Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is not about to start taking any notice of Jose Mourinho’s latest mind games after the Portugese coach declared it was now impossible for Chelsea to win the Barclays Premier League. The Blues slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon, after which Mourinho claimed his team’s hopes of staying top are over with six matches to go. City, however, failed to take full advantage as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Arsenal in Saturday’s late kick-off. Liverpool moved two points clear of Chelsea after beating Tottenham 4-0 at Anfield on Sunday afternoon – but City’s destiny is still in their own hands, having played a couple of matches less than the sides above them and with a visit to Anfield still to come. Following all the talk of big horses, little horses and the Liverpool Chihuahua earlier in the campaign, Pellegrini has no intentions of embroiling himself in another war of words with anyone. “I don’t think that important managers can give any importance to those mind games, and I don’t know if you think that managers who seem to play mind games are more intelligent, I don’t think so,” the Chilean said. “I do not know what Mourinho said, and I don’t know the way he thinks, “(But) it is not my duty to analyse what Mourinho has said. That is your duty.” Pellegrini is expecting the championship race to go to the wire. “My way of thinking is that the four teams have the same option to win the title,” the City boss said. “It is very close, all the other teams have a few points more, six games more, we have eight games more, we have to win those six points (in hand). “We don’t have six points more, we have two games postponed, it is not the same thing so I think all four teams have the same chances.” Press Association
The Everton winger struck twice, the second of them in the 90th minute, to clinch a 2-1 win at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi and earn the plaudits of both manager Martin O’Neill and skipper Robbie Keane. O’Neill said: “He was the only player on the field that was scoring the goal. He really is a fantastic talent. Press Association “He probably thinks at this age he should have been up there with the very finest players. He has that talent and he showed that tonight.” Long-time team-mate Keane was equally effusive after seeing McGeady, who had opened the scoring with 24 minutes gone, snatch the points at the death after turning on the edge of the penalty area and curling a delicious shot past substitute keeper Roin Kvashvadze. Keane said: “If you score a goal like that, you deserve to win the game. If anyone else did that, the top players in the world, you would be talking about it for a long time. “The turn, the touch, the finish – only he could do that. No-one else on that field would have been able to do that.” McGeady, who played under O’Neill during his time as Celtic manager, had scored only three goals in his previous 69 appearances for his country. His double in Tbilisi in his manager’s first competitive game – he also scored in the 62-year-old’s first friendly against Latvia in November last year – increased his relatively meagre tally significantly, and the second of them proved priceless. McGeady was applauded back into the away dressing room after conducting a series of interviews following the final whistle, and admitted he did not know what to do with himself. He said: “I’d been doing a few interviews outside while the manager was talking to the team about the game. I was a bit awkward when it happened, I didn’t know how to react really. It was nice.” Asked about his decisive strike, he added: “The second goal was all about concentrating on my touch. I had my back to the goal, I just thought I’d try something. It came off for me. “It doesn’t happen very often for me, but thankfully it went in.” McGeady’s 24th-minute strike gave Ireland an early advantage which was cancelled out in spectacular style by Tornike Okriashvili seven minutes before half-time. The game looked to be heading for a draw until the Ireland midfielder span and delivered the denouement to send the small band of travelling supporters into raptures. O’Neill said: “We scored a goal, and we were at our most comfortable when they equalised. It changed the complexion and momentum of the game. There was moments in the second half when it might have been worrying for us, but we’ve seen it through. “I think there’s improvement in the team – we’ve won away from home, which is terrific – but there’s definitely improvement in the team.” For Georgia boss Temuri Ketsbaia, a sixth successive defeat by Ireland proved hard to accept. He said: “Ireland’s second goal was the only moment of quality in the second half. Perhaps a draw would have been a fair result and left both teams happy. “Our performance is not what we want to see and we definitely want to see better games and results. We have limitations in the team and in Georgian football in general – that is the reality we have to face. “We cannot fault the players’ effort and they stuck to task for 99 per cent of the time, but Ireland have 25 players who play at the top level with most in the Premier League.” Aiden McGeady was the hero as the Republic of Ireland launched their Euro 2106 qualifying campaign with a dramatic victory in Georgia.
