A-League wrap: Wanderers outclass Sydney in derby

15 December 2012 11:55

The Western Sydney Wanderers proved too good for Sydney in the A-League on Saturday, winning their derby clash 2-0.

The Wanderers were the better side for much of the match and thoroughly deserved their victory, which came via goals from winger Youssouf Hersi and former Sky Blues defender Michael Beauchamp.

And it was only some desperate Sydney defending and vital saves from ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic that prevented the visitors from coasting to an even more comfortable win.

As it was though two goals was enough for Tony Popovic’s side to register their first win over the Sky Blues in front of more than 26,000 fans.

Sydney struggles to impose themselves on the match so it was no surprise when the visitors went in front through Hersi on 24 minutes.

Jerome Polenz’s right-wing cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Joey Gibbs, with Hersi getting to the ball first before swivelling and unleashing a powerful shot into the bottom corner.

It was Hersi’s first goal in the A-League and one that had been coming.

Searching for an equaliser, Sydney coach Frank Farina brought Alessandro Del Piero into the fray with 20 minutes left to a rousing reception from the home fans.

But the Italian superstar, who only passed a late fitness test on his hamstring to play, could do little as the Wanderers scored the sealer 13 minutes from the end.

Sydney failed to adequately clear a corner, with the ball ending up at Ono’s feet on the left wing.

The former Japanese international found a metre of space from his marker, swinging in a teasing cross which eluded a host of players before Beauchamp tapped into an empty net at the back post.

The Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in their clash at AAMI Park.

Despite dominating the early going, the Victory fell behind 24 minutes into the contest when Ben Halloran scored following a defensive blunder from Diogo Ferreira, but a cracking strike four minutes into the second half from Mark Milligan secured a point for Ange Postecoglou’s team.

Former Victory goalkeeper Michael Theo came back to haunt his old team, pulling off a string of quality saves throughout the match to keep out the home side.

Benitez should keep Lampard, says Wilkins

15 December 2012 11:37

Ray Wilkins believes Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez would be wise to keep midfielder Frank Lampard.

The former Chelsea midfielder has said Lampard still has a part to play for the European champions but admitted that he understood why his starts had become fewer in number.

Wilkins hoped the 34-year-old might come to accept that he would not play every game any longer and choose to extend his current deal, despite rumours of a move away.

“He’s a valuable character to have around and bring off the bench,” Wilkins told the BBC. “This is a 20-goals-a-season player from midfield for the last eight seasons or so, and that’s a fantastic return.

“I think Frank will finally accept he is not going to play every game for Chelsea. But there is no fitter footballer for his age, probably in world football, than Frank Lampard.”

Lampard has won 10 trophies with Chelsea in the past eight years but has only started four English Premier League games this season.

Both he and left-back Ashley Cole have been linked with moves abroad to conclude their decorated careers but Wilkins has urged Benitez to make a pitch to keep hold of the former West Ham player.

“Frank plays like a 30-year-old, not a 34-year-old,” he said. “I would agree with Frank’s assessment that he has two or three years left at the very top level.

“Whether that’s playing week in week out, one wouldn’t think so. But most certainly he’s a great asset to have around the club. It would be rather strange for him to finish his career at another club.

“In my humble opinion if I was manager of Chelsea I would want Frank to sign another contract because I know what he brings to the team and the club.”

Postecoglou ´really happy´ despite dropped points

15 December 2012 11:24

Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou refused to be downcast after watching his side draw 1-1 against the Brisbane Roar on Saturday.

Despite dominating the opening exchanges, the Victory fell behind after 24 minutes when a defensive error from Diogo Ferreira allowed Ben Halloran to pounce for the Roar.

The home side hit back four minutes after the break through a sizzling Mark Milligan strike, and continued to dominate play as the match wore on.

They were repeatedly denied, however, by former Victory goalkeeper Michael Theo, who frustrated his old team with a string of first-class saves.

Although admitting he was disappointed to drop two points in a clash his team largely controlled, Postecoglou said he had thoroughly enjoyed the performance from his men.

“I like the way we played,” Postecoglou told reporters after the match. “I’m trying to beat myself up about it, but I can’t – I’m really happy with the way we played.

“They’re still a really good team.

