Scottish Premiership Wrap: Motherwell, St Johnstone clinch narrow wins

4 August 2013 18:31

Motherwell left it late to seal all three points in their opening Scottish Premiership game of the season on Sunday.

Last season’s runners-up in the now-defunct Scottish Premier League controlled the vast majority of their fixture against Hibernian, but had to wait until seven minutes from time to break the deadlock through Henri Anier.

The Estonia international, making his league debut for Motherwell following his loan move from Viking FK, finished smartly to give Stuart McCall’s side a well-deserved win.

Hibernian started the game well but Motherwell were soon in command, with Iain Vigurs and Bob McHugh wasting decent chances.

Scott Robertson went close for the home side with a stinging volley around the hour-mark, but Anier’s late goal proved decisive.

In Sunday’s other Scottish Premiership clash, last season’s third-placed finishers St Johnstone also got off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory over troubled Hearts at McDiarmid Park.

Hearts are facing an uphill struggle to retain their top-flight status after being deducted 15 points for entering administration, and Stevie May’s first-half strike ensured their season started with a defeat.

St Johnstone were on top from the outset and it took striker May just 25 minutes to put them in front with a brilliant individual effort.

The 20-year-old Scot picked up the ball on the left-hand side and curled a spectacular shot beyond Jamie MacDonald in the visitors’ net.

These results mean Motherwell and St Johnstone join champions Celtic, Aberdeen and Inverness on three points after the opening round of fixtures.

De Boer praises Bojan, Van der Hoorn

4 August 2013 18:03

Ajax manager Frank de Boer has backed both Bojan Krkic and Mike van der Hoorn to shine following their close-season arrivals at the club.

Barcelona loanee Bojan made his Eredivisie debut on Friday as Ajax eased to a 3-0 win over Roda JC, while Van der Hoorn, a recent acquisition from Utrecht, was an unused substitute.

And De Boer has been pleased with the early efforts of both players, despite their ongoing battles for fitness.

“You can see that Bojan is a good player,” he told the club’s official website.

“Before coming he had not played since April due to a thigh injury. He has fit in very well during the close-season as he was quickly able to play 45 minutes.

“(Van der Hoorn) has had a very tough season. In addition, he was in Israel at the youth European Championships.

“Eventually Mike will fit in well, I expect that he can succeed at Ajax. We now have a full squad, which we can work with.”

Ajax are aiming for their fourth consecutive Eredivisie title.

Coyle plays down McCarthy exit speculation

4 August 2013 17:46

Wigan Athletic have yet to receive offers for James McCarthy or any of the current squad, manager Owen Coyle has revealed.

McCarthy was part of the Wigan side that romped to a 4-0 victory at Barnsley on Saturday as Coyle’s opened the Championship season in some style.

The 22-year-old midfielder, who joined from Scottish club Hamilton Academical in 2009, is held in high regard and has been linked with a move to Newcastle United, but Coyle is keen to play down speculation he is set to leave the DW Stadium.

The Scot said: “I’ve not had any inquiries, let alone offers, for any of my players.

“But ultimately good players attract attention and there’s no getting away from it, James McCarthy is such a hugely talented player.

“And if there is any interest, he’ll be the first to know. Then as a club we decide what happens from there.”

Wigan, the 2013 FA Cup winners, are aiming to re-join the Premier League at the first time of asking following relegation in May.

Like Coyle, Wigan owner Dave Whelan is realistic about the club’s chances of holding on to their best players.

Whelan, though, will do what he can to persuade the keep the likes of McCarthy.

“We’re trying to keep hold of our best players,” Whelan told talkSPORT.

“I always promise the players who come to Wigan that if a big club comes in for them I will try and help them move because I know what it’s like when you’re playing football.

“You want to get to the top and it’s exciting to get to the top.

“However, we’re going to try and keep what we’ve got because there is such a fabulous feeling through the football club at present.”

Thai Premier League wrap: Muang Thong cut gap, Chonburi win thriller

4 August 2013 17:35

Muang Thong United moved three points behind Thai Premier League leaders Buriram United with a 2-0 win at Songkhla United on Saturday.

