Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has denied that the club put pressure on England boss Roy Hodgson to rest Raheem Sterling for the Three Lions’ Euro 2016 qualifier against Estonia on Sunday. “I’m fed up reading about this club v country, claims we intervened and put pressure on Roy Hodgson,” Rodgers told The Independent. “I’ve read we sent a dossier to the FA on Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge and I’m having showdown talks with Roy Hodgson on Sunday and all sorts of rubbish. The decision not to play him was a managerial decision. I haven’t said a single word but have to say I have never seen such rubbish written over the past few days.” Rodgers feels Sterling is not being fairly treated and does not believe the criticism will end any time soon. “At no point did Raheem Sterling say he didn’t want to play for England,” he added. “The boy is being hung out to dry and I dare say the criticism will continue for a few more weeks to come because of this.” Sterling started in the victory against San Marino the previous Thursday but was left out of the starting line-up on Sunday, although he came off the bench to win the free-kick from which Wayne Rooney scored the only goal. Rodgers insists that Sterling never said he did not want to play and that it was Hodgson’s decision to leave the forward out of the starting XI. Press Association
Second half-tries from Darragh Fanning and Dominic Ryan saw Leinster prevail 25-20 in the end and O’Connor felt it was an encouraging performance against a tough Wasps team – albeit that they failed to score a bonus point try in the final 20 minutes. O’Connor said: “The reality is you’ve got to win. If you are good enough to get a (bonus) point, we would have taken that, but (it’s) pleasing to get the result. Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor was delighted with the “great” contributions of his bench players after they helped the Irish province overturn a 12-point first-half deficit to beat Wasps in Champions Cup Pool Two at the RDS. “It’s got to be good when it is a five-point game. They are a dangerous side, we knew their threats (and) apart from the two soft ones in the first half I thought we defended pretty well.” With Mike Ross and Rob Kearney the latest to join a lengthy injury list, O’Connor admitted that the lack of continuity in selection has meant players are not 100 per cent with on-field combinations just yet. However, he hailed the impact of his side’s replacements in downing Wasps. “It was a tough game of footy. There are blokes coming in and out of that group who probably haven’t had the luxury of building the combinations as strongly as we would have liked due to a number of reasons,” he said. “We are down a few combinations and that leads to errors but the resolve in the group was really positive. The bench were great for us. I think they added a lot and it was a pleasing result.” O’Connor felt that the two tries Leinster conceded to go 20-8 behind were “soft”, the first of them seeing Alapati Leiua run in a long-range intercept score and then Christian Wade produced some individual brilliance along the right touchline for the second. “That’s the way Wasps play. It’s in their DNA. They play for those opportunities. They are very, very clinical. When they get those opportunities more often than not they take them. That is the game, you have to deal with them. “We didn’t deal with them in the first half. We were significantly better in the second half and we controlled large parts of the game which I thought was important.” Press Association The three-try victory puts Leinster top of Pool Two with a trip to Castres to come next Sunday, with O’Connor adding: “It’s another tough assignment next week. We have to make sure we rest up physically and mentally and we arrive at Castres understanding what we have to do to get the result down there.” Meanwhile, Wasps boss Dai Young had no complaints as his charges battled for a losing bonus point in the end. The otherwise accurate Andy Goode, who kicked 10 points, missed a penalty early in the second half that might have derailed Leinster’s comeback. “In fairness, we knew obviously going into half-time we hadn’t done enough to sit back and think we had done enough to win that game,” said Young, whose team benefited from a first-half wind advantage. “Certainly the first 10-15 minutes (of the second half) were going to be huge. We had opportunities in that first 10 to 15 minutes to pile a bit more pressure on Leinster. “We weren’t quite accurate enough in that first 10-15 minutes and ended up giving Leinster the ball and once they gained momentum, it’s very difficult to turn that momentum back in your favour and we ended up defending pretty much for the last 30 of that second half.” Looking ahead to next Sunday’s showdown with Harlequins at Adams Park, Young added: “There is a lot of rugby to be played. We have lost the battle today, but we haven’t lost the war. “At the end of the day it is important we get a win next week (against Harlequins), that is the important thing for us to focus on. If we sit in at the end of next week with one win and one bonus point loss, we are still in there fighting and we still have a chance.”
