s Juan Mata smashing a left-foot volley just wide and then going even closer on the stroke of half-time.

Espinoza might have deepened Spain’s woe had his 51st-minute header not come back off the post, but Adrian Lopez hit the bar at the other end three minutes later with the Spaniards swarming all over Honduras.

Athletic Bilbao midfielder Muniain blasted just wide and then rattled the foot of the post after another enterprising run, but it took a flying save from keeper Jose Mendoza to keep out Rodrigo’s 72nd-minute header, and the striker headed against the bar eight minutes from time.

With Japan beating Morocco 1-0 through Kensuke Nagai’s 84th-minute goal, the Spaniards bow out of the Olympics, leaving Honduras and Morocco with a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals through their last group game.

Meanwhile, goals from Ryan Giggs, Scott Sinclair and Daniel Sturridge helped Great Britain to a 3-1 victory over the UAE, sending them to the top of Group A.

After Giggs had become the oldest goalscorer in Olympic history, GB required a rather more youthful duo to drag them out of a hole after Rashed Eisa had equalised for United Arab Emirates.

Sinclair was scoring with his first touch, although it is perhaps Sturridge who has more chance of featuring in next month’s squad for the friendly against Italy in Berne, especially if he impressed Hodgson with his superb chip 14 minutes from time.

The result got GB back on track to secure a quarter-final berth, although they will almost certainly need to avoid defeat against Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday to seal their knockout berth.

Great Britain opened the scoring through Giggs in the 16th minute as the Manchester United man nodded home Craig Bellamy’s incisive cross.

But UAE were good value for much of the opening half and duly equalised on the hour when Rashed Eisa latched onto a through ball and waltzed through GB’s defence before slotting past Jack Butland.

Butland then prevented UAE from taking the lead as h blocked an effort from Ahmed Khalil with hbis legs before substitute Sinclair, on the field for just a minute, gave GB the lead once again when he scored from another Bellamy cross in the 73rd minute.

And Sturridge wrapped up the win when he added the third three minutes later.

In the other Group A match, a double from Moussa Konate gave 10-man Senegal a 2-0 win over Uruguay, with Konate now having scored three goals so far in two Olympic matches.

Group B saw Giovanni Dos Santos score twice in a 2-0 win for Mexico over Gabon that takes them to the top of the table, narrowly above South Korea on goal difference after they produced a 2-1 win over Switzerland.

New Zealand, meanwhile, remain winless in Group C after a 1-1 draw with Egypt after Mohamed Salah’s 40th-minute goal cancelled out Chris Wood’s opener for the Kiwis in the 17th minute.

Brazil, though, is well out in front in Group C after a convincing 3-1 win over Belarus.

Gullit: Barca still with lots to prove

29 July 2012 21:48

Ruud Gullit believes Barcelona will have to win and retain the Champions League before they can be regarded as the best side in history.

The Dutchman, who was part of the AC Milan team that secured back-to-back European crowns in 1989 and 1990, appreciates the talent the Catalans hold but feels Tito Vilanova’s side must equal the feat achieved by the Italian giants 22 years ago.

“We retained the European Cup, which even the current Barca side couldn’t do,” the Dutchman told reporters.

“But there is no doubt that Barcelona are a great team and are ambassadors of the beautiful game.”

Barca boast three-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi among their ranks, but the former Chelsea and Newcastle manager thinks comparisons with Argentine great Diego Maradona are wide of the mark.

“Diego Maradona is the best ever in my opinion,” Gullit said. “I never saw Pele play live but I have seen and played against Maradona, he is the greatest. Now Lionel Messi and Ronaldo are the two best.”

O´Neill inspired by Newcastle success

29 July 2012 21:42

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill says his side will try to emulate the success of rivals Newcastle in the new Premier League season.

The Stadium of Light outfit failed to finish above Newcastle for the first time since 2008 last term, as Alan Pardew’s side mounted a shock challenge for Champions League football before eventually securing a Europa League berth.

And O’Neill, who took charge of the Wearside club following Steve Bruce’s sacking in December, hopes to see his side use that fact to their advantage next time round.

“If it hasn’t upped the ante, it certainly should do,” he told reporters.

“It was a great season for Newcastle. It might have been unexpected in some quarters, but they signed some very good players and it worked out brilliantly for them.

“It was a really great season. And, of course, that’s something that we want to emulate as quickly as we possibly can.

“But it’s easier said than done.”

Though Sunderland’s league form improved significantly following O’Neill’s arrival, he expressed disappointment over missing out on an FA Cup semi-final berth.

“We made some progress last season but the Everton FA Cup defeat probably served as a reality check after we had played so well against the eventual champions Manchester City,” he said.

And the former Celtic boss acknowledged the need to strengthen his squad in the close-season in order to mount a challenge for silverware.

“We all know what’s needed at the football club. The priorities are to get some players in who will make us a better team,” he said.

“It’s nothing new to me, It’s always a bit of a balancing act.

“I am not trying to make a statement with a transfer. I am more interested in signing players who will make an impact. If they make an impact at the football club I would be delighted and so would the players.”

Club friendlies wrap: Dortmund win again

29 July 2012 21:21

Borussia Dortmund continued their preparations for the upcoming Bundesliga season with a 1-0 friendly win over Legia Warsaw on Sunday.

Juergen Klopp’s side, who have won the last two German titles, are just a fortnight away from their first competitive match when they take on Bayern Munich in the Super Cup.

And they built on a 2-1 win against St. Gallen on Wednesday with a slender success in Poland.

The game’s only goal was scored by Polish forward Robert Lewandowski after just four minutes.

In other friendly fixtures, Lionel Messi bagged a hat-trick in Barcelona’s 8-0 demolition of RCA Casablanca.

Chilean Alexis Sanchez also scored a brace in the comfortable victory for the Catalans.

Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw against FC Kitchee of Hong Kong, while PSV Eindhoven and Union Berlin were also forced to share the spoils in a 1-1 draw.

Sporting Gijon thumped fellow Spanish outfit Deportivo La Coruna 4-1 and West Ham United scored twice in the final 15 minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw against Energie Cottbus of Germany.

Mikel unfazed by pre-season setbacks

29 July 2012 21:10

John Obi Mikel insists Chelsea are moving in the right direction despite losing their second consecutive game on their USA pre-season tour.

The Champions League winners lost 1-0 against AC Milan in Miami on Saturday after going down 3-2 against the MLS All-Star team earlier in the week.

Despite the setbacks, midfielder Mikel, who has seen his place in the side come under threat following the arrivals of Eden Hazard and Oscar, is not concerned.

“I feel good, I think it was a good game for us,” the 25-year-old told Chelsea’s official website.

“It was not the result we would have wanted but there are positives we can take and try to build on it.

“We didn’t create many chances, but there were opportunities and maybe we were just one pass or one run short, so we are getting closer to how we want to be, and if we can keep doing what we are doing we will start to open teams up and improve our play.

“It is still pre-season and we have time to work on a few things before we get to the competitive games.”

The match with the Italian giants was the Blues’ final game of their USA tour, and they now return to London with an eye on the upcoming Premier League season.

And although Mikel says the experience of playing in America is exciting, he admits the squad are ready to return to the UK.

“I think we are all keen to get back home now but it has been a great experience playing in America and meeting so many amazing fans,” he said.

“Now we have to get back and build on what we have done on the tour and we will be in a good place on August 12 for the Community Shield.”

Chelsea’s season kicks off against Manchester City in the Community Shield on August 12.