Rene Desaeyere’s men kept the pressure on Buriram – who had the weekend off due to Sisaket’s expulsion from the division – as goals from Edivaldo and Teerasil Dangda saw them over the line.

Just behind the leading duo, third-placed Chonburi came from behind to beat Ratchaburi 4-2 on Sunday.

The visitors took a surprise lead through a Suttinun Phukhom own goal, but the defender atoned for his error to level just before the break.

Midfielder Kazuto Kushida put the hosts in front five minutes into the second half, before Terdsak Chaiman and Samuel Ajayi killed the game off late on and Jose Luis Cordero netted a consolation for Ratchaburi in injury time.

Suphanburi are just two points adrift in fourth following their 3-1 success at relegation threatened Samut Songkhram, which came courtesy of goals from Porawat Siriwatanagorn and Bireme Diouf in the 85th and 90th minutes respectively.

Elsewhere, Chananan Phombuppha scored a hat-trick as Osotspa cruised to a 4-0 triumph over TOT, the striker netting three times in 20 minutes in the second half before Tangeni Shipahu completed the rout 10 minutes from time.

And Army United’s 3-2 win over Pattaya United allied to BEC Tero Sasana’s 1-1 draw with Bangkok United means both teams sit level with Osotspa on 28 points having played 19 games.

Frenchman Michael Murcy was another player to net a hat-trick over the weekend as he helped Police United to crush Bangkok Glass 5-0.

Meanwhile, Chiangrai United defeated Chainat FC 2-1, with Nanatawat Thaensopa and Choklap Nilsang finding the net for the hosts and Mbengono Yannick scoring in reply.

UEFA Champions League Qualifying Preview: Celtic, Lyon travel with leads

4 August 2013 17:31

Celtic, Lyon and PSV will take leads into crucial away encounters in the second leg of the third round of UEFA Champions League qualifying.

A total of 15 ties will conclude this week, with the winners to enter the play-offs round where places in the group stage for Europe’s premier club competition will be up for grabs.

Scottish champions Celtic failed to convert their dominance in a 1-0 win over Swedish outfit Elfsborg at Celtic Park last week.

And they may be made to rue their profligacy in front of goal on Wednesday against a side who have lost just one competitive match at home in 2013.

While Celtic are just one game into their league campaign – a late Anthony Stokes strike gave them a 2-1 win over Ross County on Saturday – Elfsborg have played 18 encounters in the Swedish Allsvenskan and sit sixth in the table.

Lyon will also hit the road with a one-goal advantage, gained in a 1-0 win over Switzerland’s Grasshopper last week.

Milan Bisevac headed the winner for the Ligue 1 outfit, but they will also be wary due to their slender advantage as they prepare for the second leg fixture at Stadion Letzigrund in Zurich on Tuesday.

Eredivisie side PSV have more breathing space as they visit Zulte-Waregem of the Belgian First Division on Wednesday with a 2-0 lead.

Turkish Super Lig side Fenerbahce claimed a 1-1 draw at Salzburg and host the Austrian outfit on Tuesday, and Partizan of Serbia will attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Ludogorets of Bulgaria on the same day.

Zenit of Russia won 1-0 at Nordsjaelland in Denmark last week and host the return leg, while Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen lead 4-0 ahead of a home fixture against Estonia’s Kalju. Both of those games will take place on Wednesday.

Also this week, Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb and Switzerland’s FC Basel travel with 1-0 leads, as they visit Sheriff of Moldova and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv respectively.

Other fixtures see Romania’s Steaua Bucharest take a 2-0 lead into a home game against Georgia’s Dinamo Tbilisi, while Ukraine’s Metalist also lead by two goals and welcome PAOK Salonika of Greece.

APOEL of Cyprus and Denmark’s Molde are both at home against Slovenia’s Maribor and Poland’s Legia Warsaw, with both legs locked at 1-1.

Iceland’s FH will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit when they host Austria Vienna, but Albania’s Skenderbeu Force appears even tougher as they trail Kazakhstan’s Shakhter Karagandy 3-0.