Stramaccioni laments Inter failings

16 December 2012 03:38

Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni rued his side’s languid first-half display in their 1-0 Serie A defeat to Lazio in Serie A on Saturday.

Miroslav Klose’s goal in the latter stages of the match separated the two outfits in the Italian capital, but while the Inter boss could only praise the German striker for his well-taken finish, he felt his players deserved more for their efforts.

“(Lazio) played better in the first half. They put us under pressure, even though we suffered little,” the 36-year-old told reporters.

“During the second half, we gave a great performance. We deserved a goal, but this is football.

“Did we defend poorly for (Klose’s) goal? We made a mistake in the first phase of play, but you just have to compliment him (for the finish).”

Stramaccioni’s defensive critique was echoed by centre-back Andrea Ranocchia, who shouldered the blame for not sufficiently addressing Klose’s winner but was unhappy with the conduct of hosts’ stopper Michael Ciani.

“Could have we done more (to prevent Klose’s goal)? He was my man so I take responsibility,” he added. “It happened quickly and it did not give us time to react. It was still a great goal.

“Unfortunately, Ciani held me with both hands, and even before the corner had been taken, the referee had given him a talking-to.

“This is what happens in every football match. I wonder how the referee could not see it.”

Liga Sagres wrap: Cardozo hat-trick powers Benfica

16 December 2012 03:19

Benfica moved three points clear at the top of Liga Sagres with a 4-1 home triumph against Maritimo on Saturday.

With Porto’s match against strugglers Vitoria Setubal postponed on Friday, Jorge Jesus’ men had a chance to put some pressure on their title rivals.

They received an early scare though, with Brazilian Rodrigo Antonio giving Maritimo a surprise lead after 25 minutes.

Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo restored parity on 34 minutes, as both sides went into the break on level terms.

The match was changed on 65 minutes when Maritimo defender Valentin Roberge was sent off after receiving a second yellow card.

Roberge also gave away a penalty and it was Cardozo who stepped up to take the spot-kick, with the attacker making no mistake.

Cardozo sealed his hat-trick three minutes later before a late effort from Spanish substitute Rodrigo made sure of an impressive home win for Benfica.

Elsewhere, Beira-Mar upset fourth-placed Rio Ave 3-1 thanks to a terrific first half.

Goals from Serginho and Javier Balboa had Beira-Mar cruising at the break and although Tarantini pulled a goal back for Rio, Joaozinho sealed the victory with his 76th-minute effort.

Sporting Lisbon’s struggles continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Nacional.

Isael’s first-half goal handed Nacional the lead before Cedric responded in the second half for Sporting.

The day’s other match saw Olhanense come from behind to draw 2-2 against Gil Vicente, with goals from Nuno Piloto and Evandro Brandao in the last 30 minutes giving the hosts a point.

Eredivisie wrap: PSV back on top, AZ break drought

16 December 2012 03:01

PSV Eindhoven returned to the top of the Eredivisie after their 1-1 draw at NEC Nijmegen while AZ Alkmaar won 2-1 at PEC Zwolle on Saturday.

PSV’s point gained was enough to send them to the top of the league on goal difference, but they missed a chance to kick two points clear of second-placed FC Twente with the result.

Dick Advocaat’s side took the lead after just 10 minutes with Danish defender Mathias Jorgensen scoring his first Eredivisie goal for the club.

PSV were unable to kill off the contest with a second goal though and as the match grew older, the visitors became more nervous.

NEC claimed a late equaliser when Icelandic midfielder Guolaugur Palsson netted 10 minutes from the end.

Struggling AZ won for the first time in seven matches thanks to American Jozy Altidore’s first-half double.

Altidore opened the scoring after two minutes and he added another just after the half-hour mark.

Denni Avdic pulled a goal back for PEC Zwolle on 56 minutes but they could not muster an equaliser, with the sending off of defender Joey van den Berg robbing them of late momentum.

Other results saw Roda JC and NAC Breda play out a goalless draw while the fixture between FC Groningen and VVV Venlo also finished 0-0.

Busquets lauds Simeone impact

16 December 2012 02:54

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets has hailed the impact that Diego Simeone has made on Atletico Madrid.

Simeone took control of Atletico as the club struggled toward the end of 2011 and turned around their fortunes by engineering a fifth-placed finish in La Liga and a Europa League triumph.

The capital side have since continued their improvement under Simeone’s tenure, occupying second place in the Spanish top flight, and the 24-year-old believes their rise towards becoming a major outfit has been aided by the Argentine’s managerial nous.

“They have become a rival this season because with nearly half the season gone, they are near the top of the table,” Busquets told reporters ahead of Sunday’s match between the two sides at Camp Nou.

“Atletico finished very well last season and have continued that form this term. With Simeone in charge, they have become a complete team that makes you work hard for a win.”

The Spain international was also quizzed on who he felt Atletico’s most potent threat would be and opted for in-form Colombian striker Radamel Falcao.

“Falcao is a lethal player for them. We have to play our own game, but we have to give a little more to stop him,” he said.

Busquets also fixed his attentions on the festive season and revealed he hopes to begin the winter break on the back of victories in their remaining two matches.

“We have two games remaining before the winter break – our intention is to get six points and spend our holidays in a good mood,” he said.

Wilshere maintains title ambitions

16 December 2012 02:46

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere believes his side remain in the Premier League title race despite their recent run of poor form.

The north London outfit have endured a torrid couple of months and sit in eighth place, 18 points off leaders Manchester United.

Their Premier League struggles were mirrored by a disappointing League Cup performance that led to them being knocked out by Bradford on penalties last week.

Despite these setbacks, the England international is still confident that his team can compete for honours this season.

“We can still realistically win everything we are in. I know we are a long way behind in the Premier League but football changes quickly,” Wilshere told Sky Sports.

“If we win three games and another team loses a couple and draws one, we are back in it. It is not in our hands so we need a bit of luck.”

Wilshere also spoke of potential Champions League glory, admitting that it was going to be difficult but, citing Chelsea’s heroics last season as a point of reference, emphasised that anything is possible.

“We are in the last 16 of the Champions League, that is going to be difficult. But we know in the Champions League anything can happen,” he said.

“You saw with Chelsea last year, no-one would have said in December they were going to win the Champions League.

“But they got a bit of luck. There are top-quality teams and the best players in Europe so you are going to need a bit of luck.”