Sports

Apr 102016
 
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has kept clean sheets in his last four games

The pressure of a Premier League title challenge is nothing compared to a fight to stay in the Football League, says Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel.

The keeper, 29, was at Bury in 2006 when a final-day draw at Notts County stopped them dropping into non-League.

“There is no pressure now. Those games where absolutely everything is on the line, that’s proper pressure,” he said.

The Foxes are top of the Premier League knowing four wins from their final six games will ensure a shock title win.

In a remarkable season, Claudio Ranieri’s men are closing in on one of the most unlikely successes in the history of English football.

Leicester were fighting a relegation battle this time last year, but recovered to stay in the top flight. Their stunning turnaround sees them 41 points up on this stage of last season.

They face a trip to Sunderland on Sunday (kick-off 13:30 BST) having suffered just three defeats in 32 league games all season.

“It’s everyone else’s prerogative to talk and say what they want but we know there is so much work to be done before we can relax,” added Schmeichel, who has kept a clean sheet in his last four games.

“Relegation with Bury was on the line at Notts County. That would have meant Bury going into non league and that would have been catastrophic.

“When you go out on loan it’s not the glitz and glamour, there’s nowhere near the amount of money there is at the top level.

“People’s livelihoods are on the line, mortgages and families. You are making decisions which can affect people.”

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Apr 102016
 

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Newcastle only try when losing – Benitez

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez says anxiety is “killing” his players as they battle against relegation.

The Magpies are six points from safety with six games remaining after losing 3-1 at Southampton on Saturday.

“We have four more games at home and we will need everyone’s support there,” Benitez told BBC Sport.

“It important that everybody continues to believe. If we can control these things then things will change. It’s not the time to criticise.”

Newcastle have lost six of the last seven games to leave their six-season stay in the Premier League in peril.

“The anxiety is killing us sometimes,” Benitez added.

“At home we have the fans behind us and we need them. We have six games to play and each one is important.”

They were 3-0 behind at Southampton before Andros Townsend scored.

Their remaining games include home matches against Manchester City and title-chasing Tottenham, while Newcastle also face an away game at Benitez’s former club Liverpool.

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Aston Villa 1-2 Bournemouth

 Posted by at 12:15 AM
Apr 102016
 
Aston Villa have won once in 12 Premier League games

Aston Villa are all but relegated after a defeat by Bournemouth – their eighth in a row – left them 15 points from safety with five games left.

Steve Cook’s close-range finish set the visitors on their way before Joshua King scored after a defensive mix-up.

Jordan Ayew reduced the deficit with a powerful shot beyond Artur Boruc.

Villa need to win their remaining five games to have any chance of staying up, but could be down before they play at Manchester United on 16 April.

Norwich, who are 17th in the Premier League table – 15 points clear of Villa – entertain fellow strugglers Sunderland at 12:45 BST on 16 April.

If the Canaries avoid defeat in that game, Villa will be relegated for the first time in 29 years.

Reaction from Villa Park and the rest of Saturday’s Premier League games

Relive the action from Villa Park

White handkerchiefs as Villa get it wrong again

For 23 minutes on Saturday Villa were down before Jason Puncheon’s 68th-minute winner for Crystal Palace against Norwich earned the Premier League’s bottom club a temporary stay of execution.

Aston Villa scored their first goal in seven hours and 36 minutes – an unsuccessful challenge by Joshua King allowing Idrissa Gueye to set up Jordan Ayew.

Fans were in an unforgiving mood as the fractured relationship between home players and supporters continued.

There were thousands of empty seats at kick-off as some supporters chose to miss the first seven minutes in protest – seven being the number of times Villa have been champions of England.

Towards the end, other home fans were spotted waving white handkerchiefs – a sign of surrender – after another poor, careless performance.

Villa, who desperately needed a positive display to appease their disgruntled fans, set up to contain the Cherries yet were picked off at ease.

Bournemouth pass 40 points

Villa gave a full Premier League debut to 20-year-old midfielder Jordan Lyden – though he lasted only 45 minutes before being replaced at the start of the second half.

Fans made their feelings known to Villa’s players and owner Randy Lerner, who was not present

By then the match was already as good as over for Villa following another performance in which they lacked leadership, character, fight and had only one shot on target.

In contrast, Bournemouth, who welcomed back forward Callum Wilson after a serious knee injury, were bright and breezy.