Former France international Anthony Reveillere has joined Sunderland for the remainder of the season, the club have confirmed. Press Association The 34-year-old full-back, who has been training with the Black Cats in recent weeks, is a free agent after being released by Italian side Napoli during the summer. Reveillere began his career at Rennes, but enjoyed his most successful spell with Lyon, for whom he made almost 300 appearances and won five Ligue 1 titles. He has been drafted in by head coach Gus Poyet, whose already meagre defensive resources have been stretched by an injury to summer signing Billy Jones. Reveillere, who will wear the number 15 shirt, could go straight into the squad for Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Arsenal at the Stadium of Light, provided his international clearance is received in time, as Poyet’s men attempt to bounce back from their 8-0 mauling at Southampton.
Following his summer move from Southampton, England international Lallana had to wait until September 13 to make his competitive debut for his new club due to a knee injury he sustained in pre-season. He now has 11 appearances and one goal to his name for a Liverpool outfit struggling for consistency so far after the highs of 2013-14. Second in the table last season, the Reds go into the clash at Newcastle lying seventh. Lallana admits he is not yet firing on all cylinders individually but is optimistic his “best form is not too far away”, and has also emphasised the entire squad’s commitment to improving results. The 26-year-old told liverpoolfc.com: “There’s still more to come. “I feel it’s going to be a gradual process. There are lots of games coming, so hopefully my best form is not too far away. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy joining Liverpool, but it’s an opportunity I am delighted to have. I wouldn’t change it for the world. “I’ll always give it my all and work my hardest, whether I’m playing well or not. “That’s an attitude that filters through the squad. It’s an honest group here and I can assure you we’re working hard in training day in, day out to put it right and get good results.” Liverpool will once again be without striker Daniel Sturridge for Saturday’s contest. Sturridge was ruled out for two to four weeks earlier this month with a calf problem having only just recovered from a thigh injury sustained on England duty. Liverpool also still have Mamadou Sakho (thigh) and Jon Flanagan (knee) unavailable for selection, along with ex-Newcastle man Jose Enrique, another sidelined by a knee issue. Meanwhile, Rodgers has praised the Newcastle hierarchy for keeping faith in manager Alan Pardew. Pardew was under severe scrutiny earlier this season during a poor run of results for his side, but the 14th-placed Magpies have won their last three games in all competitions. And Rodgers said: “It is great credit to the directors there at Newcastle, because I know Alan is a top-class manager, but we all know the pressures of being a manager if you’re not winning games. “We’ve seen already this season the number of boards and owners that change their manager.” Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has warned his players few of them can count on their place in his team after his understudies took centre-stage. The Magpies face Liverpool at St James’ Park on Saturday brimming with confidence after winning their last three games in all competitions, and with the manager believing he now has genuine options. Pardew said: “When you pay a lot of money for players, the CV and the reputation and what they have done goes before them, to a degree, [Remy] Cabella and Moussa [Sissoko] when he came, Mapou [Yanga-Mbiwa] to a degree. “But it’s difficult to come from international football. Sometimes there’s an adjustment, and sometimes it works straight away, like [Yohan] Cabaye did. “I think Cabella is going to take a little bit of time, so therefore it is nice to have the option of one or two of those younger players because in my mind, I put the CVs in the drawer and I then now go out on to the training pitch and treat everybody the same – otherwise I shouldn’t be in this job – and I try to do that. “Of course, I will take favour with players I know have the experience and have done it, the [Fabricio] Coloccinis, the Cheick Tiotes of this world. They will get a slightly more advantageous position when they have a poor game. “But the rest of them are very much trying to find the shirt.” Tiote, who has a calf problem, will be missing once again against Liverpool, but Cisse has a chance, although medics are monitoring him after the screws used to repair his broken kneecap caused a reaction they are hoping will settle down. Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana is confident there is plenty more to come from him and the team this term. The 53-year-old was unable to call upon senior men Mike Williamson, Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse because of injury for the Barclays Premier League trip to Tottenham last Sunday and Wednesday night’s Capital One Cup visit to Manchester City, for which he also chose to rest the likes of Tim Krul, Steven Taylor and Yoan Gouffran. However, young striker Ayoze Perez rose to the challenge at White Hart Lane and youngsters Rolando Aarons and Adam Armstrong, as well as Ryan Taylor – playing his first game after 26 months on the sidelines – did the same at the Etihad Stadium to secure two famous victories and convince Pardew of the depth of his squad. Press Association
