He even found the strength of mind to question O’Neill’s pre-match assertion that the side’s remarkable start to the pool made Friday a “bonus match”. “Everyone was saying we could afford to lose this one and I think the manager even admitted getting anything here was a bonus, but I really felt we could have got a decent result and we didn’t,” he explained. “Every player fought hard and we always put everything into it, the fans hopefully know that, that we’ll fight until the end, but we need quality performances as well as heart and endeavour. “It would have been good if we could have played Romania in a double header so we could have had the chance to rectify things. But that’s not the case and now we have to wait for four months before we play again.” The Norwich forward did not excuse himself from his harsh critique of the game, despite turning in a solid display while feeding on scraps. “I wasn’t pleased with my own performance,” he said. “I should be doing better because I’ve played against better centre-halves, even in the last three games and most definitely in my career. “I’m used to playing up front on my own for Northern Ireland, I’ll never moan about that, but I think my hold up play was a bit poor. “The distance from myself to midfield was massive. That’s not me having a pop at the midfield, they were just being put under so much pressure, it forced them back and created a huge gap between me and them. “I’ve managed to score goals against Hungary, the Faroes and Greece but sadly I couldn’t add to my tally out there.” Striker Kyle Lafferty believes Northern Ireland suffered from a lack of self-belief as they surrendered their flawless Euro 2016 record in Romania. After slipping into the fifth seeding pot for the European qualifiers last year, it might easily have been seen as par for the course. But buoyed by the recent upturn, Lafferty feels able to see the game as a missed opportunity. “I don’t know if we believed in ourselves,” he admitted following a thankless and isolated shift up front. “I know they are a good team but we were a shadow of the side that played in the last three games. “The only time we started to pass the ball around was when we went a goal down. Before that it was clearing the ball up field rather than trying to keep possession. “After the three great wins we should have been coming here full of confidence but I felt we allowed them to come on to us.” Lafferty, often criticised for a lack of maturity during his career, is doing his best to shake that tag. Three goals and three man-of-the-match performances prior to Bucharest prove the on-field work is paying off and his thoughtful assessment of Northern Ireland’s first Group F setback provided further evidence of his growth. Press Association Having kicked off the campaign with maximum points from their first three matches, Michael O’Neill’s side came undone in Bucharest, picked apart by a fluent side who sealed a 2-0 success with a second-half brace from defender Paul Papp. There is no shame in a Northern Ireland team losing to such opponents, particularly on their own patch, and the effort expended for 74 scoreless minutes is a cause of some pride.
Rory McIlroy got the defence of his Australian Open title under way with a two-under-par 69 that leaves him just two shots behind first round leader Jordan Spieth. The 25-year-old birdied the first and picked up further shots at the fifth and ninth, in-between his second bogey of the day at the seventh. McIlroy admitted he feels he can improve as the week goes on and revealed he is still adjusting to the time difference. “I feel like there’s a better score out there for me,” he said in quotes on the PGA Tour of Australasia’s Twitter account. “I’m feeling a bit jet lagged.” Spieth set the early pace, with a round of six birdies and two bogeys giving him a 67 which puts him a shot clear at the head of a leaderboard dominated by Australian players. Home hopes Scott Gardiner and Aron Price were three under, with McIlroy among seven players on two under. Australians Adam Crawford, Geoff Drakeford, Richard Green and Andrew Tampion carded 69s, as did Japan’s Achi Sato and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge. Scott lies seven shots off the pace after an opening round 74. The 34-year-old from Adelaide started with a double bogey and dropped three further shots on the front nine, before rallying with birdies on the 12th and 14th. World number one McIlroy, who edged out rival and home hope Adam Scott on the 72nd hole last year, was slightly off the pace on a cool and overcast morning at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney. He was level par for his opening nine holes, where his birdie at the 14th was immediately given back at the next hole, but improved after the turn. Press Association
