However, Cahill was pleased with another clean sheet and a point from what proved to be just as tough an assignment as he had expected before kick-off. He said: “It was a game in which we needed to defend well. They defended well as well. It was exactly what we expected, it was a scrap of a game. “They made it tough by, when we had possession, sitting back very deep, but they worked very hard, so credit to them, and they looked dangerous when they tried to hit us on the break, so we had to be on our toes and defend well. “Unfortunately for us, we didn’t manage to break through. If we had broken through, it’s all of a sudden a different game because like we have seen before, they have to come out then and try to get the equaliser and it allows us to play a bit more. “But credit to them, they did well and defended as a unit.” Gary Cahill is confident Chelsea have found a new mental strength to go with their rich array of football talent as they set the pace in the Barclays Premier League title race. The Blues emerged from their trip to Sunderland on Saturday evening with just a point from a hard-fought 0-0 draw, but remain clear at the top of the table. Manager Jose Mourinho fielded the same starting XI for the third successive game after a 2-0 league win over West Brom and Tuesday night’s 5-0 Champions League demolition of Schalke in Germany, but saw them struggle to break down a committed Black Cats outfit. Nevertheless, they emerged with a third successive clean sheet and a point, and that, in Cahill’s opinion, demonstrated a new attribute. The 28-year-old England international told Chelsea TV: “I think we are a different side to last year, not just personnel, but mentally I think we are different. “They made it a scrap, but we matched that and managed to play our football as well. When teams sit back and get back in that shape, it’s very tough. We saw that last year and this was no different. “But in these sorts of games, if you don’t get the breakthrough, it’s important we don’t lose the game, and it’s a point away from home.” Chelsea have now put together an unbeaten run of 20 games since the start of the season, but this was the first in which they had been prevented from scoring. They enjoyed the greater share of the possession at the Stadium of Light, particularly in the first half, but apart from Willian’s 17th-minute shot, which was tipped on to the post by keeper Costel Pantilimon, and another from Branislav Ivanovic which the Romanian blocked with a foot, they created few clear-cut chances. At the other end, defender Santiago Vergini clipped the crossbar and midfielder Adam Johnson went close twice in a late flurry as Gus Poyet threatened to guide his side to a third successive victory over the club for which he played with such distinction inside 12 months. It proved a frustrating evening for striker Diego Costa, who escaped punishment after appearing to kick out at defender John O’Shea, but then collected his fifth booking of the campaign for catching Wes Brown with an arm as they jumped for a high ball, and he will miss Wednesday’s home clash with Tottenham. Press Association
Press Association Mullins said: “Tell Us More has done nothing wrong in his two races to date and hopefully he’s open to plenty of improvement. The step up in trip and the ground will suit him.” The master of Closutton also saddles Gigginstown-owned pair Killer Crow, a dual bumper winner who opened his account over hurdles at the track in early November, and Mckinley, who pulled up lame in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last week. “Killer Crow is a course and distance winner, so we decided to let him take his chance,” said Mullins. “Mckinley had an unfortunate mishap at Christmas. He was lame on the day but he’s been fine since, so we’ll let him run again.” The biggest threat to the Mullins battalion is the Gordon Elliott-trained Free Expression, who defends an unbeaten record in the colours of JP McManus. Elliott said: “It’s a great race and it’s great for Naas to put on a Grade One. Touch wood, Free Expression seems to be well. “He’s not a horse that would show you a whole lot at home, but he is doing everything nicely. It’s a big step up again, but we are looking forward to Sunday.” The field is completed by Noel Meade’s Couleur France, the Oliver McKiernan-trained Golden Boot and On Impulse from Ted Walsh’s yard. Willie Mullins expects a step up in distance to bring about further improvement from Tell Us More as the exciting youngster spearheads a three-pronged assault on Sunday’s Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle for the champion trainer and Gigginstown House Stud. The point-to-point graduate made a big impression on his debut under Rules in a Gowran Park bumper last March and blew his rivals away on his first start over hurdles in a two-miler at the same track in November. Favourite for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, he is moving up to the top level this weekend for the first Grade One ever run at Naas, and tackles two and a half miles this time.
