Relief at last for Hughton

9 December 2012 02:07

Norwich manager Chris Hughton heaped praise on his players after they claimed their first away victory of the season against Swansea.

In a thrilling battle at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, it was Norwich who prevailed 4-3 thanks to goals from Steven Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong, captain Grant Holt and Robert Snodgrass.

Norwich joined Everton as the only clubs to leave the Welsh city with maximum points this season and Hughton was pleased with his side’s character after seeing Swansea reduce the 3-0 half-time margin to just one goal.

“We got the right result,” he said.

“I’m delighted because it is an away win against a team who are in form.

“The first half couldn’t have gone any better for us. We could have been four up when Bradley (Johnson) hit the bar early in the second half, but then we didn’t do ourselves any favours by conceding.

“But I was really pleased with our response at 3-2. People would have expected Swansea to go on and draw or win.

“We had a period where we had to dig deep and show character, but the fourth goal was pivotal for us.”

Saturday’s triumph also eclipsed their longest unbeaten record in the Premier League, set in the 1993/94 season.

Norwich went on an eight-game unbeaten run in 1993 and they surpassed that mark against Swansea, a feat the former Newcastle and Birmingham tactician was quick to commend his players for.

“I’m proud of the players irrespective of any achievements or runs because they put in a tough shift every game,” said Hughton.

“We showed enough resilience at the end to see the game through.

“The players deserve everything because they are the ones who identified we hadn’t got enough points earlier in the season even though the performances weren’t so bad.”

Meanwhile, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said his team did not deserve to win following a poor first-half display.

“We did not play well in the first half,” Laudrup told Sky Sports.

There was a great reaction in the second half, scoring two goals, and it could have been three had the equaliser not been disallowed.

“We didn’t deserve to win after the first half.”

The defeat put an end to a six-game undefeated run for Swansea and, having overcome Arsenal and picked up points against Liverpool and Chelsea, Laudrup believed his side were eventually going to falter.

“I knew a reaction would come to all the good things that have happened recently, the great wins,” he continued.

“I did not know it would come today but it did. So I think it should be a lesson for us.”

Gritty Real Madrid win praise

9 December 2012 02:03

Real Madrid assistant Aitor Karanka praised his side’s resilience after they came from behind twice to beat Real Valladolid 3-2 on Saturday.

Valladolid took the lead on seven minutes through striker Manucho and, after Karim Benzema levelled five minutes later, Manucho scored again to give Miroslav Dukic’s side a surprise lead.

But a goal either side of half-time from Mesut Oezil was enough to give the reigning La Liga champions all three points.

“We made mistakes at set-pieces,” the assistant coach told the club’s official website.

“But you have bear in mind that they were momentary lapses that are correctable and more than anything we can come away confident in the team’s comeback ability, having twice made up for the two mistakes.

“We fought back in a tough and important match.”

With the score 2-2 at half-time, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho made a tactical switch that ultimately paid off, with Karanka explaining the reasons behind the changes.

“We were drawing at half-time and we took off Nacho, who had played well and did what he had been asked to, but we were looking for more depth.

“We put (Jose Maria) Callejon at left-back and took off (Alvaro) Arbeloa to put (Sergio) Ramos at right-back and look for more up the wing. Xabi (Alonso) also played at centre-back for a while so that we had more options to build from the back.

“When we went ahead we put (Raphael) Varane at wing-back, which is a more normal change, but the changes we made were all with a view to getting the win.”

The 39-year-old then singled out Oezil for praise, stating his belief that his two goals would signal a return to form for the German international.

“He played well, but not only with the ball and scoring the goals, he also did what he needed to. We know very well how well he can play and he showed that throughout the match,” he added.

“The work that he did without the ball during the match was spectacular. Today we saw the Mesut Oezil that we all know and that we all like to see.”

AFF Suzuki Cup: Singapore 0 Philippines 0

9 December 2012 01:06

Singapore and the Philippines played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw in the opening leg of their AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Both teams were in formidable form heading into the encounter, but decided to take a cautious approach in the first leg of the two-legged tie.

