Man City held to goalless draw by lowly QPR

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Updated 31 January 2013
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Man City held to goalless draw by lowly QPR

LONDON: Title-chasing Manchester City, poised to sell striker Mario Balotelli, could not crack resilient Queens Park Rangers and in-form goalkeeper Julio Cesar in a 0-0 draw at the Premier League’s basement club on Tuesday.
City closed the gap on leaders Manchester United to four points but a frustrating night for Roberto Mancini’s side in a wet and windy capital handed United the chance to increase their advantage to seven when they host Southampton on Wednesday.
“Julio Cesar saved everything and we made some mistakes — on another day maybe we could have scored four goals,” Mancini, who signed Brazilian Cesar back in 2005 when Inter Milan manager, told City’s website (www.mcfc.co.uk).
United have 56 points from 23 games with City on 52 from 24.
Aston Villa’s season continued to lurch from bad to worse after 2-1 defeat against fellow strugglers Newcastle United dropped the freefalling Midlands club into the relegation zone.
Goals from Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye fired Newcastle into a first-half lead with Christian Benteke’s penalty soon after the restart not enough to save Villa from a fourth successive home league defeat.
Villa got a standing ovation for their second-half efforts and beleaguered manager Paul Lambert, backed this week by the club’s American owner Randy Lerner, promised to “fight our way out of it.”
Wigan Athletic moved above Villa and out of the drop zone on goal difference after coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Stoke City.
QPR, still five points from safety despite a four-match unbeaten run, have become a well-organized defensive unit under Harry Redknapp as City discovered at Loftus Road.
Mancini, who left Balotelli out of his squad with the Italy striker set to move back home to Serie A with AC Milan, went for broke in the second-half with his remaining three frontline strikers Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and substitute Edin Dzeko all on the pitch.
But they were thwarted by sturdy defending and the irrepressible Cesar. A strong penalty shout when Scott Sinclair appeared to be upended was also waved away.
“We did everything to win this game but we didn’t score,” added Mancini.
“The pitch was wet, it was windy, it was difficult — we deserved to win but we have another 14 games to go.”
Mancini said it would be difficult for City to replace Balotelli before the transfer window closed on Thursday.
“I don’t know, we have three strikers, we will see. We have only two days. It’s difficult to get a good player now.”
City’s Pablo Zabaleta headed against the crossbar in the first half and Cesar made superb saves to deny Gareth Barry and David Silva.

Newcastle relied on their French connection to secure a first away league win of the season, heaping further pressure on Lambert.
Villa have picked up just one league win in their last 10 and last week were knocked out of the Capital One (League) Cup and FA Cup in the space of four days by lower league opponents.
France midfielder Moussa Sissoko had an immediate impact on his debut for Newcastle after joining last week from Toulouse, setting up Cisse to score after 19 minutes.
Another Frenchman, Cabaye, doubled the lead with a sizzling half-volley on 31 and, although Villa tore into their opponents after the break, Newcastle survived to move up one place to 15th.
Lambert vowed to battle on.
“There will be a few teams down there and we will have to fight our way out of it,” he said.
“Money dictates everything and the situation hasn’t changed. I don’t know if we will be able to bring anyone in, let’s see what the next two days brings. You have to survive in the league and sometimes you need a bit of help.”
Wigan got a boost in their survival fight thanks to a fine fightback at Stoke, who had led through Ryan Shawcross and Peter Crouch.
James McArthur got Wigan back in the match soon after Crouch’s early second-half goal and secured a point with Franco Di Santo’s volley just after the hour.
In the night’s other match, Sunderland and Capital One Cup finalists Swansea City drew 0-0.


Afghanistan can beat any Test side in the world, claims all-rounder Mohammad Nabi

Updated 9 min 53 sec ago
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Afghanistan can beat any Test side in the world, claims all-rounder Mohammad Nabi

  • Maiden Test win give Afghans confidence they can take on anyone.
  • Mohammad Nabi praises spin kings after win over the Irish.

LONDON: Mohammad Nabi has claimed that on their day Afghanistan can beat any Test side in the world.
The veteran all-rounder was speaking after helping his side claim their first Test win — a seven-wicket victory over Ireland — in just their second ever Test. Afghanistan, who lost the debut Test to India in just two days last year, joined an elite list of cricketing nations after winning their second five-day game.
Australia won their debut Test in 1877 and England and Pakistan won in their second Test outing.
That has Nabi dreaming that this is just the start for Afghanistan, s long as the batsmen give the bowling attack enough runs to defend on a consistent basis.
“It’s a very historic day for whole of Afghanistan,” the 34-year-old said. “Especially for those guys who bring cricket from zero to the Test cricket. We played two games and we won one.
“When you win then teams will tell you to come and play with them. Nobody plays a weak team. They might think that Afghanistan is weak but not so much that we can’t fight them.
“We have the world’s best spinners and we try to concentrate on our batting line-up. If we can put up a good score on board then we are confident of beating any team in the world.”
While a case of being able to beat any team in the world might be tough to make, it is hard to overstate the significance of the win against Ireland. As with the Irish Nabi’s team only achieved Test status two years ago, they only played their first ODI in 2009 and the confidence and class is clearly oozing throughout the squad.
Rahmat Shah top-scored with 76 and Ihsanullah Janat hit an unbeaten 65 to lead Afghanistan’s successful chase of 147 in the opening session of day four against Ireland in Dehradun in India.
Shah, who hit his second fifty of the match after making 98 in Afghanistan’s first innings score of 314, and Janat put on a match-winning stand of 139 for the second wicket.
Star leg-spinner Rashid Khan also played a key role in his team’s historic triumph after returning career-best figures of five for 82 to bowl out Ireland for 288 in their second innings.
Khan along with fellow spinners Nabi and Waqar Salamkheil accounted for 14 of the 20 Irish wickets to fall during the one-off match between the minnows.
Since overcoming the odds to compete in the 2010 World T20 in England, the Afghan team has managed to qualify for all the major international tournaments and they now await their second appearance in the upcoming 50-over World Cup.
But Nabi insisted a Test win is always special.
“Every format is different. Test has a different flavour to it. We played a lot of T20 and one-day matches and won but Test win was first,” Nabi said.”The way our guys performed in batting and bowling, the kind of comebacks that we did.... It shows we are ready for Test cricket.”