“There are no perfect games for everyone but I think we just have to use it as an example towards the future. It was a sign of our character, even if it was not our day. We will reflect on it on Tuesday and move forward. “We have a wonderful opportunity to continue in the Europa League and then we will focus back again on Fulham. The more you get to the end of the season the more inspiring it can be. Our rewards can be with the Europa League trophy and Champions League qualification – that is our main ambition.” Spurs are among the favourites for the Europa League after a 3-0 last-16 first-leg defeat of Inter Milan. Villas-Boas and his side travel to Milan this week for the return contest without the suspended Gareth Bale, but are still expected to be in Friday’s quarter-final draw. Midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson hopes the San Siro contest will mark the start of another impressive sequence of results after an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions also came to an end. “It was disappointing but all we can do now is focus on the next game at Inter and make sure we go through,” Sigurdsson said on www.tottenhamhotspur.com. “We’ve been on an unbelievable run and sometimes things like this happen. “We have to make sure we stay together, regroup and get ready for the next game. Hopefully we can go on another run between now and the end of the season.” Andre Villas-Boas has called for his Tottenham side to swiftly move on from the end of their 12-match unbeaten run and refocus on winning the Europa League as well as clinching Champions League qualification. The 3-2 loss at Liverpool on Sunday halted Spurs’ streak in the Barclays Premier League and means fourth-placed Chelsea are two points behind Villas-Boas’ team with a game in hand. Misjudgements from Kyle Walker and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris contributed to Stewart Downing’s equaliser before Steven Gerrard converted the decisive penalty following a foul on Luis Suarez. “We did a couple of mistakes which we don’t normally do,” Villas-Boas said. Press Association
Richards made eight Premier League appearances last season, but had been limited to four first-team appearances in cup competitions under Michael Laudrup before making his temporary move to Selhurst Park. But the full-back, who featured as a substitute in Wales’ World Cup qualifying defeat to Croatia, was more than happy to sign on for another three years at his hometown club. “By offering me a three-year contract, the club made me feel they have a plan for me,” he said. “There was interest from other clubs but Swansea is where I want to be. “The plan is to finish the season strongly and try my best to get Palace into the Premier League, and then I’ll return to Swansea and look to impress Michael Laudrup enough to be involved regularly in his first-team plans.” Press Association Defender Jazz Richards has committed his future to Swansea by signing a new three-year deal at the Liberty Stadium. The 21-year-old Wales international, currently on loan at Crystal Palace, would have been out of contract in the summer, but his new deal extends his stay through to 2016. He said: “I’m delighted to have signed a new contract at the club. Being a Swansea boy, I see my career at the club and I was very keen to commit my future to the Swans.”
McDowell added a second round of 74 to his opening 71 at Carton House to finish one over par, 10 shots behind clubhouse leaders Robert Rock and Peter Uihlein and eight adrift of his ‘Miracle at Medinah’ skipper Olazabal. That was one shot outside the predicted cut when he finished and left the former US Open champion hoping for a continuation of the windy conditions this afternoon to avoid a sixth missed cut in 12 appearances in the event. Two of his previous early exits came when Carton House last hosted the tournament in 2005 and 2006, but McDowell at least gave himself a fighting chance with what could be a crucial birdie on the ninth, his final hole. “I was pretty aware that I had to make that putt,” the 33-year-old said. “I desperately want that cut to come back to one over and be here for the weekend. “It’s been a slow couple of days; I’ve played average and putted worse. I see nine under on the leaderboard and I wonder how around this course, it’s phenomenal scoring. I’m shocked how good the scoring is.” American Uihlein, who won his maiden European Tour title in Madeira last month, added a 68 to his opening 67 to set the clubhouse target that was quickly matched by Rock in the group behind. Rock, who lost a play-off to Shane Lowry at Baltray in 2009 but claimed the winner’s cheque for 500,000 euros as Lowry was an amateur at the time, carded four birdies and an eagle from just four feet on the par-five fourth to return a flawless 66. Olazabal completed a 69 to finish seven under. Press Association Graeme McDowell’s wish to tick an Irish Open victory off his golfing ‘bucket list’ turned into a battle simply to make the halfway cut as former Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal rolled back the years.
