United drew 2-2 at West Brom on Monday to drop more points as they try to catch Jose Mourinho’s leaders, who they host on Sunday. Daley Blind scored an 87th minute equaliser after Saido Berahino’s sixth league goal of the season almost wrapped up victory for Albion. Louis van Gaal insists Manchester United can still close the gap to Chelsea at the top of the Barclays Premier League. Press Association Marouane Fellaini scored his first United goal to make it 1-1 but the draw left United 10 points behind Chelsea yet Van Gaal believes they can catch them. He said: “That’s possible but difficult to say because then I am arrogant. But I have done it a lot of times. “It is two points lost. I think we were the better team and I am very disappointed by the result. We were two times behind but I don’t think West Bromwich Albion created too many chances. “We gave the two goals away and we created four chances in the first half and seven in the second. We dominated the game. “That’s what I want as a coach and as a manager but the manager doesn’t want a result like 2-2. “I have said to my players I cannot be happy. I am happy about our play style but not the result.” Fellaini could have left Albion red faced after a tweet from their official Twitter account which appeared to take a dig at the Belgium international. “Fellaini has now taken his tracksuit off, fortunately he has a Man Utd strip on underneath,” they tweeted as he prepared to come on as a half-time substitute. Albion insist it was taken out of context as it was meant to show relief he was not naked but it was still retweeted 16,000 times. The Baggies were good value for the point though and had taken the lead through Stephane Sessegnon’s fine eighth-minute effort. The result lifted them to 14th in the table but head coach Alan Irvine revealed his frustration. “We’re all bitterly disappointed. We were so close to getting a great result against a top team and for us not to get three points feels really tough in this moment,” he said. “The players were terrific all the way through, they worked really hard when we didn’t have the ball and passed the ball really well. We got two great goals and we’ve led twice and I felt quite comfortable on both occasions we had the lead.” Berahino impressed again and Irvine believes he added weight to calls for senior international selection. “He is in great form. He deserves what he is getting, his application as been really top class. He’s behaving like a top professional day after day,” he said. “If he scores goals every week then he has a great chance (of a senior call) but Roy will decide when is the right time for him.” Albion later wrote a further tweet to say they had meant no offence by their earlier reference to Fellaini. “Sorry if a joke about a footballer not having a shirt on under his tracksuit top has caused such outrage. It was not intended as a slur” the tweet read.
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is confident England goalkeeper Joe Hart will sign a new contract at the Etihad Stadium. Pellegrini said: “I think it’s an issue that we’re talking about. Joe knows what I think about that. I think in the right moment, (we will) have the right solution. I think Joe wants to stay here and we want him to stay.” If he re-signs, Hart would follow team-mates Samir Nasri, Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, who all agreed fresh terms in the summer. Pellegrini dropped Hart for a spell last autumn after a series of high-profile errors. He responded well and finished the season strongly, helping City win the Barclays Premier League and Capital One Cup after regaining his place. This season some of his performances have been top-drawer. He was outstanding in a Champions League loss at Bayern Munich last month and was similarly impressive in last Saturday’s 4-1 thrashing of Tottenham. Extra motivation might have come from the summer signing of Willy Caballero from Pellegrini’s former club Malaga, but the manager puts the improvement down to Hart himself. Pellegrini said: “He is not responding to the challenge of Willy. He is responding as number one goalkeeper as England. Except for the first three months of last year, Joe Hart always puts in a very good performance.” Despite Hart’s brilliance, City’s defence has not been impregnable this season and they have kept just two clean sheets out of eight in the Premier League. Hart has been back to his best this season and the club have been in negotiations over a new deal. The 27-year-old’s current contract expires in the summer of 2016. Press Association Pellegrini acknowledges that but does not see it is an area needing specific attention and instead wants general improvement across the pitch. The Chilean said: “We are always trying to improve in all senses, in attack and in defence. “This season we are not so strong in attacking. Last season in the first eight games I think we had scored more goals than now. “But also we had conceded more goals than now. This season our defence is (joint) second behind Southampton as the best in the league. “By our defence I’m not talking about only the back line, I’m talking the whole team, and I think we’re defending well. But of course we must improve. There’s a lot of goals that we can avoid and it will be better for us.”