In an interview reported on www.legia.sport.pl, he said: “I hope that the two clubs come together and I go to London to fulfil my dreams. “He (Wenger) knows that I have the skills, am determined to win and he wants to sign me as soon as possible to start working with me.” Arsenal are also said to be running the rule over 16-year-old Uruguayan attacking midfielder Federico Valverde from Penarol. While Wenger clearly still has one eye on the future, more pressing matters over the next few weeks will be to recruit some experienced cover to bolster the first-team squad as they head into the defining period of the campaign. St Etienne captain Loic Perrin claims the Gunners are looking to bring him in. The £7million-rated 29-year-old centre-half was recently called into the French national team and would offer some reinforcement to an Arsenal rearguard which has been brutally exposed time and again this season. Boca Juniors striker Jonathan Calleri, 21, is another reported target, with Yaya Sanogo expected to go out on loan, Bordeaux leading the chase, and Lukas Podolski having already left for Inter Milan. It remains to be seen, meanwhile, whether goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will be recalled for the home Barclays Premier League match against Stoke on Sunday following reports he was smoking after the 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year’s Day. Former Gunners midfielder John Jensen alleged during comments made as a media pundit for Danish TV during Sunday’s FA Cup third round win over Hull that the Poland international was involved in a heated bust-up with Wenger and subsequently was dropped in favour of David Ospina as a result, a claim which Arsenal subsequently have denied. However, stories have since emerged the player had a cigarette following the match at St Mary’s Stadium, during which he was at fault for the goals, and could be hit with a fine. The 6ft 2ins 17-year-old is viewed as an emerging prospect by the Gunners, but Legia, who only signed the player last year and have him under contract until 2017, are holding out for a fee in excess of £2million. Bielik has told the Polish press of being impressed by Arsenal during a trip to England before Christmas. Press Association Arsenal are expected to push ahead with their interest in Legia Warsaw teenage midfielder Krystian Bielik during the January transfer window.
United picked up just their third away Premier League victory of the season with a 2-0 result over struggling QPR as goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and James Wilson saw off a spirited display from the home side. But the visitors only clicked into gear after Van Gaal changed his formation, having opted to start with three central defenders – a system the Dutchman has stuck by for most of his first season in charge at Old Trafford. United were nowhere near their best in the first half, leading a pocket of supporters to call for a change to 4-4-2. And with the introduction of Wilson in place of Jonny Evans, Van Gaal seemingly listened with Fellaini’s opener coming just a minute later. However, after the game Van Gaal stuck by his guns and defended his original tactics, saying he will focus on what he sees in training rather than what he hears from the stands. “I have to look at the players and I have to communicate with the players and observe the players,” he said. “I cannot observe the fans because how many fans do Manchester United have? All over the world we’ve got 600 million. You cannot take into account 600 million opinions. “To look at the players, to communicate with the players, to observe, to analyse and so on. That’s my job as a manager. “Before this match I have already thought about this shape and to play it. Then I look to my players in a training session and I look to my game plan and then I choose, and that’s dependable also from what I see at the training ground.” Radamel Falcao was handed a place in the United side having been dropped from the matchday squad for the 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton last weekend. It proved to be a frustrating afternoon for the on-loan Monaco striker, who has been told to prove himself to Van Gaal, as he missed two great chances to add to his three goals for the club. Louis van Gaal insists he cannot listen to the opinions of every Manchester United fan after hearing a number of supporters vent their frustrations at his tactics in the win over QPR on Saturday. But Van Gaal defended the Colombian’s performance and was bullish when questioned about the striker and his display. “It’s not relevant,” he said. “We have 29 players so then we have to talk about 29 players, not one player, because Manchester United has a selection of 29 players and maybe tomorrow 28 or 30. Not just one player. “I’m a manager and you can’t always give the credit to the most expensive player and if a young player never gets a chance then I’m not a very good manager. “I have to treat all of the players at the same level with the same rules and same demands. It’s difficult to understand because the outside world is thinking when you pay a lot for the player then you have to put him in the squad. I do not agree with that opinion. But he (Falcao) has played and I was very pleased.” Falcao’s immediate future at Old Trafford was cast into doubt as he sat in the stands for the Southampton game, with the player’s agent also questioning whether he would see out his season-long loan deal. The 28-year-old would cost United over £40million if they decided to make the