Friday, January 27, 2012

Chelsea striker Torres looking £50m at last as AVB break ends midwinter blues

Around 800 miles from the pressure cooker of their Cobham training ground, Chelsea's players have finally seen a different side to Andre Villas-Boas. 

Six days in Majorca with the squad was a release; a chance for the young Portuguese coach to drain some of the tension after a turbulent start to his career with the club.

He prescribed rest and relaxation, dividing the time between the training pitches, the golf course and some fine dining in some of Palma's magnificent seaview restaurants.

Chelsea's players were instructed to leave their Dolce & Gabbana club suits at home, swapping them for swim shorts and 'club casuals' - the phrase used on the leaflet given to the players a few days before they took off on a charter flight from Norwich last Saturday.

The midwinter break, at the magnificently appointed Hotel Punta Negra in Costa D'en Blanes, was designed to be a cooling-off period after sliding out of the title race. The players responded, stripping off the layers each morning at Real Mallorca's splendid training complex 20 minutes from their clifftop apartments.

It allowed skipper John Terry time to focus his thoughts on Saturday's meeting with the player he is accused of racially abusing at Loftus Road last October, Anton Ferdinand, and his forthcoming court case relating to those allegations.

Others, such as David Luiz, Romelu Lukaku and Fernando Torres thrived, training with  intensity and gripped with enthusiasm. 

Torres must dread the sharp intake of breath Villas-Boas takes before the distinctive shrill of his whistle and shouts the words 'shooting drill'. Yet the striker was a class apart, gliding across the playing surface and stepping into side-foot volleys with the assurance of a World Cup winner. He drew gasps of admiration from Real Mallorca's coaching staff up in the stand whenever one of AVB's training drills ended with Petr Cech beaten cleanly.

It was the player Chelsea paid £50million for, converting chances under the comfort blanket that Villas-Boas created for his squad at their Son Biblioni training camp.

The manager demanded focus and in return he gave them freedom to enjoy themselves on the field, encouraging them to flash the occasional smile again after a frustrating season.

Frank Lampard worked alone, put through a series of sprinting drills before heading off for massage on his injured calf.

It was fun to be around Chelsea for a change, lifting the atmosphere and allowing the players to have some freedom at the team hotel. Some spent the afternoons on the tennis courts, while others took to the golf buggies and set off for the stunning fairways and greens of Son Vida or Alcanada. 

In the evenings a bus took them into town, down the winding roads to friendly restaurants such as the Vinotinto tapas bar.

He has failed to mask his insecurities, surprising Chelsea employees after his return to English football following a hugely successful season with Porto.

But he dropped his guard at times this week, allowing the players to gain a better understanding of his complicated personality.

Villas-Boas still has the support of Roman Abramovich but, crucially, he altered the mindset of some influential players too.


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Friday, January 20, 2012

Nakumura's amazing free kick: curling a ball through the window of a moving bus

FORMER Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura proves he's still got the knack at set pieces — by curling a ball through the window of a moving bus.

The free-kick expert — who now plays for Yokoham F Marinos — was filmed in an alley taking part in a stunt live on Japanese television.
Nakamura, 34, used mirrors to time his strike before rolling back the years to bend a beautiful shot through the vehicle's window — much to the amazement of passengers on board.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Liverpool turmoil: midfielder Downing arrested after allegedly punching ex-girlfriend

Liverpool face fresh turmoil after midfielder Stewart Downing was arrested on suspicion of assault following allegations of hitting an ex-girlfriend in a nightclub row.

The England international, 27, was arrested after a late night fracas at a club in the upmarket suburb of Yarm, near Middlesborough, at about 1am on Sunday morning.

It is the latest incident to rock the Anfield club, coming hot on the heels of the arrest of a 20-year-old man for allegedly racially abusing Oldham defender Tom Adeyemi on Friday night.

The club also remain embroiled in a second race row with Luis Suarez serving an eight-match ban for abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

It is claimed that Downing assaulted his ex-partner, with whom he is thought to have a child, after rowing with her while drinking at the Cross Keys club on Yarm High Street.

A local source told the Mail Online that there had been an incident between the two of them.
'She went over to one of his friends and said something that she shouldn't have,' the source said.

 'He butted in and they were arguing.' It's then that the source alleged that he hit her.

The source continued: 'Police got there as they were thrown out. He caused a scene outside the club as well, when he realised they were going to take him in.'

Referring to last night's incident, a police spokesman said: 'Police were called to an incident at a pub on Yarm High Street.

'A 27-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault and a 32-year-old woman has also been arrested on suspicion of assault.
'Both are in custody and inquiries are ongoing.'


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Injury crisis can't last for Evra

PATRICE EVRA is concerned that the injury crisis that has hit Manchester United could affect the club's title charge.

