The Brazilian right-back’s first-half effort set Sir Alex Ferguson’s side on course for a victory. Ryan Giggs made sure of a win that was never really in doubt late on at Loftus Road, where the only blot on a perfect afternoon for United was a knock to Robin van Persie. Only an unparalleled meltdown will now stop United winning a 20th league crown, while only the greatest of escapes will see QPR stave off relegation. Proceedings got off to a slow start in west London, where it took 13 minutes for the first chance of note to be created. After being caught on the edge of the box by Jose Bosingwa, making his first appearance since December 8, Nani connected with the resulting free-kick, only to see his flicked header go wide. United did not have to wait long for the opener, though, with Rafael thumping home in style after 23 minutes. Adel Taarabt lost possession in his own half and play developed down the right, allowing Van Persie to wriggle free and hit a cross. Julio Cesar parried the acute drive but the ball fell kindly for Rafael, who hammered a 25-yard strike into the top corner. The right-back then helped United counter, sending a fine ball over the top to Van Persie, who saw a brilliant left-footed volley denied in equally impressive fashion by Cesar. It was the Holland international’s last contribution before he was replaced by Danny Welbeck, having appeared to sustain a hip complaint earlier in the half. Despite his exit, United continued to dominate and almost immediately doubled their advantage as Giggs swung in a free-kick for the unmarked Nemanja Vidic to flash a header inches wide. The visitors did grab a second goal 10 minutes from time as Nani played a cute ball through to Giggs, whose strike from an acute angle beat Cesar to send the 3,081 visiting supporters into raptures. Press Association Rafael’s exquisite strike helped Manchester United stay on course for the Barclays Premier League title as embattled QPR’s survival hopes took another blow following a 2-0 result.
The County Kildare trainer has the five-year-old in the Grade One Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle next Wednesday and the Setanta.com Handicap Hurdle on Saturday week. “He has the two options and will be left in the Grade One. We’ll have a look at what’s in it and the ground,” said Taaffe. “He also has an entry for the handicap on Saturday and he’s definitely going to run somewhere – we just have to work out which race. “I’d like to think he’s well-in in the handicap and is a novice with a bit of a chance. He did it well in Gowran and is a horse that we like a lot. “We’ll see what way it unfolds. He’d prefer if it wasn’t heavy and we’ll play it by ear.” Tom Taaffe will wait until nearer the time before deciding which race to run Gold Bullet at the Punchestown Festival. Press Association
Gerrard, 33 later this month, has had his best season fitness-wise and his appearance in 220th Merseyside derby was his 36th consecutive Premier League start – equalling his previous longest run set between April 2006 and April 2007. He has played with the shoulder injury for several months but after an early collision with Everton midfielder Leon Osman on Sunday he looked in obvious discomfort. However, it did not prevent him completing 90 minutes – Gerrard has missed only 17 minutes of the league season after being forced off against Newcastle just over a week ago after feeling some pain in the shoulder – and putting in another impressive performance. But with little to play for in their remaining two matches at Fulham and QPR Liverpool have decided it makes more sense for Gerrard to have an operation now to give him an additional couple of weeks’ rehabilitation. “Liverpool have confirmed Steven Gerrard will undergo surgery on a recurrent shoulder problem this week,” said a statement from Liverpool. “The captain’s injury has progressively worsened in recent weeks and requires an operation to cure it. “Gerrard will now miss the final two games of 2012-13, but he is expected to be fit for the start of pre-season training this summer.” Press Association The England skipper will also miss the national team’s two friendlies against the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on May 29 and Brazil on June 2. Gerrard will go under the knife later this week and is expected to return in time for Liverpool’s pre-season programme. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is to have an operation on his left shoulder which will rule him out of the rest of the season.
