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Wenger wants naive Arsenal to learn some lessons


Wenger wants naive Arsenal to learn some lessons

ALKMAAR, Netherlands (AFP) – Arsene Wenger insists his “naive” Arsenal stars must learn from the frustration of conceding a last-gasp equaliser against AZ Alkmaar.

Wenger’s side were on the verge of a third successive win in Group H after Cesc Fabregas’s first half strike put them ahead at the DSB Stadium.

But the Dutch champions – who had the worst possible preparation for the match when their owner’s bank was declared bankrupt on Monday – punished Arsenal for a lacklustre second half display as the Gunners‘ poor marking at a free-kick allowed David Mendes Da Silva to lash in the stoppage time goal that secured a 1-1 draw.

The Premier League club remain top of their group at the halfway stage so the damage from Da Silva’s goal is likely to be minimal, but Wenger was still unhappy at the way his young side surrendered their seven-match winning run.

“We are still learning. You do not need to give a free-kick away on an offside in the last minute,” Wenger said.

“We were caught a bit naively on the second ball, that can happen sometimes on the first one that you lose the header, but on the second one, their player was completely free to score.

“We were largely in control, but as long as you are not two goals in front, that is the problem.

“You can score with just one kick from the goalkeeper into your box. That is just football.”

While Wenger, who turns 60 on Thursday, was frustrated with his side’s failure to close out the match, he was full of praise for the way Ronald Koeman’s team refused to accept defeat.

“You know that in the last five minutes of a Champions League match, anything can happen,” Wenger said.

“They have thrown everything forward and felt they could only score on a set-piece, and that is what happened.

“It is frustrating because we looked closer to scoring a second than conceding, but credit to them, they did fight well and went until the last minute.”

Wenger knows Arsenal had only themselves to blame for taking their foot off the gas after the break, but even then the Gunners could have had a penalty when substitute Carlos Vela was tripped on the edge of the area in the 83rd minute.

“To me, it looked like a penalty, but I would have to watch it again. The referee was even closer than I was,” Wenger said.

“But we are still in a strong position. We have three games left, two at home, and I believe to win one game will qualify us.

“What I want is for us to continue to play like we do, focus to play better.

“In football, you have to produce the maximum result with your game, and tonight that did not happen.”

AZ coach Koeman has managed to frustrate Wenger several times in the Champions League in recent years. After knocking out the Gunners during his time at PSV Eindhoven, Koeman moved to Ajax and earned two draws against Arsenal.

But this may have been his best achievement given his team’s relatively small squad and budget.

“We made some mistakes in the first half, like when we lost possession for the goal,” he said.

“Arsenal were controlling in the second half, but we kept our spirit.

“I made some changes to try to win the game. We could put some long, high balls, then fight for the second ball.

“We never lost the spirit. I am very happy about the result and the performance of the team.”

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Man City too good for Liverpool

Man City too good for Liverpool

Manchester City recovered from their shock defeat at Sunderland and opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable victory over Liverpool.
Roberto Mancini’s side faced a test of character and resilience with a swift turnaround to play again only 48 hours after the loss at the Stadium of Light – and they passed the examination impressively.
Liverpool were denied striker Luis Suarez’s potency as they decided not to appeal against the eight-game ban handed down after the Football Association found the Uruguayan guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.And they sorely missed Suarez’s menace as they enjoyed plenty of possession but never threatened to turn it into tangible reward.
Mancini incredulous at Man City fixtures
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s error gifted Sergio Aguero an early goal and Yaya Toure rose to head home David Silva’s corner for a second before the break.
The only blot on City’s night came when Gareth Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he misses Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United, but they sealed the win when James Milner scored from the spot after Martin Skrtel fouled Yaya Toure.

It gave City the advantage over closest rivals United before their visit to Newcastle on Wednesday and enabled them to regain momentum after a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion and the 1-0 reverse at Sunderland.

Liverpool’s efforts lacked punch despite the vast expense lavished on their forward line by manager Kenny Dalglish and they ended well beaten.

Stewart Downing was thwarted by Joe Hart’s crucial early block from Jordan Henderson’s fine pass before Reina gifted City their opening goal.Aguero’s shot was testing in the stormy conditions but the Spaniard made the basic error of failing to get his body behind the ball and the 20-yard shot dipped underneath him to relieve City’s early nerves.

The Argentine then lifted a shot just over before Edin Dzeko’s effort took a heavy deflection off Glen Johnson and flew inches wide with the anxious Reina totally wrong-footed.

As Liverpool appeared to be getting a foothold in proceedings, the hosts struck again 12 minutes before the interval.

