Stramaccioni: We were lucky to win

2 December 2012 21:28

Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni conceded his side were fortunate to overcome Palermo 1-0 in the Serie A on Sunday.

An own goal by Santiago Garcia in the 74th minute was what ended up separating the two sides, despite the visitors putting in a brave performance.

And Stramaccioni admits his side could have produced a better display.

“At times like this, when we’re not at our best, I like the attitude of the team and the consistent performance,” Stramaccioni told reporters.

“We gave everything and created some clear-cut chances, but we faded somewhat in the second [half].

“The goal made everything easier, especially with our forward line under so much pressure.

“Palermo leave very little space, but with [Freddy] Guarin we had another option.”

When asked about Wesley Sneijder’s position at the club, the Inter coach continued: “Being coach of Inter involves working on the pitch and away from it, just like any team. It’s my job to pick the best team available, and at the moment I’m not picking him.

“This has nothing to do with his contract, I have to select the team and Inter come first. It’s not a case of the president [Massimo Moratti] telling me not to pick Sneijder, I pick the team.”

Javier Zanetti echoed his coach’s view, saying: “Fortunately we scored a goal which allowed us to grab the three points. We tried everything we could to win what was a very tricky contest.”

Inter are currently in third place, four points of adrift of Serie A leaders Juventus, and face second-placed Napoli next weekend.

Hughton delighted with victory

2 December 2012 21:02

Norwich manager Chris Hughton was delighted with his side’s effort after their 2-1 win over Sunderland on Sunday.

Sebastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington struck in the first half for Norwich before they held on against Martin O’Neill’s side, who were much improved after the break.

The win extended Norwich’s unbeaten run in the English Premier League to nine matches, helping them up to 12th.

Hughton praised goalkeeper Mark Bunn, who replaced the injured John Ruddy, but was pleased with the efforts of his whole team at Carrow Road.

“He was part of a very good team today. We protected him as much as possible,” Hughton said of the shot-stopper.

“It’s the same team for three games in a week and we needed all 11 of them plus the two that came on, but delighted for Mark because it’s a tough one for John.

“John’s going to be out for a while. This gives him an opportunity and he can’t have done himself any harm.”

Craig Gardner pulled a goal back for Sunderland on the stroke of half-time and only wastefulness cost them at least a point.

Hughton gave the visitors credit for their dominant second-half display, praising winger Adam Johnson.

“I thought we were excellent in the first half but it’s very difficult to sustain that for 90 minutes, particularly at the time of their goal – it gave them a real lift,” he said.

“They showed, at times, the real quality that they’ve got in their team, some real sharpness in the box and the wide areas. I thought Johnson was always a threat.

“We had to dig deep in that second half but third game in a week, same team, so I’m really delighted.”

O’Neill, whose side are just a point clear of the relegation zone, lamented his team’s defending which led to Norwich’s two goals.

“We conceded some very, very poor goals so it was an uphill task but from the moment we conceded the second goal I thought that we played very strongly,” O’Neill said.

“Second half in particular we were really excellent, we created some really decent chances and should have scored two or three.

“If we show the same spirit as we did in the second half for the rest of the season we’ll be fine and if we show the tension that was in us in the first half then it’ll be a tough battle.”

Belgian First Division wrap: Vossen hat-trick fires Genk

2 December 2012 20:38

Genk moved up to fourth in the Belgian First Division with a 4-3 win over Lokeren on Sunday.

Ivank Leko opened the scoring for Lokeren but a hat-trick from Jelle Vossen, the first from the penalty spot, swung the match in Genk’s favour.

Benjamin Mokulu Tembe and Koe Persoons struck for Lokeren to square it all up in the second half, but Steven Joseph-Monrose was on hand five minutes from time to score the winner for Genk in a thrilling finish.

The loss ended a seven-match winning streak for Lokeren, who remain in third.

Standard Liege saw off Waasland-Beveren 2-0 at the Freethiel-Stadion courtesy of a goal in either half.

Imoh Ezekiel converted Michy Batshuayi’s cross on 12 minutes to put Liege ahead and it was not until the 90th minute that William Vainqueur sealed the win for the visitors.

Standard Liege are in fifth with Waasland-Beveren still in trouble in the relegation zone.

K-League wrap: Champions Seoul finish on high

2 December 2012 08:16

K-League champions Seoul came from behind to beat Busan I’Park 2-1 as the season came to an end on Sunday.

Seoul claimed their fifth league title almost a fortnight ago but wanted to close the season on a winning note and they did.

Yong-Ho Park, however, opened the scoring for Busan after just two minutes of play at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Dejan Damjanovic levelled the proceedings two minutes before the break – his fourth goal in five games.

And Brazilian defender Adilson completed the hosts’ comeback with 30 minutes remaining in the contest.

Seoul closed the season 14 points clear of their nearest challengers Jeonbuk Motors, who were held to a goalless draw by Jeju United.

Pohang Steelers consolidated third place after recording a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Suwon Bluewings.

Sun-Hong Hwang’s men held a one-point advantage ahead of Suwon leading into the final championship round and they extended that to four thanks to goals from Myeong-Ju Lee, Won-II Kim and Jin-Sung Hwang.

In Sunday’s other match, Asian Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai accounted for Gyeongnam 3-1 courtesy of a brace from Kim Shin-Wook.

Beckham dream realised in Galaxy farewell

2 December 2012 04:45

David Beckham said it was his dream to achieve consecutive MLS titles in his final game with the LA Galaxy on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Englishman signed off in the perfect way after the Galaxy’s 3-1 triumph over the Houston Dynamo in front of 30,510 spectators at The Home Depot Centre.

“Our goal at the start of the season was to win a championship, last year we were amazing and we did it,” Beckham said.

“This year we didn’t start well but we came good and we did it at the important time.”

After missing a guilt-edged chance earlier in the match, captain Landon Donovan bravely stepped up to slot home a 61st-minute penalty that put the Galaxy 2-1 up.

“A lot went through my mind,” Donovan said.

“When you’re in a moment like that, you feel like you let the team down. Candidly, it sat with me until half-time.

“I took a few minutes at half-time, sort of collected myself and tried to stay present, because you can’t change it.

“When the penalty came, I’m not going to fool anyone and say I was calm about it, I was pretty nervous.”

The penalty was Donovan’s 22nd in play-offs – a record – and his willingness to take on the duty took plenty of courage according to Beckham.

“It took some balls for him to step up and take that penalty,” Beckham said.

“I could see what he was like after that chance leading up to half-time.”

With Beckham leaving for the final frontier of his professional career and Donovan in the twilight of his career, both are yet to make a firm decision on their future.

“I haven’t made a decision (on my future) in the last few days,” Donovan said.

“We’re going to enjoy this, go on a nice vacation and we’ll figure out what’s next.

“It’s just been a long two years for all of us. It’s not a woe-is-me story, but I have to listen to my heart and gut and right now my gut says to get away for a while.”

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena admitted the loss of both Beckham and Donovan would be a huge blow but said he would accept whatever decision was made.

“I probably would be (surprised if Donovan retired),” Arena said.

“We will be fully supportive of whatever Landon wants to do. He has still so much to offer the game as a player.

“I think hopefully, with a little bit of rest, he’ll be ready to get back at some point.”