Sports

Mar 302016
 
Steve Bruce guided Aston Villa’s neighbours Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2007

Championship club Hull City say they would not welcome an approach from Aston Villa for manager Steve Bruce.

Bruce, 55, is a candidate to succeed the sacked Remi Garde, along with Nigel Pearson, David Moyes and Sean Dyche.

“No approach had been made nor would one be welcome,” a spokesman for Hull, fourth in the table, told BBC Sport.

Former Villa player and manager Brian Little, who recently joined the club’s board of directors, will play a key role in the selection process.

However Villa, bottom of the table and 12 points adrift of safety with seven games to play, are in no rush to make an appointment.

Villa want a British manager to succeed Garde, BBC Sport understands.

Former Leicester manager Pearson and ex-Manchester United boss Moyes have been tipped as replacements.

Bruce, who has been with Hull since 2012, and Burnley manager Dyche are also possible candidates.

The board’s recommendation will need to be passed by Randy Lerner, the club’s American owner, before a final decision.

Former Villa striker Garry Thompson says the next boss needs to know the Championship, which is where the club are likely to be playing next season.

He also says Garde’s successor needs to have broad shoulders.

“People don’t realise what a massive club Aston Villa is,” Thompson, who played for the club in the late 1980s, told BBC Radio WM.

“You’ve got to be strong enough and big enough to carry this thing. Obviously, Remi wasn’t.”

Bruce guided Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 and 2007, before doing the same with Hull in 2013.

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Mar 302016
 
Manchester City defender Demichelis (left) has played 18 times in the Premier League this season

Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis has been charged by the Football Association over alleged betting offences.

The Argentine, 35, is accused of committing 12 breaches relating to matches between 22 and 28 January 2016.

Demichelis has until 17:00 BST on 5 April to respond to the charge.

However, there is no suggestion that the charge relates to any of the 25 league and cup games in which he has featured for City this season.

New rules that came into force for the 2014-15 season mean players and coaches are prevented from betting on any worldwide footballing activity.

The FA has the power to fine or suspend any person found guilty of a rule breach.

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Mar 302016
 
England slipped to a first Wembley defeat since November 2013 against Germany

England boss Roy Hodgson said he was disappointed by his side’s lack of creativity in their 2-1 defeat by the Netherlands at Wembley.

The loss came three days after England produced a thrilling comeback from two goals down to beat Germany 3-2.

“It was nothing like the performance I was after,” said Hodgson. “We weren’t as intensive or incisive as we were against Germany.

“We weren’t as creative but we had control over the game.”

He added: “It really is a high followed by a low.”

England slipped to a first defeat at Wembley since November 2013 despite taking the lead through Jamie Vardy – the 100th goal of Hodgson’s tenure.

The Leicester striker finished off a well-worked team move to add to his backheel goal against Germany.

But Vincent Janssen scored from the spot after Danny Rose’s handball before Luciano Narsingh scored the Dutch winner 13 minutes from time.

‘Dinosaur’ Hodgson upset at handball decisions

Hodgson thought the decision to penalise left-back Rose was harsh, and felt centre-back Phil Jagielka was fouled in the build-up to the winning goal.

“I think we were hard done by,” he said. “I don’t think we deserved to lose the game, the way the two decisions went against us.

“The second one in particular was exceptionally harsh. The first one is a decision that is given these days, which I unfortunately I don’t agree with.

“I really do believe to give handball it has got to be absolutely deliberate and not hit the hand when people are trying to block the ball.

“I am becoming a dinosaur if I keep saying that because I see these decisions being given every week. Whether I agree with it or not, it doesn’t make a lot of difference and it was given.”

Hodgson gains clues for Euro team

Hodgson will name his Euro 2016 squad on 12 May, 10 days before England face Turkey in a friendly at Etihad Stadium. They then host Australia on 27 May at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light and Portugal on 2 June at Wembley.

And Hodgson felt the two matches against Germany and the Netherlands had helped him learn more about his players.