Reina made amends for his earlier error by turning Vincent Kompany’s header over the top, but when Silva returned the resulting corner Yaya Toure got ahead of Johnson to head high past the the visiting keeper.

Kompany made a vital intervention at the other end to ensure City protected their two-goal lead until half-time, throwing himself bravely in front of Dirk Kuyt’s shot as the Dutchman moved to turn in Andy Carroll’s header.Once more the Reds saw plenty of the ball after the restart, but their lack of threat prompted Dalglish to make a double change just before the hour mark, sending on Steven Gerrard and former Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy for the disappointing Charlie Adam and Kuyt.

They failed to make any serious inroads into the home defence, although they were given brief hope when Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, an innocuous block on Daniel Agger, with 17 minutes left.
If they did have any hopes of a revival, they were snuffed out two minutes later when referee Mike Jones – a late replacement for Andre Marriner, who refereed the match in which Suarez had his flashpoint with Evra in October – pointed to the spot after Skrtel tangled with Yaya Toure.

After Mancini had failed in demands to have Skrtel sent off by waving an imaginary red card, Milner converted the penalty emphatically.
Substitute Adam Johnson struck the post with a curling effort as City pressed again, but matters had already been settled well before.
Liverpool kept going and tested City keeper Hart with some late efforts from Gerrard and Downing, but he was more than equal to the task on a bitterly disappointing night for Dalglish’s side.

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Chelsea struggle to beat APOEL


Chelsea struggle to beat APOEL

NICOSIA (AFP) – Chelsea came through a tricky Champions League tie in Cyprus on Wednesday against Cypriot underdogs APOEL Nicosia with a scrappy 1-0 victory to stay top of Group D.

After a hesitant start in the opening minutes Chelsea quickly found their stride with the intelligent running of Nicolas Anelka on the left and Frank Lampard probing through the middle of the park.

The home side seemed unfazed by the occasion – billed as the biggest game in the club’s 83-year history – but APOEL had little answer to combat Chelsea’s wing play.

And the Cypriots were undone by a weaving run from right-back Branislav Ivanovic, who broke into the box to set up Anelka to curl the shot calmly past keeper Dionisios Chiotis after 18 minutes.

The Frenchman was a constant menace, first on the left, then switching intermittently to the right as he seemed to find space easily behind the defence.

Before Anelka’s strike, Salomon Kalou had a chance to score but put his shot wide of the target and Ashely Cole could have made it 2-0 after only 20 minutes gone but his header wide from six yards.

Despite Chelsea pressure the goal was the only shot on target with Chiotis not really called on to repeat the heroics of his clean sheet in Madrid.

His opposite number down the other end also had a quiet first 45 minutes with Petr Cech only called in to service to punch away a Constantinos Charalambides free kick. And the Cyprus international should have done better when he skewed a volley horribly wide when he had a sight on goal.

The Premier League title contenders came out after the interval eager to clinch a second goal that would inevitably kill the game off as a contest. But the extra goal never came while Chelsea were put on the back foot in the second half with some desperate defending thrown in.

And while the visitors failed to create chances, APOEL grew more confident, taking the fight to Chelsea.

They came close to a shock equaliser when a mix up in the defence gave Savvas Poursatides a scoring opportunity but Cech smartly saved with his legs.

Charalambides nearly had the last word in this tie, but his close range header from an angle went the wrong side of the bar five minutes from the end.

As the contest entered the final third, the London club seemed to lose shape and rhythm as passes went astray. Chelsea looked rather ordinary at that stage while the Cypriots played the better football that made a mockery of their minnow status.

This was not Chelsea’s best performance in Europe but manager Carlo Ancelotti demanded three points and his players delivered.

“APOEL played very well in the second half and deserved to draw, but this is football,” said the Italian afterwards with one eye on a crucial game with Liverpool on Sunday.

“I am not satisfied because we have to play better with more control and courage. We will not play like today (against Liverpool), we will play better for sure.”

Ancelotti did single out Anelka for his match winning contribution.

APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said the defeat had left a “bitter taste” because his team had come close to getting a result.

“We are a little disappointed because in the second half we made an exceptional effort. We lack Champions League experience and Chelsea are one of the best in Europe.”

APOEL are only the second Cypriot team to reach the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition – after Anorthosis made it last season – and earned a credible 0-0 opening-day draw away to Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea wanted to cement their place at the top of the table with a second victory in as many games.

No Cypriot team has ever beaten an English side in European competition.

Yet this rarely seemed like a David v Goliath contest with Chelsea’s wealth of talent failing to overpower their hosts.

APOEL were buoyed by their vociferous ‘orange’ supporters, who created an intimidating atmosphere at Nicosia‘s GSP stadium.

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