Stewart Cink and Bill Haas manoeuvred themselves to the front of the field heading into the final day of the Shell Houston Open. Cink carded a four-under 68 and Haas a 67 as the pair moved to 11 under overall, but with another 13 men within two shots of them, the final round promises to be exciting. Overnight leader Steve Wheatcroft was one of four men on 10 under, alongside fellow Americans Ben Crane, DA Points and Jason Kokrak, while England’s Lee Westwood went round in 67 to head a group of nine at nine under. World number two Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, went under par for a second straight round and, although he remained nine shots off the lead at two under, there were signs things were improving with the Masters on the horizon. But it is the top of the leaderboard where attention will be focused on the final day, with a nervy final round in prospect. “Tomorrow you’re going to have to play very well,” Haas told www.pgatour.com. “You can’t just hang on and hope everybody else will fall back.” Haas carded seven birdies against two bogeys, while Cink dropped just one shot in his round, saving par on the final hole despite finding a bunker. Wheatcroft could only go level after back-to-back 67s, although he would have had a share of the lead had he not made a mess of a bunker shot on the 18th. The sight of an improving Westwood, who sat level with the likes of Louis Oosthuizen, Angel Cabrera and Keegan Bradley, is bound to worry the leaders. The Yorkshireman has bemoaned his poor form on par-five holes this year, but found his range on Saturday. “I played much more solid today,” said Westwood. “I played the par fives in three under par. The first day I was one over. You can’t afford to do that. “Today, it was obviously a lot better. I’ll shoot lower scores if I start playing the par-fives better.” Press Association
Press Association Pulis’ side have slipped into relegation trouble at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League after winning just one of their last 14 games. They find themselves just three points above the bottom three on 34 points ahead of this weekend’s trip to the apparently doomed QPR, one of just five remaining games. Pulis believes the figure typically associated with safety, 40, will again be enough. He said: “We have got five games, five throws of the dice to get the six points we need. There are 15 points there, so that is what we have got to do and stay focused and positive. We need everybody around, it is a call to arms for everybody in Stoke-on-Trent.” Stoke manager Tony Pulis has issued a “call to arms” in an attempt to arrest the Potters’ alarming dip in form. He added: “This is when we need everybody to stick together and I think the majority of supporters understand we need their help.” Fans have made their displeasure at the Potters’ nosedive evident in recent weeks with booing during matches and Pulis himself coming under fire. Pulis has not let that affect his determination to prolong his side’s five-year stay in the top flight. He said: “There might be a small portion of supporters that have done that but it is not the majority. We have been having a difficult run and minorities get a lot of publicity in this country. The majority of supporters have been brilliant. They understand we are in a battle, a scrap, and they are right behind the team. “We need as many points as we can get. If we lose the next three games and win the last two we will get 40 points – that keeps you up. But we have got to get as many points as we can from those five games.” There is little doubt where Stoke’s major weakness lies having scored just 28 goals all the season, the lowest in the Premier League. Of those only nine have come away from home and Pulis’ men have found the net just twice in their last seven games. Pulis said: “We have needed to score more goals, even when we were doing well we needed to score more goals. But the players have trained really well and look really bright. “We have got to keep them bright and positive. When you get in a run like this a lot of negativity surrounds football and we understand that. It is important you try to keep them away from that, keep them focused and positive.”