And on the latest edition of Sky Sports’ Revista de La Liga programme, Spanish journalist Guillem Balague claimed the Argentinian would be staying on with his current employers despite having had a “huge offer” from City. However, City sources have categorically denied to Press Association Sport that the club made a bid for Simeone’s services or that they are interested in the 44-year-old. Since Simeone took charge at Atletico in 2011, the trophies they have won include the Europa League and Primera Division, and they have also reached the Champions League final. Chilean Pellegrini guided City to the Barclays Premier League title, victory in the Capital One Cup final and the club’s first-ever participation in the Champions League knock-out rounds last season, his first term in the job. Since then they have suffered a second successive last-16 exit in the continental competition, and in the Premier League – their last hope of silverware in 2014-15 – they are currently second, six points behind Chelsea, who have a game in hand. Manchester City have denied making an offer to, or being interested in, Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone. With City looking set to go trophyless this season, there has been plenty of talk of late about the prospect of manager Manuel Pellegrini being replaced in the summer. Simeone – who Atletico on Tuesday confirmed had signed a new contract with them through to 2020 – had been among those mentioned as a potential successor. Press Association
Taaffe said: “I’m delighted for the horse as he had a race at Cheltenham and it’s always a worry running three weeks later. “He was the youngest of these and you’d be hoping he’d run a stout race and while the track wouldn’t suit him, he travelled and jumped today. “It’s one of those races that if you ran it tomorrow you’d get three different results but little apples will do us at the moment! He’ll probably run in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Punchestown next.” Those who took the 8-11 about Nickname Exit in the Goatenbridge Maiden Hurdle were made to sweat a bit but he eventually prevailed with a little bit up his sleeve. Ruby Walsh had to roust the odds-on favourite along some way from home, but he knuckled down well enough to hit the front at the second-last and kept going to cross the line three and three-quarter lengths ahead of Master Appeal. Walsh said: “He jumped very well and that made the difference.” Hitting the deck in a point-to-point was hardly the ideal preparation, but Knockrea bounced back just 11 days later to claim the spoils in the Ardfinnan Maiden Hurdle. Adrian Heskin produced the 9-2 chance to challenge Tongie at the last and he found more on the run to the line to prevail by two and a quarter lengths. Gold Bullet confirmed himself a chaser of some promise when coming out on top in Clonmel’s Suir Valley Chase. The step out of maiden company saw Jo Go in a better light in the Holy Thursday Handicap Hurdle. Cathy O’Leary’s mare was allowed to go off at 20-1 thanks to three uninspiring performances under Rules, but she relished the rise to three miles and scored by a couple of lengths from Binowagh Bay. Mallards In Flight (11-2) failed to get round when pitched into Grade Two company, but the Happy Easter To All Our Patrons Handicap Chase was more to her liking and Paul Carberry drove her to a length-and-a-half success. The Tom Taaffe-trained seven-year-old was fancied for the Kim Muir at Cheltenham but could only finish in mid-division. However, he seemed to relish this smaller field and after challenging the front-running Baily Green at the second-last, where big danger You Must Know Me fell, he stuck to his task to triumph by two and a half lengths. Press Association
“I wish I didn’t have to finish like that all the time,” McIlroy joked, a reference to coming from two down after 16 to beat Billy Horschel in his final group game and one down after 17 to see off Casey in their delayed quarter-final. Casey had three-putted the 17th on Saturday evening and both players missed chances to win in the three extra holes possible before it became too dark to continue. Play resumed at 6:45am local time on Sunday and McIlroy two-putted from around 90 feet on the par-five first for a winning birdie after Casey was unable to get up and down from heavy rough after his three-wood approach ran through the green. Casey revealed he had been ill overnight but refused to use it as an excuse, telling Sky Sports 4: “The place it affected me most was actually looking down on the chip, I felt nauseous looking down. But I have nothing to complain about, I had an opportunity yesterday and did not shut the door. “It’s unfortunate but in seasons as long as ours there are moments through the year when you get sick. I’m a big fan of ‘beware the injured or sick golfer’ and I probably hit the best two shots on the first I have all week. “My expectations were low but they did not stop me from trying. I am not going to put the par down to anything other than I should have hit the green in two or finished it yesterday.” The late finish on Saturday meant McIlroy had to watch the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on television in the media centre at Harding Park rather than in Las Vegas. “Honestly I am sort of glad I did not make it because it was sort of an anti-climax and Mayweather did what