Sports

Feb 072016
 
Spurs have not won the league since 1961, when they also won the FA Cup, beating Leicester in the final

Tottenham’s players are starting to believe they can win the Premier League title this season, says manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Spurs’ 1-0 home win over Watford moved them up to second, five points behind surprise leaders Leicester City, who beat Manchester City 3-1 away.

“You can see in their eyes, the feeling, the energy, that they believe,” Pochettino said.

“Belief is the most important word. If we believe, anything can happen.”

Spurs have not been so high up in the table after 25 games played since 2012, when they finished fourth, and they have not won the league title since 1961.

“It’s real, we are in a very good position but we need to keep working and not think too much about the future,” Pochettino added.

“For me, historically Tottenham is one of the biggest clubs in England. It is not a surprise we are in a good position. But it is better not to speak too much, only to work hard.”

Pochettino’s side play away to City themselves next Saturday, when Leicester travel to fourth-placed Arsenal. The Gunners can draw level on points with Spurs before then with victory over Bournemouth on Sunday.

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Vardy signs new Leicester contract

 Posted by at 3:47 AM
Feb 072016
 
Jamie Vardy made his England debut against San Marino in September 2015

Jamie Vardy has signed a new three-year deal with Leicester City.

The England striker, 29, joined Leicester from Fleetwood for £1m in 2012, and his goals have helped Claudio Ranieri’s side reach the top of the Premier League table this season.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be fighting to achieve something special with this club. I’ve never known a spirit like it,” he said.

“I want to be part of it for a long time.”

He added: “Leicester have shown nothing but total faith in me since the day I arrived and it’s impossible to measure how much that belief has helped me to improve.

“I’ll forever be grateful for the investment the club has made in me and I’ll spend every day working to repay it.”

In November, Vardy became the first player to score in 11 successive Premier League matches.

He broke the record, previously held by Ruud van Nistelrooy, when he put Leicester ahead in their 1-1 draw with Van Nistelrooy’s former club Manchester United.

After Saturday’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, Claudio Ranieri’s side are five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

Of Vardy, Italian Ranieri said: “Jamie is a fighter. He has had an unbelievable journey to get to this point in his career and continues to play every game as if it’s his last.

“I love his spirit, which is a quality I want in my players above all else. I am very happy that he will stay with us for a long time.”

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Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland

 Posted by at 1:52 AM
Feb 072016
 
Liverpool have yet to win at Anfield in the Premier League in 2016

Thousands of Liverpool fans walked out of Anfield in protest at ticket prices as struggling Sunderland came from 2-0 behind to secure a crucial point.

Roberto Firmino headed the Reds in front after James Milner’s clever cross before the goalscorer turned provider to allow Adam Lallana to tap home.

Fans were pouring out when Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was beaten by Adam Johnson’s curling free-kick.

Jermain Defoe completed the comeback after finishing from 10 yards.

Liverpool had striker Daniel Sturridge back on the substitutes bench after a damaged hamstring, but lost defender Dejan Lovren and midfielder Joe Allen to injury.

Relive the action from Anfield

Reaction from Saturday’s Premier League games

Liverpool’s defensive shortcomings hurt them again

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp missed this game after suffering a suspected bout of appendicitis.

Liverpool were 2-0 up when thousands of fans headed for the exits after 77 minutes in protest at ticket prices

His side’s defending will not have done his health any good whatsoever as the Reds capitulated in the final eight minutes following the walkout by fans.

Mignolet was at fault after being beaten all too easily by substitute Johnson’s set-piece before Mamadou Sakho allowed Defoe to turn and score.

It was the same old story for the Reds, who are still without a Premier League home win in 2016.

They are also still hunting a first top-flight clean sheet of the calendar year, having conceded 14 times in the past six games.

Liverpool’s top-five hopes vanishing

The Reds remain eighth in the table, but their inconsistent form is testing the patience of fans and hurting Liverpool’s chances of qualifying for Europe.