Press Association Cesc Fabregas has been ruled out of Spain’s upcoming matches against Belarus and Germany with a hamstring injury. However, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said he had taken a “gamble” with Fabregas’ fitness by playing him, and the tests in Spain have revealed the full extent of the injury. A statement from the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said: “The Chelsea midfielder has been ruled out for the games against Belarus and Germany following tests and an evaluation of his condition that was carried out this morning by the medical staff of the Spanish national team. “The MRI done this morning in the Sanitas Clinic in La Moraleja (Madrid) showed a clear improvement with respect to the one done by his club on Sunday. “Although the MRI discards a hamstring tear, the player continues to have discomfort and the medical team considers that his involvement in the next games would not be advisable for his complete recovery.” The news will no doubt please Mourinho, who had asked for the 27-year-old to remain in London this weekend in order to recover. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has called up Villarreal midfielder Bruno Soriano as Fabregas’ replacement. Fabregas has joined Manchester City’s David Silva and Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta on the sidelines. Del Bosque left out Chelsea striker Diego Costa for the upcoming games, with the former Atletico star needing to rest after recent injury troubles of his own. Spain host Belarus on Saturday before facing world champions Germany in Vigo on November 18. The Chelsea midfielder will return to London on Tuesday afternoon after undergoing tests in Madrid. Fabregas played the whole of Chelsea’s 2-1 Premier League win over Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday and was included in Spain’s squad for this weekend’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Belarus and the friendly against Germany next week.
Harry Redknapp saluted hat-trick hero Charlie Austin but also saved praise for the character his side showed to come from two-down and beat West Brom. Press Association West Brom boss Alan Irvine would not have been too surprised that it was Austin who was the man to prevent his side picking up a second win inside a week. “When I was manager of Sheffield Wednesday I wanted to sign him,” the Scotsman revealed. “I recognised the ability he had at that time, I didn’t know how far he would be able to go but as a League One player he was certainly capable of playing in the Championship and beyond that. He is a player I have been aware of for a long time.” Irvine felt the penalty decision, awarded by referee Chris Pawson after he deemed that James Morrison had pulled back Leroy Fer inside the box, could easily have gone unpunished. “It was soft,” he said. “The referee had a decision to make, I’m not sure they are given every week but it has been given this week. Even if it had been for my side I would have thought it was a bit soft but you are delighted to take it and I’m sure Harry is. “We didn’t surrender the lead, we lost it. It was bitterly disappointing because I felt for the majority of the game we were the better team. We created a lot of chances and controlled the game. It is a lot harder to lift them up if you play badly and we didn’t play badly.” The 3-2 victory at Loftus Road moved the R’s out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three as Austin returned from suspension to score three goals to complete a remarkable comeback after Redknapp’s side started the game slowly. The visitors were two ahead inside the opening 20 minutes as both Joleon Lescott and Silvestre Varela hit their first goals for the Baggies but Austin scored from the spot to half the arrears before the break. And the 25-year-old moved onto 11 goals for the campaign, and nine from his last eight appearances, as he struck twice in the second half to lift QPR up to 15th in the table. “Charlie scored the goals and has been excellent for us but we showed a lot of character to come back from two down,” Redknapp said of his striker, who became the first QPR player in 21 years to score a Premier League hat-trick. “We were being outplayed, they started fantastically with their movement and passing and it was difficult to live with them in the early stages but to come back from that and win 3-2 is a fantastic result. “Everyone talks about his three goals but his defending at the end of the game, he makes a challenge in the corner that was unbelievable, you would’ve thought it was a right-back. “If that ball had come into the box we could have been in trouble but that summed up his work-rate up today, he worked his socks off for the team.” Reports earlier in the week suggested former bricklayer Austin had turned down a new contract but Redknapp insisted he knew nothing of a potential deal. “I don’t get involved with the contracts,” he said. “Certainly Charlie is a player you want to keep at your football club. He has scored goals at every level and now he is scoring goals in the Premier League, he deserves it because he is a great lad.”