The Philippines showed little fight in front of their home crowd and had goalkeeper Eduard Sacapano to thank for keeping the scores tied ahead of Wednesday’s second leg.

Singapore made a bright start to the game and came within a whisker of taking the lead when Sharik Ishak’s header went narrowly wide.

Philippines’ defence was out of sorts but Sacapano was on hand to thwart a number of Singapore’s attacks.

Philippines striker Phil Younghusband, who spent three years in Chelsea’s youth system between 2005 and 2008, barely troubled Izwan Mahbud in the away goal, although he had one shot on target that was easily dealt with.

Singapore kept pushing for the opener, but midfielder Ishak fired wide before Tampines Rovers striker Aleksandar Duric did the same.

Paul Mulders, who plies his trade for Eredivisie outfit ADO Den Haag, had a chance to break the deadlock after 73 minutes, but his free kick sailed over the crossbar.

Shahdan Sulaiman’s corner produced a goal-mouth scramble in the dying minutes, but Singapore failed to capitalise and the game ended goalless.

Singapore will look to take full advantage on home soil in the second leg on Wednesday, as they seek to book a place in the final for the first time since 2007, when they defeated co-hosts Thailand 3-2.

Liga Sagres: Porto 1 Moreirense 0

9 December 2012 00:33

Defending champions Porto maintained their unbeaten start to the Primeira Liga season, prevailing 1-0 at home to lowly Moreirense.

Porto, who had won eight and drawn two of their opening 10 league games, were far from their free-flowing best on Saturday as they struggled to breakdown a resilient Moreinrense defence .

However, they finally made the breakthrough when Colombian striker Jackson Martinez netted his 10th goal of the campaign with 20 minutes remaining at the Estadio Do Dragao.

The victory moves Vitor Pereira’s Porto three points clear at the summit, with second-placed Benfica set to play Sporting Lisbon on Monday.

La Liga wrap: Oezil saves Real Madrid

9 December 2012 00:23

Real Madrid twice came from behind to emerge 3-2 winners over an impressive Valladolid side on Saturday, while Malaga hammered Granada 4-0.

Angolan striker Manucho bagged a brace but it was Madrid midfielder Mesut Oezil who stole the show with the match-winning goal.

Madrid have been poor on the road so far this season and it seemed as though their woes would continue as some awful marking from a corner enabled the hosts to take a seventh-minute lead.

Drawn to the ball, Sergio Ramos left Manucho free in the area and the former Manchester United striker pounced on Alvaro Rubio’s pass to open the scoring.

However, five minutes later Valladolid became the culprits of some dire defending themselves as Jose Callejon latched onto a short back pass from Omar Ramos. Combined with a slip from Marc Valiente the Madrid man was able to lay the ball on for Karim Benzema, who slotted in a simple equaliser.

Jose Mourinho’s side continued to press, but their good work was undone at the midway point of the first half.

Patrick Ebert’s corner was met by Manucho who out-jumped Ramos at the near post to head his side back into the lead on 22 minutes.

Madrid continued in search of an equaliser and their persistence finally paid off on the stroke of half-time as Oezil found Benzema. The striker held the ball before rolling it back to the German and his effort squeezed under goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez and into the net.

Mourinho introduced some fresh legs, one of them being Croatian midfielder Luka Modric and it seemed to galvanise his side with 18 minutes remaining.

A cheap free kick was given away by Henrique Sereno and Oezil took a short run up before bending a majestic effort towards the top corner which crashed in off the bar to make it 3-2.

And that proved enough, as Madrid picked up the three points and move to within two points of second-placed city rivals Atletico, who are scheduled to play Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

Surprise-packets Malaga climbed up to fourth in La Liga following their 4-0 drubbing of Granada.

After a storming start to the season, Manuel Pellegrini’s side had won just one of their past six league games before Saturday’s match but that all changed thanks to goals from Joaquin, Javier Saviola, Ignacio Camacho and Roque Santa Cruz.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Roberto Soldado’s 56th-minute goal was enough to down Osasuna 1-0 as Ernesto Valverde’s reign as Valencia manager begin on a winning note, while Real Sociedad and Getafe played out a 1-1 draw.