United's stand-in skipper had to move from left-back to central defence for the second half of Boxing Day's 5-0 win over Wigan after Jonny Evans became the latest defender to limp out of action.
Evra said: "I am a little bit worried because we need everyone if we are going to win the league.
"It is starting to get annoying." 
Evans is expected to be missing for a couple of weeks after tweaking a calf muscle joining a lengthy casualty list containing United's senior defenders.
There is no date set for Rio Ferdinand's return from a long-term back injury and Nemanja Vidic has been ruled out for the rest of the season after damaging his right knee in Champions League action against Basle.
But Evra says it's nothing knew for the Champions.
"It is not the first year we've got so many injuries. Two years ago I played with Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher at the back.
"The most important thing is that we won but I hope everyone gets fit because Blackburn is another big game and we need all the defenders."
Midfielder Ji-Sung Park, who scored in the rout of Wigan, believes the team has the character to battle through.
"I have never known anything like it," said the South Korean.
"Hopefully we will get our defenders back pretty quickly because we are coming up to some very important games.
United boss Alex ferguson is hoping to have Phil Jones and Chris Smalling back for the weekend.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

no stopping Welsh wizard Giggs as goal at Fulham extends remarkable record

Ryan Giggs' goal against Fulham on Wednesday night saw him extend his unique record of scoring in every Premier League season.

But not everything went his way — when the 38-year-old winger scored United’s third goal at Craven Cottage, it turned out to be the 19,999th goal scored in the Premier League.

Guess who scored the 9,999th? Former United midfielder Paul Scholes.

Giggs’ first came way back in August 1992 in a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.

The Welshman has actually scored in 22 seasons, since making his debut for United in March, 1991.
It was a comfortable night for United at Craven Cottage, with the visitors 3-0 up at half-time following goals from Danny Welbeck, Nani and Ryan Giggs.
Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov scored superb goals late on to give United their heaviest win in three months.

Sir Alex Ferguson's men go into Christmas still two points behind their neighbours Manchester City in the title race.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Barcelona's David Villa faces five months out after breaking shinbone

Barcelona have confirmed David Villa is set to be sidelined for between "four and five months" after the Spain striker broke his shinbone in Thursday's 4-0 Club World Cup semi-final victory over Al-Sadd.
The 30-year-old was carried off on a stretcher six minutes before half-time and Barça announced soon after that he had suffered a "fracture to the tibia in his left leg". The player was taken to hospital in Yokohama for further tests.
An updated statement on the Barça website read: "In the coming hours, Villa will return to Barcelona, via Frankfurt, to be operated on. He will be accompanied by doctor Ricard Pruna and Manel Estiarte. The approximate time he will be sidelined is between four and five months."
Villa remains optimistic he will be back in time for the European Championship, and also hopes he will be able to feature in the Champions League final in Munich on 19 May if the defending champions get that far.
In a message posted on his Facebook page, Villa said: "Hello everyone. Thanks for your support. The injury is a tough blow, but I'm sure that I'm going to recover as soon as possible, thinking about playing the final in Munich (I know my team-mates will take me there) and the European Championships.
"I'm going to work hard for it. I want them to count on me. Tomorrow I'll be in Spain. A big hug."
The news means Villa is likely to miss the majority of Barça's La Liga and Champions League campaigns, but could be available to world and European champions Spain for Euro 2012, which begins in June.
On Wednesday Guardiola had denied the club had been actively trying to sell the 30-year-old Villa only 19 months into the four-year deal agreed following his €40m (£33.5m) transfer from Valencia.
Villa has scored five times in 15 league appearances this season, following his 18 goals in 34 games as Barça won the Primera División title last season.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


French online gaming authority ARJEL have opened an investigation into Lyon's 7-1 victory over Dinamo Zagreb, which put them through into the knockout stages of the Champions League at the expense of Ajax Amsterdam.
Lyon began the night three points behind behind Ajax in Group D and needed a seven-goal swing to qualify, which was eventually attained with some ease as they crushed 10-man Zagreb and Ajax slumped to a 3-0 defeat at home to Real.
Bafetimbi Gomis scored a second-half hat-trick for Lyon in seven minutes - the fastest in the competition’s history - against a Dinamo side who had Jerko Leko sent off and nothing to play for after already being condemned to bottom place in the group.

But suspicions were raised when Lisandro Lopez hit Lyon’s fifth and TV cameras appeared to show Dinamo's Domagoj Vida winking and giving the thumbs up to Gomis as the striker tried to collect the ball from him.
The nature of Lyon's victory and footage has called for UEFA to intervene and investigate with Ajax boss Frank de Boer leading the calls following the astonishing result in Croatia.
De Boer said afterwards: "If there was something unusual, UEFA should investigate what happened in Zagreb. My assistants have told me that the goals came quick and easy, because you can’t normally score these goals in half an hour.
"Destiny was in our own own hands and we had chances to qualify because our game was very even. I will have to see video replays (of the disallowed goals)."

But Zagreb, who sacked manager Krunoslav Jurcic after the game, said in a statement that it was "scandalous and malicious to proclaim the Champions League match as suspicious". 
The statement said: "Of course, no one in club can't be satisfied after that result, but it is also obvious that Dinamo was fighting after taking the lead, after equalising and when Lyon took the lead to achieve the best possible result.