Copa Sudamericana wrap: Gremio draw first blood

1 August 2012 10:47

Gremio hold a narrow advantage in their Copa Sudamericana second-round tie with Coritiba after winning the first leg 1-0 on Tuesday.

Forward Andre Lima struck the winning goal for hosts Gremio in the 72nd minute of the match at Estadio Olimpico Monumental, courtesy of an assist from midfielder Leo Gago.

Coritiba must now overhaul the deficit in the second leg of the all-Brazilian clash, which will take place at Estadio Major Antonio Couto Pereira on August 23.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Colombian club Deportes Tolima have one foot in the second round after they won 3-1 at home to Deportivo Lara.

It took hosts Tolima until five minutes before half-time at Estadio Manuel Murillo Toro to open the scoring in the first-round tie, when Robin Ramirez found the back of the net.

And they made it 2-0 just 60 seconds later, with defender Yair Arrechea the man on target.

Jose Torrealba claimed what could prove to be an important away goal for the visitors when he netted on 54 minutes.

But Carlos Preciado restored Tolima’s two-goal cushion six minutes past the hour mark.

In other first-round matches, Chilean side Deportes Iquique downed Nacional of Uruguay 2-0 at home.

Sebastian Ereros and Misael Davila struck in the first half and second half respectively to secure a first-leg victory for the hosts at Estadio Tierra de Campeones.

And Ecuadorians Emelec also hold a narrow lead going into their second leg, after they defeated Universidad San Martin of Peru 1-0 at home.

Midfielder Efren Mera claimed the game’s only goal in the 66th minute at Estadio George Capwell.

Hughes denies Berbatov link

1 August 2012 10:45

Manager Mark Hughes has denied that QPR have submitted an official offer for Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov.

The Red Devils are believed to be ready to show the Bulgaria international the door, with a price of about five million pounds being touted.

And the Loftus Road outfit have been busy in the transfer market this summer – having already recruited the likes of Junior Hoillet, Rob Green and Andy Johnson.

However, Hughes was dismissive of the latest link, and refused to speculate on the possibility of the striker arriving in London.

Speaking after the 3-0 pre-season win over League One side Wycombe Wanderers, Hughes told Sky Sports News: “There are a lot of names flying around. That is a new one on me, in fairness.

“At this time of year, there are a lot of names flying around. But we prefer to get the job done, get the business done, and then we announce it.”

Berbatov, who has already been linked with the likes of Turkish giants Galatasaray, has struggled to break into Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting line-up following the emergence of England international Danny Welbeck and the form of Mexican youngster Javier Hernandez.

A move to East London for Berbatov would see him link up with former team-mate Park Ji-Sung who sealed his switch from United last month.

Club friendly: New York Red Bulls 1 Tottenham 2

1 August 2012 09:37

Gareth Bale and Gylfi Sigurdsson steered Tottenham to a 2-1 victory in New York on Wednesday.

Kenny Cooper had given the Red Bulls an early lead from the penalty spot, and while Spurs initially struggled to find their rhythm in the opening 45 minutes, the north Londoners soon kicked into gear in the second half as they secured a comfortable win ahead of their return to the UK.

Andre Villas-Boas made six changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Liverpool on Saturday, with Heurelho Gomes replacing Brad Friedel in goal, while Bale – injury free despite Charlie Adam’s much-maligned challenge – was deployed as a lone striker with Harry Kane dropping out of the starting XI.

For the hosts, there was no place for ex-Arsenal forward Thierry Henry in the squad against his old rivals, but Tim Cahill was handed his debut at the Red Bull Arena following his switch from Everton to the MLS last week.

And the Australian midfielder made an immediate impact, finding himself through on goal after latching onto a ball in behind Jan Vertonghen which in turn forced the Belgian centre-back to foul him in the box.

Cahill stepped aside to allow Cooper to take the penalty, and the striker duly converted from the spot to give Red Bulls a 1-0 lead after eight minutes.

Spurs soon rallied, with Bale testing Bill Gaudette from 25 yards with a well-struck free-kick before Tom Huddlestone’s drive from distance stung the goalkeeper’s hands. The Welshman rose well to meet the resulting corner but was unable to guide his header on target.

Villas-Boas introduced Kane, Jermaine Jenas and William Gallas for the second period, with Bale assuming a more fluid role – a move that almost reaped immediate rewards.

The 23-year-old found space down the left-hand flank to whip in a cross which worked its way to Aaron Lennon on the edge of the box, and the wideman drew an acrobatic save from Gaudette with a powerful effort that looked destined for the back of the net.

Yet the shot-stopper was unable to hold out for much longer, with two moments of class turning the game on its head in the space of five minutes.

First, the ever-impressive Bale rose above his marker to guide a header into the top left-hand corner and pull Spurs level on the hour mark, before Sigurdsson burst into life to give the away side the lead.

Having jinked superbly in between the Red Bulls defence, the Icelandic international coolly dispatched the ball past Gaudette in a manner reminiscent of Henry, who was watching on from the bench.

A third goal was not to follow, despite Michael Dawson clattering the bar from the six yards and a late flurry of chances for substitute Andros Townsend.

Mascherano thrilled to sign extension

1 August 2012 09:32

Argentine international Javier Mascherano is delighted to have extended his Barcelona contract until 2016.

Mascherano had already reached an agreement over the new deal at the end of July, and he finalised the agreement by putting pen to paper on Tuesday.

“I am very happy that a club as big as this has offered to extend my contract,” Mascherano was quoted as saying on the official Barca website.

“I can feel relaxed that as long as I do things well, I can stay here for many more years. Ending my playing days in a Barcelona shirt now depends on me and how I perform as a footballer.”

The versatile midfielder went on to discuss his side’s ambitions for the 2012/13 campaign, and he was clearly feeling positive about Barca’s chances under new coach Tito Vilanova.

“We have high hopes. We’re working very hard,” he said.

“The leader is now Tito Vilanova and he will try to adapt his footballing tastes to the team, but the important thing is that, in most ways, it will be much the same as ever.”

Mascherano, 28, joined Barcelona from Liverpool in August 2010 and has become an important member of the Catalan club’s first team, unexpectedly filling in at centre-back under former coach Pep Guardiola.

Nagatomo primed for Europa clash

1 August 2012 08:51

Yuto Nagatomo says he is in good condition ahead of his Inter’s season-opening Europa League clash at Hajduk Split on Thursday.

The Italian club, who finished sixth in Serie A last term, take on the Croatians in the third qualifying round for Europe’s second tier competition as they try to book a spot in the group draw.

Japanese full-back Nagatomo has been named in the squad for the match and said he’s fit and healthy after battling injuries at times last season.

“We are ready for the Europa League game with Hajduk Split,” he told Inter Channel.

“We need to win right from the first leg in Split. Personally I am in good shape and ready to run. Running is my job.”

The 25-year-old made 43 appearances in all competitions in the 2011-12 season.