субота, 12. децембар 2009.

Premier League - Team news: Vidic returns

Nemanja Vidic is set to make a return to the heart of Manchester United's defence when the champions face Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday.

2009-10 Premier League Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic - 0

The Serbia international was one of eight United defenders to miss the midweek 3-1 Champions League win at Wolfsburg, due to illness.

Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to rely on a back-line that included Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick and had Patrice Evra as the only recognized defender.

But first-choice centre back Vidic is set to return against Martin O?Neill?s side to bring some much needed defensive strength.

However, with Rio Ferdinand, John O?Shea and Jonny Evans all likely to miss the festive programme, United manager Ferguson may have to call on Carrick at the back once again if Wes Brown does not return from an ankle injury against ambitious Villa.

Despite the disruption caused by their lengthy injury list, United made up ground in the title race last weekend, with their 4-0 win over West Ham and Chelsea's 2-1 defeat at Manchester City moving Ferguson's team within two points of the leaders.

United have responded to their fitness problems with four straight wins that have seen them score 13 goals.

Republic of Ireland midfielder Darron Gibson has been one beneficiary of the growing sick list at Old Trafford and now he is is determined to hold down a first-team place.

With Fletcher and Carrick being pressed into more defensive roles, the 22-year-old Gibson has featured in five games in the last month and has come up with three goals.

"It is a difficult time for United," said Gibson. "Obviously I don't like players being injured but it has given me a chance to prove myself.

"From not playing at all to playing three games in a week is tough going," he added.

"But the manager has shown enough trust in me and I feel I have taken my opportunities so far. Hopefully, they keep coming.

"As everyone knows, it is very difficult to make it at United but if you do it, you reap the rewards.

"The gaffer (Ferguson) is famous for giving chances to young lads. If you take your chance he sticks with you, so hopefully I will keep getting a few more games," Gibson said.

Although they have coped admirably without so many defenders, Scotland midfielder Fletcher said it was vital Ferguson got his first-choice back four in place as soon as possible.

"We have a few problems and the sooner our defenders come back the better," Fletcher said.

"But if not we'll have to rally round as a team like we did in midweek and try to put in a professional performance.

"We always go into games thinking we have enough quality to win the match, no matter what the team is.

"But we want our defenders fit because we have some big games coming up and need everyone available."

Despite United's ongoing injury concerns, Villa manager Martin O'Neill insisted his fifth-placed team would be far from over-confident for their trip to the champions.

"If you had listened to Sir Alex talking before their European game this week he mentioned that the most important thing for him was Saturday's game against Aston Villa." O'Neill said.

"He might not have every single option available to him but he'll have a lot more options available to him on Saturday, you can guarantee that.

"Manchester United couldn't have won the number of championships they have without having one of the strongest squads in European football.

"It will be tough."


Button hails Brawn team at trophy ceremony

Jenson Button paid tribute to his former Brawn GP team after collecting the Formula One champions' trophy at a gala awards ceremony in Monaco.

Formula One driver Button poses with Brawn GP Formula One team principal Brawn during the 2009 FIA prize presentation gala in Monaco - 0

"I am honoured to be here in Monaco this evening to collect the drivers' championship trophy and to see my name engraved alongside the famous racing legends of the past," said the Briton, who will race for McLaren next year.

"Motor racing has been a part of my life since my father bought my first go-kart at the age of eight and to have achieved my dream of becoming world champion makes me incredibly proud."

Button won six of the first seven races of the season for Brawn, who have since been taken over by Mercedes after an astonishing season that saw them rise from the embers of departed Honda.

"Just 23 days before the start of the season, we didn't even know if we would be at the first race and now I am the world champion with the team winning the constructors' championship. Everyone at the team deserves our success so much," said Button.

"It has truly been a fantastic year and I am very proud of the success that we achieved together."

The race promoters' trophy went to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that made its debut this year with the sport's first day-to-night race.


Reports: Schumacher 'agrees' F1 return

Michael Schumacher is close to making a sensational return to Formula One after agreeing a one-year contract with Mercedes, according to reports in Germany.

FORMULA 1 Schumacher Mercedes Picasso - 0

Bild and Focus magazine reported on Saturday that the seven-times world champion will compete for the new Mercedes team - formerly Brawn - next season if he passes a mandatory medical.

Schumacher had planned to return to F1 with Ferrari in the summer after Felipe Massa was sidelined following a crash, but due to neck injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash, his return was put on hold.

The magazine also said that Mercedes wanted Schumacher to act as a team ambassador on a long-term basis, though that would involve him cutting ties with Ferrari who he still advises.

Schumacher's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm refused to comment on whether the winner of 91 grands prix would compete for one final year when questioned by Deutsche Press Agency.

