Premier League: Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2

29 December 2012 15:53

Carlos Cuellar’s own-goal and a wonderful Aaron Lennon strike saw Tottenham Hotspur come from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1 on Saturday.

It was a thoroughly deserved win for Andre Villas-Boas’ team and further enhanced their claims for a Champions League qualification spot as they defeated a largely mediocre Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light.

The hosts made one enforced change from their Boxing Day win over Manchester City, with John O’Shea replacing left-back Danny Rose, who was ineligible against his parent club, while Spurs made a change to their central defence, with Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson coming in for Jan Vertonghen and William Gallas.

The opening 20 minutes was a tight and cagey affair, with neither side able to stamp a footprint on the game, however, as the half wore on it was the visitors who began to dominate proceedings.

And after half an hour they came within inches of getting the opening goal as Jermain Defoe found space on the left side of the penalty area and curled a shot toward the far post.

His effort was not properly cleared by defender Carlos Cuellar and Emmanuel Adebayor pounced, only to see his shot cannon back off the crossbar from little more than four yards out.

The visitors kept up a sustained period of pressure, creating several half-chances, so when the first goal came, it did so very much against the run of play.

Sebastian Larsson whipped in a devilish free-kick from the left which found Steven Fletcher at the near post, who got the better of several Spurs defenders and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to flick the ball into the path of the unmarked O’Shea.

The former Manchester United man rolled the ball into the empty net to give his side a somewhat undeserved lead.

That was the last chance of the half, but just three minutes into the second Tottenham grabbed a well-deserved equaliser.

Kyle Walker took an in-swinging corner from the left which would have been met by the head of Gareth Bale, but before it reached the Welshman it deflected into the net off Cuellar after he collided with team-mate Craig Gardner.

And just two minutes later the comeback was complete, as Lennon scored an outstanding goal to put the visitors in front.

The England winger picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and nudged it into space before speeding around a static O’Shea to expertly finish past a helpless Simon Mignolet.

It was the outstanding moment of quality in the game, and gave Spurs the lead their play up until that point merited.

And 10 minutes later Tottenham had a great chance to put the game beyond doubt as Gareth Bale picked up the ball inside his own half and drove forward down the left before squaring for an unmarked Defoe.

The pacey forward was denied by a stunning save by Mignolet and Defoe will know he should have done better.

Sunderland were struggling to get themselves back into the game, and Mignolet was forced once again to keep his side in with a sniff when he denied Adebayor with 10 minutes left.

The final minutes failed to produce any outstanding chances, and Spurs held on to record their second consecutive away win.

Pepe: Ronaldo will stay

29 December 2012 15:42

Real Madrid centre-half Pepe believes Cristiano Ronaldo will extend his contract with the club.

The former Manchester United attacker is rumoured to have grown unhappy with life at the Santiago Bernabeu, and has been recently linked with a move to Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

The French side are also reportedly interested in signing Real manager Jose Mourinho, who is enduring a difficult period as his team find themselves in third place in La Liga, 16 points off arch-rivals and table-toppers Barcelona.

“Cristiano is happy at Real Madrid and focused on helping the team. I’m sure he’ll extend his contract,” Pepe said.

“However, I’m not sure what Mourinho will do. There are no certainties. Only the boss knows what the future holds for him, but I hope he stays because we need him.”

Pepe then took the time to comment on Real’s recent struggles in La Liga, and said the team have only themselves to blame.

“It’s not about Barcelona being better, it’s about Madrid being worse,” he said.

“At Madrid we are like one big family. We’re all united because we know we have to be, otherwise we’re going nowhere.”

Agnelli tips more Juve success

29 December 2012 15:07

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has warned his side still have plenty to prove in the Italian top flight.

The Turin outfit enjoyed a memorable 2012 as won the Scudetto and finished the year back on top of Serie A.

The Bianconeri are also through to the round-of-16 of the Champions League, where they are set to meet Celtic.

Agnelli is confident that the club can reach new heights if they continue to work hard and fight to the end on all fronts.

“I think seeing 400,000 people out and about on the day we won the Scudetto was something extraordinary,” Agnelli told the club’s official website.

“I live up in the hills, and I heard the noise after the team’s triumph in Trieste. Watching from afar, hearing and sensing what was going on, was something magnificent.

“Juventus fans are perfectly aware that what’s happened in the past no longer counts for anything. Juventus fans always want the next target.

“So we know we’ll have to work with professionalism, attention and perseverance, because the best victory is always the next one.

“There certainly won’t be a lack of determination (from me), knowing that 2013 will possibly be even tougher than last year.”

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Martins stands by Levante switch

29 December 2012 14:57

Levante striker Obafemi Martins insists he made the right decision to leave Rubin Kazan, although it meant he had to take a “big” pay cut.

Following a low period in his career where he looked set to end it all in the backwaters of the Russian league, the 28 year-old forward has since rediscovered his prowess in front of goal for the Liga side, having netted six times in 13 games.

According to reports, Martins took a huge pay cut from being on an annual salary of two million euros at Rubin down to 600,000 euros to move to Spain and play for Levante, but the Nigeria international is still confident he made the right decision and is delighted to be back among the goals.

“I’m busy playing now and scoring goals, so I’m happy,” Martins told Goal.com.

“You know as a footballer, you can’t expect everything to be going up all the time. When things are difficult you try to sort it out yourself, you try to push yourself back up.

“What I did was I made the decision to leave Russia and I’m in Levante now scoring goals. I wanted my fans to know that I can still play and do well, that’s why I left Russia.

“I chose the favourite team which is Levante and the pay cut was very big. I lost a lot of money because I love football. I have a passion for football that’s why I did it. And now I’m glad I made the decision and I’ve been playing now.”

Praet trying to ignore hype

29 December 2012 14:13

Emerging Anderlecht star Dennis Praet says he is determined to remain grounded after bursting on to the scene in 2012.

The 18-year-old has delivered some eye-catching displays in the Belgian First Division and in the Champions League, with the likes of Manchester United rumoured to have sent scouts to monitor his progress.

Praet has insisted he will not allow himself to get carried away with the hype around his future, and feels the Belgian champions are the perfect club to help him continue his development.

“I’m very down to earth and I’m lucky enough to have good people around me in my family and at the club,” he told the FIFA website.

“If I’d opted for money, I would have gone elsewhere.

“I’m staying who I am and, away from football, I spend my time with my childhood friends. They’re not at all involved in football, and that’s what I need.

“It’s not easy to break through at Anderlecht, but I’ve been fortunate to have the perfect coach. He believes in the younger players and has given me a lot of confidence.

“I can feel the faith the staff have in me from day to day, and obviously that helps.”

Praet, the latest in a long line of prodigious talents to emerge from Belgium in recent years, has already been compared to Barcelona star Andres Iniesta, and Anderlecht team-mate Tom de Sutter has said he can see the similarities.

“Dennis plays like Iniesta,” De Sutter said.

“He’s got good technique, he’s solid, holds onto the ball well, keeps things simple and doesn’t panic. His vision of the game is incredible.”

Praet jokingly added that the likes of Iniesta and Lionel Messi are important role models when he considers his own small physique.

“I know I have to get more muscle, but above all it’s important that I retain my qualities, which are speed and acceleration,” he said.

“Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta aren’t exactly big either.”