Barcelona 3-2 Real Madrid: Valdes hands Los Blancos Supercopa lifeline

4/12/2013
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An embarrassing blunder by Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes handed Real Madrid a Spanish Super Cup lifeline despite slumping to a 3-2 first leg defeat at their Catalan rivals’ Camp Nou home.

With Barca 3-1 ahead, and pressing for a fourth goal, Valdes was caught out inside his own penalty area as he tried to dribble the ball clear only to be dispossessed by a stunned Angel Di Maria who scored into an empty goal.

Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez had earlier scored second-half goals to give Barca a convincing lead after Cristiano Ronaldo had put Madrid ahead on 55 minutes.

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho questioned the legality of Barca’s first goal.

“Barca played well, especially in the first-half when they did not allow us to play, but in the second we were able to change our game a little. It was a good game but their first goal was an error by the linesman and was offside,” he said.

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, in charge of his first ‘Clasico’, was happy with his side’s performance.

“We controlled the game and we had the chance to go 4-1 ahead at the end, but that’s football. We’ve won and we’re ahead in the tie so I’m satisfied,” he said.

While Barca did begin to control possession, it took until the 17th minute for the game’s first real action when Gerard Pique tried his luck from long range but failed to hit the target.

Two minutes later Messi found Dani Alves with a delightful ball in space on the right and when he received the return pass his left-footed shot just missed the target.

It was Messi again on 29 minutes who reacted quicker than the Madrid defence to find the space to hit a drive that went just wide of Iker Casillas’s goal. Casillas was then finally called into action to divert over the bar a Pedro drive.

Alexis Sanchez was finding some space down the right side for Barcelona and was unfortunate with a claim for a penalty when it appeared that Sergio Ramos had felled the Chilean on 39 minutes.

The interval came and went and the game continued in the same pattern until the 55th minute when Ronaldo, previously anonymous, outjumped Sergio Busquets to head home a Mesut Ozil corner.

Barca’s reaction was immediate and they were level within two minutes when a raking pass from Javier Mascherano found Pedro who hit the target. Messi then went on a mazy run and released Dani Alves who forced a diving save from Casillas.

The game had opened up and Mourinho switched Benzema for Gonzalo Higuain but it was Barca who continued to create more meaningful opportunities.

On 69 minutes, Andres Iniesta provoked a clumsy challenge from Sergio Ramos in the area with a quick drag-back of the ball and Messi converted the resulting penalty.

Nine minutes later Iniesta was again the instigator when he threaded a pass through the Madrid defence to give Xavi the easiest of chances for Barca’s third goal.

Barca had confirmed their supremacy and were looking the more likely to add to their tally in the final minutes until Valdes badly misjudged a backpass and Di Maria pounced to snatch a lifeline for Madrid.

 

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Pogba reveals Arsenal and Chelsea interest

4/12/2013
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Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has revealed that both Arsenal and Chelsea were interested in signing him before he joined Juventus earlier this summer.

Pogba quit United for the Italian champions after turning down the offer of a contract extension at Old Trafford having grown frustrated by the lack of first-team opportunities.

The 19-year-old had been earmarked for a bright future at United having earned comparisons with former France midfielder Patrick Vieira, but instead opted for a move to Turin.

The Frenchman claims both Chelsea and Arsenal had expressed an interest in signing him when it became clear he was to leave United, but the chance to establish himself at Juve proved too tempting.

“There was [interest] this summer with Chelsea and Arsenal, but it was less concrete,” he told French daily L’Equipe.

“Impatient? Yes I am. When I want something, I’ll do anything to get it. Today, I want to win a place in starting team of Juve and be one of the best players in the world.

“I have not gone to Juve because I knew I was going to play in the starting team. I don’t have any guarantees. The coach told me that there are a lot of games and he wanted a replacement for Pirlo and Vidal. He did not say ‘you’re playing so many games’.

“I learned from the greatest [players] at Man United and there is only the work left for me to reach my goal.”

 

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Everton new boy Mirallas reveals reasons behind Arsenal snub

4/12/2013
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Everton’s new £6million striker Kevin Mirallas has revealed he snubbed a move to Arsenal in favour of joining compatriot Marouane Fellaini at Goodison Park.

The 24-year-old completed his move from Greek champions Olympiakos over the weekend and watched his new side open their campaign with a 1-0 win over Manchester United on Monday night.

Discussing his move to Merseyside, the Belgian admitted he rejected a move to North London over the fear of a lack of playing time while he was impressed with what Toffees boss David Moyes had to say.

The revelation is the latest blow to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger who this past week has seen both Robin van Persie and Alex Song leave the club while a move for Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin is believed to have stalled.

“Discussions were at quite an advanced stage with Arsenal but it was always clear it would be totally down to me to make the decision,” said Mirallas.

“I was convinced that what was important for me at this stage of my career, embarking on new league, is to get plenty of time on the field. I had a possibility of playing more games and longer periods with Everton.

“A number of clubs were showing interest in me and my discussions with the manager here were very important. From the word go I was really impressed by the extent to which the manager wanted me here.

“Firstly he has been here for a good number of years and has a solid base so there is stability at the club. He also showed a lot of confidence in me in the conversations we had and he really wanted me to come to the club and that was another influence, definitely.”

Mirallas, who scored 20 goals last season as Olympiakos clinched a 39th domestic league title, also revealed he spoke to Fellaini, Everton’s match-winner against United, about the club,

“Marouane being here was also decisive in making my decision also. We had a couple of phone conversations and it definitely influenced my decision.

“He convinced me the club was an ideal fit for me and hopefully it is a place where I can exploit my talents and grow as a player and perform well. He told me it was very much a family spirit about the place and I could expect a warm welcome from the fans.

“Not only has he helped me in coming to the club but I also think he will help me as I settle in as it is always nice to have a fellow countryman beside you when you are getting to know a place.”

 

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