he usually does and danced around the ring and outpointed him,” McIlroy said. In the first semi-final, Willett had been two up after four against Woodland but saw his opponent birdie the sixth, seventh, 12th and 16th to move into the final. “We were three under par and played some solid golf, just missed a couple at the wrong time and he made a couple of nice ones at the end,” said Willett, who bogeyed the eighth and also three-putted the 14th having birdied the 13th to get back to one down. “It’s been a really long, tough week and we have to take away the positives, that it’s Sunday in a World Golf Championship and we are here competing.” Press Association Rory McIlroy may have missed out on ringside seats for the big fight in Las Vegas, but the world number one made amends by giving himself an early birthday present with victory in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play in San Francisco. McIlroy, who turns 26 on Monday, defeated Gary Woodland 4&2 in the final at Harding Park, his third win of the day after completing victory over Paul Casey in the quarter-finals and producing a brilliant finish to get the better of Jim Furyk in the last four. The four-time major winner made a scrappy start to the final before a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth took him four up at the turn and seemingly certain to win his second World Golf Championship title after victory in the Bridgestone Invitational last year. However, after b oth players birdied the 10th, McIlroy bogeyed the 11th by failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker and Woodland reduced his deficit further thanks to driving the green on the short par-four 12th and two-putting for birdie. World number 52 Woodland looked like winning another hole after McIlroy bogeyed the 13th, only to miss from two feet for par after a superb recovery from a greenside bunker. And that proved to be the pivotal moment in the contest as Woodland then three-putted the 14th and made a mess of the 16th to give McIlroy the title. “I’m really proud of myself with how I showed a lot of character early in the tournament coming back from some deficits,” McIlroy said in an interview broadcast on Sky Sports. “I played really solid golf. I have got on a nice little run in match play. I got a lot of confidence from the way I played against Rickie (Fowler) in the Ryder Cup last year (winning 5&4) and just followed it on through into this. “Obviously I am delighted, a second World Golf Championship and first win in the States this year and so I could not be happier.” England’s Danny Willett, who lost to Woodland in the semi-finals, secured third place after beating Furyk 3&2 in the consolation match. McIlroy had earlier recovered from one down with two holes to play in his semi-final with Furyk, holing from three feet for birdie on the 17th and 40 feet across the 18th green for a spectacular eagle.
Press Association Auld Enemy put up a promising display when making all the running to make a winning debut in the Requinto EBF Maiden at Navan. The trainer said: “He’s a grand colt. He had a good draw and was reasonably professional. He wants further and we’ll get him home and make a plan for him then.” Wachman and Lordan completed a double when Curvy followed up last month’s course and distance success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Handicap. It was a close-run thing, as Dragon Fei collared Jeremy’s Girl close home only to be caught by the 15-8 favourite in the shadow of the post. “She’s a nice filly. She’ll run in stakes races now. She’s got a good pedigree so it’s important to get some black type,” said Wachman. David Wachman’s son of Fastnet Rock (13-2) broke away smartly under Wayne Lordan to grab the far rail and dictate affairs. Well in command, the juvenile went on to score by a length and a half from Black Beach, with the always prominent favourite Stone Mountain third.
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt is expected to gamble on taking just two scrum-halves to the Rugby World Cup. Kiwi head coach Schmidt will announce his 31-man World Cup squad at a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday lunchtime. Ireland face England at Twickenham in their final World Cup warm-up match on Saturday, and open their Pool D campaign against Canada in Cardiff on September 19. Wing Andrew Trimble could miss out in another surprise, with Nathan White and Tadhg Furlong both bolters at prop. Loosehead Cian Healy will be included despite his continued battles with recovering from neck surgery in May. Marty Moore’s inability to prove his fitness owing to foot trouble should see the Leinster tighthead omitted, however, while veteran centre Gordon D’Arcy should also miss the final cut as expected. Press Association Schmidt is thought to have opted for extra cover at centre in the form of Ulster’s Darren Cave, at the expense of Isaac Boss or Kieran Marmion. Any injury to Conor Murray or Eoin Reddan could see Ireland turning to fly-half Ian Madigan at nine, in a move that carries inherent risk in a highly specialist role.