In a parting shot at the club, Diame hit out at Allardyce for ‘shunting’ him around the team and putting off prospective suitors. “At West Ham I was shunted around all the different positions,” he told the Daily Star earlier in the week. “I remember one time I had to play as a striker. At least with Hull I will be certain of playing in my favoured role. That was not good for my career. I wanted to play for a club that is high in the Premier League table. “At least with Hull I will be certain of playing in my favoured role. I should have left West Ham a long time ago, as with them I wasn’t permitted to play in central midfield. “I wasn’t able to get the biggest clubs interested in me, as when they came to watch me I’d been put in a position that was not mine.” But now both Allardyce and co-chairman David Gold have had their say on the situation, with the latter taking to Twitter to put his view across. “Mohamed Diame said it was always his aim to play for a team higher up the league table,” Gold wrote. “Good luck at Hull Mohamed.” Allardyce went deeper into the reasoning behind his willingness to allow Diame’s departure – and confirmed a last-minute deal was struck with Marseille winger Morgan Amalfitano to fill the vacant space in his squad. Mohamed Diame was allowed to leave West Ham for Hull after failing to build on his impressive opening season, Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has revealed. The 27-year-old central midfielder was an instant hit with the fans at Upton Park having completed a free transfer from Wigan and was soon attracting reported attention from the likes of Arsenal. West Ham kept hold of the player but, with his contract running down, Allardyce decided the time was right to sell – with Monday’s opponents Hull signing him on transfer deadline day. “Mo was running out of contract and there was a fantastic offer from Hull City which meant that, with Mo coming to us on a free transfer, we made a very handsome profit on that deal,” he said. “He had two seasons with us. I think that his first season was something we expected him to improve on. “He didn’t quite go as fas as we expected from thereon unfortunately. So it was good business all round from our point of view because it allowed us to get Morgan in and Mo got what he wanted in the end and that was a move and obviously a bigger contract. “Mo would have continued to play in central midfield had his performances been as his first season with us. In the end, those performances didn’t quite live up to the ones he gave us in the early part of his career here. “My responsibility is the team and the whole team, not one particular player. If there’s a particular position you need to play somebody to find if they can play that little bit better than they did, then you try and do that. That’s why I moved Mo around. “If he wasn’t happy with it and he’s moved on then that’s fine. From my point of view, I have to look after 25 players throughout the season and then select the best team available. Within that, a player picks himself. That’s what a player does. And a player drops himself. It’s not me, they do it themselves by calculating and keeping track of their performances. “When their performances don’t meet the level you expect then their position is in jeopardy. And if their performances do meet expectations then they stay in the team.” One man who does not appear set to leave Upton Park is assistant manager Neil McDonald. The 48-year-old was linked to the vacant manager’s position at Sky Bet League Two strugglers Carlisle, but Allardyce quashed the speculation and said he intends to keep working closely with McDonald. “No we are not going to lose him,” he said. “I think we have had a huge amount of changes and when you have got somebody you trust and is your right hand man over many years, you don’t let that go.” Press Association
And w hen Tom Watson was named US captain in December 2012, Clarke suggested 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie should also be considered as “whoever it is standing on that stage opposite Tom Watson needs a huge presence”. With the public backing of players such as Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, McGinley subsequently won the day but admitted recently that his conversations with Clarke were now “short and sweet” and amounted to little more than passing pleasantries. However, the 47-year-old vowed to be professional when the new selection process gets under way. Since 1999, the captain was selected by the European Tour’s 15-strong tournament committee, but changes announced in August last year mean the responsibility now falls to the previous three captains (McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Montgomerie), the Tour’s chief executive and a tournament committee