The former England international is in the twilight of his career but he will spend at least one more season at the top after joining the Eagles. Phillips spent a successful loan period from Blackpool last term, netting the winner in the Championship play-off final against Watford to end Palace’s eight-year top-flight absence. Kevin Phillips has penned a one-year contract with Premier League new boys Crystal Palace, just five days before he turns 40. Press Association Now that move has been made permanent, with the veteran free agent moving to Selhurst Park on a year-long deal. “I am absolutely delighted, I loved my time here at the end of last season and was always hoping to have another chance to play in the top flight,” Phillips told the club’s official website, www.cpfc.co.uk. “It’s unbelievable for me but I am really looking forward to it and hoping I can play a great part in the season ahead. “Everyone I spoke to said to keep going as long as the fitness and hunger is there and that is certainly the case with me.” Phillips last played in the top tier with Birmingham in the 2010/11 season. He will become just the third outfield player to have played in the Premier League at 40, following Teddy Sheringham and Gordon Strachan. The club are awaiting final written confirmation of the paperwork from the Football Association and Premier League.
Press Association Paolo Di Canio’s summer revolution fell flat at the Stadium of Light as Pajtim Kasami headed a second-half winner to snatch three improbable points in a 1-0 victory for Fulham. Cape Verde international Cabral looked most impressive, drilling two long-range shots wide, while right-back Ondrej Celustka hit a rising half-volley which was tipped over by Fulham goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. But for all their first-half fluency the Black Cats clearly lacked some cutting edge and they faded in the second period as Martin Jol’s men, marshalled superbly by captain Brede Hangeland in the centre of defence, hung on for victory. Cabral, a talismanic influence in the middle for the home side, hit an early chance wide before Fulham’s hopes were hit by the loss of former Sunderland defender Kieran Richardson due to injury with just 19 minutes on the clock. Richardson’s exit seemed to sentence Fulham to even deeper defending as they were pinned back for long periods by the pace of Adam Johnson and Italian Emanuele Giaccherini down the flanks. But if front men Stephane Sessegnon and Jozy Altidore – fresh from a midweek hat-trick for the United States – lacked a little cutting edge up front, the same could not be said for Cabral, who hammered another long-range effort narrowly wide after 27 minutes. Giaccherini, lively but occasionally lost on the left, drifted in-field to pick up a pass from Johnson and hit a hard left-foot effort straight at new Fulham keeper Stekelenburg just past the half-hour. And the quietly efficient Celustka came close to turning up the volume two minutes later when he unleashed a rising half-volley from 25 yards which Stekelenburg had to stretch to tip over the bar. And as if to emphasise the paucity of the visitors’ efforts, their almost anonymous debutant Adel Taarabt flipped a feeble free-kick into the Sunderland wall in the last act of what, from their point of view, had been a forgettable half. But the visitors snatched their lead out of nowhere on 50 minutes when Duff floated in his set-piece from the left and Kasami rose highest to nod past Keiren Westwood – who had been rendered a virtual spectator until that point. The goal shocked Sunderland back into action and they responded with a succession of near-misses, Johnson shovelling a shot wide, Duff picking the ball off Altidore’s feet in the box and Sebastian Larsson plopping a poor free-kick into the Fulham wall. And Sunderland spurned an even better chance in the 65th minute when Altidore was picked out by John O’Shea in the box and the striker swivelled past Aaron Hughes before firing just wide of Stekelenburg’s right-hand post. Stekelenburg denied Altidore at close range in the 75th minute but it was to be his last act of the game as he appeared to injure his shoulder in the process and was replaced by the visitors’ substitute keeper David Stockdale. Sunderland’s attacking forays became more unfocused as time ticked by but substitute Ji Dong-won wasted a golden chance to equalise in the last minute of normal time when he headed wide. Swiss youth international Kasami converted the simplest of chances to score his first goal since joining the Cottagers in 2011, rising at the far post to nod in a corner from Damien Duff. It was Fulham’s only real chance of a game which the home side had dominated, with a number of the five new Di Canio signings on show coming close to breaking the deadlock in the first period.
