Del Piero no distraction for Victory

25 January 2013 02:30

Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou is unfazed by the buzz surrounding Alessandro Del Piero ahead of his team’s blockbuster against Sydney FC.

The Italian superstar will grace a pitch in Melbourne for the first time when the rivals clash in front of a sellout crowd at AAMI Park on Saturday.

Del Piero, 38, heads into the encounter in fine form, having netted a personal-best four goals against Wellington in Sydney’s 7-1 thrashing of the Phoenix last time out.

But Postecoglou said he was focused on his in-form third-placed side, who could jump into the top two by the end of the weekend.

“It’s gone pretty well for us focusing on us and nothing will change this week. I know what Melbourne Victory fans want to see tomorrow night,” he said on Friday.

“It’s got nothing to do with Del Piero so that’s what I’ll be excited about.

“I’m really just concentrating on us. I reckon we’re a pretty good team and if we play well tomorrow night or close to our capabilities, we’ll be hard to beat.”

If league leaders Central Coast defeat Adelaide on Friday night, a win for the Victory would send them up to second on the A-League table.

Postecoglou said his approach to Del Piero was as if he was just another player and he sees this weekend as an opportunity for his team to jump into the top two.

“We’re playing against Sydney FC tomorrow and that’s our focus. From our point of view it’s just trying to keep our progression going. We’re in pretty good shape at the moment,” he said.

“Depending on how they (other results) go, we could put some real pressure on the top two, which has been our goal for a little while.

“We’ve been chipping away at that gap but really get a chance to make some inroads this weekend.”

A gritty 1-0 win over Perth Glory on Saturday night means Victory have lost just twice in their past 13 outings.

While Postecoglou is generally pleased with his team, he said they still needed to get better in the attacking third.

“We’ve created quite a few opportunities over the last few weeks and we’ve kept opposition teams in the game,” he said.

“We’ve got to get better when we have a dominant period, just putting them away, because while you can get away with it sometimes, it comes back to bite you – particularly in big games.

“We’ll keep working on those areas but I think our general play has been very good. It’s just that through our dominant periods during games, we probably haven’t taken the chances as well as I’d like.”

Midfielder Billy Celeski is set to return from suspension, while defender Nick Ansell will come back into the side after missing the Glory clash with a groin injury.

Signings Francesco Stella and Jesse Makarounas could make their debuts with fellow recruit Scott Galloway also settling in well.

Campeonato Paulista wrap: Mogi Mirim thump Penapolense

25 January 2013 02:05

Mogi Mirim climbed to second in the Campeonato Paulista on Thursday with a 3-0 thumping of Penapolense.

Carlos Alberto gave the home side the lead two minutes before the interval at the Estadio Romildo Vitos Gomes Ferreira, and the Brazilian doubled his side’s advantage just after the hour mark.

Waguininho completed the win in the 77th minute to see Mogi Mirim move to four points after two matches, two behind leaders Santos.

In other Paulista results on Thursday, Uniao Barbarense also moved to four points with a 2-1 win at Mirassol.

Cesinha put the visitors ahead 10 minutes in, but Caion had Mirassol level just before the half-hour.

Things looked headed for a stalemate until substitute Cleverson scored in the 83rd minute to hand Barbarense all three points.

And XV de Piracicaba were too strong for Paulista, winning 2-1 at home.

Cassiano scored 10 minutes into the second half to give Paulista the advantage but Adriano Ardaia levelled in the 81st minute before Paulinho’s stoppage-time strike sealed victory for the home side.

Copa del Rey wrap: Barca shrug off dogged Malaga

25 January 2013 00:12

Barcelona have set up a Copa del Rey semi-final showdown with Real Madrid after battling to a 4-2 win over Malaga on Thursday.

The result gave Barca a 6-4 aggregate victory, following a 2-2 draw in the first leg at Camp Nou.

Twice Barca went ahead, through Pedro and Gerard Pique, and twice they were pegged back, first by Joaquin, and then by Roque Santa Cruz.

But the Catalans reclaimed the lead through Andres Iniesta before Lionel Messi sealed their progression to the semi-finals with a late header.

Tito Vilanova’s side took the lead inside eight minutes at La Rosaleda, after Dani Alves advanced down the right wing and slipped a pass inside that Pedro cleverly allowed to run on to Xavi.

The playmaker took a moment before playing the ball through to Alves, who had continued his run in behind the Malaga defence. The Brazilian then calmly assessed his options before deftly chipping the ball up for the supporting Pedro to head home.

Malaga drew level less than four minutes later, Joaquin sweeping home from just inside the Barca box.

With scores locked at 1-1 at half-time, Malaga held the advantage on the away goals rule, but Barca reclaimed the lead within four minutes of the restart, with Pique showing the poise of a centre forward in controlling a precision pass from Iniesta before slotting past Carlos Kameni.

Malaga levelled on 68 minutes when Joaquin turned provider to Santa Cruz, who angled a shot past Jose Pinto.

But two goals in the final 15 minutes were enough to send Barcelona through.

Iniesta again provided the inspiration, playing another wonderful one-two, on this occasion with Cesc Fabregas, before sliding the ball under the advancing Kameni and when Messi headed home on 80 minutes Barca had booked themselves a mouth-watering Clasico semi-final.

In Thursday’s other match, Atletico Madrid secured their place in the last four with a 1-1 draw at Real Betis giving them a 3-1 aggregate win.

Diego Costa put Atletico ahead on the stroke of half-time, meaning Jorge Molina’s 90th-minute penalty was nothing more than a consolation for the hosts.

Baup tips French exodus to continue

24 January 2013 23:45

Marseille coach Elie Baup has warned the trend of big names moving from Ligue 1 to the English Premier League will continue.

A number of players have made the switch across the English Channel in recent seasons and this January transfer window has been no different.

Loic Remy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa are just some of the latest departures from the French top flight, and Baup feels the trend will continue.

“What you see is that French football loses good players, all leaving for England, so the Premier League will be above all the other leagues,” Baup said.

“In France, because of the financial side, we will have to work on young players or with recruits not well known, and then we’ll make them big, and they’ll go to England again. We are entering this ‘cycle’.”

Baup’s side take on Rennes on Saturday as they continue their push for an 11th French league crown.

Marseille sit third in the table, just one point behind leaders PSG, and Baup predicted a stern test from fifth-placed Rennes.

“Rennes are fighting with us for the spots for Europe, it’s a team which just qualified for the Coupe de la League final. That kind of qualification always gives you many positive things, especially mentally,” Baup said.

“So at home, they’re a team full of strength, with many qualities, and they will of course give us many problems.”

Coupe de France: Plabennec 1 Lille 3

24 January 2013 23:18

Lille came from behind to ease into the Coupe de France round of 16 with a 3-1 win over amateur side Plabennec on Thursday.

Richard Pelletier gave the fourth-tier side a shock lead in the 28th minute in front of their home fans at Stade Francis-Le Ble in Brest.

But the mid-table Ligue 1 side responded before the break, thanks to an own goal from Nicolas Kernevez just four minutes after the opener.

Nolan Roux put the visitors ahead and Tulio de Melo extended their advantage in the 67th minute as they advanced to the last 16.

Plabennec stunned Reims in the round of 64 and looked capable of causing another shock when Pelletier put them ahead.

But their lead over Rudi Garcia’s men lasted just four minutes, with Kernevez finding his own net to put Lille on level terms.

Franck Kerdiles’ side were behind just three minutes into the second half when Roux struck and their fairytale cup run was ended by Brazilian de Melo.