representative. Asked by Press Association Sport if his relationship with Clarke would be a problem, McGinley said: “Abs olutely no problem whatsoever. I’m going to be very professional in my input. “I’m going to get opinions from a lot of players and a lot of people before I put my opinion forward as to what it will be. Just like I was very much pushed over the line by the players, I want to get the opinion of the players. “I think we’re very fortunate in Europe, a little bit like the Liverpool soccer team and the boot room, I think a lot of us have benefited hugely from being vice-captains. Darren has been a vice-captain along with many other guys. We will see where that all evolves and I’ll make a professional decision based on the views of people that I respect.” As to whether he would be a vice-captain under Clarke, McGinley added: “I don’t think I’d be vice-captain to anybody going forward to be honest. I’m very happy to help in an unofficial capacity but I don’t think I have the personality to go back in as vice-captain. Press Association Paul McGinley insists his strained relationship with Darren Clarke will not influence his opinion on who should be Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain. Clarke is odds-on favourite to lead the side at Hazeltine in 2016, when Europe will be looking to claim their fourth straight victory and ninth in the last 11 contests. The former Open champion sent McGinley a letter in 2011 offering his support for the latter’s bid to become captain in 2014, but later changed his mind and also put himself forward for the role. “I would like to be able to support the new captain in whatever direction he went, and if I had a belief about a different area, I’m afraid there would be a conflict.” That means McGinley’s Ryder Cup career is officially over, a career which has seen three wins as a player (2002, 2004 and 2006), two as a vice-captain (2010 and 2012) and one as captain. “That’s six I have been involved in and six wins,” he said. “L ike a heavyweight fighter, I will retire undefeated.” Undefeated but perhaps not uninvolved, McGinley raising the possibility of using his expertise in the same way he got former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to speak to the team on Tuesday. “I would certainly like to play a role, if required, a little bit like Alex Ferguson did this week for me,” he added. “I bounced ideas off him. He didn’t preach to me. He didn’t tell me what to do, but what he did was he solidified my ideas and he gave me confidence that, yeah, my hunches were right. “I certainly won’t be pushing myself forward (but) whoever the next captain may be, if he has any questions, I’ll help in any single way I can.” McGinley admitted his one regret at Gleneagles was not having enough time to coach Ian Poulter in the role of senior player for his partnership with Stephen Gallacher, the untried duo losing 5&4 on the opening morning. But he praised Poulter for accepting his somewhat limited role during the week, the top European points scorer in each of the previous three contests playing just twice before the singles. “I had to make some tough calls, really tough calls,” added McGinley, who said his decision not to pick Luke Donald as a wild card was still eating away at him; Donald sending McGinley a long text of congratulations on Sunday evening. “All along I had thought that Ian Poulter was going to play in the second afternoon, and he thought he was going to play, and at the 11th hour I decided on Martin Kaymer instead and to break up that dynamic of Poulter and (Justin) Rose which has been so successful. That was a big call. “But the way Ian accepted that decision, I mean, he came out to me on the golf course in the afternoon and he was consoling me. That means more to me than the Ian Poulter banging on his heart and what he did in Medinah.”
Press Association Vroum Vroum Mag looks another hugely promising recruit to the Willie Mullins yard after scoring with ease on her Irish debut in the Kerlogue Mares Beginners Chase. The win completed a treble on the card for Mullins and Walsh. Walsh said: “I’d say she would love real soft ground. The chase track is a bit drier than the hurdles course. “It was a good performance, she jumped super and travelled super. “You’d love the way she jumped on the far side. When I pulled her out she pinged the one at the top of hill and got me there and then she pinged the ditch and it was nearly race over then in two jumps.” A bumper and hurdle winner in her native France, she has since been snapped up by owner Rich Ricci and was always travelling comfortably under Ruby Walsh. After opening up a huge lead before the last, the 8/11 favourite was over the final obstacle carefully and eased down to win by nine lengths from Emily Gray.