Sevilla held a farewell press conference for their star striker, who scored 25 Primera Division goals last season and whose transfer will cost a reported 23 million euro (£20million), on Wednesday evening. Negredo said on the club’s official website: “I think in football there are stages. For four years I have been very happy, but I think my time was here over. I am happy to go to a big team.” The 27-year-old paid an emotional tribute to Sevilla for “four fantastic years” and added: “For me this will be my home for a lifetime.” But he revealed he was relishing the chance to link up again with Jesus Navas, who has already moved to the Etihad from the Andalucian club. He said: “I am happy to be spending another year with him.” Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido earlier revealed Negredo would sign the “contract of his life” at City. He said: “Manchester City are buying a great player, the top-scoring Spaniard in La Liga. This is a big deal for Sevilla, the second most important in our history after we sold (now-Barcelona full-back) Daniel Alves, and the player will sign the contract of his life. “Everyone should be happy; it is a great deal for all three parties.” Should the deal go through, Negredo would become new City boss Manuel Pellegrini’s third signing of the summer following the arrivals of Navas and Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho. Alvaro Negredo said his time at Sevilla had come to a natural end after the La Liga club announced he would join Manchester City, subject to a medical. Press Association
“He had some good performances for Nigeria when he was away (in the last fortnight) and he really looking forward to getting in a Liverpool shirt. “Like a lot of our attacking players, they are flexible, have good tactical intelligence and are comfortable to play in two or three positions. “When he was a young player, he was the number nine so he can play in the central striking role or can move. In any one of those top four positions, he’s comfortable. “We’ve seen him a lot playing from the left side, where he cuts in – he’s got great feet, great ability, can shoot off either foot and can beat a man, which is important for us.” Moses is set to make his debut for his new club at Swansea tonight as Liverpool look to make it four successive league wins at the start of a season – something they have not done since 1990-91 and only achieved twice (1969-70, 1978-79) before that since returning to the top flight in 1962. Victor Moses’ loan spell at Liverpool presents the Nigeria forward with a unique opportunity to prove himself, according to manager Brendan Rodgers. The 24-year-old made a deadline-day switch from Chelsea to spend the season at Anfield and add to Rodgers’ growing attacking options. “In terms of this summer, it was probably unexpected for him,” the Reds boss said. “He’s a player that has got experience – he’s 24 years of age and became available for us. “It’s a unique opportunity for him; he’s leaving a very good club, that has been successful, and he’s coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world. “There are not many players that get a chance to do that. He’s coming here to prove himself.” While the deal was done late, it was no snap decision by Rodgers as he had banked plenty of information about the player over the last few years. “I know he will work well because he’s a good guy; I met him when he was 16 and nearly signed him at Chelsea then,” said the Northern Irishman, referring to his time as youth coach at Stamford Bridge. “He came to us to train while he was a young player at Crystal Palace. “Everything was set up for him to come to Chelsea at the time and for whatever reason it fell through and he stayed. “I know what I’m getting. He’s got the profile that suits our game in terms of his technique, his quality and he’s a humble guy. Press Association
Press Association “It is one of those things. You take the four points and make sure we are better next time.” Referring to Wannenburg’s close call with three minutes left on the clock, O’Connor conceded: “It wasn’t a great camera angle and you couldn’t really tell as you couldn’t see it being scored. You’d have to ask the guys out there but it wasn’t obvious on camera.” Castres captain Remi Tales sought to take positives out of his team’s defeat. “We held our own against a really good team,” he said. “We must remember this game and how well we played, when we face them again at home in January.” A 62nd minute try from replacement prop Jack McGrath, after Castres lost centre Remi Lamerat to the sin-bin, proved crucial at the RDS but the French side were less than an inch away from taking home a losing bonus point. Pedrie Wannenburg thought he had crashed over for a try with two minutes left on the clock but TMO Graham Hughes went against the former Ulster flanker. It was left to fly-half Jimmy Gopperth, who kicked four penalties and a conversion, to steer Leinster home with some fine tactical kicking behind the swarming Castres attackers. McGrath’s big moment arrived on the hour mark as he dived over for his first Heineken Cup try near the posts leaving Castres, who were 9-7 down at half-time, with nothing to take home from Dublin. A relieved O’Connor said afterwards: “I certainly think we got out of jail with regard to them getting nothing (no bonus point). I don’t think we got out of jail with regards to the result. “In the first half we were, by far, the better side. They got a lucky score and we didn’t capitalise on our opportunities. They came back hard in the second half but we’ll take the four points.” Fergus McFadden and Kevin McLaughlin, both of whom were making their 100th provincial appearances, were exposed on the blindside for Rory Kockott’s opportunist try, but O’Connor argued, ‘it was nobody’s fault’. “The ball skews out the side (of the scrum),” the Australian said, “and two quality players (Antonie Claassen and Kockott) execute on the short side to give them seven points. “Thankfully, they didn’t get anything else. “Castres are a quality side. They are physically massive as a group. You don’t fluke it and win the Top 14 unless you’ve got a really good squad. We put a lot of holes in them but didn’t capitalise. Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor felt his side should have made more of their opportunities during the first half of their 19-7 Heineken Cup victory over Castres Olympique.
