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.

La Liga Wrap: Real Madrid delay Barcelona´s title party

5 May 2013 00:01

Real Madrid delayed Barcelona’s title party for another week after a narrow 4-3 victory over Real Valladolid on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho’s side fell behind to an early strike from Oscar Gonzalez but goals from Angel di Maria, Kaka and two from Cristiano Ronaldo gave Madrid a comfortable lead.

Valladolid substitute Lluis Sastre netted a stunning volley with three minutes remaining but the hosts held on for three points, meaning Barca will be unable to clinch the title against Real Betis on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Valencia improved their chances of a top-four finish with a convincing 4-0 victory against nine-man Osasuna at the Mestalla.

Roberto Soldado opened the scoring and Ricardo Costa headed home Tino Costa’s free-kick shortly before half-time.

Things went from bad to worse for Osasuna, however, as Alejandro Arribas was sent off and Ever Banega turned in the resultant free-kick.

David Timor was also dismissed for the visitors after a second bookable offence 15 minutes from time before Jonas slotted home an injury-time penalty after Nano handled in the area.

Malaga missed the chance to draw level on points with fifth-placed Valencia as they lost 1-0 to strugglers Granada.

Odion Ighalo scored the only goal of the game in the 28th minute, finishing past Willy Caballero after getting on the end of Yacine Brahimi’s cross.

Deportivo La Coruna managed to remain outside of the relegation zone with a 0-0 draw at home to third-placed Atletico Madrid.

Atletico defender Miranda fired wide from close range in the first half, before Gabi hit the crossbar with a powerful strike seven minutes from time.

The visitors had the ball in the net in the 88th minute after Radamel Falcao headed home from close range, but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Ancelotti thanks PSG fans

4 May 2013 23:46

Paris Saint-Germain manager Carlo Ancelotti has thanked the club’s fans after they sent him an open letter pleading with him not to go to Real Madrid.

Speaking ahead of his sides crucial game against Valenciennes on Sunday, in which they can all-but seal the Ligue 1 title, the Italian responded to speculation linking him with a move to the Spanish giants.

He said of the letter from PSG supporters: “I am very happy because that means that my job is appreciated. When a manager goes to work and his job is appreciated, it is good.”

PSG can put one hand on the championship trophy on Sunday, and Ancelotti admits he is expecting a real test.

“We have to respect this team because Valenciennes is a good team,” he added.

English League One: Brentford net late equaliser in play-off against Swindon Town

4 May 2013 23:39

Brentford scored a last-minute penalty to earn a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their semi-final play-off clash with Swindon Town.

Massimo Luongo’s goal 20 minutes from time appeared to have swung the tie in Swindon’s favour, but Kevin O’Connor kept his cool to convert a late spot-kick that leaves both sides in with a great chance of reaching Wembley.

Despite the hosts controlling the early exchanges, Brentford’s Adam Forshaw had the first real chance of the game only to drag his shot wide from 15 yards.

Adam Rooney was also presented with a glorious opportunity, but he saw his effort smothered by goalkeeper Simon Moore.

Swindon took the lead through Luongo after the on-loan Tottenham midfielder side-footed past Moore from the edge of the area.

The hosts saw two penalty appeals turned down by referee Geoff Eltringham after O’Connor appeared to handle in the box before Brentford substitute Farid El Alagui climbed on the back of Aden Flint.

Luongo then turned from hero to villain as he brought down Harry Forrester inside the area in the third minute of stoppage time.

O’Connor made no mistake from the resulting penalty and coolly slotted home to earn Brentford a draw heading into the second leg at Griffin Park on Monday.

Brentford boss Uwe Rosler paid tribute to his captain O’Connor after the experienced defender’s last-gasp spot-kick.

He said: “Kevin is excellent. He had not played for a long time but stepped up to the plate.

“It was a difficult situation for him as he was not playing many matches, but in all the games he looks very solid and does a great job.

“Obviously, in the end, he used all his experience and skills to convert the penalty and I’m very happy for him.”

The winner of the tie will face either Yeovil Town or Sheffield United in the final at Wembley, with the latter holding a narrow 1-0 lead after their first-leg meeting on Friday.

Mazzarri focused on run-in

4 May 2013 23:37

Napoli head coach Walter Mazzarri is determined to secure the points that will bring his side UEFA Champions League football next season.

The Naples outfit are seven points clear of third-placed Milan with four games left to play, meaning two wins will guarantee second spot and a place at Europe’s top table.

Inter travel to Stadio San Paolo on Sunday, with Andrea Stramaccioni’s side struggling to qualify for continental competition, but Mazzarri is not taking the Milan side for granted.

He said: “We need to gain six points, we have always looked at ourselves, we don’t look at the other teams. We know that if we gain six points in the last four games we have left to play then we have secured second place. We don’t need to take into consideration the other teams’ results, that’s our point.

“Let’s talk about Inter, because you all tend to underrate teams and give unbalanced judgements on them,” he said.

“I don’t want to be the coach who’s always complaining about the difficult challenges we have ahead, but think at how hard it was for us to gain the three points against Atalanta and Cagliari.

“Now let’s look at the table: Cagliari and Atalanta have fewer points than Inter. Inter is the seventh team in the table and even if they have some injured players, they’re a top club with many important players.

“The players who will enter the pitch tomorrow are Inter players and they will all face us with great determination, like everyone since we’ve become a top team too. We have seen it against Cagliari and against Atalanta.”

Mazzarri also called for complete professionalism from his side as they look to add another victory in an impressive season.

He added: “If we’re not careful and if we don’t play a perfect match with great determination tomorrow we risk putting on a bad show, as we risked against Cagliari and Atalanta.

“I want my guys focused, I want maximum attention and I want our supporters’ help, the usual things I ask them because that’s how you face any game in Italian football.”