Saturday 31 December 2011

Moses Sees Greene All The Way

Ed Moses says he sees no reason world 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene cannot win Olympic gold in London if he is not distracted from his preparations.

But double Olympic champion Moses added that Greene, who won world gold in September, needs to gain "more power" if he is to break 48 seconds regularly.

"People will put the medal around your neck before you even finish training," the American told BBC Radio 5 live.

"My advice is just to say 'look we'll wait and see'."

Moses, who won the second of his two Olympic 400m hurdle golds in his hometown Games in Los Angeles in 1984, was speaking to Greene in a BBC Radio 5 live special, which will air on New Year's Day.

He added: "You have got to keep your head calm. That's what I did throughout my whole career, I didn't think about winning.

"You will decide on race day what the outcome will be. Talking about the race is what blows athletes' minds.

"[Avoiding distractions] will make it a lot easier on you."

Greene, 25, ran a brilliant race to win Britain's first gold of the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea in a time of 48.26 seconds, adding the world crown to his European and Commonwealth titles.

However, the race was one of the slowest in World Championship history and Moses warned Welshman Greene, who has a personal best of 47.88 seconds, that conditions will be very different in London next summer.

"Dai ran a good race and burned everybody out, but in the Olympics it's going to be a much faster race," said the 56-year-old, who at one time during his career went unbeaten for 122 races, spanning an incredible nine years, nine months and nine days.Moses set world records four times and won two World Championships in addition to his two Olympic titles

"The start is going to be key. Once you get the momentum coming out of the blocks, you keep that going.

"If you don't have it out of the blocks, you'll never have the opportunity to capitalise."

Moses, whose best time of 47.02 seconds means he is still the second fastest 400m hurdler of all time, added that Greene also needs to refine his hurdling technique.

"You need to clean up your hurdling in the turn," he told Greene. "You need to figure out how you can stay as close to the line as possible.

"Measure it at eight inches - if you run outside, you're running further.

"You also need to find a way to really get some power in order to be able to run 47 seconds multiple times if necessary. You might have to do that in the semi-final if you get in the wrong heat."

No Year End Villa Magic for AVB

Aston Villa left Chelsea's title challenge in tatters and piled the pressure on beleaguered Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas with a clinical display and thoroughly deserved win at Stamford Bridge.

Villa scored twice in the final 10 minutes to ensure the hosts' win less run stretched to four games.

Stephen Ireland was the architect, drawing Villa level from close range after Didier Drogba's penalty opener and then teeing up a simple third for substitute Darren Bent after Stiliyan Petrov had put the visitors ahead.

Few could argue with the result after another lacklustre display from the Londoners, who left the pitch to a chorus of boos.

They had started encouragingly and the ever-impressive Juan Mata narrowly missed out on flicking in an early opener after a good move, while the equally lively Daniel Sturridge also shot over after cutting in from the right.

But the visitors had the measure of Chelsea tactically throughout and their 4-2-3-1 formation worked a treat.

Gabriel Agbonlahor's pace and endless running kept the hosts' centre-backs occupied and allowed man of the match Ireland to find space and time on the ball to feed Charles N'Zogbia and Marc Albrighton on either flank.

The visitors were happy to let Chelsea have possession and looked to play on the break but they still had to do it the hard way after gifting Chelsea the first goal of the match.

Referee Mark Halsey played advantage after an obvious foul 60 yards from Villa's goal and Drogba was felled in the box by a clumsy Richard Dunne challenge.

The Ivorian got up and, with Frank Lampard dropped to the bench, assumed penalty responsibilities to coolly stroke home his 150th goal in a Chelsea shirt.

But the lead only lasted five minutes as Chelsea once again failed to build on their advantage.

Inevitably Ireland was involved, starting a move on halfway and making his way into the box to score on the second attempt after a great run by N'Zogbia.

The hosts responded and Drogba blazed three efforts off target, including two free-kicks, but it was Villa who looked the more likely to score in the middle third of the match.