The 24-year-old France international finally arrived on Tyneside from Montpellier in July, almost seven months after the Magpies initially targeted him in the wake of Yohan Cabaye’s January departure for Paris St Germain. However, the £7million man has found the pace and power of the Barclays Premier League a challenge and having started the first six league games, was taken out of the firing line for the trip to Swansea on October 4. Newcastle summer signing Remy Cabella does not blame manager Alan Pardew for dropping him. But he returned as a half-time substitute at Tottenham on Sunday and provided the cross from which Ayoze Perez headed Pardew’s men to a second successive victory, and he is now hoping that will provide him with a springboard to show what he can do on a sustained basis. Cabella told L’Equipe: “It’s logical. The coach had been starting me in the first two months, but I had not scored or had an assist. “Dropping me to the bench, and indeed not playing me at all at Swansea, hurt my pride. But I have not eased off, I have worked more. “He [Pardew] trusted me to play the second half [against Tottenham]. I got my first assist and it is good for the confidence. “Alan Pardew wants me to be decisive, to score goals. Up to now, I have not done that. That is why I am not playing. “Now I am only thinking about scoring. But I don’t feel any pressure, that would be pointless. I am just here to play football, it is the best job.” Cabella freely admits the physicality of the Premier League came as a surprise, but insists he is gradually coming to terms with it. He said: “I like England, it’s another universe. It is another challenge in a new league, so of course it takes time to adapt. The rhythm and intensity of the game have surprised me. “For 90 minutes, you attack, you defend, the referee doesn’t whistle for anything. But after 90 minutes, you are dead! I didn’t have the preparation I needed so I have to work twice as hard, and I am getting there bit by bit.” Press Association
Cambiasso was inches away from giving Leicester the lead after 23 minutes as a well-struck free-kick from 35 yards curled narrowly wide with Joe Hart seemingly beaten. Cambiasso was lurking again when Andy King delivered a dangerous cross but Kompany’s header just took the ball away from him. City first threatened when Yaya Toure had a powerful drive blocked before Pozo lobbed straight to Ben Hamer after the Foxes’ second-choice goalkeeper punched away a Silva free-kick. The visitors then began to move up a gear and Toure stretched Hamer for the first time with a sweet low shot after good work by Silva. The breakthrough came six minutes before the interval as Rome hero Samir Nasri wriggled past Wes Morgan and pulled the ball back across the edge of the six-yard line for Lampard. The pass was not inch-perfect but Lampard made it look so, scooping the ball from behind him to finish with typical clinical precision. Toure drilled another shot wide as City finished the first half strongly and the inrushing Silva narrowly missed the target early in the second after Nasri got behind the defence. Leicester half-heartedly appealed for a penalty after Mangala tangled with Vardy but referee Jon Moss saw nothing untoward. The game started to drift towards a tame conclusion until Leicester rallied, with substitute Leonardo Ulloa having a shot deflected wide. Nasri might have settled it for the visitors but Hamer saved a good low effort. Leicester applied some pressure as Moss played five minutes of injury time but Pellegrini’s men held on for a hard-fought win that will probably strengthen the case for extending Lampard’s loan. His vital goal for team far from their free-flowing best after Wednesday’s momentous Champions League win at Roma also covered for the team’s missing strikers. An injury to Edin Dzeko in the warm-up highlighted their lack of options up front at present, with top scorer Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic also absent. Further concern for City came as captain Vincent Kompany lasted just 77 minutes of his comeback from a hamstring injury before appearing to suffer a recurrence. Teenage striker Jose Angel Pozo was drafted into the starting line-up at the last moment and Pablo Zabaleta, who was being rested and with the squad on a watching brief only, hastily named on the bench. Manager Manuel Pellegrini at least had playmaker David Silva back starting for the first time since October but the away team never really found their stride against the bottom side. Their sluggishness was most evident in the opening 30 minutes as Leicester made all the early running. Jamie Vardy, who troubled Manchester United earlier in the season, looked particularly dangerous and a neat turn in the area put him through on goal. Eliaquim Mangala denied him a shot and the same much-maligned defender later prevented Vardy from shooting again when clean through as well as blocking from Esteban Cambiasso. Press Association The former England midfielder – whose loan from New York City expires at the end of the month – struck the only goal late in the first half of a dull Barclays Premier League encounter at the King Power Stadium. It was the 36-year-old’s sixth goal of an increasingly important spell and his 175th in the Premier League, making him joint-fourth highest scorer in the competition’s history alongside Thierry Henry. Veteran Frank Lampard delivered again for Manchester City as the champions overcame the absence of any senior strikers to beat Leicester 1-0.
