Balotelli all smiles on debut; Messi scores, Ronaldo’s woes

Updated 05 February 2013
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Balotelli all smiles on debut; Messi scores, Ronaldo’s woes

LONDON: European soccer’s big-name strikers enjoyed contrasting fortunes as Mario Balotelli enjoyed a scoring debut for AC Milan to share the spotlight with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who had weekends to forget.
Prolific Messi scored again for La Liga leaders Barcelona, although his side were held by Valencia, but Ronaldo put through his own net as Real Madrid’s slim La Liga title hopes faded further with defeat at Granada.

ITALY
Mario Balotelli scored twice on his AC Milan debut, the second a controversial stoppage-time penalty, to give them a 2-1 win over Udinese.
Milan moved up to fourth place with 40 points, ahead of neighbors Inter Milan on goal difference and only three behind third-placed Lazio, who lost 3-2 to Genoa. Inter were beaten 3-1 at lowly Siena.
Leaders Juventus stayed three points clear of Napoli at the top as both won to pull clear of the pack. Juventus won 2-1 at Chievo with first-half goals from Alessandro Matri and Stephan Lichtsteiner, and Napoli beat Catania 2-0, leaving them six points clear of Lazio.
SPAIN
A Cristiano Ronaldo own-goal condemned champions Real Madrid to a 1-0 defeat at lowly Granada and a fifth defeat of the campaign further damaged their fading title hopes.
Ronaldo headed into his own net at a 22nd-minute corner and leaders Barcelona and second-placed Atletico Madrid both capitalized.
Lionel Messi scored in his 12th consecutive league game, a penalty just before halftime, to cancel out Ever Banega’s strike as Barca drew 1-1 in Valencia.
Atletico were 1-0 home winners over fifth-placed Real Betis thanks to a Diego Costa header. Barca have 59 points, Atletico 50 and Real remained on 43 in third.
ENGLAND
Manchester United stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to nine points after a 1-0 win at Fulham and Manchester City’s 2-2 home draw with Liverpool.
Wayne Rooney’s superb controlled finish after 79 minutes at Craven Cottage was enough for battling United to seal a vital win over Fulham.
City had Sergio Aguero to thank for their point after the Argentine scored a magical goal from an acute angle.
Edin Dzeko had given the hosts the lead, only for Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard to hit back in style for the Reds.
Third-placed Chelsea lost 3-2 at Newcastle United in a rip-roaring encounter, so Tottenham Hotspur moved to within a point of their London rivals thanks to Gareth Bale’s cracker in a 1-0 win at 10-man West Bromwich Albion.

GERMANY
Leaders Bayern Munich continued their seemingly unstoppable march to their first league title in three years when they beat Mainz 05 3-0 with two goals from Bundesliga top scorer Mario Mandzukic.
The Bavarians hold a 12-point advantage over champions Borussia Dortmund who went second after a scintillating 3-2 victory at Bayer Leverkusen.
Early goals from Marco Reus and Jakub Blaszczykowski gave the visitors a two-goal cushion but Leverkusen raced back in the second half to level with Stefan Reinartz’s double.

Robert Lewandowski snatched the winner in the 64th with his 13th goal of the season to lift Dortmund to 39 with Bayern on 51. Leverkusen dropped to third on 37 points.

FRANCE
Paris St. Germain celebrated David Beckham’s signing with an impressive 4-0 demolition of Toulouse, which lifted them three points clear at the top of the Ligue 1.
PSG are on 48 points with second-placed Olympique Lyon on 45 after they lost 3-1 at lowly Ajaccio, Adrian Mutu scoring his first double for the Corsican side.
English midfielder Joey Barton was dismissed for the first time since joining Olympique Marseille on loan from Queens Park Rangers as his side slumped to a shock 1-0 home loss to struggling Nancy.
Marseille are third with 42 points, four ahead of Girondins Bordeaux who defeated Valenciennes 2-0 at home thanks to former Manchester United forward David Bellion’s first league goal in more than three years.