Press Association Arsenal tackle the managerless Eagles – who parted company with Ian Holloway following the 4-1 home defeat by Fulham on Monday night – looking to consolidate their place at the top of the table. Next week, the Gunners host Chelsea in the Capital One Cup before games against Liverpool and Manchester United as well as the return European trip to Dortmund. It is a run of fixtures which Wenger accepts will test the genuine potential of what his squad can achieve this season. “Yes, it is a step up. It (the challenge) is for us to be at the level now of these games coming up, and I am quite confident,” the Arsenal boss said. “I think we have learned against Dortmund – even though we have lost. There were a lot of positives in that game, because we controlled them quite well, against a team who went in a convincing way into the final last year. “That performance should, despite the disappointment, give us belief.” Wilshere will be assessed ahead of Saturday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Crystal Palace after being substituted during the second half of the midweek Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund. The 21-year-old had earlier caused some concern when he pulled up after jarring his ankle when running through on goal. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Jack Wilshere’s troublesome ankle will eventually settle down – but does sometimes wonder if he is taking a “gamble” on the fitness of the England midfielder. Wenger, though, believes with careful management Wilshere can maintain his fitness levels in this World Cup season following a frustrating spell on the sidelines which scuppered hopes of playing at both Euro 2012 and the London Olympics. “He played Saturday and on Tuesday, so it is difficult for us to find the right rhythm for him,” said Wenger. “Before when I always played him, people say I overplayed him. Now I try to be a bit more cautious. “It is difficult because his ankle is up and down a little bit. “Jack is getting better, but it is still inflamed sometimes and responds sometimes to games, but after that it goes down again and is normal. “I think he will go through this period of stabilisation. “It is going upwards, but sometimes you wonder do I take a gamble or not? “I do what the medical people recommend with him because I am not a specialist. They are quite positive about him.”
Tim Sherwood’s first game in full charge of Tottenham ended in disappointment as Emmanuel Adebayor’s error gifted West Brom a valuable point at White Hart Lane. West Brom will take confidence from this result, though, and whoever takes over as their new manager – with Pepe Mel the favourite – will be confident of avoiding the drop. At the start of the afternoon Sherwood cut a calm figure as he emerged from the tunnel to take the seat he is contracted to occupy for the next 18 months. It took him just two minutes to get to his feet, though, as Spurs made a slow start. The Tottenham manager shouted at his players, telling them to get the ball out wide and penetrate the Albion defence. Sherwood lost his patience, yelling an expletive as West Brom took advantage of a wide-open midfield to run at the Tottenham back line. Vydra and Zoltan Gera played a one-two on the edge of the box, but Lloris raced off his line to tip the former Watford man’s shot wide. Sherwood’s nerves frayed further when Vlad Chiriches’ mistake gave Gera a run at goal but Michael Dawson came to the rescue. Vydra found a way through the Spurs defence again but Lloris again raced off his line to deny the striker. Tottenham’s supporters were getting anxious. The attacking intent was easy on the eye, but there was no end product and the open midfield made the home defence look hugely vulnerable. Nacer Chadli raised spirits momentarily when he sent a dipping ball into the box, but Craig Dawson cleared before Adebayor could convert. Gylfi Sigurdsson had a powerful shot at goal, but Olsson’s face got in the way. The Baggies captain felt the full force of the shot and needed a couple of minutes to come around. When play resumed, West Brom went on the attack again and Vydra and Diego Lugano missed Liam Ridgewell’s cross by a matter of inches. The former Birmingham man fulfilled his duties at the other end, throwing his body on the line to stop Soldado’s goal-bound shot. Tottenham’s fans then got the goal they yearned just after the half-hour. Referee Anthony Taylor blew for a late tackle by James Morrison on Kyle Walker. Eriksen whipped the ball over the wall and it hit the crossbar, bounced up off the ground and hit it again before nestling in the net. Albion were incensed with the original decision against Morrison, but were level less than two minutes later. Eriksen was penalised for a foul on Morrison. Amalfitano swung over a free-kick, Adebayor swung at the ball but failed to clear and Olsson had the easiest of tap-ins. After the break West Brom continued to threaten. Lloris saved acrobatically to deny Steven Reid and Gera missed another chance from six yards. Tottenham resorted to long shots from Danny Rose and Walker. Sherwood replaced Holtby with 19-year-old midfielder Nabil Bentaleb. Reid was lucky to escape a second booking for a late sliding challenge that left Rose rolling around on the floor in agony. Erik Lamela came off the bench to try to turn the game in Tottenham’s favour but still the hosts were weak in front of goal. Soldado went close inside the box on two occasions in the dying minutes, but there was no way through and a few boos rang out at the end. Adebayor scored two crucial goals in last week’s 3-2 victory over Southampton, but he proved to be the foe on a rather underwhelming introduction to full-time management for Sherwood. Less than two minutes after Christian Eriksen put Spurs ahead, Adebayor woefully