Martin Kaymer admitted to being shocked after he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory to hand world number 357 Gary Stal the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship title on Sunday. Press Association Reigning US Open champion Kaymer eventually finished third behind Stal and runner-up Rory McIlroy – with the German’s three-over-par 75 the joint worst of the day with England’s Andy Sullivan – and he admitted afterwards he was struggling to process his spectacular collapse. “I’m surprised and a little shocked. I don’t really know how to put it into words,” he said. “It was very, very surprising today. I started off well but then I hit a couple of bad tee shots and it cost me a double bogey and a triple bogey. “I do miss fairways, but usually you get away with it okay, you don’t make double or triple bogey. But that is what happened today. “Another thing was I didn’t make many putts. I missed a lot of putts and therefore it was very difficult for me to make birdies.” Despite fluffing his lines, Kaymer was philosophical in retrospect and is already looking forward to getting back into action in the coming weeks. “At the end of the day I was playing playing good golf all week long,” he added. “Today I didn’t hit many fairways and that was the problem and I didn’t make many putts either,” he added on Sky Sports 4. “On a golf course you can’t really afford that, but on the other hand I was playing really good golf and that is what you can build on and what is most important for me. “There are many, many tournaments coming up until the Masters and they will be great preparation.” Kaymer’s remarkable slump allowed Stal to pounce and the 22-year-old Frenchman promptly took the lead after Kaymer’s triple bogey thanks to six birdies in his first 11 holes. After parring the first three holes, Stal picked up shots at the fourth and six before reeling off four successive birdies to the 11th hole to move two clear at the top of the leaderboard. Four pars followed before Stal birdied the par-four 16th and finished with two pars to finish with a seven-under 65 for the day and win his first European Tour event. Afterwards, he admitted the victory had come as a bit of a surprise. “It was a crazy day but obviously I’m very happy to win this tournament,” Stal said. “It’s unbelievable to win, because when I saw the leaderboard on the fifth hole, I saw Martin Kaymer on 24 under par and I thought to myself then it’s not possible to win. “But when I saw my name on the leaderboard on the 16th green, I saw everything had changed, and then it was possible.” Rory McIlroy carded a final-round 66 to finish with a flurry and claim the runners-up spot. McIlroy began the day eight shots off the pace but shot three birdies on the front nine and four coming home to finish six under on Sunday – 18 under for the tournament. Stal’s compatriot Victor Dubuisson and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters were tied for fourth place on 16 under, while English pair Tyrrell Hatton and James Morrison were joint sixth with Austrian Bernd Wiesberger two shots back. England’s Ross Fisher and Wales’ Jamie Donaldson were tied for ninth place with South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel on 13 under, and Justin Rose – who matched Stal’s best-of-the-day 65 – was one of eight players a further shot back on 12 under. Kaymer carried a six-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round and extended his advantage to eight shots after birdies at three of his first four holes, but it went downhill fast for the three-time winner soon after. A bogey at the sixth hole, a double bogey at the ninth and a triple bogey at the 13th led to Kaymer’s demise and, although he stopped the rot with five successive pars, he ran out of holes with which to recover to gift Stal his maiden European title.
Vroum Vroum Mag proved a different class to her opponents once more as she romped to victory in the Grade Two Irish Stallion Farms EBF Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase at Limerick. Our Katie tried to lay down a challenge but she could not match the leader’s jumping in the closing stages and faded out of contention. Vroum Vroum Mag went on to win by eight lengths but the margin over 50-1 outsider Shesaportrait could have been much further. Walsh said: “She jumped super. It wasn’t the plan to be in front going up the back but she was travelling so well. “I thought Our Katie was the danger but our jumping put her under pressure.” Mullins said: “She was very good. That was sort of the novice mares’ Gold Cup in Ireland so we kept her back for that. It’s the biggest prize for novice mares. “She’s in the Ryanair Gold Cup in Fairyhouse and we will look at that. We could look at Aintree as well, but I would probably look to keep her at home for this year and go to Fairyhouse or Punchestown. I’m not sure which.” The 4-11 favourite, trained by Willie Mullins, took her unblemished record over fences to four as she won with the minimum of fuss in the hands of Ruby Walsh. Jumping to the front six out, Vroum Vroum Mag was never out of second gear as she dismissed her rivals in comprehensive fashion. Press Association