A source close to Schumacher's management team told Eurosport that reports were "more than just rumours."


Woods to take break from golf

Tiger Woods said he would take an indefinite break from professional golf, admitting he cheated on his wife and bowing to the pressure of two weeks of frenzied media scrutiny of his private life.

Tiger Woods - 0

The world's number one golfer made the stunning announcement in his latest posting on his website in which he confessed "infidelity" for the first time, said he was sorry and asked his family, friends and supporters for forgiveness.

Woods, 33, one of the most admired sport personalities on the planet and the married father of two young children, had previously owned up only to "transgressions" in response to multiple media allegations of numerous extramarital flings.

The allegations followed a bizarre, minor early morning car accident outside his Florida home on November 27 that rapidly ballooned into a full-fledged sex scandal that turned his previously unblemished life and career upside down.

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children," said Woods.

His previous perfectionist image was a magnet for lucrative sports sponsorships and endorsements, and according to Forbes magazine, he was the first athlete to earn $1 billion, making him one of the world's wealthiest sports figures.

"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person," Woods said.

"I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try," he added.

The announcement by the greatest golfer of his generation left the world of professional golf reeling, although his closest collaborators expressed understanding.

"The entirety of someone's life is more important than just a professional career. What matters most is a young family that is trying to cope with difficult life issues in a secluded and caring way. Whenever Tiger may return to the game should be on the family's terms alone," his agent and friend Mark Steinberg said.

Although Woods's major commercial backers and sponsors - which include PepsiCo's Gatorade, Procter & Gamble's Gillette, Electronic Arts and Nike - have up to now stood by him,

Steinberg acknowledged the golfer's announcement could affect his business relationships.

"Of course, each sponsor has unique considerations and ultimately the decisions they make we would fully understand and accept," he said.

One company, AT&T, said it supported Woods's decision and "our thoughts will be with him and his family". But it added, "We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him."

Woods has been far and away the top draw on the PGA Tour. He is chasing Jack Nicklaus' record for victories in Major tournaments and the unofficial title of best golfer ever. He has won 71 times on the tour in a spectacular career that includes 14 Major wins.

But US PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem expressed sympathy for the reasons behind his decision to take a break.

"His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy," Finchem said.

"We look forward to Tiger's return to the US PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him," he added.

It was the early hour and circumstances of the November 27 car accident and Woods's refusal to answer police questions, followed by reports he had argued with his wife that night, which triggered worldwide speculation about his personal life.

Woods suffered facial cuts and bruises in the one-car accident, in which he hit a water hydrant and a tree.

The Florida Highway Patrol has closed its investigation into Woods's accident after issuing a ticket to him for careless driving and saying no criminal charges would be brought.

His Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, told police she pulled him from the crashed car after using a golf club to smash a window. Woods has paid his $164 traffic fine.

As the scandal over his private life unravelled, more and more US and British tabloid newspapers and media websites published comments from and photos of a parade of between eight to 12 women, including cocktail waitresses and porn stars, who claimed relationships with Woods.

The media scrutiny prompted Woods to seek and obtain a British court order banning publication in Britain of any photos or video showing him nude or having sex.

A letter from the lawyers accompanying the injunction contains a statement that "this Order is not to be taken as an admission that any such photographs exist."

Some media outlets have speculated Woods and his family may try to escape the glare of public attention by going on a cruise in his luxury motor yacht, or moving to Sweden, his wife's home country.

But some public relations experts predicted Woods may find it difficult to deflect the media attention, despite his announcement on Friday.

"What he wants to do is make the story go away," Howard Bragman of public relations agency Fifteen Minutes told CNN.

"It may be a good life strategy, it may save his marriage ... (but) there is no place he can go to get away from this," Bragman said.

Golf: US PGA Tour Shark Shootout

2nd Round - Saturday 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport 2

Final Round - Sunday 6th December 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport 2


Premier League - Burnley and Fulham share spoils

Wade Elliott cancelled out Bobby Zamora's opener as Burnley and Fulham played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Turf Moor in the Premier League.

Fulham's Erik Nevland (right) and Burnley's Clarke Carlisle (right) battle for the ball. - 0

Former non-league and university player Elliott, the scorer of the Clarets' play-off winning goal last season, smashed a superb volley past Mark Schwarzer on the hour mark.

Zamora had earlier hit his fifth league goal of the season, racing away on the counter attack moments after Elliott missed a sitter.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

Premier League - City scramble draw with Bolton

Bolton shared a 3-3 draw in a pulsating encounter with 10-man Manchester City in their Premier League clash at the Reebok Stadium.