Klopp’s side will earn a place in the third qualifying round of next season’s Europa League if they beat Manchester City in the League Cup final on 28 February.

However, their chances of qualifying via a top-five finish are rapidly diminishing.

They are 10 points off a top-four place and five adrift of fifth – having played a game more – after one win in six.

Can Sunderland stay up?

Sunderland remain four points from safety and have now gone 11 Premier League games without a clean sheet, longer than any other side currently.

Jermain Defoe’s equaliser came moments after Sunderland won possession following a Liverpool throw-in by Nathaniel Clyne

But their late comeback will give manager Sam Allardyce and his side a huge lift for the remaining 13 games of the campaign.

The Black Cats still have to host Manchester United, Leicester City, Arsenal and Chelsea in addition to facing relegation rivals Newcastle and Norwich away.

However, Sunderland overcame the early loss of striker Duncan Watmore, who hobbled off injured, to claim a point that did not seem likely after Lallana’s 70th-minute goal put Liverpool 2-0 in front.

Man of the match – Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Roberto Firmino was the liveliest player on the pitch, the Liverpool forward making it five goals in five Premier League games with a well taken header to give the Reds the lead.

What the managers said

Liverpool first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders:

“In the last 10 minutes we dropped off too much and let them play longer balls.

“We felt that we were in control of the game and you see that one moment changes everything.

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Protest did not affect team – Lijnders

“There are still eight to 10 minutes where you have to be calm and play, keep moving the ball into the final third, so when you lose it you can counter-press and stay higher up the pitch.”

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce:

“You think your day is over when you are 0-2 down at Anfield. But we fought back with two quality goals and got a point by not giving up.

“It was never say die until the end.

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‘Never say die’ spirit pleases Sam Allardyce

“When we went two down it looked like the fear had left us and we played better with the ball. We created chances and it was the quality of goals that got us a point.

“We won’t get goals back like that every game but today it was a precious point for us.”

The stats you need to know

  • Only Sergio Aguero (7) has scored more Premier League goals in 2016 than Jermain Defoe (6).
  • Roberto Firmino has been involved in more goals than any other Liverpool player this season (11, six goals and five assists).
  • Firmino has been involved in seven goals in his past five Premier League games for the Reds (five goals, two assists).
  • James Milner recorded his third assist in his past five league games. No Premier League player has more in 2016 than him (level with Adam Johnson and Riyad Mahrez).
  • Adam Lallana has scored in two of his past three Premier League games, after not scoring in his previous 19 appearances in the competition.
  • Sunderland extended their run of scoring in eight consecutive league away games.
  • Jermain Defoe has scored six goals in his past six league appearances for Sunderland.

What next?

Liverpool are likely to make a number of changes for Tuesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay at West Ham United (19:45 GMT) before visiting bottom club Aston Villa (14:05) in the Premier League on 14 February. Sunderland host Manchester United in the league on 13 February (12:45)

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Feb 072016
 

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Foxes play without pressure – Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri dismissed suggestions Leicester are title favourites after they beat Manchester City on Saturday.

The Foxes’ 3-1 win at Etihad Stadium leaves them five points clear of Tottenham, who leapfrogged Manchester City into second place.

Leicester’s win prompted bookmakers to cut their title odds, with many making them favourites.

“I don’t believe them,” said boss Ranieri. “They said I was first to be sacked! But I hope they are right.”

The Italian was referring to the reaction to his appointment as Leicester boss in the summer, with bookmakers and pundits giving him little chance of succeeding in his role at the King Power Stadium.

‘Fans must continue to dream’

Ranieri, 64, repeatedly played down talk of Leicester finishing the season as champions in his post-match media interviews at Etihad Stadium, saying he did not wish to talk about the title “until the end of April”.

“I don’t want to think about if we win,” he added. “My mind goes over seven days and the next game against Arsenal, a tough match with fantastic players.

“But we are alive and we want to fight. We know it’s a crazy league and we have to try. But there are some big teams who have to win.