move from Monaco permanent in the summer, but with just three goals and a number of niggling injuries it remains to be seen if the club would part with such an amount. The player himself admits he needs to start scoring soon but insists he is pleased with his all-round game and is feeling good out on the pitch. “I am very happy with the win. It was a very difficult game but we managed the match well and got the three points,” he said. “We were very close to scoring more and I could have had two goals. Sadly, the goalkeeper did very well and the other chances were not that clear. “It was 90 very important minutes for me. I need to play and I am very happy that I did. Obviously, I really hope to score soon but the opportunities will come, I am sure of that. “I am fine. I feel really good. I am playing without any sort of fitness problems.” Press Association
Keatley declared “you need Johnny Sexton in your team” in accepting his fate for France’s Dublin visit – but refused to give up on his Test dream despite a refreshingly frank personal appraisal. “To be honest Johnny’s done so well over the last three or four years he deserves the number-one position,” said Keatley. “He’s one of the best out-halves in the world so to be honest I presume that he’s going to be straight in there for the French match, even though he hasn’t played in a while. “He’s still been keeping fit and you need Johnny Sexton in your team. “I can take a lot of confidence from playing in Italy, but also I need to know where I want to get to. “I know that Johnny is number one, but you can’t just accept that. If you’re looking to play second-fiddle to someone the whole time you’re not going to improve personally. “So that’s what I want to do, I want to keep improving and just keep challenging Johnny and hopefully play in more big games like this. “With the sub position I don’t know what’s going to happen there, I’m just delighted with the win in Italy first and foremost. Press Association “And I can still iron out things in my performance. I’m sure I’ll go through it with Joe (Schmidt) and just look to improve.” Ireland boss Schmidt admitted he felt nerves caught Keatley out at several stages during his fourth Test cap at the Stadio Olimpico. Keatley conceded Ireland’s head coach called his nerves correctly, but pledged to keep his emotions in check in future. The utility playmaker traversed a provincial Odyssey with Leinster and Connacht before finding his Thomond Park niche at Muster and admitted using his circuitous route to the top as his current Test match motivation. “A few times leading up to the match I got nervous, I was just thinking to myself that I remembered watching Ireland winning the Six Nations in France last year,” said Keatley. “And I just remembered how much at the time I wanted to be there. “I was actually watching it on my own at home and I really wanted to be out there. “So whenever I got nervous in the week leading up to this game I just reminded myself, ‘This is where you want to be, so suck it up’. “Nerves can be a positive or a negative in a match, everyone gets nervous because it means so much to you. “If you didn’t get nervous it probably wouldn’t mean much to you. “So it’s just a few deep breaths, with the kicking, out of hand there’s a couple I rushed, but after the first 10 minutes once I got settled I felt comfortable out there. “Not everyone can be a superstar and just break through, you need a little bit of luck. “I’ve made some big decisions in my career, going to Connacht and then Munster: I’ve just been working hard so that if I ever did get this opportunity I would be ready for it. “It is a bit of a roundabout route, but a lot of players have to do it that way. “A lot of players get lucky breaks, they get in, but a lot have to work like I did, to keep fighting and keep improving. “And then some players just fall off as well. And that’s the highs and lows of rugby. “Some players might have to retire through injury, there’s so many ways that make or break you. “It’s a long way around but I’m here at the moment and hopefully I’m going to stay here.” Ian Keatley expects Johnny Sexton to reclaim Ireland’s number 10 jersey – but claimed as “one of the best out-halves in the world” he fully deserves to. Keatley posted a 100 per cent goal-kicking record on his RBS 6 Nations debut as Ireland eased past Italy 26-3 with a staccato performance in Rome. The 27-year-old conceded Sexton should start against France on Saturday, however, with the Racing Metro playmaker finally free to return after an enforced 12-week concussion lay-off.
Schlupp burst into the box moments later and it needed the combined efforts of three Everton players to stop the Ghanaian. The home fans were unhappy as Everton lacked any pace or purpose going forward. They briefly woke from their slumber when Lukaku collected and went clean through following an incisive pass by Barkley, but the striker was offside. Everton wasted the few chances they had in the first half. Barkley curled a 20-yard free-kick into the Park End and Lukaku did the same moments later. Andrej Kramaric came close at the other end when he curled his shot a foot over Howard’s goal. John Stones then put in a last-ditch block to deny Schlupp in first half injury time. The game was a far more entertaining affair in the second half. Just two minutes after the break, Howard parried Matty James’ shot, but Schlupp dragged the follow-up wide. Boos rang out around Goodison Park in the 53rd minute when Muhamed Besic, who had controlled the game from midfield was