“The goal was a bit disappointing. We conceded a soft goal, but our football was great. I just thought in general terms that’s a step forward for us.

“I thought tonight, the first half hour, was as good as we’ve played all year.”

Postecoglou, who led Brisbane to the past two A-League titles, watched his team suffer a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Roar in round two to leave them languishing at the foot of the table.

They have since climbed to third, but when asked if he would have accepted that position after 11 rounds given his side’s poor start, Postecoglou made it clear he has much loftier goals.

“I won’t accept anything less than winning the whole thing,” he said.

“In terms of ladder position we’re OK at the moment, it’s a really tight league.

“We wanted to win today to keep touch with the top two, we don’t want too much of a break there.

“But if we just focus on that I think we’d be missing the real goal which is to continue to develop our football.”

The Victory coach said he was buoyed by the debut of 18-year-old centre back Nick Ansell, who came into the side in place of Petar Franjic.

“He was good, really safe, comfortably (I’m) really pleased with him,” he said.

“He certainly didn’t look out of place there, which is good for us – maybe we’ve found another player.”

Laudrup warns Bale against Spain move

15 December 2012 10:57

Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup has warned Gareth Bale a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona might not be in his best interests.

The winger signed a contract extension in the off-season, keeping him at Tottenham until at least 2016.

But it has not stopped mounting speculation that Bale will move to one of the two La Liga giants at the end of the campaign.

But Laudrup, himself a former Barcelona and Real Madrid player, has told Bale to think carefully about the next step in his career.

“As a top player, when you have a possibility to go to the other teams, it’s very important to think what would be best and where would I fit in,” he said.

“You have to realise that playing in Barcelona and Madrid is completely different to playing in the Premier League.

“The football is totally different. There is no space to play. Everybody defends with 10 against you, in the last third of the pitch, home or away.

“There is nowhere to run, so that part of his play would have to go away in a lot of games.

“Everything is one touch and move.”

Bale’s reputation in Europe grew in 2010, when Tottenham finally achieved fourth spot under former manager Harry Redknapp.

Following impressive displays against Inter Milan, Twente and AC Milan two years ago, Bale’s ability has continued to grow as he terrorises defences.

However, Laudrup recognises that a move to Real Madrid for the Wales international will mean he is unlikely to play on the left wing.

“If you go to Real Madrid, you have to say ‘what is my favourite position?'” he said.

“If it is on the left – that is where Ronaldo plays. So where would Bale play?”

Bale is unlikely to face Laudrup’s side on Sunday when Tottenham and Swansea meet, remaining on the sidelines following a hamstring injury he picked up in his side’s 3-0 win at Fulham.

Benitez: Chelsea can win title

15 December 2012 10:45

Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez insists his team can still win the English Premier League title despite being so far behind.

The reigning European champions are 10 points behind leaders Manchester United almost halfway through the season.

Benitez could secure his first silverware since his controversial appointment in the Club World Cup by beating Corinthians in Yokohama on Sunday and hopes they will go on to claw their way back into the title race when they return to England.

Chelsea could be a massive 16 points off the top of the table by the time they face Aston Villa in the league next Sunday.

Benitez, however, remains optimistic his side can catch the two Manchester clubs after three consecutive wins.

“I agree that neither United nor City look unbeatable or a team that is going to run away with the championship.” Benitez told reporters.

“I’ve been asked if it’s a two-horse race now, and I know that people want to create that story. But realistically, if you analyse three points for a game, if you win two or three in a row you have more confidence.

“If we win against Corinthians it will be an important boost for everyone. If we play good football and they have more confidence, with the quality we have and the balance we are improving on the field, the team can win games in a row, easily.”

Benitez recalled his final season at Valencia, when his side bridged an eight-point gap to win La Liga ahead of Barcelona.

“In my final year at Valencia, 2004, we were eight points behind in February but I was in a corridor with some of the big players and said, ‘Listen, we will win the league,'” he said.

“They looked at me, and I repeated, ‘Listen, we can win the league.’ And we finished eight points ahead. Why did I feel that? Because of the way that we trained. I was confident we would get better.

“If we can do against Villa what we have done here (at the Club World Cup), at the same level, it will start building that confidence.”