“I gave a lot of different players a chance to play. I’ve really aired the squad, if you like,” said Hodgson.

“Hopefully that might be to my advantage in the future, when I am thinking about players and thinking about making decisions.”

England will face Russia, Slovakia and Wales in Group B of Euro 2016, which starts on 10 June.

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Strachan content with Scotland win

 Posted by at 5:32 AM
Mar 302016
 
Gordon Strachan admitted that Denmark were the better side

Scotland’s team spirit helped them to victory against Denmark at Hampden, according to coach Gordon Strachan.

Matt Ritchie pounced on Daniel Agger’s early mistake to score the winner, but the Danes spurned a host of opportunities to draw level.

“The better side were Denmark. We kept ourselves in it with a bit of grit and determination,” said Strachan.

“Our team spirit kept us in it: good defending, good goalkeeping. I’ve got a couple of players coming through.”

Following Thursday’s win in Prague against the Czech Republic, Strachan once again made wholesale changes and gave debuts to Kieran Tierney, John McGinn and, from the bench, Oliver Burke against the Danes.

The Scotland manager was content with the result, if not the passing and physical prowess of his experimental side.

“If you look at the Danish players, they are all playing at a good level, physically playing every week,” he said.

“If you look at our side, four or five guys don’t even get a game. I wanted to make sure no-one played two games, so I sent them back to their club feeling decent about themselves.

Scotland debutant Kieran Tierney played the opening 45 minutes at Hampden

“We won two games of football, that’s great. The other side of it, if you look at the physical side of Denmark compared to us, it was night and day.

“It was a heavyweight against a middleweight. We learn from that.

“Our team spirit kept us in it, good defending, good goalkeeping, we had a couple of chances in the second half, but they were the better side because basically they are at the top of their game.”

Strachan expressed surprise at the strength of the side picked by Denmark head coach Age Hareide on a night when Scotland captain Scott Brown earned his 50th cap.

“It was a gamble we took, although saying that I didn’t expect them to play such a strong side for their second game and you could see they had played together,” added the Scotland coach.

“They should’ve gone to the European Championship [finals]. They would be a good side there, so the result was good.”

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England 1-2 Netherlands

 Posted by at 5:14 AM
Mar 302016
 
Netherlands finished fourth in their Euro 2016 qualifying group

England failed to build on the optimism generated by their thrilling victory in Germany as they were beaten in a friendly by the Netherlands, who have not even qualified for Euro 2016.

On a night when Wembley paid its respects to the late Dutch legend Johan Cruyff with applause in the 14th minute, a much-changed England side slipped to a rare defeat at the national stadium.

Man-of-the-match Jamie Vardy rounded off a slick passing move to steer in Kyle Walker’s cross four minutes before the interval – but Roy Hodgson’s side could not protect their lead.

England’s defence lived on the edge too often and were eventually punished when a sloppy passage of play led to Danny Rose handling, and Vincent Janssen scored from the spot after 50 minutes.

The big striker was then too strong for substitute Phil Jagielka, although England complained bitterly he had been fouled, before crossing for Luciano Narsingh to score the winner 13 minutes from time.

A tribute to the late Johan Cruyff was met with a standing ovation on 14 minutes

Vardy shows England class

Vardy’s transition from the heights he has scaled with Leicester City this season to England has been seamless – and he has stepped up a level in the two friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands.

The 29-year-old has been portrayed as both an ideal starter and the perfect impact substitute as Hodgson makes plans for Euro 2016.

Vardy has proved his capabilities for both, with an explosive 20-minute cameo in Berlin that included a brilliantly instinctive finish as part of England’s comeback.

A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off for victims of the Brussels attacks

And here, he was England’s outstanding performer by some distance, showing the pace and energy that has panicked Premier League defences and also skill to round off that passing move with a clinical finish before testing Dutch keeper Jeroen Zoet with a powerful rising drive.