Lewis Grabban forced a full-length save from Brad Guzan before Cook’s finish from a short corner on the stroke of half-time gave them the lead.

The Cherries doubled their lead when Ciaran Clark was robbed by King, who went on to finish smartly – and although Villa went on to score a first goal in over seven and a half hours, the visitors held on comfortably.

Bournemouth were tipped for relegation at the stat of the season yet they are challenging for a top-half finish after reaching 41 points with five games left.

Man of the match – Joshua King (Bournemouth)

Joshua King has hit form at a crucial stage of the season. Having netted in wins over Newcastle and Swansea, the former Manchester United youngster made it three in five games with a sublime finish after dispossessing Ciaran Clark.

What they said

Aston Villa caretaker manager Eric Black, speaking to BBC Sport: “Not going down today is a small consolation. We’ve conceded poor goals, but we have to remain professional until the end.

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Villa have to give back to supporters – Black

“We didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked. Ultimately, if you concede poor goals it will be hard to score.

“I’m sure it’s not easy to play in that atmosphere, but there have only been two or three victories here this season so I won’t be criticising the supporters.

“They turned out again today, which I find remarkable. This is certainly not down to the supporters.”

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Aston Villa 1-2 Bournemouth: Howe happy with ‘hard win’ in ‘toxic atmosphere’

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, tells BBC Sport: “This was really important for us. It was very nervy from both teams but I thought we dominated the ball and deserved it in the end.

“It was a difficult game to play in because of the toxic atmosphere. We made it that way with the way we started.”

Stats you need to know

  • Villa have made more errors leading to goals than any other side in the Premier League this season (14).
  • Steve Cook has scored four Premier League goals this season – the only defender with more is Scott Dann (5).
  • Joshua King has scored five times for Bournemouth this season – he managed just five league goals in three seasons in the Championship with Blackburn.
  • Jordan Ayew scored his first Premier League goal since December, ending a run of 10 games without scoring.

Up next

Villa’s relegation will be confirmed if they fail to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford next Saturday – something they have not done since 2009.

Bournemouth host Liverpool on 17 April.

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Apr 092016
 
Andy Carroll’s hat-trick against Arsenal took his tally of Premier League goals this season to seven

West Ham striker Andy Carroll says he has not given up hope of being recalled to the England squad for Euro 2016.

The 27-year-old, who won the last of his nine England caps in October 2012, scored a hat-trick in Saturday’s 3-3 Premier League draw with Arsenal.

Asked if he was thinking about a call-up for the tournament in France this summer, Carroll said: “Without a doubt.

“I have to keep that in the back of my head, but I have to play each game here and see how it goes,” he told BT Sport.

Carroll, who has two international goals, was involved in Roy Hodgson’s squad at the last European Championships in Poland and Ukraine in 2012 – opening the scoring in the victory over Sweden in the group stage.

The former Newcastle forward has been plagued by injuries since completing a £15m move from Liverpool in June 2013, but he marked his 50th Premier League appearance since then with the second top-flight treble of his career.

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Andy Carroll best in the world at heading – Bilic

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic added: “Andy Carroll has everything. It’s impossible to stop him.

“Watch how many times he tried to get the ball off them. He was keeping the ball, laying it off.

“Heading – he’s maybe the best in the world. He has to stay away from those injuries. He’s professional but he’s got to be totally dedicated to his career and football.”

Carroll featured in three of England’s games at Euro 2012, scoring in a group win over Sweden

Should Carroll go to Euro 2016?

Former Celtic and Bolton manager Neil Lennon on BBC Radio 5 live

“I would (take him), yes. He’s my type of centre-forward. The big man was really up for it and he’s been magnificent.

“With 10 minutes to go in an England game, he could be an option for Roy Hodgson.”

Other surprise England call-ups

Theo Walcott, 2006 World Cup: Arsenal paid £10m to sign Walcott from Southampton in January 2006. He failed to make a single top-flight appearance for the Gunners in the remainder of the 2005-06 season, but England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson made him England’s youngest international at the age of 17 years and 75 days, and then took him to the World Cup in Germany. Walcott did not play a single minute at the tournament.

Steve Bull, 1990 World Cup: Bull scored 102 goals in two seasons to help Wolves to the Fourth Division and Third Division titles. That form convinced England manager Bobby Robson to call up the striker, who scored on his debut against Scotland in 1989. Bull, whose limited top-flight experience came early in his career at West Bromwich Albion, was included in the squad for the World Cup in Italy. He made four appearances at the tournament – but did not score a goal.