Villa's patient counter-attacking football and organised rearguard frustrated Chelsea and gaps started to appear in the home defence as they chased a win they so desperately needed to stay in touch with the Premier League leaders.

Ciaran Clark almost gave Villa the lead when the ball bounced off him following a free-kick before the otherwise excellent Agbonlahor wasted a glorious chance, firing straight at Petr Cech when one-on-one.

However, just as in the Boxing Day game against Fulham, Chelsea upped the tempo in the latter stages and created several decent chances.

Drogba dragged a low shot wastefully wide, Jose Bosingwa fired wide from distance and substitute Fernando Torres's miserable run and luck continued when he crashed a shot against the bar moments after coming on.

But Chelsea ultimately paid the price for their failure to deal with Villa's pace up front, and after weathering the storm, the visitors went ahead when Petrov slotted calmly past Cech from Clark's through-ball.

As Chelsea piled forward the gaps at the back grew even bigger, resulting in Bent slotting into an unguarded net after great unselfish play from Ireland.

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas:
"Now we are fifth, below the top four. But we have to wait and see.

"It can change within 48 hours, though. That's a good thing.

"We have a chance to produce something."

He added: "Our reality is a fourth-placed finish, but that is not good enough.

"We have to continue to pursue the best possible finish in the league, and a humble finish for this club."

Villa boss Alex McLeish:
"It's my most satisfying day so far, but I'm hoping there are many more to come.

"I'm a guy who perseveres, who gets back up after being knocked down pretty regularly.

"The players can enjoy this tonight - I don't mean going out on the town, but in terms of confidence levels."

No Blackburn Party for Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that Manchester United were made to pay the price for 'terrible' defending and branded their shock 3-2 Old Trafford defeat by Blackburn a 'disaster'.

Goalkeeper David de Gea was culpable for the winner 10 minutes from time when he failed to deal with Morten Gamst Pedersen's routine corner, allowing Grant Hanley to head home the winner after beating the summer signing in the air.

Yakubu had fired Blackburn, who started the day at the bottom of the table, into a shock 2-0 lead, with his opener coming from the penalty spot after 16 minutes following Dimitar Berbatov's pull on Chris Samba.

Berbatov did redeem himself to some extent with a well-taken brace to restore parity, but it was visiting manager Steve Kean who was smiling at the final whistle after a stunning success.

Ferguson, who was treated to a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' before kick-off, was in no mood to celebrate turning 70 by the time full-time arrived, with his side missing the chance to take over from Manchester City at the summit.

"It is a disaster," the Scot said: "We never expected that. We've lost two terrible goals in the game, and we can't do that in a game like this."

After successive clean sheets from Anders Lindegaard, questions will now be asked over De Gea, who appeared to have recovered from his early season worries to reaffirm his status as United's No.1.

The Spain Under-21 star's culpability for Blackburn's winner seemed obvious, although Ferguson refused to apportion blame.

"We all could have done better," he said, when asked about De Gea. "It was a bad goal to lose."

Ferguson praised a resilient Blackburn side, adding: "They've defended for their lives."

The United manager said his players had struggled on a heavy pitch.

"I think they found the speed of the pitch not so good, it was really heavy rain all week and it made the pitch really boggy."

Ferguson admitted when United got back to 2-2 he thought they would take the victory.

"I thought at that point we were set to win it," he said. "We've got injuries at the moment but we had to take a gamble on Anderson's fitness. He did his best."

Del Bosque Has Torres Concern

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque says Chelsea striker Fernando Torres must turn his season around if he is to ensure selection for Euro 2012.

Torres, 27, who scored the winner as Spain beat Germany in Euro 2008, has netted just five times in 23 games since joining Chelsea from Liverpool.

"It's a concern. He's not playing much," Del Bosque said. "If he plays and is on form he'll go to the Euros.

"But if the situation doesn't change it's going to be difficult for him."

Fernando deserves respect for his record and he has our confidence. He has contributed to the successes and he has room for manoeuvreVicente Del BosqueSpain coach

Speaking to Spanish sports daily AS, Del Bosque added: "There are five months until the European Championship during which everything could turn around.

