Cruyff: Barca´s golden era not over

5 May 2013 05:50

Former Barcelona and Netherlands icon Johan Cruyff has dismissed claims the Catalan club’s golden era is over.

Despite bowing out of the Champions League on the back of a crushing 7-0 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich, Tito Vilanova’s men are well on course to sew up their 22nd Liga title.

And Cruyff has cited the impending domestic success of the side he once represented as a player and coach as evidence of their continued ability to compete at the top.

“(The end of an era) doesn’t exist; it’s just a piece of nonsense someone said,” the 66-year-old told AS.

“It’s simply a matter of mistakes made by the club’s directors. That happens.”

Former Barca boss Pep Guardiola highlighted the thin line between winning and losing, and insisted he does not see himself as superior to other coaches.

“I’m not better than any other coach. Success and failure are part of the game, and I have won and lost as a coach and as a player,” the Spaniard told reporters in Argentina.

“As a coach, the secret is to push the right button for every player. You can only paint pictures; when the game begins, everything is in my players’ hands.”

Guardiola amassed a 14-trophy haul in a four-year spell at Camp Nou and will succeed Jupp Heynckes as Bayern Munich boss at the end of the season.

MLS Wrap: Cronin late show seals point for Earthquakes

5 May 2013 05:28

A late goal from Sam Cronin has earned San Jose Earthquakes a 2-2 draw with Eastern Conference leaders Montreal Impact in the MLS.

In the 91st minute, San Jose’s Walter Martinez launched a long pass to Chris Wondolowski and the Earthquakes’ captain headed the ball down to Cronin, who smashed the ball past Troy Perkins, Montreal’s impressive goalkeeper, from the edge of the area.

San Jose had trailed by two goals early in the second half after a double from visiting midfielder Justin Mapp but goals from Adam Jahn and Cronin ensured the home side took a point to stay in the hunt for the playoff positions in the Western Conference.

San Jose started brilliantly at Buck Shaw Stadium and had an early chance to score when Rafael Baca shot straight at Perkins, and soon after the Impact’s goalkeeper had to tip Shea Salinas’ corner kick away after it threatened to sneak in under his crossbar.

Perkins was again called into action in the 14th minute as Jahn hit the bar before Wondolowski got to the rebound first but the Earthquakes’ striker was denied by a brilliant scrambling save from the visiting gloveman.

Montreal hit the front in the 24th minute when Mapp collected the ball in midfield, strode forward and then unleashed a 25-yard strike into the bottom corner of the net.

Perkins produced another fine save before half-time to maintain Montreal’s lead and two minutes after the break, Mapp made it 2-0 with a tap-in..

The hosts continued to pepper the Impact’s goal with Cronin firing just wide before Jahn gave San Jose a life-line in the 59th minute with a fine finish in the box.

Andrew Wenger could have wrapped up the win for Montreal in the 71st minute but failed to convert a one-on-one opportunity and that came back to bite the Impact when Cronin fired home in stoppage time from the edge of the area.

Despite the draw, Montreal remain top of the Eastern Conference on 17 points, ahead of New York Red Bulls on goal difference, after New York knocked off Columbus Crew 1-0 thanks to a late header from Tim Cahill.

In Philadelphia, Seattle Sounders claimed a 2-2 draw against the Union in a spiteful encounter at PPL Park.

The Sounders led at half-time thanks to Eddie Johnson’s goal but a two-minute brace from Daniel Cruz put the hosts in front in the second half before Mauro Rosales struck the decisive equaliser in the 64th minute.

A scuffle in the penalty box with six minutes remaining saw Philadelphia’s Sheanon Williams and Lamar Neagle of Seattle sent off, while the visitors also lost DeAndre Yedlin to a red card in stoppage time.

In other MLS results, Real Salt Lake defeated Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 and Colorado Rapids beat Toronto FC 1-0.

Baup pleased with Marseille spirit

5 May 2013 04:31

Marseille head coach Eli Baup has praised his team’s fighting qualities after they scored a late winner in their 2-1 victory over Bastia.

In a performance that kept the pressure on Ligue 1-leaders Paris Saint-Germain and helped Marseille pull away from third-placed Lyon in the battle for second position, Baup was left frustrated that his side’s cleansheet streak ended.

Bastia’s goal in the first minute of the second half ended Marseille’s run of 29 hours and 15 minutes without conceding a goal in Ligue 1 and Baup claimed it almost cost his team the three points.

While Marseille had copped a lot of criticism during that run for not scoring more than one goal in any of the seven matches, Baup argued he would have preferred the media’s focus on his team’s lack of scoring to continue if it meant they had claimed another cleansheet.

“We got a bit fed up that the only thing you were asking us about was 1-0 victories,” Baup said after the match at the Stade Velodrome.

“Well, I’d rather not have conceded this goal so early in the second half, it almost cost us but after that, we have kept on going, we wanted to score again and we got rewarded.