For as well as being the secretary of the Walton and Kirkdale junior league, Pendleton also scouted youngsters for Everton. Unbeknownst to him, he had come across the young footballer who would go on to become England’s greatest goal scorer. As Pendleton watched on, Rooney found the net. He was two years younger than his team-mates, but stood head and shoulders above the rest of the players on the pitch. “Copplehouse had done nothing in the first half of the season but when he signed for them, Jesus, honestly…” Pendleton says before puffing his cheeks out. “Jimmy Greaves passed the ball into the back of the net and so did Wayne. “The scores would be about 7-0 and nine times out of 10 he scored four or five of them. “He got the reputation as being a beast in front of goal. “There was a vibe going round Liverpool about him. Different lads you knew used to say, ‘Have you got Rooney yet, Bob?'” Once he had seen him in action, there was no way Pendleton would let this nine-year-old boy go anywhere else but Everton. Rooney had trials at Liverpool, but it did not feel right for the youngster – mainly because he turned up in his Everton kit. He was an Evertonian through and through, as were his family. His mother Jeanette and Wayne Snr – or ‘Big Wayne’ as Pendleton calls him – did not want their son crossing Stanley Park to join the red side. His success continued after signing youth forms with Everton. Two approaches from Sir Alex Ferguson were rebuffed and Rooney went on to star in Everton’s run to the FA Youth Cup final in 2002. Then, five days shy of his 17th birthday, Rooney scored his first Everton goal against Arsenal – a fierce drive which cannoned in off the underside of the bar. Pendleton held his emotions together until he saw his two daughters Anne and Mary after the final whistle. “I walked down the stairs and two of my daughters – Anne and Mary – were crying and then I started crying,” he says. “I just couldn’t help it because it was such an incredible feeling.” As Rooney approaches his 30th birthday, pundits and commentators will reflect on the striker’s career. The common view is that Rooney is past his best. That point is probably a fair one. The glimpses of the man who scored 26 goals in 32 league appearances in the 2010-11 season are getting more and more infrequent. But it easy to forget that Rooney has been playing professional football for 14 years. Another common view that Rooney has not fulfilled his potential as a player is quite simply wrong. Thirteen years on from scoring the wonder goal against Arsenal that still gives Rooney goosebumps, his trophy room inside his Cheshire mansion is do big it stretches over two floors. Rooney has five Premier League winner’s medals, he has won the League Cup twice and the Champions League on one occasion. He has won the PFA player of the year award, the FWA player of the year accolade and has done what Sir Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Jimmy Greaves could not do – score 50 goals for his country. It is only a matter of time before he scores the 14 goals required to make him United’s greatest marksman. Louis van Gaal and Roy Hodgson, who have worked with some of the best players of Rooney’s generation and beyond, rate him highly – both as a player and captain. And the striker has the respect and admiration of his team-mates. “You can tell he is a world-class player by what he does in training every day,” says United midfielder Jesse Lingard, who joined the club aged seven. “He has got goals and he is captain, he leads the team, he sets a great example and we follow him.” And Rooney gave a timely reminder that he can still cut it in the Premier League when he raced on to Ander Herrera’s pass and scored the final goal in United’s 3-0 win at Goodison Park. “On Saturday he played him down the middle, and my God he killed us,” said Pendleton, beaming with the same pride he felt when he stumbled upon Rooney 21 years ago. Over two decades have passed, but Bob Pendleton remembers his first glimpse of Wayne Rooney like it was yesterday. Press Association On Long Lane playing fields in Aintree, Pendleton was headed for pitch two to collect some unpaid referees’ fees from ‘Big Nev’, the coach of Copplehouse Colts. With £4.50’s worth of change in his pocket, Pendleton chose to hang around and watch the Under-11s in action. It would prove to be the best decision of his career.