miscued a Morgan Amalfitano cross and Jonas Olsson tapped in easily from close range to score the equaliser in this 1-1 draw. Sherwood’s appointment, on an 18-month contract, raised a few eyebrows when it was announced on Monday. The former Spurs midfielder made his desire to bring attacking football back to White Hart Lane clear in his programme notes. The home fans applauded the team’s attempts to get the ball forward, but from this performance, it is clear that much work still has to be done if Sherwood is to achieve his goal of leading Tottenham into the Champions League. Adebayor had an off day up front while Roberto Soldado also failed to deliver. Eriksen’s movement, and his stunning free-kick, deserved praise. But an attacking intent left gaping holes in the midfield which Albion exploited. Had Matej Vydra had a better game, or Hugo Lloris a worse one, this could have been another damaging defeat. The smattering of boos that rang out at the final whistle showed that Spurs fans have their concerns too. Tottenham go into the final match of the 2013 three points behind fifth. The gap to the top four will probably widen after tonight’s game between Manchester City and Liverpool. Press Association
Press Association “This is a fun game to play. We are very lucky to play it for a living but last week bordered on the unenjoyable because the golf course was so frustratingly difficult. “I’ve played in front of many big crowds before, but maybe none as passionate here as the Irish crowd. There’s nothing quite like it when a crowd is pulling for you and it’s a fun experience. It’s something I’ve never experienced before, except perhaps at a Ryder Cup.” Rock lost a play-off to Shane Lowry at County Louth in 2009 but claimed the first prize of 500,000 euro as Lowry was still an amateur, while he also finished fifth in 2006 and second to Paul Casey last year. “It’s a tournament I like playing but I think it’s more the time of year,” Rock said. “I enjoy the tournaments at the start of the year (he held off Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to win in Abu Dhabi in 2012) but when we travel further afield I don’t play well and it batters your confidence. “It takes time to rebuild that and it seems to be this time of year it comes back.” Italian Marco Crespi and English duo Simon Khan and Matthew Nixon were three off the pace on seven under, Nixon coming home in 31 to card a 65, the joint lowest score of the day. “I made a nice birdie on the first and then hit it straight in the water on the next,” said Nixon, who was fourth in the NH Collection Open earlier this season. “I made double there and I thought this could be a long round of golf. I made some nice swings after that and for once my putts all went in.” Nixon’s second shot to the par-four sixth also went in from 93 yards, just moments after playing partner Mark Staunton had done the same from 120. “I’ve never seen that happen. It was quite nice,” Nixon added. Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was a shot further back after a 67, while English teenager Matt Fitzpatrick made the cut in his first event as a professional on one under after a 69. Graeme McDowell hopes it will be 13th time lucky in the Irish Open this weekend as Rory McIlroy made an early exit from the event for the second year in succession. McDowell carded a second round of 66 to lie just two shots off the halfway lead held by Finland’s Mikko Ilonen – who added a 68 to his opening course-record 64 – but Ryder Cup team-mate McIlroy could only manage an erratic 69 to miss the cut by a shot on one over. “It’s very frustrating,” said the former world number one, who won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last month. “To make six birdies and an eagle and shoot just two under means there were a lot of mistakes and wasteful shots. “To miss the cut for the second year in a row is not a nice position to be in. I don’t know what else to say, it’s very disappointing.” McIlroy needed to finish birdie-eagle to qualify for the weekend and although he duly holed from long range on the 17th and hit a brilliant escape from the trees on the last, he was unable to chip in from the front of the green. “I’m proud of myself how I fought out there and didn’t give up and tried for the last shot,” added McIlroy after his first missed cut on the European Tour in 2014. “I gave myself a chance to try to make the cut with the big birdie putt on 17, but just wasn’t meant to be. “I just need to tighten it all up and become a lot more consistent, make the bad shots a little bit better and not be as wasteful around the greens. If I can do that, I know my game is right there. I’ve got a couple weeks off now to work on my game a little bit, play some links golf and get ready for the Scottish Open and the Open.” McDowell made his tournament debut when Fota Island last hosted the event in 2002 and finished 27th, but that was one of just six halfway cuts the former US Open champion has made in 12 appearances. The 34-year-old has never recorded a top-10 finish but carded six birdies and one bogey to join 2009 runner-up Robert Rock and France’s Romain Wattel on eight under par. “There’s always a first time for everything,” McDowell joked. “I’ve been unhappy with my game now for a few months, really getting frustrated with myself in general and trying to be a little too perfect. I tried to loosen myself up a little bit and try to enjoy my golf a little bit. I’m surprised and excited to be in contention. “Normally there’s some pressure and expectation in the Irish Open. I think maybe coming off the US Open last week, with as much pressure and frustration and expectation as you feel there, perhaps that’s why I’m dealing with it a little bit better because it nearly feels like the proverbial walk in the park by comparison.