"Fernando deserves respect for his record and he has our confidence.

"He has contributed to the successes and he has room for manoeuvre."

Seven of Torres' 12 Chelsea appearances this season have been as a substitute but, with fellow Chelsea striker Didier Drogba set to be on duty at the Africa Cup of Nations in January and Nicolas Anelka moving to China, the Spaniard could see his chances increased.

Torres' form has become more of a concern for Del Bosque after the country's leading scorer of all-time, David Villa, broke his leg when playing for Barcelona earlier this month.

The injury will keep the striker out of action for between four and five months, leaving the Spaniard with a race to be fit for the start of the tournament in Ukraine and Poland.

"He [Villa] is Spain's leading goalscorer and he has got us out of trouble many times," Del Bosque said.

"Villa is important but the doctors are optimistic and so is he. We'll see."

Even if Villa doesn't recover, Torres faces competition from Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente, who is currently out injured, and Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo.

Valencia captain Roberto Soldado, who has scored 11 goals in La Liga and five in the Champions League this season, is also pushing hard for a recall.

"If Roberto Soldado maintains his current form we will include him in our plans," Del Bosque said.

"In the last few months Soldado has stood out, scoring goals which is the barometer of forwards, while others have been in difficult situations.

"Villa and Llorente are injured, Torres has not played much. What nobody should doubt is that I will try to be fair."

Ivan Lendl New Murray Coach

Britain's Andy Murray has appointed former world number one Ivan Lendl as his new full-time coach.

Lendl, the winner of eight Grand Slam events, will start work immediately.

Murray said: "Ivan's impact on the game is unquestionable and he brings experience and knowledge that few others have, particularly in major tournaments."

The Scot starts 2012 with a first-round match against Mikhail Kukushkin at the Brisbane International on Tuesday.

Top seed Murray will begin his bid for a 22nd ATP World Tour title at the hard court tournament.

The world number four, who is making his debut at the event, said: "It's a tough draw [and] you never know how guys can improve in the off-season.

"There are a lot of good players here and young players as well."

The 2011 Australian Open runner-up is a strong favourite in the men's draw as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all miss the event.

But Murray says Australian youngster Bernard Tomic, 19, former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis and Germany's Tommy Haas are all title threats.

"There are a lot of dangerous players here," the 24-year-old added.

The Scot, playing alongside Cypriot Baghdatis, will also take on Columbia's Santiago Giraldo and Japan's Kei Nishikori in the men's doubles, in which Murray's brother Jamie will compete alongside Australia's Paul Hanley.

Murray, who struggled with a groin injury in November and had to pull out of the ATP World Tour Finals in London, has already had to dismiss concerns about the recurrence of an old knee injury after having treatment during practice on Friday.

Other notable draws see American Ryan Sweeting take on second-seeded Gilles Simon of France, while 2009 Wimbledon semi-finalist Haas plays Australian wildcard Marinko Matosevic.

Ancelotti Accepts PSG Offer

Former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has been confirmed as the new coach of Paris Saint-Germain.

The Italian, 52, was announced as manager at a news conference at the Parc des Princes stadium on Friday.

"I think I can do good work here," said Ancelotti. "We have all the conditions to succeed. I am delighted and very enthusiastic about this project."

Antoine Kombouare, who led PSG to the top of the French league, had been sacked by the club just hours earlier.

The French side released a statement saying: "After two years in which he served with passion as PSG coach, Antoine Kombouare has left as of this date.

"PSG would like to thank him for the professionalism he has shown throughout his work and expresses its best wishes for his success in his new endeavours.

"For his part, Antoine Kombouare expressed gratitude to PSG for the confidence it had shown in him over the years. He remains the biggest supporter of the club and will continue to support it in the coming years."

Ancelotti has been out of work since being sacked as Chelsea boss in May.

His deal with PSG has taken some time to put together, complicated by the fact that 48-year-old Kombouare was not sacked by the club until Friday.

