Garde not giving up on title hopes

17 December 2012 05:37

Lyon coach Remi Garde says the Ligue 1 title is far from over despite his side’s 1-0 loss to PSG on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s big-spending Paris outfit went ahead with Blaise Matuidi’s strike on half-time and now sit top of Ligue 1 from Lyon on goal difference.

Garde was not impressed with his side’s performance at the Parc des Princes but said there was still plenty chances to regain top spot this season.

“The title is never decided in the first half of the season, it is not definitive,” Garde said.

“It is true that we held a small lead and it is disappointing to lose it but despite that if we manage to finish the first half of the championship in the top three, we are in a good position for a title challenge.

“The second half of the championship is the more important half and it is going to be a good fight.

“Coming here, to the Parc des Princes was a challenge for us and we are frustrated to leave the place without a point.

“We have a lot of regrets with how we played in the first half. We would have liked, and certainly deserved to score the good opportunity with Lisandro’s strike which hit the post.

“Instead of leading at the break, we came back to the locker room 1-0 down with the goal just before half-time. This was difficult for us.

“So of course, because of that, I have regrets. In the second half we struggled to create a lot of chances and rarely troubled the PSG goalkeeper.”

PSG midfielder Matuidi was delighted to score the winner and said the team’s success revolved around their team-first ethos.

“Yes, tonight we are very happy with this win. It was not an easy match against a very good team of Lyon,” Matuidi said.

“I had the opportunity to score the first goal right at the end of the half and I took it.

“After recent results we all came to the realisation that we had to change. I think each of us questioned their performance and we see that today everybody is making the effort for each other.

“That’s why even in the difficult moments we don’t concede goals. Right now we are united as a group of players and this has to continue for us to succeed.”

Vilanova taking nothing for granted

17 December 2012 04:28

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova says La Liga is not easy and certainly not boring despite Sunday’s 4-1 over second placed Atletico Madrid.

The league leaders opened a nine-point buffer over Atletico with the victory by scoring four straight goals through Adriano, Sergio Busquets as well as a brace from Lionel Messi.

Earlier, Falcao had given the visitors the lead but they could little to stop Vilanova’s side from responding in lethal fashion and ultimately strolling to victory in the end.

The weekend also saw Real Madrid held to a 2-2 draw with Espanyol at the Bernabeu which leaves the defending champions a massive 13 points adrift of Barca – the destiny of the trophy already appears decided.

“We’ve won a lot of points, but it hasn’t been easy,” Vilanova said after the match.

“We’ve had to battle back to win games and perhaps we won’t be able to do that in the future.

“La Liga is not easy, and it certainly isn’t boring.

“In my first year [2008/09] we were 12 points back and we had to go to the Bernabeu and play for the title. Now, there’s a team that’s only nine points behind us.

“I don’t think that this title is ours to lose. If there is a team that has the capacity to win a lot of points, and they overtake us, then they deserve the title. It happened in 2009 and it could happen again,” Villanova said.

Cazorla: Immaturity costing Arsenal

17 December 2012 03:26

Santi Cazorla says a lack of maturity throughout the team has led to Arsenal making their worst start to a season under Arsene Wenger.

The Gunners are already 18 points behind league leaders Manchester United, and were knocked out of the Capital One Cup quarter final by League Two side Bradford City on Tuesday.

And although they have made it through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, Cazorla admits that the picture could be far better for the North London club if they could string together a run of positive results.

“We haven’t been consistent,’ the former Malaga man told reporters ahead of his side’s visit to Reading on Monday night.

“There have been games where we haven’t been mature enough as a team and haven’t held onto the positive results. We are hoping to make up some ground.”

The Gunners midfield has been boosted by the long-awaited return to full fitness of youngster Jack Wilshere, and Cazorla says he is relishing the chance to line up with the England international, and fellow countryman Mikel Arteta.

“I am very comfortable with where the manager positions me, support striker, with the freedom I like to have,” he added.

“The team also plays a type of football which suits me very well and I take on more responsibility every day.”

O´Neill: Van Persie United´s own Messi

17 December 2012 02:59

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has compared Robin van Persie’s impact at Manchester United to that of Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

The £24 million summer signing has netted 12 goals in 17 Premier League appearances for his new side, including opening the scoring in 3-1 win over the Black Cats on Saturday.

Messi scored his 89th and 90th goals of the calendar year on Sunday night against Atletico Madrid to extend his own record, and O’Neill believes Van Persie gives United a similar lift to that of the Argentine at Camp Nou.

“[Van Persie] can get goals out of very little. It looks like nothing is happening, you have players in the area, but all of a sudden he has opened up a gap,” O’Neill told reporters.

“Would Barcelona have the same effect if Lionel Messi didn’t play? They are a very talented team, but without him you don’t know, because Messi is their talisman.

“United have paid close on £30m for a player [£24m] who had just one year left on his contract, so that might tell you how valuable they perceive him. But it’s not just the perception, the reality is that he has been fantastic.”

Traore hails Redknapp impact

17 December 2012 02:44

Armand Traore believes new manager Harry Redknapp deserves all the plaudits following QPR’s first Premier League win of the season.

A double from Moroccan attacker Adel Taarabt helped the Rs to a 2-1 victory over west London rivals Fulham on Saturday, their first triumph in 17 attempts.

And former Arsenal defender Traore has cited the influence of boss Redknapp in the positive atmosphere amongst the players at Loftus Road.

“It was definitely a relief to get that win,” the 23-year-old told Sky Sports.

“It was really important to get that win, like Harry said, so I think now we can start our season.

“He is very good with the players. He likes to tell the players their strengths. Obviously that brings confidence to the players. He is a very good motivator as well as a good coach.

“He is a good guy to coach QPR and I feel I have improved since he came in. I always try and improve anyway regardless of the manager, but I am trying to improve every game.”

Redknapp is yet to taste defeat since taking charge at Loftus Road, having gained draws on the road at Sunderland and Wigan, as well as a point at home to Aston Villa.

Rangers have a tough-looking festive schedule, however, with trips to Newcastle and Chelsea sandwiched around home ties with West Brom and Liverpool.