Roura, Barca focused on Deportivo

8 March 2013 16:23

Jordi Roura says Barcelona are only thinking about beating Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, not Tuesday’s crucial game against AC Milan.

Barca sit 11 points clear in La Liga, and are heavy favourites to claim the title.

Their European ambitions are far more precarious – Barca lost 2-0 away to Milan in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg the 45-year-old.

But despite their showdown with Serie A opposition in midweek appearing to be the priority, stand-in coach Roura has insisted the Deportivo game will not be overlooked.

“We have to get the three points against Deportivo because it is important for the league. It is a step towards the title and the team is good, working hard,” he told reporters.

“Our intention is always to try not to concede, but our goal is to win the game tomorrow. Tuesday is another story.”

Roura also called for calm amid recent criticism of Barcelona’s performances, which has seen them lose twice to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and league, as well as that defeat to Milan.

“We all know this club. People tend to have an exaggerated euphoria when you win and excessive pessimism when you lost.

“When the results don’t come, the players naturally resent that, but for the first two days, they’ve worked well.”

Poyet tempted by Chelsea job

8 March 2013 15:52

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet has not ruled out managing his former club next season but would prefer to lead Brighton in the Premier League.

Poyet has been manager of Brighton and Hove Albion since November 2009 and has led the club to within striking distance of promotion to the English Premier League this season.

The 45-year-old Uruguayan has received plenty of plaudits for his work on the English south coast and, with Chelsea likely to be looking for a new manager, Poyet has been strongly linked with the job at the club where he played 105 games from 1997 to 2001.

But Poyet would much prefer to make his Premier League managerial debut with Brighton if possible.

“When? Where? Time will tell (when he will manage in the Premier League),” Poyet said.

“Me, I would like to do it with Brighton because it will be an unbelievable achievement.

“But if not we’ll see in the future.”

Brighton sit sixth in the English Championship with 11 games to go and if they can maintain that position they will have a chance of promotion through the playoffs.

The south coast club have not played in England’s top tier since the 1982/83 season but even if they do not get promoted this season, Poyet is confident Brighton are on the right track.

“I always say that I hope it takes not too long to get there because like any other manager or player in the world you want to get to the top as quickly as possible but everybody can see the steps are being made in the right way,” Poyet said.

“We’re not in a hurry but I think we’ve got a great chance, sooner or later, to get in the Premier League.”

Poyet is not the only ex-Chelsea player managing in the Championship to be mentioned as a replacement for interim coach Rafael Benitez.

Gianfranco Zola, who is in charge of second-placed Watford, has also been linked with the position of Chelsea manager and Poyet would have no problems if the 46-year-old Italian got the job.

“If I got the chance, it would be fantastic,” Poyet said.

“If Gianfranco (got it), I would be delighted, not only for him but for the Chelsea fans as well.”

Shattered Jets fall into finals struggle

8 March 2013 15:50

Newcastle Jets coach Gary van Egmond said finals action is in jeopardy, after his side’s heart-breaking 2-1 loss to Perth on Friday.

The Jets are still clinging to fifth spot on the ladder after the defeat but due to last week’s re-scheduled Round 26 clash with the Wellington Phoenix, they have only two matches remaining this season to push for a finals berth; away to Adelaide and at home to league leaders the Western Sydney Wanderers.

“We have made it very difficult for our run into the semis,” a shell-shocked van Egmond said after the loss.

“We know what we need to do to make the six, probably to win both games. We go there with the knowledge of knowing what we have to do. In some ways that is good.

“When you play at home you are always wanting to get three points and it was very disappointing to walk away with nothing.”

The Jets controlled the match from the outset, dominated possession and territory and created 17 shots on goal to Glory’s 10.

But the visitors were more clinical in front of goal. They took the lead with a goal on the counter to Argentine Matias Cordoba in the 24th minute before Adam Taggart equalised for the home side to see the teams locked 1-1 at half-time.

The Jets squandered a host of good chances in the second half as well as being denied by some fine goalkeeping from Glory custodian Danny Vukovic.