Although Kombouare led PSG to the top of the Ligue 1 table at the winter break, he also oversaw their exit from the Europa League group stage.

The club's Qatari owners have lofty ambitions and are keen to bring high-profile names to the French capital.

Former AC Milan boss Ancelotti could be joined shortly by David Beckham, whom he coached briefly at the Italian club during the former England captain's first loan spell at the San Siro.

PSG are hoping to complete a deal to sign the former England skipper once his contract with Los Angeles Galaxy expires at the end of December.

However, BBC Sport understands Beckham is leaning towards staying in the US with LA Galaxy.

Ancelotti won a league and cup double with Chelsea in his first season in charge before he was sacked at the end of last season despite finishing second in the Premier League.

The Italian was also a two-time Champions League winner during his decade-long spell at Milan.

Qatar Sports Investments bought PSG last summer and their president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, promised "to make the club a great team and a strong brand on the international scene".

They promptly spent £71.3m to attract new talent, including paying £35.2m to Italian side Palermo for 22-year-old midfielder Javier Pastore.

(As a player)
European Cup (2), Uefa Super Cup (2), Intercontinental Cup (2), Serie A (3), Coppa Italia (4), Supercoppa Italiana

(As a manager)
Champions League (2), Uefa Super Cup (2), Fifa Club World Cup, Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Premier League, FA Cup, Community Shield

Dixon Warns of Thierry Risk

Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon says Thierry Henry's likely return to the club on loan is a "risky" move.

Gunners legend Henry, 34, is set to rejoin on a two-month deal from Major League Soccer side New York Red Bulls.

"I always think it's risky going back to a club," Dixon told BBC Sport. "He will never recapture that magic."

Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson disagreed, saying: "Thierry could still do a great job, even off the bench - I think it's a win-win situation."

Henry has been training with the club during the MLS off-season and it is understood a deal is likely to be completed over the weekend.

With Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh set to depart for the Africa Cup of Nations in January, the Frenchman would offer back-up to captain Robin van Persie.

Henry captained Arsenal for two seasons before joining Barcelona in 2007 and is their all-time leading goalscorer, with 226 goals in 370 appearances.

Dixon was Henry's team-mate between 1999 and 2004, but he is unsure how successful the move will prove.

"He will never recapture that magic," said the former England right-back. "He is not the player he was when he left, that is obvious.

"His pace has waned a little and he is several years older, which does slow down the body. He needs longer to get over games now, even at MLS level.

"A full 90 minutes in the Premier League, having been so long out, may be too much to ask."

Dixon did, however, suggest that Arsenal's dressing room would benefit from Henry's arrival.

"His stature at the club is such that everyone will be lifted by his signing, albeit for two months," stated Dixon. "He will invigorate a dressing room that is now showing some signs of experience - a missing ingredient in recent years.

"[Arsenal manager] Arsene Wenger and Thierry are very close and I'm sure they have talked about how his position will be used. With the African Cup of Nations intruding into the domestic calendar then it is feasible that Thierry might be needed to start a game or two.

"But he will be of best use as an impact sub. He is a top drawer finisher, no doubt, and he will score if given a chance - although I think that Arsenal are still short up front, even with Thierry."

Having spoken to Henry about the move, Wilson can only see it having a positive effect.

"Arsene would not bring him in if he didn't think he was up to the job," Wilson commented. "There is sentimentality but Arsene is very sensible about it.

"Imagine if you were struggling a bit and you needed a little impetus - both for the crowd and the team - and you bring Thierry Henry off the bench. I think the opposition would be a little bit nervous of what they were about to face.

"I actually spoke to Thierry about it on Saturday and he said, 'what do you think?'. I said, 'look. I know what you're thinking, the legendary bit - but you won't lose that'.

"I don't think you can lose it. He will always be up there as one of the truly great, great Arsenal players.

Will Van Persie still be the main man at centre forward, will Henry sit on the bench or just play when Van Persie needs a rest, or will Wenger play them together? It's exciting for Arsenal supporters.

