Aloisi welcomes back returning trio

13 December 2012 03:44

Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi will throw his returning stars straight into the starting line-up for Friday’s clash with Central Coast.

Full-backs Aziz Behich and Michael Marrone, plus winger Richard Garcia, returned to training with the Heart on Wednesday after being involved in Australia’s East Asian Cup qualifying campaign in Hong Kong.

Despite two clean-sheets without the two regular defenders, Aloisi said all three men will start at Bluetongue Stadium.

“Richie and Aziz played all the games, alright they didn’t play 90 minutes in all of them, but they were involved in all of them,” Aloisi said at La Trobe University on Thursday.

“They came back happy, fresh and so they’re going to be involved tomorrow. All three will start.

“(Nick) Kalmar will miss out (for Garcia), which is hard on Nicky because Nicky played really well last week. But we all know what Richie can do.”

Aloisi said last week’s late-goal hero Golgol Mebrahtu, who scored on debut for the Heart to secure a 1-0 win over Perth Glory, would again be used from the bench as he continues to work toward full fitness after a succession of injuries.

The Heart coach said the league-leading Mariners present a formidable challenge for his team, and described Graham Arnold’s side as one of the most consistent in the competition.

“They made the grand final the first year, when I was there we won the minor premiership and made the grand final,” he said.

“(Captain John) Hutchinson, he goes unnoticed. He’s the one that leads that team, on the pitch and off the pitch. He’s brilliant.

“Team spirit goes a long way and the Mariners have had that from the beginning and that’s why they’ve been successful and consistent.

“We know the Mariners are a good side, well-organised and we know what to expect from them – it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re confident we can get something there.”

Coppa Italia wrap: Juve, Catania edge wins

13 December 2012 03:30

Sebastian Giovinco’s goal was enough for Juventus to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia as they triumphed 1-0 over Cagliari.

Celebrations for the home team were muted, however, as they suffered injuries to Emanuele Giaccherini, Arturo Vidal and Nicklas Bendtner before and during the match that could stretch their squad to breaking point in the coming weeks.

Juventus coach Antonio Conte was given a rousing reception by home fans on Wednesday as he returned to the bench in Turin for the first time following his suspension, and the hosts wasting no time in piling the pressure onto Cagliari.

The first half was almost completely one-sided in terms of possession and territory, but the Sardinians were pardoned on more than one occasion by Juventus’ inability to put the ball in the back of the net.

The home side had to wait until the 57th minute to finally break through Cagliari’s defences with Giovinco picking up a loose ball to jink past a couple of opposition players and net the opening goal.

Juventus were in no mood to surrender their narrow advantage and held on to book a place in the next round, keeping their dreams of a third domestic double alive.

In the other round of 16 clash, Catania triumphed on penalties away to Parma after the game finished at 1-1.

Parma went ahead in the 12th minute through a goal from Dorlan Pabon but the home side’s joy was short lived as Francesco Lodi equalised from the spot seven minutes later.

Despite having another 101 minutes of regular and extra time to score a winner, neither side troubled the scorers again, meaning penalties were required.

Catania won the shootout 4-3 with Parma’s Marco Parolo and Gabriel Paletta the two players to miss from the spot.

Copa del Rey wrap: Barca cruise, Real slip up

13 December 2012 03:19

Barcelona have defeated Cordoba 2-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie, while Real Madrid stumbled away at Celta Vigo.

Lionel Messi was the difference once again for Barcelona, scoring in either half to take his 2012 tally to 88 goals and put his side in pole position to advance to the quarter-finals ahead of their second-tier opponents.

All the early momentum belonged to Cordoba, with a powerful drive from Fede forcing Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Pinto into an acrobatic save, before Sebastian Dubarbier crossed towards the far post, where Pedro Antonio drilled the ball just wide.

But Barcelona survived the early test and took the lead in the 11th minute when Pedro showed good awareness to pick out the unmarked David Villa on the left, who squared the ball to Messi to score from a few yards out.

Both sides had plenty of chances in the second half before Messi scored in 74th minute, sliding the ball in at the far post to finish off Alexis Sanchez’s pass.

Barcelona will take their 2-0 first-leg lead into their home match on December 18.

In Vigo, Real had Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for giving them a crucial away goal after a disappointing match away from home.

Celta stunned their much-vaunted opponents in the 56th minute when Michael Krohn-Dehli’s teasing cross found Mario Bermejo at the back post and the veteran forward side-footed the ball home from a tight angle.

The theme of Real’s stuttering season continued 22 minutes later when Celta’s pressure forced the capital club to cough up position and Cristian Bustos took advantage, driving forward with the ball and then smashing a brilliant strike from outside the box into the far top corner.

But with a second leg in Madrid to come, Ronaldo gave Real plenty of hope of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, scoring in the 87th minute after timing his run expertly to get in behind Celta’s defence.

In other first leg results in the Round of 16, Sevilla look to have just about qualified after smashing Mallorca 5-0, Valencia won 2-0 away to Osasuna and Atletico Madrid triumphed 3-0 over Getafe.

I´m right, says Fred, for Mariners

Melbourne Heart captain, Fred, talked about improvements in Australia after his 50th appearance in A-League.

 

“It’s much better than the time that I played with Victory.” he said after his training. You can find soccer betting (click here) at Top Bet, and bet on his team, Melbourne Heart.

 
“The players are better too and I think that’s why the fans are coming to watch and helping the league grow every single year.”

Manchester United is coming to Australia after 14 years, next July, to play agains’t A-League all-star team, Fred said:

“I haven’t played against them. It’s a good experience for the players if they come and play against them. It’s a big team, a big name in the world, and it would be fantastic for everyone.”

After his groin surgery and a hamstring strain hampered he is starting to feel good.

“I’m good. I’ve come back from injury and I’ve tried to get fit and I feel much better now. I think I’m ready to play good – I’m getting there.”

“I think I’ve put too much pressure on myself, to do things I used to do it. But like I said, I’m getting fit and I hope I can play much better this weekend.”

Conte returns with renewed enthusiasm

13 December 2012 02:42

Antonio Conte wants Juventus to challenge for silverware on every front this season.

The coach’s plea came after Juve reached the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Cagliari.

Sebastian Giovinco’s strike was enough to settle the tie in Turin, and the 43-year-old, returning to the home dugout for the first time since completing his suspension, was delighted that his much-changed side was able to keep another trophy quest alive.

“I’m pleased we went through tonight because we want to be challenging on all fronts,” he was quoted as saying by the club’s official website.

“We were up against a decent Cagliari side and they were well set out on the pitch. Now we’ll wait to see whether we face AC Milan or Reggina in the next round.

“Today the lads who have been playing less gave me the response I was after. I’m sorry for (Emanuele) Giaccherini – he was forced to withdraw because of some sort of flu bug, so I had to field Arturo (Vidal), who had a knee problem.

“And I was especially sorry for (Nicklas) Bendtner, I would have liked to see him have a longer run-out.”

Conte received a rapturous reception from the Juventus Stadium faithful, and the former midfielder admitted he was moved by the fans’ response.

“It was really touching, it’s always nice to know you’re appreciated,” he added.

Luca Marrone echoed the crowd’s sentiments towards the coach, and added that his boss wasted no time in making his own feelings about the first-half performance known at half-time.

“You could sense the crowd’s affection for him from out there on the pitch,” he told reporters.

“We’re delighted to have him back with us because he’s such an important presence. He made his presence felt during the break today too!

“We put in a good performance and we’re glad to have made it through to the next round because we want to go all the way.

“It’s important for us to stay in all the competitions so that those who are featuring less get more opportunities to play.”