The Glory inflicted the killer blow when skipper Michael Thwaite poked home in stoppage time after the Jets failed to deal with a swinging Scott Jamieson corner.

“You don’t want to lose in any fashion but in particular in the fashion that we lost,” van Egmond said.

“We dominated the game for long period and we obviously created a number of chances but the name of the game is putting the ball in the back of the net and unfortunately that is what we didn’t do.

“We got our pocket picked right there at the end. It was a disappointing result.”

The Jets coach said he was proud of the way his young side responded from last week’s demoralising 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Melbourne Victory, and said they would have to lift themselves up again for the final two games of the season if they were to make the finals.

“It was a great response from the boys,” van Egmond said.

“They were excellent in their performance and thoroughly controlled the game but it just about us making sure we take our opportunities when they present themselves but unfortunately that wasn’t to be.

“We have a week off and as you can see they responded extremely well and hopefully we will welcome back a couple of fresh legs in Zenon (Caravella) and Sam Gallaway.”

However van Egmond said Newcastle’s marquee man was unlikely to take part in next week’s away clash with Adelaide.

“He (Heskey) has got that tear in his calf and I don’t think he is going to be right for Adelaide, but he should be fine for the West Sydney game.”

CSL wrap: Guangzhou open title defence in style

8 March 2013 15:39

Reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande have begun the new Chinese Super League season with a 5-1 thumping of Shanghai Shenxin.

Brazilian striker Elkeson scored twice for Evergrande as they destroyed Shenxin in the second half in Guangzhou, notching all five of their goals after the break with the visitors adding a late consolation through Yang Jiawei.

After Shenxin worked hard to keep the game scoreless in the first half, the home team increased their intensity after the break, with Dario Conca scoring the opening goal for Evergrande in the 50th minute following a knock down by Gao Lin.

Elkeson grabbed his first goal of the game in the 61st minute when Conca jumped over Ni Bo’s pass to let the ball run to the 23-year-old Brazilian, who swivelled at the top of the box, before thumping his shot home.

Just two minutes later Guangzhou controversially made it 3-0 as Conca, who was offside, received Elkeson’s pass before teeing up Gao.

Elkeson produced a fine curling shot in the 72nd minute to complete his brace and Evergrande moved five goals clear with two minutes left plus stoppage time through substitute Muriqui.

Yang’s deflected strike gave Shenxin some joy a minute later but it did nothing to change the outcome for Evergrande, who moved straight to the top of the CSL on goal difference.

Each of the top three clubs from last season all won on Friday, with Beijing Guoan (third in 2012) crushing Shanghai SIPG 4-1 and Jiangsu Sainty (second) defeating Wuhan Zall 2-1.

In Beijing, Guoan scored three times in the first half to take a 3-1 lead into half-time before an own goal after the break from SIPG’s Wang Jiajie wrapped up the win for the home side.

Lang Zheng, Joffre Guerron and Wang Xiaolong scored for Guoan in the first half with SIPG attacking midfielder Wu Lei grabbing the visitors’ goal after some fine footwork in the box.

In the 79th minute, the hosts wrapped up the scoring at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing, when a cross from the right was headed into his own net by visiting defender Wang.

Guoan took second spot on the CSL standings ahead of Sainty, while Qingdao Jonoon are fourth after Bruno Meneghel’s second-half injury time goal gave them a 2-1 win away to Guizhou Renhe.

Sacchi slams lax Barcelona

8 March 2013 15:33

Arrigo Sacchi believes Barcelona have become too relaxed in their style of football since the departure of former boss Pep Guardiola.

Sacchi, who won two European Cups while managing AC Milan, believes the La Liga leaders – who sit 11 points clear at the top – have lost some of their prowess.

“Barcelona are not so exciting because Guardiola has gone,” the 66-year old told reporters.

“Easily winning the league has probably relaxed the team. Lately I’ve seen a bad image of Barcelona which is unknown for this team.”

But the former Milan coach is still wary of the threat of the Blaugrana, who are 2-0 down in their Champions League last 16 tie after Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari scored for the Serie A side in the first leg.

“Milan can run the risk of being defeated if they are afraid,” Sacchi said.