“Having analysed the game twice afterwards I thought they had better control of the game than us; that’s something that is part of our identity that we’re looking to improve,” he added. “But in terms of chances we could have got something from the game. That always gives us great hope. “We didn’t play to our maximum but we still could have had something from it. “We’re just looking to grow and improve our level in every aspect. That’s something we’ll continue to work on.” What will help Liverpool to bounce back quickly is the return of playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who played the second half at the Emirates Stadium after more than six weeks out following a shoulder operation. Full-back Glen Johnson is fully recovered after illness ruled him out in the hours before the Arsenal game while Steven Gerrard has trained this week after a hip problem restricted him during the game. “We’ve got some players coming back now, like young Philippe Coutinho, who adds a genuine quality to our game,” said Rodgers. “This is a player that has got a high level of technical ability and a strong personality. “Glen Johnson will be fit. He’s fine. He’s trained this week – it was just one of those peculiar things that happened. “Maybe if it had been a day earlier, he may have been able to play. “But he’s fine for the game and has looked good in training this week.” It seems, however, Martin Kelly has some way to go before reaching his full fitness. Jon Flanagan – whose last start was April 2012 – was preferred at right wing-back after Johnson’s unavailability against Arsenal with Kelly left on the bench. The 23-year-old has featured twice since rupturing knee ligaments in September 2012 and Rodgers said he had more work to do. “It’s just getting him fit – that’s the most important element of Martin’s career at the moment,” he said. “I gave him a little sample in the game at home to West Brom. He came on and, afterwards, he probably didn’t feel quite right, which is why young Jon Flanagan played in the Arsenal game. “It’s just going to take time for him. It’s great credit to him that he’s playing in the under-21 games to get his fitness. “We’re trying to give him as much game time as we possibly can outside of the first team, so that when he goes in he can really contribute without having to worry about whether he’s going to break down or not.” Rodgers knows maintaining that ratio for the remainder of the season would get the Merseysiders back into the Champions League for the first time since they finished second in the 2008-09 campaign. In fact, in the time they have been away from Europe’s elite club competition no side has required more than 73 points (Arsenal, last season, averaging 1.9 points) to finish in the top four. “If you look at where we’re at if you’re averaging two points a game you would like to think you would get into the Champions League,” said the Reds boss ahead of the visit of struggling Fulham. “Come Saturday if we can get another three points – which we’ll be fighting hard for – that would take us above that. “We’re just treating every game as an important game for us in our quest this year. “We just need to keep focusing and keep our concentration. “We’ve built a platform this year but we have to keep pushing and moving forward or else it counts for nothing.” Rodgers accepts the defeat to the Gunners, currently playing their best football for some time, showed him where his side need to get better if they are to remain consistent, particularly in the big matches. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists his side remain on course for a return to the Champions League. Press Association The Reds boss said last weekend’s defeat at leaders Arsenal, when they were second best for most of the game, had by no means derailed their progress towards securing a top-four slot. After 10 matches, which is the yardstick when Rodgers said a judgement could be made on the credentials of his side, they have 20 points and are third only on goal difference behind Chelsea.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men slipped to a fourth defeat in six Barclays Premier League away games this season at Sunderland on Sunday, a run of results which the manager later acknowledged will severely damage their hopes of challenging for honours if they cannot address it as a matter of urgency. However, Lescott is struggling to understand why a team which has been so clinical at the Etihad Stadium – they arrived on Wearside having scored 12 goals in the two home games which preceded the trip to the north-east – is unable to replicate that form away from Manchester. He told City TV: “I’m not sure, it’s hard to say. It’s not like we feel any different going into the game. “Obviously, the atmosphere and the surroundings are a lot different, but every team has to play away and at the minute, we just can’t put it all together and go on a run of results away from home. “Yes, we win the games here and there. We won in the League Cup and then West Ham, but it’s been stop-start away from home, so we need to knuckle down now and pick up some points.” City have now collected just four of the 18 points they have contested on their travels and currently trail leaders Arsenal by six points. But their latest setback was unexpected to say the least with Sunderland languishing inside the relegation zone before kick-off with just a single league victory to their name this season. The visitors’ fate was sealed inside 21 minutes when former Manchester United full-back Phil Bardsley brushed aside James Milner in pursuit of Wes Brown’s ball over the top – referee Mike Dean took a liberal view of his challenge on the midfielder – and cut inside before curling a shot across keeper Costel Pantilimon and inside the far post. City’s response was initially lukewarm, and although they stepped up a gear after the break with the introduction of dangerous winger Jesus Navas and later striker Edin Dzeko, a wealth of possession yielded few clear-cut chances. Bardsley blocked a Navas shot from point-blank range and keeper Vito Mannone pulled off an acrobatic save to deny Dzeko, but the Black Cats held out to maintain their remarkable home record against the visitors. Press Association Sunderland have now beaten City 1-0 on each of their last four league visits, a statistic which further mystifies Lescott. Asked why he and his team-mates have found life at the Stadium of Light so challenging, he said: “I don’t know, it’s one of those things. It’s hard to say. “Normally when you lose a game, you can put your finger on why and the reasons for that, but I can’t see that today. “I honestly don’t believe we should have lost the game and it’s disappointing to come away with nothing. “They defended well – you have got to give them some credit. As much as maybe we deserved to get something, their game-plan was spot-on. “Similar to Cardiff, they worked hard. Every player worked extremely hard and did the job asked by the manager, obviously. “We have got to give some credit to Sunderland, but we are disappointed with the result. It’s happened now four years on the trot, so it’s not a very easy place for us to come at the moment. “But overall, I don’t think we deserved to lose the game. “Maybe they had a bit more appetite in the first half than we showed at certain times, but overall, I definitely thought we should have come out with something at the end of the game.” Joleon Lescott is at a loss to explain Manchester City’s failings on the road.