Bolton Wanderers' Ivan Klasnic (2ndR) celebrates scoring against Manchester City during their English Premier League match in Bolton, - 0

A brace from Ivan Klasnic and an inspired strike from Gary Cahill gave Bolton the lead three times as the hosts showed an attacking threat rarely seen in their indifferent displays so far this season.

But City showed immense character, despite their shocking defending and Craig Bellamy's red card, to haul themselves back on each occasion to salvage a point with Carlos Tevez netting a fine brace and Micah Richards also on target.

Bolton twice forced their way into the ascendancy in the first half, only for City to get back on terms, and Mark Hughes will count his side fortunate as they avoided only their second defeat in 15 league matches.

Gary Megson was under immense pressure midweek as his chairman Phil Gartside was forced to publicly back his manager, but it was his side who started by far the brighter as City were kept under the cosh early on.

Bolton's pressure was rewarded in the 11th minute as Matthew Taylor whipped in a devilish delivery from the left which Lee Chung-Yong drove back across from the far post, and Ivan Klasnic stole in to tap home from inside the six-yard box.

Tamir Cohen almost doubled the hosts' lead three minutes later with City reeling as Kevin Davies headed on Lee's cross and Kolo Toure failed to clear to leave the Israeli to produce an over-head kick which drifted agonisingly over the bar.

The tempo of the first half was frantic as Bolton appealed fervently for a penalty as the ball bounced up to inadvertently strike the arm of Micah Richards in the 20th minute, but referee Mark Clattenburg was lenient and waved play on.

City suffered a blow a midway through the first half as Shaun Wright-Phillips was forced off after sustaining a knock, but Stephen Ireland was a persistent threat after he came on to replace the winger.

Mark Hughes cut an agitated figure on the touchline until Tevez drew his side level just before the half-hour after Ireland forced his way down the right and his cross eventually fell to the feet of the Argentine, whose fierce shot was cruelly deflected past the helpless Jaaskelainen.

Gareth Barry then squandered a glorious chance to put the visitors in front as Craig Bellamy's corner picked out the midfielder, who was unmarked at the back post, but he lashed his volley wide of the far post from close range.

Barry would rue his profligacy as Cahill restored Bolton's lead with a stunning effort in the 43rd minute: the defender took the ball down on the edge of the City box and proceeded to swivel and unleash a stunning shot which flew unerringly into the top corner of Given's net.

The hosts again looked jittery as they sought to protect their lead going into the break, and in stoppage time Bellamy picked out the marauding Richards with an incisive through ball, and the defender produced a clinical finish to restore parity for a second time.

Both sides demonstrated a distinct lack of conviction at the back as the play lurched from end to the other, and it seemed only a matter of time until one of the defences were breached once more, and so it proved.

More shoddy defending from City enabled Taylor's cross from the left to squirm its way through to Klasnic in the 53rd minute, who simply stabbed the ball home from close range after he evaded the slack marking of Lescott in the box to hand Bolton the lead for the third time.

Bolton should have made it four as the broke at pace following a poor corner from City and, after Lee beat Lescott and Sylvinho, he unselfishly squared the ball to Fabrice Muamba, who sliced his shot horribly wide with just Given to beat to hand the visitors a further reprieve.

City piled forward in their droves as they looked to equalise once more, but their task was made all the harder as Clattenburg inexplicably showed Craig Bellamy a second yellow card after the Welshman was adjudged to have dived under the challenge of Paul Robinson. To say it was a debatable decision would be an understatement.

Lescott then contrived to inexplicably head over the bar from inside the Bolton six-yard box as he stole in to meet Tevez's cross from the left, and the defender had to score with the marking entirely absent.

But Tevez seized the initiative and fired a ferocious low shot into the far corner of Jaaskelainen's net in the 77th minute to draw City level for a third time and salvage his side a point in fine fashion.

Bolton squandered the opportunity to claim the scalp of City after seeing their advantage erased three times, but Hughes will be happy to come away with a point after his side showed character with a numerical disadvantage.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

Premier League - Wolves battle to win at Spurs

Wolverhampton Wanderers pulled themselves out of the bottom three of the Premier League table with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

2009-10 Premier ELague Wolves Kevin Doyle scores against Tottenham - 0

Kevin Doyle's third-minute header was enough for Mick McCarthy's men to move above West Ham and Bolton after they kept their first clean sheet in the league since August.

Tottenham's last home match was the 9-1 thrashing of Wigan Athletic, but any thought the home fans had of seeing another hatful were ruined in the third minute when Kevin Doyle scored for the visitors.

Tom Huddlestone fouled Karl Henry in the first clash of what became a running battle throughout the match, and Nenad Milijas's delivery was met with a glancing header from the Doyle for his fourth goal of the season.

More to follow...