Jack Butland, Euro 2012: Goalkeeper Butland was called up by Hodgson because of John Ruddy’s injury and went to Poland and Ukraine as England’s third-choice goalkeeper, despite having not played a top-flight game at that stage.

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West Ham United 3-3 Arsenal

 Posted by at 10:36 PM
Apr 092016
 
Andy Carroll became the first Premier League player to score a hat-trick against Arsenal since Wayne Rooney in 2011

Andy Carroll’s hat-trick dealt another blow to Arsenal’s already slim Premier League title hopes, despite the Gunners fighting back to draw at West Ham.

Arsenal are 10 points behind leaders Leicester with six games to play.

Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez converted Alex Iwobi passes to put Arsenal 2-0 up but Carroll netted twice in 160 seconds to bring his side level by half-time.

A far-post header completed Carroll’s treble, before Laurent Koscielny hooked in the equaliser from 10 yards.

The hosts extended their unbeaten home run in the Premier League to 14 games but Slaven Bilic’s side remain sixth, two points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who play West Bromwich Albion at 17:30 BST.

West Ham 3-3 Arsenal as it happened

Hammers’ hat-trick hero

Striker Carroll was rarely far from the action in a pulsating London derby, being booked as early as the fourth minute for a needless late tackle on Koscielny.

There appeared little way back for West Ham as clinical finishes from Ozil and Sanchez gave the visitors a two-goal cushion, but England international Carroll would turn the game in his side’s favour in the space of eight minutes either side of the interval.

All three goals were typical Carroll efforts, the first a powerful far-post header from Aaron Cresswell’s left-wing cross, while he was awarded too much space by the Arsenal defence to fire in the equaliser at the second attempt during first-half stoppage time.

The ex-Newcastle forward was perhaps lucky to escape further punishment when he clashed with Gabriel in the air, catching the centre-back with his arm, shortly before rising above Hector Bellerin to head past David Ospina – who had kept his place in the Arsenal goal ahead of Petr Cech.

Andy Carroll netted all three of his goals at the far post from crosses. However, he won only eight of his 20 duels with Arsenal players and just five of his 12 aerial duels (41.7%)

Arsenal’s title hopes over?

Wins over Everton and Watford either side of the March international break kept any faint hopes of a title success alive for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Having led 2-0 after 35 minutes, this result will feel like two points dropped for Arsenal, even though they responded well to Carroll’s quick hat-trick and were decent value for their draw.

The Gunners have a favourable run-in, with five of their last six opponents currently in the bottom half of the table – but it will take a remarkable collapse from Leicester and Tottenham above them if they are to win an unlikely title.

Saturday’s result did little to improve Arsenal’s record in London derbies this season – they have taken only six points from seven games against other clubs from the capital.

Man of the match: Andy Carroll (West Ham)

Carroll had 10 of West Ham’s 16 shots – no player has had more in a Premier League match this season

What the managers said

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Andy Carroll best in the world at heading – Bilic

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic: “I am so proud of my team to come back like that before half-time and then to be better than them in the second half.

“Now Andy is fit and we hope he will stay fit. There aren’t many players capable of doing what he is doing.

“I’m proud of everything. We were spectacular. But the only thing I’m not happy about is the result.”

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Wenger praises resilience after ‘crazy’ draw

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: “We are third on 59 points and that’s not where we want to be.

“We have made it much more difficult to have a chance to win the championship but no matter, we have to keep going.

“You never know what will happen, and we have clubs chasing us as well, so we have to be serious and focus on finishing as high as possible.”

The stats you need to know

  • Carroll’s hat-trick was the fastest in the Premier League this season at seven minutes and 14 seconds.
  • The Hammers are unbeaten in their past 14 home games (won seven, drawn seven) – the longest current run in the top flight.
  • Alex Iwobi has scored twice and assisted another two goals in his first three league starts for Arsenal.
  • This is the first time in the Premier League since November 2012 (v Fulham) that Arsenal have led by two goals and failed to win the match. That game also ended 3-3.

What’s next?

West Ham switch their attentions to the FA Cup on Wednesday when they host Manchester United in a quarter-final replay, while their next Premier League fixture is at leaders Leicester four days later.

Also on 17 April, Arsenal host Crystal Palace in another London derby.

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