Ireland secured a fine three-wicket victory over Afghanistan in their World Cup warm-up match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. After winning the toss and electing to field, Ireland had Afghanistan at 81 for five at one stage before opener Javed Ahmadi (81) and Najbullah Zadran (45) put on 49 for the sixth wicket. Afghanistan, who beat Scotland by eight wickets on Thursday in the opening match of the tri-nation series, were eventually bowled out for 180 after losing their last three wickets without scoring. Spinner George Dockrell was the pick of the Ireland bowlers with four wickets for 35 runs from his 8.2 overs. In response, Ireland suffered their own poor start as they were 29 for three before 51 from Ed Joyce partly steadied the ship. After starring with the bat, Ahmadi then threatened to win the game with the ball as he took four wickets, only for Andrew Balbirnie (31) and Alex Cusack (26) to steer Ireland home with 6.4 of the 50 overs to spare. Press Association
Bony’s move was confirmed by both Barclays Premier League clubs in synchronised statements on their club websites on Wednesday afternoon, although the Ivory Coast Football Federation had earlier announced the transfer on Twitter. The 26-year-old is currently on international duty with the Ivory Coast ahead of the African Nations Cup, which starts in Equatorial Guinea this weekend and could prevent his City debut until the middle of next month. “I believe we can do it.” Bony scored 20 Premier League goals in 2014, more than any other player, but promised there is much more to come from him after linking up with his Ivory Coast colleague Yaya Toure at club level. “I speak with Yaya every day on international duty and I think he will help me to become a better player and a more clinical striker,” Bony said. “I’ll be playing with great players here at City and this is an opportunity for me to work hard and to take my chance. “The Premier League is a tough league – my power is to always be in the box and in the right position. “I’m always working hard to be there to score the goals and to improve.” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said he was delighted to be adding the muscular Bony to a strikeforce which already includes Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic. “He is very difficult to mark because he is so strong,” Pellegrini told the official club website. “He is an intelligent footballer who has skill and power. “His goals record has been excellent since he came to England. He adapted very quickly to the game here and I think he will settle in at City quickly. He will be a very good addition to our squad. ” We now have four top-class strikers and I am looking forward to seeing them work together.” Bony’s departure means Swansea have almost doubled their transfer record for selling a player, the previous highest fee being the £15m Liverpool paid for Wales midfielder Joe Allen in 2012. The Ivorian took time to settle in South Wales and previous Swansea manager Michael Laudrup often left him out of the team due to concerns over the player’s fitness. But Bony’s double in a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City on New Year’s Day 2014 was the start of a prolific year and he ended up winning four awards at Swansea’s end-of-season function. “Everyone at Swansea City would like to thank Wilfried for his superb service to the club, and wish him well for the future,” said a statement on the Swansea website. Manchester City have completed the transfer of Swansea striker Wilfried Bony for a £25million fee. Bony has signed a four-and-a-half year contract at the Etihad Stadium and will wear the number 14 shirt. His fee could rise as high as £28million. He joins the English champions after scoring 34 goals in 70 appearances for Swansea following his £12m move from Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem in the summer of 2013. “It’s a great feeling for me, it’s a big honour to be here and it’s a great challenge,” Bony told the official Manchester City website. “As a player it’s always good to be part of one of the biggest clubs in the world and it’s a good opportunity for me to be in that situation now – I’m really proud. “I felt excited to wait for this moment and now it’s come, it’s fantastic. “I think it’s a great decision for me – Manchester City is in the Champions League. “You remember at the end of last season I said that if I want to move it will be to a team in the competition because it’s a great tournament that I really want to play in and one that I want to win. “It’s a motivation for me to give my maximum to be in that place. City is a big club with great players with a lot of experience. Press Association
Ireland completed their World Cup preparations with a confidence-boosting four-wicket win over Bangladesh in Sydney. Ireland suffered a thumping 179-run defeat to Scotland in a warm-up match on Tuesday after losing their opening fixture to Sydney grade side Randwick-Petersham. “We had a poor day two days ago and we had needed to put it right before the tournament started,” Balbirnie said. “I thought everyone bowled particularly well. It was a great 50 overs to start and then we saw it home at the end.” Young right-hander Balbirnie joined Ed Joyce, preparing for his third World Cup, in a decisive 59-run stand after Ireland had been in some discomfort at 78 for four. “With someone like Ed it makes it so much easier to come in and bat,” Balbirnie added. “He tells you exactly that’s going on, he doesn’t make you feel under pressure, he makes everything look so easy.” Ireland’s opener against an understrength West Indies has the potential to shape their hopes of getting out of the group stage for the second time in the past three World Cups. “That’s the game everyone has been looking forward to for a long time, “Mooney said. “Everyone is raring to go on Monday.” Andy Balbirnie’s unbeaten 63 steered Ireland home after new-ball pair John Mooney and Max Sorensen claimed three wickets each to bowl out the Tigers for 189. It was Ireland’s first win since they arrived in Australia last week and provided a much-needed lift ahead of their opening group game against West Indies in Nelson on February 16. Press Association
”We’re damned by TV at times. It is what it is,” Pardew said. ”That’s the point I’m trying to make, like our televised game against West Ham. ”The punditry seems to be having a greater and greater effect on the decision process at the FA. ”That’s a little bit worrying. I hope you’re governed by the FA, not by what people are saying on the TV.” Palace are currently 12th in the Barclays Premier League table, eight points clear of the relegation zone. Jedinak was retrospectively punished by the FA after he elbowed West Ham striker Diafra Sakho in the face towards the end of Palace’s 3-1 win at Upton Park on Saturday. The punishment for violent conduct is a three-match ban but Jedinak’s red card against Sunderland in November means his suspension has been lengthened to four. The Palace captain will now sit out Tuesday’s visit to Southampton as well as league games against QPR, Stoke and Manchester City. An FA statement read: “Mile Jedinak will serve a four match suspension with immediate effect after he admitted an FA charge of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video. “The incident involving the Crystal Palace midfielder and West Ham United’s Diafra Sakho took place in the 87th minute of their fixture on Saturday [28 February 2015]. “The player’s suspension consists of three matches for violent conduct with an additional one match as he has previously been dismissed this season.” The incident with Sakho was not seen by referee Mike Dean but it was caught on video, allowing the FA to take retrospective action. A panel of three former elite referees reviewed the footage and unanimously agreed Jedinak should have been sent off. The Australian was making his first start for Palace since December 28, having returned from the Asia Cup in February with an ankle injury. Speaking before the FA ruling, Palace boss Alan Pardew said he would be ”surprised” if any further action was taken against the midfielder and told the FA not to be swayed by television pundits. Press Association Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak will serve a four-match suspension after admitting a charge of violent conduct, the Football Association has announced.