He said: ” Arctic Fire had a tough race and a horrific fall in Aintree. He looks to have bounced back from that and he’s improving all the time. “The first time I saw a rib on Arctic Fire was saddling him in Liverpool, that’s how fat he’s been all season and that’s why I think there’s so much more improvement in him. “The thing I’m worried about is that when push comes to shove, he might still be sore from Aintree.” David Pipe’s Dell’ Arca and the Gordon Elliott-trained Tiger Roll can both be backed at 100-1 and complete the field. “Faugheen seems in very good form. He’s been doing everything right,” Mullins told At The Races. “I always thought Hurricane Fly was the best thing we ever had – a machine – and he would do that at home. Faugheen is a point-to-pointer and he doesn’t work like that at home. “Hurricane Fly’s Flat form was something else to bring to the hurdling game and then you look at Faugheen, who has no pedigree and won a point-to-point. “He certainly didn’t take my eye when I first saw him and he didn’t take my eye all last year. I know he won in Cheltenham, but he was like two boards clapped together. There was no meat on him or anything. “Hurricane Fly was a ball of muscle all the time, Faugheen was just a plain, ordinary horse, but when he gets on the racetrack he’s able to gallop. “After a summer’s grass he had some flesh on him and I thought if I could keep him like that, he might go on and be the horse everyone else thinks he is and that’s what he did.” Faugheen is the star attraction in a five-runner field but Jezki’s likely defection means the only realistic threat comes from stable companion Arctic Fire, who was runner-up in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham before suffering a heavy final-flight fall in the Aintree Hurdle. Mullins is keeping his fingers crossed that tumble has not left a mark. The seven-year-old won at Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring, but the champion trainer revealed he was unsure at that stage whether his charge would be able to scale the heights of his brilliant stable star Hurricane Fly. However, Faugheen has proved himself at the top level this season with victories in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and will be long odds-on to maintain his unbeaten record on the penultimate day of the Festival. Press Association Willie Mullins reports Faugheen to be doing “everything right” ahead of his bid to bring a magnificent season to the perfect end in Friday’s Queally Group Celebrating 35 Years In Naas Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
Joey Barton’s QPR career looked to be over when he stupidly got sent off at Manchester City three years ago, yet he returns to the Etihad Stadium this weekend a much more mature figure and one which Chris Ramsey believes could become a successful manager. That moment appeared to be the end of his Loftus Road career, with the midfielder handed a 12-match ban by the Football Association and farmed out to Marseille on loan. However, the 32-year-old returned at the end of that spell and has somewhat surprisingly won around QPR fans, players and staff, including manager Ramsey. “He had a reputation that was questionable but you have to take people as you meet them,” the Rs boss said. “Since I have met him, I have only ever had interesting debates with him and talks. “I don’t think you can come into a situation and take people based on what people think. “He has not displayed anything to me that would warrant me believing the stories that I heard. “He has not conducted that in that fashion. He has conducted himself in a very professional manner from training and to around the place. “He has his opinion. He has taken instruction on board and has not gone against anything I have asked him to do – whether he believed him or not. Press Association “I have been quite impressed with him and in the future he will probably be a good coach and manager.” Ramsey believes Barton is at a “different stage of his life” as he prepares to return to City in another battle to stave off the drop, with defeat on Sunday sealing their relegation. It would make what Ramsey calls a “rebuilding period” even tougher this summer, with a Financial Fair Play fine and player changes looming large. That does not faze the Rs manager, though, and he would be keen to extend his contract past the summer. “A long-term plan is always sensible, because it means whatever happens the club stays on an even keel,” Ramsey said. “I think the owners will be looking at some sort of plan. How long that will remain to be seen, depending on where we are and what we’re doing. “Most things are up my street. Managing a team that’s mid table or pushing up. I don’t mind anything regards coaching or management. “The club’s in exciting times. At the moment it’s intense times because we want to stay up and win the game on Sunday and next week, and the game against Leicester. “But the club has been learned there is a necessity to make a long-term plan and I would be well suited to that. “I think it would be good for anyone who came in to build a club like Queens Park Rangers, with a long history, good catchment area, the ability to attract the right players. “Even if we do stay up, there needs to be a long-term strategy.” The final day of the 2011-12 season will forever be synonymous with Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp strike, earning a 3-2 win which saw City secure a first league title in 44 years. That match was also of huge importance to embattled QPR and only results elsewhere saved them from relegation – not that Barton knew that when he was sent off following a fit of rage with the score at 1-1.
Swansea winger Kenji Gorre has spoken of his expected loan move to Dutch club ADO Den Haag after signing a new three-year contract at the Liberty Stadium. Neither Swansea nor Den Haag have confirmed Gorre’s switch to his native Netherlands but it is understood the 20-year-old will spend next season at the Eredivisie club. Gorre, the son of former Ajax and Feyenoord star Dean, joined Swansea from Manchester United in 2013 and made his senior debut for the Welsh club in the final Barclays Premier League game of last season at Crystal Palace. He signed a three-year deal on Monday after impressing for Swansea’s Under-21 side last term, scoring 18 goals and providing 10 assists, but accepts first-team opportunities will be limited with the presence of Jefferson Montero, Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer, Mo Barrow and new signing Andre Ayew in Garry Monk’s squad. “I have spoken with (ADO Den Haag) coach Henk Fraser and there is a very good feeling from that,” Gorre told Dutch website De Telegraaf. “The club has ambitions and I want to be part of the squad. “I am at an age when I should play every week but in Swansea there is not that (chance) yet . “For my development it is better to have a season to look somewhere else.” Press Association