“They would not take any risk for the Chelsea game, I was in that much pain it was too much of a risk to play.” In his absence fellow summer signing Marc Muniesa filled in despite primarily being a centre-back and Pieters is not taking re-selection for granted. “Marc did really well and I am very proud of him. We came to Stoke together and I know it was difficult for him because he didn’t play many matches,” he told stokecityfc.com. “But when he played against Chelsea it was good for him and good for the team. “I want to play as well, but if the manager chooses from me or Marc, it is no problem.” The Dutchman missed Saturday’s victory over Chelsea because of the problem but insists he is ready to return at the KC Stadium. “I am good again now and am ready to go if I am selected of course,” he said. Press Association Stoke defender Erik Pieters has declared himself fit for this weekend’s trip to Hull after a groin injury.
Ten-man West Ham eased the pressure on manager Sam Allardyce as they climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win at Cardiff. Fraizer Campbell, Craig Noone and Mark Hudson failed to convert the best chances for the hosts, who replace West Ham in the bottom three, and this will have outlined to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the task he will face in keeping the Bluebirds up. Allardyce’s position has been under severe scrutiny in the wake of heavy cup defeats against Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, and the Hammers lying 19th the table. The mood at Cardiff may have been lifted by Solskjaer’s arrival but with the Bluebirds a point and a place above the drop zone it was little surprise there was such a nervy start. Cardiff survived an early scare when West Ham hit the post inside three minutes. Stewart Downing’s cross missed everyone and cannoned out of the far post, where Tomkins’ follow-up was smothered by David Marshall. Tomkins’ return from injury had provided a timely boost for Allardyce who is without the likes of Winston Reid and James Collins. But he lost another defender in the eighth minute when Guy Demel went down. Campbell had just failed to connect with Peter Odemwingie’s cross and when the ball was quickly put back into the box the striker collided with Demel and Roger Johnson. Johnson’s elbow appeared to strike Demel and the Ivorian required lengthy treatment before being stretchered off with a suspected broken elbow and facial injuries. The long disruption ensured there was little flow on the resumption until George McCartney, on for Demel, blocked superbly from Craig Noone. Press Association Cardiff looked the more likely to score and they thought they had in the 32nd minute. Kim Bo-kyung’s shot deflected off Johnson, struck the bar and appeared to cross the line as it came down. No goal was given and Campbell gave away a foul as he bundled Adrian and the ball over the line. But replays showed the Goal Decision System had been correct, with the ball landing on the line. Noone was again denied, this time by Adrian, before the visitors opened the scoring. Matt Taylor picked out Jarvis, and the winger’s weighted pass gave Cole an easy tap in. That prompted Solskjaer to hand fit-again Craig Bellamy a first appearance since November 9 in place of Odemwingie. It nearly paid immediate dividends as the veteran’s free-kick found an unmarked Hudson, who headed over. McCartney survived penalty shouts for handball and what looked like a clear push on Campbell, before the striker worked Adrian from Bellamy’s pull-back. It was all Cardiff and West Ham were pegged further back when Tomkins saw red as he picked up a second booking for a foul on Campbell after earlier being cautioned needlessly for dissent. But West Ham survived and Noble finished a sweeping break from Carroll’s pass to secure the spoils. Carlton Cole was on hand to convert from close range from Matt Jarvis’ excellent pass, before James Tomkins was sent off in the second half. But Mark Noble sealed the win in stoppage time, and with Andy Carroll making a first appearance of the season as a substitute this was a good day for Allardyce with co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan in attendance.