The debate about how best to use Vardy may go on but one thing is beyond dispute – he is going to Euro 2016 and has the ability to threaten every defence in France.

A mixed bag of Stones

John Stones slipped in the build-up to a spell of play which saw Netherlands win a penalty

In an ideal world, Everton’s John Stones would have come in at Wembley to produce the sort of elegant display that became his trademark in the early seasons of his career, thus cementing his place alongside Chris Smalling for England’s first Euro 2016 game against Russia in Marseille.

Instead, Wembley witnessed a 21-year-old whose confidence has been hit by a recent dip in form at club level and will need a little renovating before the serious action gets under way.

Stones twice brought murmurs of concern from England’s fans inside Wembley with his tendency to perhaps over-play out of defence, but his determination to be constructive also started the passing move that led to Vardy’s goal.

The young defender is a work in progress and there will be slips – quite literally when he stumbled at the start of a chain of events that led to England keeper Fraser Forster having to save well from Janssen before Rose handled to leave the striker to score from the spot.

Stones is well worth persevering with – but Hodgson must hope some of that confidence and composure returns quickly.

So what shape are England in?

England have friendlies against Turkey, Australia and Portugal before Euro 2016

Hodgson warned they must not get carried away after victory in Germany – and, in case anyone ignored the warning, along comes a defeat against a Dutch team that will not even be in France this summer.

In some respects this defeat, albeit with a much-changed side, simply reinforced some of the lessons that came out of the win in Germany that was the catalyst for such a surge of optimism.

England have some very exciting options up front in the shape of Vardy and Harry Kane, while Daniel Sturridge also got a decent 57 minutes under his belt.

Questions remain, however, about a frail-looking defence with both full-back spots still up for grabs and no central-defensive pairing jumping out as Hodgson’s first choice at this stage.

England certainly carry a threat but fears persist about their ability to resist attacks of the highest calibre.

Player ratings – Vardy star man

The Leicester forward built on his goal in Germany with another strike and an excellent display

Fraser Forster: Solid night for the Southampton keeper despite a couple of fumbles. Saved well from Georginio Wijnaldum and Vincent Janssen. Clear deputy to Joe Hart. 7.

Kyle Walker: Solid and quick in defence and a threat in attack with a perfect pass for Vardy to score England’s goal. 7.

Chris Smalling: Part of an uncertain central-defensive partnership that once again hinted at England’s frailty against attacks possessing real quality. 6.

John Stones: Not a great night for Everton’s 21-year-old. Yes, his determination to play started the move for England’s goal but too often caused anxiety with his tendency to overdo things and second-half slip started chain of events that led to the Dutch equaliser. 5.

Danny Rose: Not an easy night for England’s defence but Rose kept going and may consider himself unlucky to be punished for the handball that led to a penalty. 6.

James Milner: Anonymous as England’s captain. Milner is a solid presence but not big on inspirational moments. 5.

Danny Drinkwater: Solid debut from the Leicester City midfielder. Did himself no harm and can be happy with his debut but did he make a compelling case for inclusion in Euro 2016? Not sure. 6.

Ross Barkley: Busy first half and a trademark second-half surge that set up a chance for Adam Lallana. 6.

Adam Lallana: Decent night for the Liverpool midfielder. Clever pass played its part in England’s goal and was warmly applauded when substituted. 7.

Daniel Sturridge: Once he’d stopped fiddling with his bootlaces he settled down and produced one or two moments that hint at the threat he could yet pose for England. 6.

Jamie Vardy: England’s star man. Busy, scored one and could have had another. 8.

Substitutes:

Walcott (for Sturridge, 57 minutes): Odd flash of pace and one rising shot over the bar but otherwise quiet. 6.

Clyne (for Rose, 57 minutes): Not much of an opportunity and consequently not much impact. 5.

Kane (for Lallana, 70 minutes): Just a couple of half-chances but no rescue act from the man who is now England’s first-choice striker. 5.

