Saints end Falcons’ unbeaten run

Updated 13 November 2012
0

Saints end Falcons’ unbeaten run

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana: The New Orleans Saints handed the high-flying Atlanta Falcons their first defeat of the NFL season on Sunday, the Saints defense holding firm in the waning minutes of a 31-27 triumph.
The Saints stopped Atlanta twice in the closing minutes to stun their National Conference South division rivals.
Atlanta, who fell to 8-1, trailed by four at 31-27 when quarterback Matt Ryan led the Falcons to the Saints’ one-yard line with two minutes remaining. The Saints kept them out of the end zone, but Atlanta got the ball back one more time with 37 seconds remaining, and again were unable to score.
“Big win for our football team — we played a heck of a team in Atlanta,” said Saints coach Joe Vitt.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 21-of-32 passes for 298 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in guiding New Orleans to their second straight victory.
“I felt like this was a very hard-fought football game in terms of the effort,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We made way too many mistakes.”
In San Francisco, David Akers and Greg Zuerlein both missed field goals in overtime and the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams played to a 24-24 tie, the first tie in the NFL since November of 2008.
The 49ers’ Akers had sent the game into overtime with a 33-yard field goal with three seconds left in regulation. His overtime effort was wide left.
Zuerlein initially nailed a 53-yard attempt on St. Louis’ ensuing series, but a delay of game penalty was called. The rookie kicker then missed from 58 yards.
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith ended the game on the sidelines, throwing for 72 yards and a touchdown before departing with a concussion late in the first quarter.
Chicago and Philadelphia also saw their signal-callers exit early with concussions.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler took a hard hit to the head in the second quarter and didn’t come back after halftime in a 13-6 loss to Houston — who improved to 8-1 with the victory.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick departed with a concussion in the second quarter of a 38-23 loss to NFC East rivals Dallas.
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant made a spectacular touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter.
Dwayne Harris then returned a punt 78 yards for a go-ahead score 1:25 into the fourth, and Brandon Carr picked off a pass by back-up Falcons quarterback Nick Foles and returned it for a touchdown.
The victory allowed the Cowboys to gain on division leaders the New York Giants, who were stunned 31-13 by the Cincinnati Bengals.
In Minneapolis, Adrian Peterson ran for 171 yards and a touchdown as the Minnesota Vikings posted a 34-24 victory over NFC North division rivals Detroit.
The Baltimore Ravens set a new club record for points scored in a game with a 55-20 triumph over Oakland.
New England continued their home dominance of Buffalo with a 37-31 victory.
Tom Brady threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots, who won their third straight game and their 11th straight against the Bills at Gillette Stadium.
In other games, Tennessee thumped Miami 37-3, Denver downed Carolina 36-14, Tampa Bay beat San Diego 34-24 and Seattle beat the New York Jets 28-7.


Essam El-Hadary set to make history as Hector Cuper plays down Egypt criticism

Updated 7 min 8 sec ago
0

Essam El-Hadary set to make history as Hector Cuper plays down Egypt criticism

VOLGOGRAD: Essam El-Hadary looks set to become the oldest footballer to play at a World Cup today when his Egypt side face Saudi Arabia in their last match of the tournament. Although coach Hector Cuper refused to reveal his line-up, the selection of El-Hadary to appear alongside him in the pre-match press conference yesterday suggests the goalkeeper is in line to break Faryd Mondragon’s four-year-old record.
“Obviously I would be very happy if I participate in the match, but this is not certain,” said El-Hadary, who is 45 years, five months and 12 days old today.
“This decision, though, remains with the management of the team.”
With both Egypt and Saudi Arabia unable to usurp Uruguay and Russia in Group A for a place in the knockout stages, the match is a dead rubber. That has led to much speculation that Cuper, who had preferred Al-Ahly’s Mohammed El-Shenawy in their opening two defeats, might make a sentimental gesture by selecting Saudi Arabia-based El-Hadary.
If he plays, El-Hadary will comfortably beat the record of Colombia’s Mondragon, who made a substitute appearance in Brazil four years ago aged 43 years and three days.
“Obviously for any player to be involved, especially in a World Cup, is a high achievement. Even if it is a record set by myself, Essam El-Hadary, it will also be an achievement for Egypt,” said the Al-Taawoun goalkeeper, who made his debut for Egypt 22 years ago.
Egypt’s preparation for today’s match with the Green Falcons has been carried under a cloud of speculation after rumors emerged that players — including El-Hadary — had clashed with Cuper. Both coach and keeper dismissed such suggestions, with the Argentine manager insisting that he would not entertain questions unless evidence could be provided. El-Hadary added: “If I was making trouble in the team then I don’t deserve to be in the team.”
The final Group A match against Saudi Arabia offers both teams a chance to finish their respective World Cup campaigns on a positive note. While Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side lost 5-0 on the opening night to the hosts and were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Uruguay, Egypt endured similar defeats in reverse, losing in the last minute to the South Americans
before being made to pay for a period of poor concentration against Russia to lose 3-1.
Egypt, making their first appearance on the world stage since 1990, are chasing a first World Cup win. While Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is expected to be passed fit having featured in the Pharaohs’ last game, Cuper was coy when asked if he would ring the changes. He has used only 14 players across 180 minutes of football so far.
“For us, this is an important match because we want to end this participation in the World Cup with a good result,” he said.
“We’re playing for all the people in Egypt and want to give them joy. We want to end this World Cup with a triumph, even though this might be only a footnote in the future. For Egypt to win a first World Cup match would be something very important. What we want to do, then, is bow out in style in the next match.”
Cuper, who may also be bowing out of his time at the Egypt helm after today’s match, has come in for criticism in recent weeks. The 62-year-old, however, insists he is not listening to the critics and is focused on the job.
“Somebody who’s a critic is a critic, that’s his job,” Cuper said. “It’s very difficult to convince everyone. I want to convince my players, link up with them in a way that brings results.
“Criticism really doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t anger me. We have to see individually what our reality is. You look at it, analyze the situation, then you choose a certain line of action to achieve results. But making everybody happy? It’s impossible.”