Press Association Cardiff’s season has been a worrying combination of a failure to score goals and an inability to keep them out at the other end. The Bluebirds have scored the second lowest number of goals in the top flight, and conceded the second highest tally. They have now failed to score in 14 of their 26 league games, and the shut-out against Villa was just their sixth this term, and their first under Solskjaer. But the Norwegian hopes an improvement at the back will ultimately prove the foundation for escaping the drop and an immediate return to the Championship. “Ben Turner and Steven Caulker did as well as you can ask from two centre-backs in this game, that’s where you take lots of encouragement from,” he said. “We had a solid foundation and that is what we have spoken about. Clean sheets give you a foundation to play off and that is more vital in this situation than anything else, and it gives you a platform to win games and you saw as a result we had more than enough chances to beat Villa.” Solskjaer acknowledged the stalemate was a chance missed for Cardiff, who remain 19th in the table, but is confident his side will pick up points in their upcoming home games. “It is at home that we are going to take the majority of the points that we need to stay up,” he said. “We have some very exciting games coming up here at home, and there are not a lot of teams in the Premier League who are better than Villa away from home, so when you look at our home games this was maybe the most difficult one.” The Norwegian also asked for the fans to be patient with loan signing Wilfried Zaha, who struggled to make an impact against Villa. “You have to remember he has not played much this season, pretty much since pre-season,” said Solskjaer of the Manchester United winger. “I am sure he will be better for the three games he has had.” Villa boss Paul Lambert will use his side’s lack of a game this weekend, having been knocked out of the FA Cup, to take his players away for warm-weather training in Portugal. The Scot hopes it will leave his players refreshed for the final run-in. He said: “It’s a change of scenery, we will still train every day, we will be there to work. It will be like a normal week but with no game on Saturday. I have done it before with teams and it is good for the players.” Villa are five points ahead of the drop zone and while Lambert knows they are not out of the woods yet, he is content with their position compared to the situation they found themselves in a year ago. “There are too many games left to play, but the thing with us is we are a threat to teams and we can score, as you saw when we had those chances to win this game,” he said. “We will keep going, we were in a hell of a position this time last year and we got out of it so it is too early to judge it yet.” The Bluebirds failed to capitalise on a dominant first-half display at Cardiff City Stadium, hitting the woodwork through Fraizer Campbell and a deflected Craig Noone strike. And in the end they were again indebted to goalkeeper David Marshall, who made two stunning late saves to deny Fabian Delph and Andreas Weimann to ensure the game ended goalless. Cardiff may have drawn another blank in front of goal against Aston Villa but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes an improved defensive display bodes well for their battle to avoid relegation.
“There are seven games to go and each one will be difficult and different in its own way,” said the England international. “For me I don’t get too excited, I just take each game as it comes as it is different opposition, different styles of play, and we have to change the way we play against each team to try to get the result by whichever means necessary. “It wasn’t easy. It never is when a team defends so deep and puts so many bodies behind the ball. “But in the first half we were patient and we worked hard to break them down and in the end we got the result we needed. “Our back four defended well and we just try our best to do a job in front of them and they focus on doing their job. “You have to grind results out sometimes. You have to do the dirty things to get the result you want, it is not always going to be easy.” Captain Steven Gerrard’s free-kick was followed by Sturridge’s 20th league goal of the season; the first time in 50 years two Liverpool players (Luis Suarez has 28) have reached that tally. It was Sturridge’s 30th league goal for the club in 37 games, which is quicker than any other Reds player since George Allan in 1896, and he has 34 in 43 matches in all competitions since joining from Chelsea for £12million in January 2013. However, the 24-year-old is not interested in personal milestones. “The success of the team is more important to me. It’s not about myself,” he added. “We’re all trying our best to do our jobs for the team. “It was great to get the three points – that’s the most important thing at this stage of the season.” Liverpool effectively have to win their remaining seven matches to stand a chance of lifting their first Premier League title, especially with Manchester City two points behind with two matches in hand. Tottenham, demolished 5-0 at White Hart Lane in December, are the visitors