NETHERLANDS

Leaders PSV Eindhoven scored six second-half goals, with doubles from Dries Mertens and Georginio Wijnaldum, in a 7-0 thrashing of ADO Den Haag.
Ajax Amsterdam moved into second, three points behind PSV, with a 3-0 win at VVV Venlo. Twente Enschede slipped to third, a point further back, after a surprise 4-2 home defeat by Utrecht.

PORTUGAL

Porto and Benfica remained neck and neck at the top with comfortable wins over Vitoria de Guimaraes and Vitoria de Setubal.
Both are on 45 points from 17 matches, 15 ahead of third-placed Braga.
In-form Colombia striker Jackson Martinez grabbed a hat trick in Porto’s 4-0 away thrashing of Guimaraes. The crafty Martinez pulled clear in the top scorers list with 18 goals.
Benfica punished Setubal 3-0 at home thanks to goals from Argentine midfielder Enzo Perez, Brazilian striker Lima and Spanish youngster Rodrigo.


Tunisia told to forget about England defeat ahead of Belgium clash

Updated 19 min 18 sec ago
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Tunisia told to forget about England defeat ahead of Belgium clash

  • Tunisia still confident despite last-gasp defeat to England on Monday.
  • Eagles of Carthage come up against highly fancied Belgium.

LONDON: Nabil Maaloul has called on Tunisia to forget about the defeat to England and concentrate on the task at hand: Beating Belgium today.
The Eagles of Carthage lost 2-1 in their opener to England on Monday to leave them needing to get a result against Eden Hazard and Co. in Moscow. Getting a result against the highly fancied Belgians will not be easy, not least because they looked sharp during their 3-0 victory over Panama.
But Maaloul is certain his side can make their mark in Russia, having held England at bay for all bar the last minute.
“If we had got a draw it would have been an excellent result for us (against England), but hopefully this will lead to higher levels of concentration in the coming games,” Maaloul said.
Tunisia will not make life easy for Belgium as they seek to provide a bright spot in a poor World Cup for African sides, with Egypt and Morocco already out.
“We lost a battle, but not the war,” Tunisian forward Fakhreddine Ben Youssef said of the England game.
The Belgians want to win at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow to avoid making their final group game against England on June 28 a make-or-break qualification affair.
Romelu Lukaku netted twice in the victory over Panama, but bar the scoreline, the match was notable for the rough treatment dished out to Hazard. The Belgium playmaker was tightly marked and occasionally clattered by Central Americans.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez hopes the Chelsea player will not get the same treatment from Tunisia.
“It is a worry that in any of those tackles he could really get hurt,” said Belgium’s Spanish coach.
“It doesn’t worry me if that is just their way of trying to stop him.”
History favors the Belgians. They are yet to lose to African opposition at a World Cup, while Tunisia have never beaten a European side at a finals.
The experienced Oussama Haddadi is set to replace Ali Maaloul at left-back in the Tunisian defense and Martinez saw plenty of danger for his team in the north Africans’ opening 2-1 defeat to England.
“They have a lot of bravery and they’re very dynamic,” Martinez said. “The players have a good understanding between each other and they can bring energy and intensity on counter-attacks. They play direct, efficient football.”
After seeing Lukaku and Dries Martens grab the goals against 
Panama, Hazard wants to add some goals of his own.
Hazard, whose younger brother Thorgan is also in a squad considered to be Belgium’s best for decades, is aware of the thirst for success back home.
“We knew it before the tournament. People say that Belgium would win every game but it’s not that simple,” said Hazard. “We want to win, we won the first game and have another one Saturday against Tunisia. We take it game after game.”
Belgium, ranked third in the world, reached the quarterfinals of Brazil 2014 and are aiming to match their previous best of reaching the semifinals at Mexico 1986.
There was some good news for Martinez on Thursday when Barcelona center-back Thomas Vermaelen trained for the first time in Russia.
Likewise Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, who like Vermaelen is 32, is expected to return on Friday.