“We enjoy it and the fans must continue to dream.”

All of the other teams in the top five resume their European campaigns this month, with Manchester City and Arsenal in Champions League contention and Tottenham and Manchester United in Europa League action.

All four are also still involved in the FA Cup, while Manchester City are in the League Cup final against Liverpool on 28 February.

And Ranieri conceded the lack of fixture congestion could give his side an advantage.

“We have to think about only the Premier League and how we can fight in it,” he said. “Those who play in the other competitions spend a lot of energy and travel a lot and that’s not easy. That’s a little advantage but we have to concentrate.”

‘We don’t feel any pressure’

Leicester were bottom of the table at the same stage of the season 12 months ago.

They had lost four games in a row, were four points behind 19th-placed Burnley and five points from safety.

Ranieri stressed during the first half of this campaign that his team’s target was to reach 40 points and safety, and he said the fact they have achieved their pre-season goal means they have nothing to lose.

“I hope my players didn’t feel pressure because our pressure was to save the team from relegation,” he added. “We did that and now we have to enjoy and do our best, step by step.”

Winger Riyad Mahrez – scorer of Leicester’s second goal at Etihad Stadium – conceded the victory came as a shock to the Premier League leaders.

“We didn’t expect to win here 3-1,” said the Algerian, 24. “We’re just going to keep dreaming. We’re going to fight for the title and see what we can do.”

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Ranieri rejects ‘favourites’ tag

 Posted by at 12:20 AM
Feb 072016
 

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Foxes play without pressure – Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri dismissed suggestions Leicester are title favourites after they beat Manchester City on Saturday.

The Foxes’ 3-1 win at Etihad Stadium leaves them five points clear of Tottenham, who leapfrogged Manchester City into second place.

Leicester’s win prompted bookmakers to cut their title odds, with many making them favourites.

“I don’t believe them,” said boss Ranieri. “They said I was first to be sacked! But I hope they are right.”

The Italian was referring to the reaction to his appointment as Leicester boss in the summer, with bookmakers and pundits giving him little chance of succeeding in his role at the King Power Stadium.

‘Fans must continue to dream’

Ranieri, 64, repeatedly played down talk of Leicester finishing the season as champions in his post-match media interviews at Etihad Stadium, saying he did not wish to talk about the title “until the end of April”.

“I don’t want to think about if we win,” he added. “My mind goes over seven days and the next game against Arsenal, a tough match with fantastic players.

“But we are alive and we want to fight. We know it’s a crazy league and we have to try. But there are some big teams who have to win.

“We enjoy it and the fans must continue to dream.”

All of the other teams in the top five resume their European campaigns this month, with Manchester City and Arsenal in Champions League contention and Tottenham and Manchester United in Europa League action.

All four are also still involved in the FA Cup, while Manchester City are in the League Cup final against Liverpool on 28 February.

And Ranieri conceded the lack of fixture congestion could give his side an advantage.

“We have to think about only the Premier League and how we can fight in it,” he said. “Those who play in the other competitions spend a lot of energy and travel a lot and that’s not easy. That’s a little advantage but we have to concentrate.”

‘We don’t feel any pressure’

Leicester were bottom of the table at the same stage of the season 12 months ago.

They had lost four games in a row, were four points behind 19th-placed Burnley and five points from safety.

Ranieri stressed during the first half of this campaign that his team’s target was to reach 40 points and safety, and he said the fact they have achieved their pre-season goal means they have nothing to lose.

“I hope my players didn’t feel pressure because our pressure was to save the team from relegation,” he added. “We did that and now we have to enjoy and do our best, step by step.”

Winger Riyad Mahrez – scorer of Leicester’s second goal at Etihad Stadium – conceded the victory came as a shock to the Premier League leaders.

“We didn’t expect to win here 3-1,” said the Algerian, 24. “We’re just going to keep dreaming. We’re going to fight for the title and see what we can do.”

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