Liverpool and Barcelona have held “productive talks” over the potential transfer of striker Luis Suarez, and further discussions are planned. Reds chief executive Ian Ayre met officials from the Catalan club on Wednesday as the Primera Division side made their opening move in their bid to take the Uruguay international to the Nou Camp. Initial dialogue appears to have been positive and it is seen as a significant step forward, with another meeting scheduled to take place to continue the negotiations. Press Association On Tuesday, sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta spoke in complimentary tones, suggesting “he has the necessary quality to play for Barca”, and the club then followed that up with a request for a meeting with Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre. While that was taking place, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu dropped more hints that they wanted to make the Uruguayan their major summer signing. “I announced months ago that the team would undergo a deep renovation but we cannot reveal details because we don’t want to give clues away to any of our rivals,” Bartomeu told a press conference. “Our representatives are constantly travelling to other countries because of potential signings. “Suarez is a Liverpool player so I can’t talk about him – he belongs to another team, a rival team. But we are all football men, and saying sorry is honourable, it helps the competition. “He did something that wasn’t right, so it’s the responsibility of everyone in football, be it Liverpool or anywhere else, to remember that he has said sorry. “Admitting you have done something wrong is very important. “Luis has apologised and that is honourable. He’s taken a step towards rehabilitating. The football world should support him and help him. “As a football fan, I hope he can turn a corner.” Suarez’s FIFA suspension from all football-related activities means he would not make his debut for Barcelona until the end of October and it was expected they would use that as a negotiating tool, but, with Liverpool insistently sticking to the high-value buy-out clause inserted in Suarez’s new £200,000-a-week contract he signed in December, it appears the Catalans have little room for manoeuvre. Last summer Arsenal failed in their attempts to sign Suarez after a bid of £40,000,001 was made in the mistaken assumption that would trigger his release, when it actually only entitled them to begin negotiations. Since then Liverpool have moved to make Suarez’s contract situation more definitive in terms of the price of his release. “The talks were productive, with sensible expectations on both sides,” an Anfield source told Press Association Sport. “Further talks and discussions will take place in due course. Nothing is finalised as of now.” Liverpool were adamant before negotiations began that they would not sell Suarez for less than the value of his confidential buy-out clause, believed to be anywhere between £70million and £80million. The club are confident after Wednesday’s discussions that a deal can be done in line with their valuation. Barcelona have the option of offering Chile forward Alexis Sanchez as a makeweight in negotiations and it is understood at this stage negotiations are taking place considering both options: a straight money deal and also the option of a player-plus-cash alternative. The latter would seem more likely but that depends on Sanchez, with the suggestion in Spain he is not that keen at this point on a move to England. Suarez is currently banned for four months for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup. However, following the 27-year-old striker’s apology – which Barca are thought to have had a major influence in procuring – the Spanish side have stepped up the charm offensive as they began to lay the foundations for a move.
The 21-year-old has been offered a drink driver referral course which, if completed, would reduce the length of his ban to nine months. Berahino was originally due to appear on Monday, the same day the Baggies travel to Everton in the Barclays Premier League, but it was moved forward late on Thursday. West Brom will not be making any comment on the matter. Berahino has scored 14 goals in 25 games for the Baggies this season. Runcorn Magistrates Court confirmed the disqualification and that he has also been fined £3,400. Berahino was stopped by police on the southbound M6 in October. Press Association West Brom striker Saido Berahino has been banned from driving for 12 months after pleading guilty to drink driving.