“In this game, we have really shown that we like to play, that we can get chances, and I think the crowd will have enjoyed the match.”

Saturday’s victory took Marseille seven points ahead of Lyon, who travel to Nancy on Sunday, and within six of PSG, who will host Valenciennes.

Baup claimed he will keep driving his players to fight for the Ligue 1 title in their final three matches.

“We are going to hang on to the podium whilst also fighting for the title despite the odds being against us,” Baup said.

“There are three games left, that’s nine points to play…I know it’s a bit early but I’m already thinking about the Toulouse game.

“We are going to play twice in a row at home and it’s never easy.

“So, we need to get ready for that game.”

Klopp: Heated scenes ´normal´ against Bayern

5 May 2013 02:41

Borussia Dortmund head coach Juergen Klopp has labelled the heated scenes during his side’s 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich as ‘normal’.

With Bayern having already wrapped up the Bundesliga title and the two teams set to clash again in the UEFA Champions League final on May 25, many had expected Saturday’s match to be a tame affair.

But with seven yellow cards handed out at Dortmund’s Signal-Iduna-Park, including two to Bayern full-back Rafinha, plus the home side’s Mario Goetze having recently confirmed a move to the Bavarian champions, there was plenty of spice to the contest.

The game boiled over in the 64th minute when Rafinha raised an arm to Jakub Blaszczykowski’s head as they chased after the ball.

The Dortmund winger went down clutching his face and while he received a yellow card, seemingly for simulation, Rafinha also copped a booking, his second in three minutes, to be sent off.

As the 27-year-old Brazilian left the field he blasted Blaszczykowski before Klopp defended his player, giving Rafinha a spray, prompting Bayern’s sport director Matthias Sammer to get involved.

“It’s normal for these things to happen,” Klopp said after the match.

“People were talking about a friendly but once the game gets under way, it’s different.

“It was a tough battle, situations arise, these things happen.

“I told Rafinha that he should stay away from Jakub, Sammer then told me that I should not talk to the players.”

Dortmund took the lead in the 11th minute thanks to an acrobatic volley from Kevin Grosskreutz but Bayern were level at half-time after Mario Gomez’s 23rd-minute header and the match remained that way throughout the second half.

Both coaches used the match to give some of their key players a rest and Bayern’s boss Jupp Heynckes conceded his team had struggled to get going after their 3-0 win away to Barcelona on Wednesday in the Champions League.

“After last week’s result it wasn’t easy to get back into the swing of things,” Heynckes said.

“It was a very intensive game where neither side gave anything away.

“Beforehand, people said that it would be a boring match with so many Bayern players missing, but that clearly wasn’t the case.”

The home fans used the game to express their frustration with Goetze’s transfer to Bayern, although the 20-year-old midfielder did not play due to a thigh injury he sustained during Dortmund’s Champions League match in Madrid on Tuesday.

Some Dortmund fans wore Goetze shirts with his name crossed out, while the main supporter group held up a banner which read ‘Striving for money shows how big your heart really is. P*** off Goetze’.

Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer claimed after the match that he expected nothing less when the two German clubs face each other at Wembley in the Champions League decider.

“A game against Dortmund, regardless of where it is, is never a friendly game,” Neuer said.

“(It’s) a duel of eye-level, 50-50, and it’s what we expect in the Champions League final.”

Karanka plays down Mourinho controversy

5 May 2013 02:17

Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka is adamant Jose Mourinho’s comments about Iker Casillas were taken in the wrong context.

The criticism was derived from statements Mourinho made on Friday, when he declared he wished January signing Diego Lopez, who has since become first choice between the posts, had arrived earlier.

Speaking after Saturday’s 4-3 win over Valladolid, where goals from Angel Di Maria, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo (two) saw off the visitors in a gripping encounter, Karanka said Mourinho’s comments were in no way meant to disrespect the goalkeeper.

“I haven’t heard what (defender) Pepe said but, if he said that there has been a lack of respect towards Iker, at no moment have we disrespected anyone,” the 39-year-old said after the match.

“It would be a lack of respect to 25 team-mates if you selected someone who was not in a condition to play. The lack of respect would have been to select a player who wasn’t right, instead of another.

“It is not that Mourinho regrets it (not signing Diego Lopez earlier), but his signing was requested and the club did not accept it.

“It is said that the coach has so much power, but it can’t be so if a player is requested and the club don’t bring him in.”

Mourinho had already been jeered – while Casillas was cheered – before the match as the line-ups were being announced, but Karanka moved yet again to quell the controversy.

“You have to respect the jeers for the coach, as I said after what happened in Dortmund. For the last three years, we have done our work, which people can like more or less. I respect them,” he said.

“The reason we didn’t come out into the technical zone is because we believed there wasn’t anything worth saying. What there was to say, we discussed in the dressing room.”

Real’s victory over Valladolid means Barcelona will not be able to lift the Liga title on Sunday, even if they beat Real Betis.