“We are going to have great away support there, as we always do, and we are looking forward to it. “It is a big game coming up on Sunday and we could not have asked for more from the two games this week. I have never played at the Emirates before so hopefully we can go there and get the win.” Pochettino is hopeful Danny Rose can shake off a knock he picked up against Villa in time for the match while Clinton Njie could also be available after overcoming a minor hamstring strain. Summer signing Son Heung-min came off the bench against Anderlecht after six weeks out with a foot problem but is unlikely to be thrown into the starting line-up while the game will come too soon for Nabil Bentaleb and Nacer Chadli, who are both recovering from ankle injuries. While Spurs have registered two wins in four days against Aston Villa and Anderlecht this week, the Gunners head into the derby on the back of a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich. Arsenal’s Champions League woes, however, have not dampened their domestic form, with Arsene Wenger’s men winning their last five consecutive matches and scoring 16 goals in the process. Press Association The run means Spurs start Sunday’s game five points behind their rivals in the Barclays Premier League table and Kane is expecting Arsenal to feel added motivation after Wednesday’s heavy defeat. “They took a bit of a hiding in midweek and they are going to want to put that right,” Kane said. “We have come off two very good wins so we are going into the game on a high and hopefully we can finish the week off well. “It is going to be a great battle and everyone is looking forward to it. We want to go there, set a high tempo and play well. “It was not a good night for them (against Bayern). A lot has been said about that result and, as fellow players, you know they will come out firing to try and put things right. So we know what to expect.” Kane scored twice, including a dramatic 86th-minute winner, when Tottenham beat Arsenal 2-1 at White Hart Lane in February but last season’s 1-1 draw at the Emirates came before the forward had shot to prominence under Mauricio Pochettino. It was this weekend 12 months ago that Kane made his first Premier League start under the Argentinian head coach and with five goals now in his last three games, the 24-year-old appears to be back in form. “We are going there to win,” Kane said. Tottenham striker Harry Kane is expecting an Arsenal backlash when he visits the Emirates for the first time in his career on Sunday.
The Premiership club worked a short blindside to good effect for their second, George Smith and Dan Robson involved after breaking from a scrum with Launchbury taking the final pass. An acrobatic inside pass by Kearney allowed Eoin Reddan to sneak in, but the three-times European champions slipped 15-10 behind on the stroke of half-time when Gopperth landed a penalty. Gopperth kicked another three points and by the 47th minute Wasps were out of sight when Daly switched on the afterburners to race home from 40 metres out for a score that will have delighted England coach Jones. Leinster were splintering and after waves of attacks their defence cracked for a fifth time with super hands from Daly sending wing Frank Halai over. When full-back Charles Piutau displayed his pace to touch down with 10 minutes remaining the ordeal looked over for the Irish visitors, but Ashley Johnson stepped off the bench to inflict one final indignity. Elliot Daly pressed his claim to starting England’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland with an electric try as Wasps stormed into the Champions Cup quarter-finals with a 51-10 rout of Leinster. Daly outpaced Rob and Dave Kearney in a race for the line after a well-drilled backs move forced an opening in midfield, plundering the score that swept Wasps out of sight in a bonus-point triumph that confirms them as Pool Five winners. England gather at their Surrey training base on Sunday night when man of the match Daly will begin his quest to usurp Jonathan Joseph at outside centre for the trip to Murrayfield on February 7. The 23-year-old also played a key role in the fifth try as Wasps enjoyed another spectacular afternoon in Europe to finish top of a pool that also includes reigning champions Toulon – who finish as runners-up – and Bath. Leinster, three times winners of the northern hemisphere’s richest prize in club rugby, leaked seven tries at the Ricoh Arena as their dismal campaign concluded with them adrift at the bottom of the group. To make matters worse, Ireland were given an injury scare ahead of their Six Nations match against Wales on February 7 when Johnny Sexton’s afternoon was ended after only 10 minutes due to concussion. Sexton was receiving treatment after being dazed and as the game continued around him, he rose to his feet and made another tackle. Once play stopped, Leinster’s medic returned and the fly-half was helped from the pitch. It is a worrying development as the 30-year-old, who had been named captain of his province for the first time in his 100th start, was stood down for three months until last February after sustaining four concussions in a year. Wasps did not escape unscathed either as scrum-half Joe Simpson was carried from the pitch in the seventh minute, but England will have welcomed the return of James Haskell and Joe Launchbury from a shoulder injury and concussion respectively. There was little sign of the carnage to come as Leinster crossed in the right corner after only two minutes, Luke Fitzgerald and Dave Kearney making the initial inroads before rapid hands sent Zane Kirchner over. Sexton was wide with the conversion and once he had departed for a head injury assessment that ended his afternoon, Wasps sprang into life by pounding at the whitewash before Jimmy Gopperth darted through without needing a large overlap. Press Association