World Cup qualifying: Israel 3 Portugal 3

22 March 2013 16:00

Portugal secured a dramatic 3-3 draw with Israel in Tel Aviv as the two teams remain level on points in Group F in World Cup qualifying.

Bruno Alves headed Paulo Bento’s side in front after two minutes, but the hosts continued to press and drew level through Tomer Hemed before Eden Ben Basat fired Israel in front.

The hosts doubled their advantage in the 70th minute when Rami Gershon headed past Rui Patricio.

Portugal pulled a goal back through Helder Postiga two minutes later before Fabio Coentrao’s last-gasp equaliser saw the teams share the spoils.

The visitors started the brighter of the two teams and went ahead in the second minute, Alves rising highest to meet Miguel Veloso’s corner and head past Dudu Aouate.

Coentrao then saw his low effort comfortably saved by the Israel number one as Portugal dominated proceedings early on.

Israel looked to force their way back into the encounter, but Ben Basat could only fire wide of Patricio’s near post after winning his side a free-kick having been played in by Bibras Natkho.

The hosts had been on the back foot for much of the encounter, but drew level midway through the first half courtesy of Hemed, who turned expertly and fired past Patricio to equalise.

Portugal continued to dominate and should have found themselves 2-1 up with 10 minutes of the first half remaining.

Postiga did well to hold off the challenge of Tal Ben Haim, but the striker could only find the outside of the post with the goal gaping.

The visitors were made to pay for Postiga’s miss as Israel took the initiative five minutes before half-time.

Ben Basat was played in exquisitely by Hemed before smashing his effort past Patricio and into the roof of the net.

Portugal began the second half the stronger, but it was Ben Basat who came closest after the restart as he fired wide from close range.

Postiga saw his effort blocked superbly by Eitan Tibi before Veloso fired inches over from the edge of the area as Portugal pressed for an equaliser.

Carlos Martins was introduced on the hour-mark and almost made an immediate impact, first firing over with a close-range volley before he forced Aouate into action, with the Israeli equal to his long-distance strike.

Eli Guttman’s side then doubled their advantage with 20 minutes remaining as Natkho’s corner found Gershon unmarked to head past Patricio.

Portugal dragged themselves back into the encounter when Postiga was on hand to tap in from Cristiano Ronaldo’s ball into the area.

Aouate did well to deny Postiga soon after before Coentrao netted a dramatic equaliser for Portugal.

Rodwell primed for early return

22 March 2013 15:33

Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell hopes to be back in two weeks after injurying his hamstring in the 1-0 win over Aston Villa.

The 22-year-old joined City in the summer after coming through the youth academy at Everton.

However, he has made just 11 appearances for the side thanks to numerous knocks, leading to speculation over his future at the club.

However, Rodwell is confident that he only faces a short spell on the sidelines this time round.

“It’s just over two weeks into my injury now and it’s healing well, I’m hoping for maybe another two weeks until I’m back on the pitch,” the midfielder told the club’s official website.

“I’ll hopefully train within the next 10 days, that’s my aim. If I do that, then it’s been a really good rehab – four weeks is very good.

“If it takes a week more, then it will be a week more just to be on the safe side, but we’ll see – hopefully two more weeks is all I will need.”

The England international is pushing to regain full fitness, adopting the same regime that has seen him recover from similar injuries in the past.

“I’m doing the same stuff really, a lot of strengthening work and just keeping up what I was doing last time which I thought worked really well,” he added.

“It’s a recurring injury, still my hamstring on the same leg. It’s probably a different muscle – different areas of the hamstring.

“But I’m running well now and getting up to a good speed, nearly full speed. I haven’t done much change of direction though, which is the next step and then ball work before I join the team.”

Rodwell admits, at times, facing such frequent, lengthy periods in the physio room can get you down, but insists he has the right people around him to encourage his fight back to full fitness.

“Initially it was depressing, but I’ve got good people around me, good family, great physios, the sports science department are great and all the lads are brilliant too,” he added.

“I’ve just got to be positive, it’s just a minor setback and it’s a long career. I’m still young and I just have to stay positive.”

Clasie open to Fiorentina move

22 March 2013 15:30

Jordy Clasie’s agent Wessel Weezenberg says the Feyenoord midfielder would be interested in a move to Fiorentina under the right circumstances.

Feyenoord sporting director Martin van Geel confirmed earlier this week the Serie A outfit have tabled an official offer for the Netherlands international.

Weezenberg said Fiorentina were an interesting option for 21-year-old Clasie.

“Fiorentina have a serious project going on and we want to give it a good listen,” Weezenberg told Algemeen Dagblad.

“They’re not the type of club who spend big transfer fees on just any other player. They are chasing the players they need intelligently.

“However, it’s not like we’re already in advanced talks. I visited Florence earlier this year and it became obvious back then that they’re quite serious about Clasie.”

Clasie has previously been linked with clubs such as Juventus, AC Milan, Roma, Arsenal and Tottenham, but is under contract at Feyenoord until 2015.

Santon would consider AC Milan move

22 March 2013 15:16

Newcastle defender Davide Santon admits he would seriously think about leaving the club if AC Milan made a move for him.

Having played at the San Siro before, for fierce rivals Inter, the Italian would be happy to return with AC Milan as he has supported them since childhood.

The 22-year-old says with his fiancee expecting their first baby, he is happy to be living in England and playing for Newcastle.

“I’m really happy in Newcastle. I like the city, the club and the atmosphere,” Santon told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m also engaged to Chloe and we’re expecting a baby in May.

“A return to Italy? At Newcastle I’m a king and I have a contract until 2016.

“But I’ve heard of the interest from Milan in me and that is really pleasing because I have been a Milan fan since I was a child.

“I’m not sure what would happen if another Italian club came in for me, but I’d seriously think about packing my bags for Milan.”

Santon admits reuniting with former team-mate Mario Balotelli would be an extra incentive to join the club.

“Balotelli? We were still friends and I’m glad he’s doing well at Milan,” he said.

“His presence would be an incentive to accept AC Milan.”

Buffon lauds ´superb´ Balotelli

22 March 2013 15:04

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had nothing but praise for Mario Balotelli’s performance in Thursday’s 2-2 friendly draw against Brazil.

Cesare Prandelli’s men fell two goals behind before the break, but a second-half strike from the 22-year-old helped them to a share of the spoils.

Buffon was impressed by Balotelli’s positive attitude as well as his fine goal.

“Balotelli was superb. I would also have said that if he hadn’t scored the equaliser,” Buffon told reporters.

“The way he sacrificed himself for the team and worked very hard was a great thing to see.

“For me, Balotelli has shown that he deserves the respect of his team-mates with this performance. He showed that he has the attitude needed for the national team.”

Italy will now start their preparations for the World Cup qualifier away against Malta on Tuesday.