replaced by Atsu. Darron Gibson came on for Barkley, who had been far less effective. Any dissenting voices were muted four minutes later when Everton took the lead. Lukaku held the ball up brilliantly and laid the ball off to Naismith, who squeezed his shot between Wes Morgan and Robert Huth and the ball trickled past Mark Schwarzer. Pearson made a double change, bringing Nugent and Jamie Vardy on. Just over one minute later, the pair combined to equalise. Vardy pulled away down the right and drove a low shot goalwards which Howard spilled straight into the path of Everton fan Nugent, who tapped in. Lukaku should have put Everton back in front when he meandered through the Leicester defence, but he somehow contrived to clear the bar from 10 yards. The hosts were punished immediately by the Foxes. Howard was at fault again. He flapped at a cross and Vardy pulled the ball back to Cambiasso, who drilled the ball in from inside the box. The Everton fans groaned as Lukaku wasted yet another chance to score as the former Chelsea striker could only muster a weak shot after being played in by Naismith. The Belgian made a telling impact in the dying minutes, though, when his diving header hit Upson and flew in to steal a fortuitous point for Martinez’s side. Leicester were denied a vital victory in their push for survival as Everton grabbed a last-gasp equaliser at Goodison Park. Lukaku had looked a shadow of the man that bagged a hat-trick against Young Boys on Thursday. The Belgian missed several chances against the Foxes, but he was in the right place at the right time to grab a point for Roberto Martinez’s team although he will be grateful to Upson for deflecting the ball in. Lukaku was not the only poor performer for the hosts on Sunday. Everton were poor all over the pitch and can count themselves lucky to claim a point. Ross Barkley was hooked after 53 minutes following a poor display and Aaron Lennon quickly faded after a bright start. Tim Howard was also poor. The American goalkeeper gave his critics further ammunition by flapping at two crosses, which allowed the Premier League’s bottom club to score twice. Nigel Pearson will be bitterly disappointed not to take all three points from his trip to Merseyside, but he can take heart from the fact that his team are now four points closer to safety, rather than five. Everton took a while to get going in Switzerland on Thursday and it was much the same case at Goodison Park as Leicester started strongly. Jeffrey Schlupp was their most dangerous player in the opening stages, firing a low drive at Howard. Press Association Leicester looked set to register their fifth win of the season when David Nugent and Esteban Cambiasso put them 2-1 up after Steven Naismith had broken the deadlock. But with less than two minutes left Christian Atsu crossed for Romelu Lukaku, whose diving header flew past Mark Schwarzer after taking a huge deflection off Matthew Upson and the match ended 2-2.
Rory McIlroy shot a stunning 11-under-par round of 61 to storm to the top of the leaderboard at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina. Press Association It was the Northern Irishman’s lowest round on the PGA Tour, beating the 62 he made here in 2010 – the previous course record at Quail Hollow. McIlroy had looked on target to shoot a sub-60 round – only six players have ever scored 59 in a PGA Tour event – but he had to settle for pars on the final two holes Despite that, McIlroy’s remarkable display left him with a four-shot lead heading into the final day, with Webb Simpson his nearest challenger after the local hope carded a 68. American Robert Streb, who led after the first round and was joint-top with Simpson at the halfway stage, is a further three shots back in third place. McIlroy told Sky Sports of his round: “It was incredible, it was nice just to get on a run like that. “I felt like every shot I looked at, I was comfortable over it and I really putted well today, that was the thing that pleased me most. “I rolled the ball really really nicely, and I don’t think I’ve rolled it like that in quite a while, so it was nice to see a lot of putts drop. “And to break my own course record here is pretty nice.” The four-time major winner, who felt he played too conservatively in the second round and felt he was rewarded for going for more pins today, is now clear favourite to become the first two-time winner of the event. He is also on course to smash the existing overall tournament final record of 16 under, set by Anthony Kim in 2008. And McIlroy insists he has no intention of letting up on the final day. He added of his hopes for Sunday: “More of the same would be nice obviously! But just keep it going. “Even though I’ve got a lead there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go out there and be aggressive and try make as many birdies as I can. “I’m obviously playing well and I feel like this is a course where I can shoot another low score on. ” In joint fourth place are Brendan Steele (68) and Patrick Rodgers (70) on 10 under, while Phil Mickelson, who shot a 66 on Friday, is back in a group on eight under after after a damaging treble-bogey seven on the 18th left him with a 71. The world number one started the weekend three shots off top spot but he produced a record-breaking display in his third round to overhaul all his rivals. McIlroy parred his first two holes before going on to pick up 11 birdies – including nine in 10 holes at one stage – in a second successive blemish-free round to move to 18-under par for the tournament.