on Sunday and Sturridge knows they cannot afford any slip-ups. “We just need to continue working hard as a team and keep getting the job done,” he said. “It’s important to take each game as it comes and not get too excited at the same time and try to get results in every game we can. “We can’t worry about the opposition. We just need to worry about how we play our football and do as well as we can.” Sunderland remain three points from safety, having taken just one point since victory in the Tyne-Wear derby on February 1, and Monday’s visit of West Ham takes on huge significance. “We need to take what we have done here into the next game; that’s what’s most important,” said manager Gus Poyet. “We can’t just keep playing like this every now and again and then not perform at home. “A result against West Ham now would be perfect for me because we have shown the type of attitude to go out and score goals and try to win the game and I want to see this again. “I’ve learned an awful lot. I know I keep saying this but I’ve only been at the club and with the players for a few months and every game is different.” Liverpool’s fluid, goal-laden performances may have set up a title challenge but striker Daniel Sturridge admits ultimately results will be the only thing which gets them over the line. The 2-1 win over Sunderland, the Reds’ seventh in succession, was not without its anxious moments but having come through that scare they have leaders Chelsea, just one point ahead, firmly in their sights. Brendan Rodgers’ side are the top flight’s leading scorers with 84 goals but Sturridge accepts they may require more displays like that against the struggling Black Cats if they are stand a chance of ending a 24-year wait for the title. Press Association
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez insists “nothing is going to happen” to him in regards to his future at the club as he focuses on making a dream come true by winning the title. “Now we have to win the next two games and it is not going to be easy.” Suarez, who in December 2011 was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, was pictured with team-mate Philippe Coutinho earlier in the week showing his support for Dani Alves after the Barcelona defender had a banana thrown at him during the match at Villarreal. “The picture with Coutinho was because I didn’t like what happened,” he added. “So we had to do something with Phil. I felt I had to do something for my friends.” While Liverpool will watch events at Goodison Park with keen interest this weekend, they have to wait until Monday to play their penultimate match at Crystal Palace as they remain in the hunt for a first title since 1990. The club have taken the step of issuing a specific warning to travelling fans about counterfeit tickets. “Liverpool Football Club has been contacted by a number of fans voicing concerns over supporters who intend to travel to Selhurst Park for Monday night’s sell-out fixture against Crystal Palace without tickets,” said a statement. “The club is reminding its supporters to be aware of counterfeit tickets and to only travel to Selhurst Park if they have an official ticket. “The club is working closely with Crystal Palace to ensure that fans with official tickets can access the stadium, with extra LFC stewards on hand to assist with security at Selhurst Park. “Merseyside Police will also be supporting the Metropolitan Police with any illegal ticketing issues around the stadium prior to kick-off. “All tickets purchased are the responsibility of the supporter whose name is on the ticket. “Any breach of regulations may be subject to further investigation that could ultimately result in the club pursuing a ban for each person involved for future LFC games.” Press Association When Suarez was asked in an interview with Uruguay television station Canal 10 whether they should be contacting him in England or Spain next season he replied: “I’m very happy here and my family is happy here. “Don’t worry nothing is going to happen to me. If we could win the Premier League and bring the trophy home it would be incredible, a dream come true.” That dream may rest with this weekend’s visit of Manchester City to Liverpool’s near-neighbours Everton. Should Manuel Pellegrini’s side drop points then the Reds’ destiny would be back in their hands, having let it slip with a 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea last Sunday. “I’m still upset, it was so frustrating, we couldn’t find spaces and we made a mistake and it was hard to deal with,” said Suarez of the defeat. “We knew the game was going to be hard and tight but it was frustrating when they were using up time. “I was upset because of our mistake; we all got nervous and lost control. It was impossible to find spaces to get in. “We are hoping Man City loses some points but in the Premier League you never know, anything is possible. The newly-crowned Professional Footballers’ Association’s player of the year has scored 30 league goals this season and that has only enhanced his reputation as one of the world’s best players. Despite only signing a new lucrative contract at Anfield in December the 27-year-old is still being linked with the likes of Real Madrid.
