Villa scrap end-of-season awards

 Posted by at 6:32 PM
Apr 132016
Aston Villa have suffered a record-equalling 10 home losses this season

Aston Villa have cancelled this season’s player of the year awards with the club facing relegation.

Villa are nine points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League having won just three games all campaign and could go down on Saturday.

“In the current circumstances, we are sure our supporters will understand,” a club spokesman said.

There have been several fan protests against owner Randy Lerner, including during the recent home loss to Chelsea.

During the game, supporters held up banners that read: “Proud history, what future?”

Villa have sacked two managers this season – Tim Sherwood in October and his successor, Remi Garde, last month.

Eric Black is in temporary charge and has overseen two successive defeats, the most recent of which came at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.

Villa’s relegation will be confirmed if Norwich avoid a home loss by Sunderland in the 12:45 BST kick-off on Saturday.

Even if the Canaries lose, Villa still need to win against Manchester United at Old Trafford later in the day to avoid dropping out of the Premier League.

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Apr 132016

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McDermott and reporter have tense interview

Brian McDermott and BBC Radio Berkshire reporter Tim Dellor have a very tense discussion after Reading’s 2-1 loss to Middlesbrough in the Championship on Tuesday.

In an otherwise spirited performance against promotion-chasing Boro, Reading midfielder Danny Williams appeared to square up to team-mate Paul McShane, while Matej Vydra missed a late opportunity to score – just before Adam Forshaw’s winner consigned the Royals to defeat.

“Let’s talk about the game,” said McDermott. “I didn’t see the incident [with Williams and McShane]. These guys want to win.”

When asked if Vydra was “mentally shot”, the 55-year-old replied: “No I don’t. I think he missed a chance he wished he’d have scored.”

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Apr 132016
De Bruyne has scored with both of his shots on target for Man City in this tie against PSG

Manchester City are into the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time after Kevin de Bruyne’s late strike sealed a thrilling win over Paris St-Germain.

After a 2-2 first-leg draw in Paris last week, the tie remained in the balance in Manchester thanks to Sergio Aguero’s missed penalty for City in the first half.

The home side had Joe Hart to thank for three fine saves at 0-0, notably a ferocious Zlatan Ibrahimovic free-kick that the England goalkeeper clawed to safety.

But, roared on by a capacity crowd of 53,039 that supplied an unforgettable atmosphere, City held their nerve at the back before De Bruyne’s decisive strike 15 minutes from time with their only shot on target.

The final whistle brought scenes of pure emotion from the fans at Etihad Stadium, who were already in uncharted territory.

England’s last remaining representatives in Europe’s elite club competition had never reached the quarter-finals before this season – now they can dream of the final in Milan.

First they can look forward to Friday’s semi-final draw, after winning what was viewed as the battle of Europe’s richest clubs with a PSG side who have now fallen at the last-eight stage for four successive seasons.

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Champions League: How Man City compare to English winners

How City got the shut out they needed

City’s defence has been much maligned this season and their performance in Paris in particular meant a clean sheet looked a long shot in this second leg.

The main reason they achieved one was Hart but, on this occasion, their back four also deserve immense credit.

Their full-backs coped with PSG’s wide players, whether it was wing-backs Maxwell and Gregory van der Wiel in a 5-3-2 formation in the first half, or orthodox wingers Lucas and Angel di Maria in a 4-4-2 after the break.

At centre-half, Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala had kept just three clean sheets in 17 previous games together this season, and one of those was the 17 minutes they played together against Dynamo Kiev in the last 16.

But between them they barely gave Ibrahimovic a sniff of goal in open play and nullified PSG’s main threat until he finally found the net just before the final whistle.

Sadly for the enigmatic Sweden striker, the offside flag had long since been raised.

Aguero v Ibrahimovic

Sergio Aguero’s touchmap (left) compared to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shows he had more of a threat in the opposition area

Ibrahimovic was not the only striker to draw a blank.

His battle with Aguero was much-hyped before the match, notably by City’s own poster campaign to drum up ticket sales, but again this dual of the super-strikers disappointed.