The influential midfielder has had a limited role in recent weeks after an impressive campaign and Swansea revealed before Sunday’s 4-2 Barclays Premier League home defeat to Manchester City that he had undergone minor knee surgery. “All players carry niggles and you have to decide whether you can manage it or it needs to be dealt with immediately,” Monk said. “Ki has been fantastic and you want someone who has done that well to be part of it to the end of the season, but you do not want to take any risks.” The South Korea captain fell out of favour under previous Swansea manager Michael Laudrup and was loaned to Sunderland last season, playing a pivotal role in the Black Cats reaching the Capital One Cup final and winning their battle for Premier League survival. But Monk told Ki he was a big part of his plans after succeeding Laudrup and the 26-year-old signed a new four-year contract last August which ties him to Swansea until 2018. Ki has since enjoyed the most productive spell of his career – making 33 league appearances and scoring a campaign-best eight goals – and underwent surgery now to allow him to return in time for Swansea’s pre-season preparation. “He came back from Sunderland last summer with a sore knee and we were advised he could have the operation then, but he had the World Cup coming up,” Monk said. “Understandably he did not want to miss that so he went, and since then his knee has been fine. “But it had flared up a bit in recent weeks. We have had to manage it and give him a rest but he has still contributed really well.” Swansea conclude their season at Crystal Palace on Sunday having just missed out on Europa League qualification. Press Association The Welsh club have managed their highest Premier League finish of eighth and best points tally, and winger Nathan Dyer said Swansea should keep pushing for European football after tasting it as 2013 League Cup winners. “We want to strive for progress and to get to the top,” Dyer said. “Obviously, we’ve been in Europe before and maybe at that time we weren’t quite ready. “We had a great go and that’s something we’ll look forward to next season, trying to get there.” Swansea manager Garry Monk has revealed the club could take no further risks over Ki Sung-yueng’s long-standing knee complaint.
John Carver has left his relegation-threatened players in little doubt that they are drinking in the last-chance saloon. The Magpies find themselves in severe danger of slipping into the Sky Bet Championship if they cannot beat West Ham in the final Barclays Premier League game of the season at St James’ Park on Sunday. Their plight is due largely to a dreadful run of form which has seen them take just a single point from the last 30 on offer, and they are without a win since February 28. Press Association But if 18th-placed Hull manage to beat Manchester United at the KC Stadium in their last fixture, Newcastle will themselves have to take three points if they are to avoid the drop. Carver said: “There are no second chances now. This is the last game, it’s the cup final we’ve been talking about. We all know what we have to do and we all take responsibility. “It’s not about me taking the blame or [owner] Mike [Ashley] and [managing director] Lee [Charnley], we all take responsibility. “We’re in this situation, we’ve got to deal with it. I feel like we’ve got to win. If we do that, we take care of our own business.” Under-fire Ashley has been conspicuous by his absence in recent weeks and his presence at St James’ this weekend would provide a focus for fans seething with discontent at a season which has been allowed to spiral out of control. However, Carver, the man appointed as Alan Pardew’s replacement until the end of the season back in January, is confident he retains the sportswear magnate’s support. He said: “It wouldn’t bother me at all if he came. But if he doesn’t come, I’m sure he will phone me beforehand, and if he does come, I’m sure he’ll come and see me before the game. “But I really don’t know what his plans are. I can’t decide what Mike’s going to do, all I can decide is what we’re going to do on Sunday.” Speculation over Derby boss Steve McClaren’s future on Thursday evening led to fresh links between Newcastle and the former England manager. However, Press Association Sport understands the Magpies have not made another approach for McClaren, who has twice turned down the opportunity to replace Pardew, the first time with the Rams flying high in the Championship in January, and the second just weeks ago after they missed out on the play-offs.
Press Association Yorke told 888sport.com: “The legacy that Sir Alex has left behind after 26 years has meant we’re used to seeing a certain type of football so you can understand the reaction of certain individuals who have played for the club for a very long time who are entitled to their opinion. “Whether Van Gaal agrees with that is another story. “I can see why people are voicing their opinion because it’s not how United go about their business and it’s been very hard at times for people to bear. “You’ve got to take certain risks. It’s all well and good having a game plan where you grind teams down and have the ball so much but the game is about excitement and taking chances. “Nobody wants to see that type of football because at the end of the day we’re in the entertainment business. United in the past have been all about being exciting. “Right now is not what we’re looking for and it will take a little while to come back. “There is a transitional period we’re going through but we’ll be okay. The reality is that the excitement will come back to United whether it’s under Van Gaal or somebody else.” United are currently fourth in the Barclays Premier League table. Their two top-flight games prior to Saturday’s 2-0 home win over West Brom were both goalless draws. United were recently accused of a “lack of creativity and risk” by ex-United midfielder Paul Scholes, who suggested he would not enjoy being a part of the current side. Van Gaal responded by stressing he disagreed with and was unconcerned by Scholes’ comments, but now criticism has come his way from another member of Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble-winning side of 1999. Former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke has criticised the football the club have been playing under manager Louis van Gaal.