Questions are bound to be asked if the Hammers can last the distance on this occasion, but with Chelsea and Arsenal the next opposition Allardyce is not looking too far ahead. “It’s not often a team are breaking the barriers everybody else doesn’t expect them to break,” Allardyce said. “You should enjoy the moment and continue to enjoy the moment for as long as it lasts. Hopefully it will last for a good while yet. “We’ve sustained our position between sixth and fourth in recent weeks. We’ve a considerable amount of games now. The end of January will tell us what we can possibly achieve. “It’s about the consistency of winning and that is what we’ve got to challenge ourselves to try to do. You can’t afford to slip up too many times if you’ve played well and you don’t win, because you’ll end up slipping away and out of the elite end of this league. “At the moment we’re living with it, we’re enjoying it and the players who have applied themselves magnificently well all season are reaping the rewards.” Leicester, whose winless run was extended to 12 games, were culpable as West Ham claimed a fourth win in five games. Paul Konchesky, Barking born and playing against his old club, presented Carroll with the opening goal moments after the Hammers striker had missed a straightforward opportunity. Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing were on target in a 2-0 win over Leicester which means the Hammers are fourth in the Barclays Premier League at Christmas. It is their highest position on December 25 since the 1985-86 season when they finished third. But there was little Leicester could do to stop Downing’s strike, as the playmaker curled a sumptuous shot into the far corner. Adrian saved well to deny substitutes David Nugent and Leonardo Ulloa late on as West Ham kept a cleansheet in a comfortable win. The only negative for Allardyce was James Tomkins’ departure, as a precaution, due to a hamstring problem. “We’ve had a very good day,” Allardyce added. “Everybody expected us to win. We have won. That gives us a little bit of leeway for the next two coming up.” On the goals, Allardyce said: “A very composed finish from Andy on a one-on-one. He missed an easier chance before that. “The whole team is playing really well, but Stewart crowned off a very good performance again with another goal. His outstanding contributions on a consistent basis have been a revelation for us this season.” While West Ham are on a high, Leicester are bottom. Only twice before – West Brom in 2004-2005 and Sunderland last season – have the side at the foot of the Premier League standings on Christmas Day avoided relegation. Leicester boss Nigel Pearson rued his side’s failures in both attack and defence. “Individual mistakes have been costly for us, but you’ve got to score enough goals and we’ve just not been doing that,” Pearson said. Pearson was fined £10,000 and given a one-match touchline ban following his altercation with a fan during last month’s loss to Liverpool. But Pearson, who often watches from the stand, was on the touchline at Upton Park as he awaits the written reasons for his punishment from the Football Association. The supporters sang about the Foxes boss early in the contest. “It’s not a story about me,” said Pearson, whose side host Tottenham on Boxing Day. “What is important is that the fans stay behind the club and the players. ” Pearson has experience of a great escape, having been assistant boss to Bryan Robson at West Brom when they survived on the final day. “It really is about us making things happen ourselves,” Pearson added. “I look around the dressing room and we’ve certainly got nobody who’s giving up any sort of a fight. “We’re a side experiencing the polar opposite of what we experienced last year and that in itself is difficult. Get back to work and find the answers.” Press Association Sam Allardyce is determined to revel in West Ham’s best start to a season in almost 30 years.
The Ireland captain is confident of a strong showing in England next year after a fine autumn campaign. “We certainly have a chance,” the 35-year-old Munster second row told the Irish Independent. Paul O’Connell hopes to guide Ireland to World Cup glory in 2015 in what potentially could be the end of his career. Press Association “We have shown that we can beat anyone on our day. We still don’t have the strength in depth of the southern hemisphere nations, so there are certain things that will have to go our way – but I think we have the potential to win a World Cup.” On his own future, O’Connell added: “I don’t really know how long I can keep on going for – I want to play in the next World Cup and want to be in the best possible shape. I am still undecided if I will play on after the World Cup. “It’s is something that plays on my mind a little bit. I don’t dread the day, but I don’t think it was ever my intention to keep on playing this long. “I certainly won’t be putting my hand up for Lions selection in 2017 – I’ll be long gone from the game, believe me.”