Like Ibrahimovic in the first leg, Aguero missed a penalty – and by some margin. After being tripped by Kevin Trapp, the Argentina international fired well wide of the target to the disbelief of the home fans.

While Aguero’s influence was then confined to his industry, Ibrahimovic fired in two free-kicks as he attempted to add to his tally of 39 goals from 42 games this season – but Hart saved both of them.

Instead it was De Bruyne who would supply the precise finish, with the £55m Belgium forward again showing his worth to City with another fine display since his return from injury.

Man of the match – Joe Hart

Hart made a series of superb stops, first to keep the aggregate score at 2-2 and then to protect City’s lead when he rushed off his line to deny Edinson Cavani

The stats you need to know

  • Manchester City have become the 10th English club to make a Champions League/European Cup semi-final (after Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and Tottenham).
  • City are only the fourth English side to reach the Champions League semi-finals since 2010-11 (Manchester United 2010-11, Chelsea 2011-12, Chelsea 2013-14).
  • Sergio Aguero has missed two of his past three penalties in the Champions League for City after scoring each of the previous five for them in the competition.
  • Kevin de Bruyne has now had a hand in 27 goals in all competitions for City this season (15 goals, 12 assists) – a joint-high for the club alongside Aguero.
  • PSG have been knocked out in the quarter-finals in each of their past four Champions League campaigns.
  • PSG have won only one of their eight European away games against English opposition (W1 D3 L4).

What next?

The draw for the Champions League semi-finals is on Friday, with the ties to be played on 26-27 April and 3-4 May. The final is in Milan on 28 May.

PSG, who are 28 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and have already sealed the defence of their French title, host Caen on Saturday. City, still looking to secure a top-four Premier League place and Champions League football next season, travel to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the same day.

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Apr 132016
Hearts captain Alim Ozturk celebrated with his side’s fans

Hearts secured European football next season with a point but missed the chance to narrow the gap to second-placed Aberdeen to six points.

Neither side were potent offensively in a largely dull contest with chances and attempts on goal very rare.

Substitute Abiola Dauda almost notched a late winner as Hearts began to press.

But, as the angle narrowed, Inverness Caledonian Thistle goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams managed to stop his flick towards the far corner.

Danny Williams had a late strike well saved and Josh Meekings and Liam Polworth came close for Caley Thistle with shots narrowly over the bar, but neither side really did enough to merit victory.

Hearts’ motivation was to give themselves a realistic chance of catching Aberdeen.

To do that, a win seemed vital, but there was little sign of it arriving, although this point guarantees them a Europa League qualifying spot for next season.

Caley Thistle could have moved into seventh place and ended any real concern of being in the relegation play-off position.

The first real moment of interest was when Miguel Pallardo was caught heavily by Ross Draper after the Inverness midfielder had taken a heavy touch.

Referee Don Robertson waved play on, but Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson was infuriated on the touchline.

The game was bogged down in midfield at Caledonian Stadium

The midfielder soldiered on but was eventually replaced with Callum Paterson, who had returned from injury to take his place on the bench.

It was lacking any invention or excitement but livened up when Jamie Walker went down under Carl Tremarco’s challenge.

Referee Don Robertson booked the Hearts man for diving, again to the fury of Neilson.

Caley Thistle’s Liam Polworth almost created an opening with a great first touch, but he went too close to the by-line and no-one broke into the box to get on the end of his chip across goal.

Hearts’ Juwon Oshaniwa had a powerful drive blocked before Caley Thistle’s Josh Meekings and Polworth sent drives flying narrowly over.

However, the threat was minimal at best overall and the second half followed a similar pattern.

Dauda had a great chance on the edge of box but blazed high over when composure may have paid off.

The striker then got a clear sight of goal in the inside left channel, but the onrushing Fon Williams did well to narrow the angle and block when a goal looked likely.

Iain Vigurs tried to add to his recent goal spree with a driven ball across the six-yard box, but Neil Alexander comfortably held on before he did so again from a Danny Williams volley as the match ended in stalemate.