Daniel Sturridge is ready to step up and fill the sizeable gap left by Luis Suarez in the Liverpool attack – but says his team-mates need to do likewise as they begin life without the prolific Uruguayan. Suarez finished as Liverpool’s leading scorer in each of his three seasons at Anfield, including netting 31 goals in the Barclays Premier League last term as the Reds claimed a top-two spot. However, Brendan Rodgers’ men will not be able to rely on Suarez next term after the 27-year-old was sold to Barcelona for a club-record £75million this summer. It will not be easy to replace Suarez’s goals or his all-round contribution to the team, but England striker Sturridge insists there is more than enough talent at Liverpool to ensure the Reds continue moving forward. The 24-year-old, who was second to Suarez in the Premier League scoring charts last term with 21 goals, said in several national newspapers: ” It was a unique partnership, and I wish Luis all the best. We shared some good times together. We created history with our goals and became the most successful Liverpool partnership in one season. “But in terms of next season for the goals, I’ll step up myself and everyone has to. It’s everyone’s job to do that, the new boys who have come in as well as the players who have been there all season. “We will move forward as a team.” Although Suarez has gone, Rodgers has been busy adding to his squad this summer, with England internationals Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana being brought in along with Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and Dejan Lovren. Sturridge believes the future looks bright for the 18-time English champions, adding: ” This is a huge club, with a lot of players who can step up. Luis has left. That’s football, he’s moved on. “For me, with the signings the manager has made – exciting players, young players, up-and-comers as they call them – we are going to have that winning mentality. “We will still have the mentality to move forward, be an exciting squad, playing attacking football and that’s the Liverpool way. “Whether we are underdogs or favourites (next season), it will not change our mentality. We are a young, hungry squad looking to put our stamp down, not just in the Premier League but Europe as well.” Press Association
The City trip is the first of four key domestic fixtures in Champions League weeks for the Blues, who will hope to swiftly find a solution to Costa’s niggle. The trip to Sporting Lisbon is followed by a home clash with Arsenal, Manchester United away follows the Maribor home tie and a date at Liverpool is immediately after the trip to Slovenia. Didier Drogba started up front for the Blues in Costa’s absence, but the hero of the 2012 European Cup win was culpable as Chelsea missed a host of chances to add to Cesc Fabregas’ early opener. Klaas Jan Huntelaar equalised on the counter-attack as Schalke punished Chelsea to earn a point. Captain John Terry admits Chelsea must address their defensive flaws ahead of Sunday’s showdown with City, who will provide a stiff test of the Blues’ title credentials after wins over Burnley, Leicester, Everton and Swansea. Chelsea twice beat City last season, only to finish four points behind them in third place in the final table. The Blues have conceded six times in the Premier League and Terry was concerned by another leaked goal against Schalke. “It’s disappointing to drop points in the first game at home,” the captain said on chelseafc.com. Chelsea travel to Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday with Costa likely to return to the starting line-up after Mourinho opted to select the Spain striker only as a substitute in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with Schalke in Champions League Group G. Costa has scored seven times in four Premier League matches this term, but Mourinho says the £32million summer signing from Atletico Madrid is not ready to play more than one game a week after a hamstring problem recurred while on international duty earlier this month. “The first four league games we’ve been killing teams off. We didn’t do it (against Schalke) but it was disappointing to concede the way we did, from a counter-attack from our own corner. “It was our corner, we were attacking and we got caught on the break. It shouldn’t happen. “It’s the second time already this season it’s happened.” Chelsea were beaten by Swiss side Basle in their opening home game last term and responded with four wins to advance. Mourinho will be keen for early progress in Europe, given the domestic schedule, and Terry is targeting top spot in Group G. “We lost our first Champions League game last season and we came back to win the group and go through,” Terry added. “We’ve got some tough games coming up but that’s our aim again.” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho faces tough decisions in his management of Diego Costa and the striker’s temperamental hamstrings as a result of the Blues’ challenging domestic fixture list. Press Association