With club-record signing Andy Carroll struggling for fitness after suffering an ankle problem at Liverpool last week, the Hammers are light on numbers as they go in search of just their second Premier League win of 2015. “(The injury list) is particularly worrying at the moment,” said Allardyce. “I’ve had to bring a list of the injuries with me. James Collins, Winston Reid, Guy Demel, Diego Poyet, Doneil Henry and Andy Carroll lie in our medical room at the moment. “We’re not sure how many of those will make it for Sunday. With such a big week coming, three games in a week, there’ll be very few risks taken, unless they’re 100 per cent fit. If we play them it may exacerbate the injuries so we will go to battle with what we’ve got. “It is why we went all out for a defender in the window after the Liverpool game. However it didn’t work out, we were only in a position to get someone in on a loan but we couldn’t pull it off. “Everyone that wanted to come wanted a permanent deal, which we couldn’t do at that time, so that’s the position we’re in. Someone will have to fill in at the back and maybe stay there for a while.” Transfer deadline day was quiet for most Premier League sides, including West Ham, but it was not through choice for Allardyce’s side. Jack Sullivan, the son of co-owner David Sullivan, tweeted that the club had seen as many as eight deals break down across the course of Monday – with Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor’s potential last-minute loan deal falling through as Spurs did not want the Togo international to join a direct rival. The West Ham boss was unable to bring in any defenders on loan in the closing days of the winter transfer window and injuries have left him with very few options when Louis van Gaal’s side arrive at Upton Park. Winston Reid and James Collins are both absentees and Allardyce is likely to ask fit-again Senegalese midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate to step into the defence and partner James Tomkins, himself only just back from injury. Sam Allardyce faces a defensive dilemma ahead of the visit of Manchester United on Sunday. Press Association “A lot of moves were blocked for various different reasons, so I’m not that bothered,” Allardyce said of the lack of business in east London. “From our point of view it left us a bit frustrated, and especially Carlton Cole on the basis that he would’ve moved had Adebayor joined, as it happened we couldn’t afford to let him go. “It was a frustrating day, originally it didn’t look like we were going to be active until the very end, but then we picked up five injuries and now we are very short. We don’t have a problem with (Tottenham), it is their decision. If anything that was the only loan available, it just didn’t work out at the end.” Cole will now be in the squad for the game against United after his proposed move to West Brom was cancelled late on. The striker could yet lead the line for Allardyce’s side with Carroll sidelined and Diafra Sakho’s position in the side still in doubt following the fine handed down by FIFA for West Ham’s breaching of the regulations. Sakho came off the bench to score in the 1-0 FA Cup win over Bristol City despite the fact he had not travelled to link up with Senegal at the African Nations Cup due to a back injury. West Ham, who maintain they did not break any rules, blocked any questions on Sakho’s situation at Allardyce’s pre-match press conference and the former Bolton boss was bullish when asked if his top goalscorer could play against United, answering simply: “We will see.” In better news for the club, a record shirt sponsorship deal has been announced with global betting brand Betway. The company have struck what is understood to be a three-and-a-half year, £20million deal. The move comes after previous sponsors Alpari entered insolvency last month.
The Irish Football Association is hoping that structural damage at its Windsor Park home in Belfast will not jeopardise the staging of the team’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania in June. Press Association Cracks in the structure of the West Stand were spotted on Tuesday morning and the area was sealed off as structural engineers carried out an assessment of the damage. “The Irish FA became aware on Tuesday morning of some damage having been caused overnight to the West Stand of the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park,” an IFA spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph. “The association is currently awaiting a report from the structural engineers.” Northern Ireland played at Windsor Park on Sunday evening, beating Finland 2-1 in Euro 2016 qualifying to stay second in Group F. The next qualifier for Michael O’Neill’s side is against pool leaders Romania on June 13, although club matches are scheduled to be played at Windsor Park before then. Linfield and Crusaders are due to play there in the Irish Premiership on Saturday and the Irish Cup final between Glentoran and Portadown is planned for May 2. Windsor Park is currently undergoing major redevelopment and only the West and North stands, which hold around 4,000 and 6,000 spectators respectively, currently remain with the East and South stands demolished. The project, due to be completed in October in 2015, will increase the capacity of a ground first opened in 1905 from 14,000 to 18,000. More than 10,000 fans saw the Finland game and the IFA said the stadium was assessed as safe before the match kicked off.