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Apr 132016
Real Madrid have now reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in each of the last six seasons

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a superb hat-trick as Real Madrid overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Wolfsburg to reach the Champions League semi-finals.

Wolfsburg arrived in Spain’s capital protecting a healthy lead, but that was wiped out by a Ronaldo double in the space of 86 first-half seconds.

The Portuguese swept home the first from six yards before a glancing header levelled the scores on aggregate.

Ronaldo’s hat-trick goal came from a free-kick when Wolfsburg’s wall parted.

It completed a quite remarkable turnaround by the 10-time champions of Europe and keeps alive a season that looked to be over for Zinedine Zidane’s side after last week’s loss in Germany.

Ronaldo magic leaves Wolfsburg reeling

Three months ago Real fans were waving white handkerchiefs in a show of anger during the final throes of Rafael Benitez’s short-lived reign.

On Tuesday, supporters gave the players a standing ovation after a dominant performance saw them advance to the semi-finals for the sixth successive season.

Ronaldo grabbed the match ball at the final whistle and placed it under his shirt as he lapped up the applause from the stands after his fifth Champions League treble – and third of this season.

Worth his weight in gold? Cristiano Ronaldo has 93 Champions League goals – 10 more than Barcelona forward Lionel Messi

The former Manchester United forward has 93 Champions League goals to his name in 125 appearances – 10 more than nearest rival Lionel Messi.

Yet, despite his hat-trick, this was a team effort from Zidane’s side.

Sergio Ramos twice struck the woodwork while substitute Jese forced a fine one-handed from Diego Benaglio.

Can Real win it?

Real join Manchester City in Friday’s draw (11:30 BST), with the winners of Atletico Madrid’s tie with Barcelona and the game between Benfica and Bayern Munich to decide the remaining two places.

Real have come alive in recent weeks under Zidane, with a deserved El Clasico win over arch rivals Barcelona one of the highlights of their late season flourish.

Yet, as good as Real Madrid were, Wolfsburg were poor defensively after sitting back and inviting pressure.

Ronaldo was unmarked when he tapped home his first, while his third goal from a set-piece came after the German wall disintegrated.

While Barca will remain favourites to defend the trophy they won last June, Real are hitting form at the right time and cannot be ignored.

Man of the Match – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

Yes, he scored another hat-trick but Cristiano Ronaldo contributed in other ways to his team’s fine comeback win. His work rate was phenomenal, chasing lost causes and harrying defenders.

What the said

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane: “He [Ronaldo] is showing what he is, which is the best player in the world.

“Cristiano needs the whole team, I want to speak about the team because they achieved this together.

“But he is special because not everyone is capable of scoring three goals.”

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale: “We have shown the world what we are capable of.

“We knew this was going to be a difficult test but we felt we could really do it and we did.

“Since losing last week, we won at the weekend and we have won tonight. Hopefully we will win all our remaining games.”

Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking: “We should have defended better. To go to the next stage, we needed a goal.

“Two of the three goals were from dead balls and so that tells you that we didn’t defend right.”

The stats you need to know

  • Ronaldo has now scored 34 goals (and has eight assists) in 36 Champions League knockout matches for Real Madrid.
  • Ronaldo has scored in 62 different Champions League matches; more than any other player (Raul – 56, next most).
  • The Portuguese forward has now scored 16 goals in the Champions League this season – only Ronaldo (17 in 2013-14) has more in a single CL campaign.
  • This was only the third time in 16 occasions that a team losing 0-2 away in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie have progressed after the second leg (after Barcelona v AC Milan in 2013 & Man Utd v Olympiakos in 2014).
  • Real Madrid are still the only team yet to concede a goal at home in the Champions League this season.

Who’s next?

Real, who trail by four points, now turn their attention to catching Barcelona at the top of La Liga and play struggling Getafe away on Saturday (15:00 BST).

Wolfsburg, eighth in the Bundesliga table, play on the same day away to Werder Bremen (14:30 BST).

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