Press Association Few could have imagined the woeful season that would follow Barclays Premier League glory in the last of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26 years in charge. Ferguson’s replacement David Moyes did not even last a season at the helm and, after a miserable seventh-placed finish, Van Gaal has been tasked with changing United’s fortunes. The Dutch manager will take charge after leading his country at the World Cup and Rooney is looking forward to working under him and assistant manager Giggs. “I think it is a great appointment,” Rooney said. “I think everybody knew for the last few weeks that Louis van Gaal was going to take over and the record he has got around European football is fantastic. “He has won a lot of major trophies and it is great that it is sorted out now. “It is obviously great that Ryan has stayed with him as his number two. It is exciting and it is going to be an exciting time at the club.” Wayne Rooney believes the appointment of Louis van Gaal as Manchester United manager and Ryan Giggs as his assistant will usher in an exciting new era at Old Trafford.
Press Association “The goal was the very last action of the game but we’ll go home with a smile on the face. Everybody played and there were 15 players making first appearances at this level. It was a very competitive game against a very tough opponent.” Qatar took the lead through Ahmed Alaaddin in the 32nd minute when he burst through to fire past Ian Lawlor, but Aston Villa’s Mason Watkins-Clark levelled the game with a 92nd-minute header from Bradley Garmston’s cross. “It was a great boost to all the players to see the equaliser go in,” said Ireland boss Noel King. “Mason had two headers previously just wide bursting through from midfield and he deserved to get the goal because he never gave up. An experimental Ireland Under-21 side drew 1-1 with Qatar’s Olympic squad in a friendly in Aachen, Germany, on Saturday evening.
Bafetimbi Gomis was in their sights before Swansea came up with a more financial package which better suited the players, and their interest in Hertha Berlin’s Pierre-Michel Lasogga is ongoing. They are understood too to be monitoring Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette’s situation, while they are hoping to make progress on Montpellier midfielder Remy Cabella on his return from the World Cup finals. In the meantime, the club are bracing themselves for offers for some of their key players with full-back Debuchy and keeper Tim Krul having been linked with moves away from St James’ Park this summer. But having sold Cabaye for rather less than they had hoped, there is little chance of any potential suitor getting a bargain this time around. Press Association Pardew told the Shields Gazette: “The fees being paid for players such as Luke Shaw and, it seems, Adam Lallana, illustrate an important point that supporters need to understand. “Clubs like Newcastle get accused of not signing English players, but these are prices mid-table teams in the Premier League simply cannot afford, unlike Champions League clubs with their extra revenue. “We recently inquired about an unproven player not in the side at one of our top clubs, and we were asked [for] £14million. He will not be joining. “Yet we can pick up players such as Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko for reasonable fees, all of whom have been starring for France at the World Cup.” Cabaye, Debuchy and Sissoko cost Newcastle a combined total of around £11million, with Cabaye leaving for Paris St Germain in January for around £19million. The Magpies, armed with chief scout Graham Carr’s knowledge of the European market, have been active on that front once again this summer having landed 20-year-old Tenerife striker Ayoze Perez and entered into discussions over a series of potential targets. Ironically, their only other signing to date is Sunderland’s Academy graduate midfielder Jack Colback, who has joined the club as a free agent. However, Pardew’s squad needs significant further strengthening with strikers a priority. Alan Pardew has admitted Newcastle will concentrate on Europe rather than Britain as they look for value for money in the summer transfer market. The Magpies have looked to the continent, and France in particular, in recent years for reinforcements having refused to pay premium rates for home-grown players. Manchester United’s £30million capture of Southampton full-back Luke Shaw and Liverpool’s ongoing £25million pursuit of Adam Lallana are cases in point, while even at a more modest level, Hull paid Tottenham £8million for Jake Livermore and struck a deal which would eventually amount to much the same figure with Norwich for Robert Snodgrass.