Jagielka (for Smalling, 70 minutes): Claimed he was fouled by Janssen in the lead-up to the winner but should have been stronger in that situation. 5.

Alli (for Milner, 82 minutes): No rating.

Dier (for Drinkwater, 84 minutes): No rating.

England were angered by what they thought was a foul in the build-up to the winner

The stats you need to know

  • Vardy scored England’s 100th goal under Hodgson.
  • England conceded a goal from the penalty spot for the first time since March 2008 (Ribery, v France).
  • Janssen’s goal was the first England had conceded in 443 minutes at Wembley.
  • England conceded twice at Wembley for the first time since November 2013 (v Chile).
  • The Three Lions have not won any of their past seven meetings with the Netherlands (D4 L3).

What next?

The Three Lions wait until 21 May to host Turkey, while Netherlands meet Republic of Ireland six days later.

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Scotland 1-0 Denmark

 Posted by at 4:28 AM
Mar 302016
 
Matt Ritchie scored his third goal for Scotland

Matt Richie capitalised on a misjudgement from Daniel Agger in the Denmark defence to hand Scotland victory at sparsely attended Hampden.

The Bournemouth winger scored after eight minutes, but Scotland were second best thereafter.

Craig Gordon’s excellence in goal ensured a second 1-0 win in a row.

There were encouraging debuts for John McGinn, Kieran Tierney and, off the bench, the latter’s fellow 18-year-old, Oliver Burke.

The newcomers and the result will have pleased Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.

It was fortunate, though, that Denmark created chances but were utterly hapless in putting one of them away.

Just as they did in Prague on Thursday night, Scotland struck early. And what a present it was.

When Scott Brown played an innocuous ball towards the Danish penalty area, it looked like visiting captain Agger had it under control.

But the former Liverpool defender attempted to usher it back to his goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, but wildly miscalculated.

As he waited for Schmeichel to come and deal with it, Ritchie nipped in, brushed him off the ball and put his shot away with ease.

Agger and Schmeichel had a bitter exchange, although it is debatable quite what the Brondby centre-back was complaining about.

The Danes came into it from there, Tierney’s alertness in defence denying Yussuf Poulsen a shot on target from close range before Gordon saved from Nicolai Jorgensen.

Kieran Tierney made his debut for Scotland, starting the game at the age of 18

Scotland’s early brio had disappeared by now, being over-run in midfield and fortunate that Denmark were unable to do anything with the huge amount of possession they had.

The game was low on quality, accuracy and atmosphere – with a crowd of less than 20,000 – and surely it should have been played at Pittodrie or Easter Road or Tynecastle rather than the half-empty national stadium.

Leigh Griffiths had a hugely frustrating night, the Celtic striker being replaced after a joyless hour of chasing lost causes.

Griffiths did not have a crumb to feed on. Not a shot, not a header, not even a pass or a cross that gave him a chance to impress.

It was a night of nothing for the Scottish Premiership’s most consistent goalscorer.

Scotland were a creative desert for much of the evening and Griffiths suffered badly.

The Danes continued to have large chunks of the game. Pierre Hojbjerg of Schalke fired over and then wide from distance while Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur put another long-range effort wide.

Scotland did not exist as an attacking force. They were pegged back and would have conceded were it not for a combination of Gordon’s excellence and Denmark’s rank profligacy.

With 17 minutes remaining, Gordon made a marvellous double save, beating away an initial shot and then recovering his ground to deny Martin Braithwaite from point-blank range.

Braithwaite looked mortified in the aftermath, knowing he should have scored.

Liam Bridcutt came on as a replacement and quickly launched himself into an horrendous tackle on Celtic defender Erik Sviatchenko for which he was lucky not to see red.

Scotland eventually found something in attack and it was only a superb block from Andreas Christensen from Ritchie that stopped Scotland doubling their lead, which in truth would have been a travesty.

The scoreboard was pretty enough for Strachan’s team. The performance? An altogether different story.

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