Man City held to goalless draw by lowly QPR
Man City held to goalless draw by lowly QPR
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.
Liverpool and Alan Kennedy look to rerun history against Real Madrid in Kiev
LIVERPOOL: With eight minutes of the 1981 European Cup final remaining, Liverpool left-back Alan Kennedy made one of his trademark bursts forward, broke into the Real Madrid penalty area and drove home a left-footed finish to settle a tense, tactical battle.
Unlikely, unforgettable, he had the historic distinction of being the matchwinner in two finals, having also netted the decisive penalty in the shoot-out victory over AS Roma three years later.
“So proud,” reflected Kennedy. “It was a wonderful time to be a Liverpool player.”
On Saturday, the Reds meet Real again in Kiev to contest European club football’s most prized trophy.And the memories of that Paris triumph will never fade for the 63-year-old, nor will being part of a lauded Liverpool team.
“That was their mentality and Liverpool were rightly the top team in Europe,” Kennedy, who also lifted five League titles for the Reds during his eight-year stay at Anfield, said. “It was a great era, great times, but the be-all and end-all for any footballer, should be about winning trophies.”
Liverpool’s strength and focus was emphasized in that Parc des Princes showpiece. Before kick-off they had to cover up sponsor’s logos on their shirts to appease UEFA and TV broadcasters. They had concerns about the fitness of influential striker Kenny Dalglish and Kennedy himself after a broken wrist had sidelined him six weeks earlier.
“I think when you put obstacles in the way of that Liverpool team, the better they played,” he told Arab News. “We had issues with TV rights, about the state of the pitch, issues about the fitness of players, me included, but we went out to play the game and win.”
Formidable foes, Bob Paisley’s side dominated Europe in much the same way Zinedine Zidane’s side are doing at the moment. On Saturday they will seek to become the first side to win three European Cups on the bounce since Bayern Munich in 1976.
“Real Madrid are the champions and fantastic in the competition with their history,” said Kennedy. “You have to respect what they have done.
“Everyone expected Liverpool to be in contention for all the trophies too and that’s what we wanted, to push ourselves to as many finals. We wanted to win everything. Maybe we were a bit greedy, but we felt we could do it.
“I don’t think we were arrogant, although our play suggested we were good at what we did. We played a system that was attack all the time no matter if we were under the cosh or defending.
“It was a great team, everyone knew their jobs, we didn’t change for anyone. We were single-minded about winning. We had set the standards and were under pressure to win every game.”
As favorites, Real will be under similar pressure as they seek a 13th title. And Kennedy believes that his former club can claim a sixth European Cup and their first since the famous 2005 triumph over AC Milan in Istanbul when they came back from 3-0 down.
“I know it will be a great game, difficult to call,” he said.
“But I would be saying to the Liverpool players that you can win it, you are good enough to win it. Go out and play the same way you
have all season. If they do, I think they will win it.
“They may concede, but they should not change their style.”
And nor should they, as attack has been the best form of defense for Liverpool this season. In Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, there is a frontline blessed with pace, panache and potency.
Salah, rightly, has received accolades — including the PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year awards — after a stunning debut season following his £36.9 million ($49 million) arrival from Roma.
A landmark 42 goals — a record 32 in the Premier League — and ability to create chances have seen the Egyptian ranked alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
But, for Kennedy, there can be no comparison to Dalglish, arguably the greatest Kop king.
“Kenny was special, a different type of player, always on the shoulder of the defender,” he added. “Salah comes in from the wing and scores spectacular goals. Liverpool play to his strengths as he is forever getting into the box and the right position.
“For me, Kenny, over 10 seasons, was Liverpool’s top player at that time, fantastic, and it’s difficult to put them side by side. Salah’s been wonderful, but never had a season like this before.”
Madrid’s talisman Ronaldo has. Another 43 goals for the five-time Ballon D’Or winner shows he remains a force at 33.
“I’ve always had utmost admiration for Ronaldo,” said Kennedy. “He has this ability to score in finals and show how good he is. One chance, he takes it.
“But that’s been the same with Salah too. The goals he has scored, he seems to see what comes ahead. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.”