The two-time Open champion was due to tee off at 7.38am in his second round at St Andrews but high winds and a heavy deluge led to a suspension in play of more than three hours. When play did resume, Harrington took advantage of the improved conditions to shoot four birdies in a round of 69 that lifted him to three under par overall. Press Association Padraig Harrington felt he got extra lucky with Friday’s downpour at the Open Championship – as he gave himself the chance of a third Claret Jug and grabbed some extra sleep. He was still some way off the lead but Harrington felt he gave himself a chance he might not have had had he played in the worst of the weather. And after getting up at 5am to prepare, the break in play also gave him the chance to go back to bed. Asked about the torrential rain that flooded parts of the course, the Irishman said: “I was standing in it when it was happening – we were on the range warming up when the storm came in. “At no stage did I not think I was going to tee off – this is the Open Championship. “Considering the weather we played in in 2002 at Muirfield we were going to go play, but unfortunately the town of St Andrews drains on to the first fairway, so we really couldn’t go. “We were happy about that. I snuck into one of the tour vans and slept for an hour and a half or so. “It was a nice break on our behalf, and then when we got playing, our front nine played straight downwind. It was a good break for us.” Harrington won the Open at Carnoustie in 2007 and at Birkdale the following year but, after also claiming the US PGA Championship in 2008, did not taste victory on a major world tour again until claiming the Honda Classic in March. That relatively recent success gives Harrington hope that he can put himself into the picture this weekend, although he accepts he may need another helping hand from the weather. The 43-year-old said: “I’ve won two of them already, so it’s not going to be life-changing or anything like that, but it would be nice to get into contention coming down the stretch and perform. “We’ll see what happens but, no matter what, I’m going to need a big weekend. I’m way behind. If I was leading the tournament I’d want beautiful conditions but I want everything thrown at us to give me chance to catch up.”
Barry Geraghty, in the colours of new boss JP McManus, was hard at work on the five-year-old a long way from home but his mount responded well and scored by four and a quarter lengths from pace-setter Tigroney after taking it up after the second-last hurdle. The market proved correct in the Coola Maiden Hurdle as 7-4 joint favourites The Scourge and Emmy Lou fought out the finish, with the former prevailing by half a length. St Maxime (10-3jf) thwarted outsider Naughty Molly by a head in a thrilling finish to the Michael Moore Car Sales Mercedes-Benz Handicap Hurdle. Press Association “He stays all day and is improving the whole time,” said Morris. “It’s nice to win this for Michael at his local track. I’ll have a word with the boss now and see where he goes.” Carriganog upset to 4-6 favourite As De Ferbet when opening his chase account in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Beginners Chase. A 138-rated hurdler at his peak, Aidan O’Brien’s charge had failed to sparkle in four previous attempts over larger obstacles but the penny dropped on this occasion. The favourite made the running but had no answers when challenged by Mark Walsh’s mount and the winner went on to pull seven lengths clear in good style after jumping to the front at the last fence. Damefirth (2-1fav) confirmed her liking for the track when beating Do Na Paisti by a length and three-quarters in the Best Dressed Lady Competition At Kilbeggan Races On 8th August Handicap Hurdle. Having upset a 1-2 favourite over this course and distance earlier in the year, Henry de Bromhead’s mare returned to smaller obstacles following a novice chase success and proved too strong in the finish after taking it up turning for home. Tri Na Ceile justified odds of 11-8 in the opening Tom McCormack Memorial Cup Mares Maiden Hurdle, but favourite backers had some nervous moments. Both in the colours of Gigginstown Stud, who had four in the race, Akorakor set the pace and there was nothing between the long-time leader and Mouse Morris’ charge when the latter challenged approaching the final obstacle. Akorakor unseated Kevin Sexton on landing to leave the path clear for Bryan Cooper’s mount to cruise home four and three-quarter lengths clear of Rohan Pride’s, with Archie Meade picking up third. There was drama in the Midlands National Handicap Chase at Kilbeggan as Ravished pounced on a last-fence mishap from Akorakor to land the evening’s feature.