Former Arsenal left-back Nigel Winterburn
"Anybody who played against him, never mind people who watched him play, will say I was privileged to play against Thierry Henry."

Nigel Winterburn played alongside Henry for a season and he is looking forward to seeing Henry reunited with Arsenal's current leading striker Robin van Persie.

"I've seen him in MLS a few times and he still looks very, very sharp - but the Premier League is a different ball game," explained former Gunners left-back Winterburn. "I just hope it works for Arsene Wenger and Thierry Henry.

"The one thing that excites me is looking at how the team will play. Will Van Persie still be the main man at centre forward, will Henry sit on the bench or just play when Van Persie needs a rest, or will Wenger play them together? It's exciting for Arsenal supporters.

"I just hope everything goes as everyone expects it to. Some say it's not a risk, but when you have had a living legend like Thierry Henry at the football club you remember him for what he was, and I hope it doesn't go wrong.

"I'm excited about it but I look at the flip side as well. Although it's only a short period of time - only two months - I hope it doesn't fall flat on its face."

Dickie Bird in Honours List

Former cricket umpire Dickie Bird is appointed an OBE for all his services to charity.

Golfers Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy have received awards for their 2011 success in the New Year Honours list.

Open winner Clarke becomes an OBE while fellow Northern Irishman McIlroy is appointed an MBE for his US Open win.

Taekwondo world champion Sarah Stevenson and rugby union players Chris Paterson of Scotland and Wales' Martyn Williams all become MBEs.

Ex-Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis is made a knight.
 while former cricket umpire Dickie Bird is appointed an OBE.

Former Formula 1 driver Nigel Mansell also becomes a CBE for services to young people as President of UK Youth, while veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall receives an OBE.

Aside from his well-documented story of triumph in the wake of family tragedy, Darren Clarke is a significant golfing figure off the course as well. He has done great work in inspiring and mentoring young Northern Irish golfing talent. Rory McIlroy's record-breaking US Open triumph was one of the greatest UK sporting achievements of 2011. His eight-shot victory in America's national championship was confirmation of a colossal talent

Clarke, 42, fired a final-round 70 at Royal St George's in July to finish five under par and hold off Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

"It is a great honour and a fantastic way to end a great year. I am very proud for me and my family," said Clarke.

McIlroy, 22, won the US Open in Washington in June and climbed to number three in the world rankings.

He became the youngest US Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923, who was just 21, and the youngest major winner since Tiger Woods triumphed at the Masters in 1997 while 21.

McIlroy was "humbled" to be on the list and said: "Many people on the honours list have made huge personal sacrifices and contributed significantly to society during their lives. I feel very fortunate to be in their company."

It is such a huge honour to receive an MBE and it's fantastic to be recognised for the hard work I have put into Taekwondo for the past 21 yearsSarah Stevenson

Clarke and McIlroy were both nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, with Clarke coming second to cyclist Mark Cavendish.

Stevenson, 28, won gold at the Taekwondo World Championship in Korea in May just months after both parents had died of cancer. She was also named Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year for 2011.

"It is such a huge honour to receive an MBE and it's fantastic to be recognised for the hard work I have put into taekwondo for the past 21 years," she said.

"I know my parents would have been so proud of this award."

Paterson, 33, quit rugby in December after a glorious career in which he became Scotland's record cap holder with 109, record points scorer with 809, and appeared in four Rugby World Cups.

"To be recognised in this way for doing something you love to do is a wee bit strange but it will be a nice reminder of what I've achieved in both club and international rugby," he said.

Williams is the most capped forward in Wales history but is stuck on 99 after a broken arm ruled him out the the World Cup in November.

Jamie Peacock, the 34-year-old England Rugby League captain and Grand Final-winning Leeds Rhinos prop forward becomes an MBE.

Also appointed CBEs are professor Sarah Springman for services to triathlon, and Giles Clarke, chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Candidates linked to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics have also been recognised with knighthoods for Charles Allen and John Armitt, who are both on the organising committee.

And Graham Henry, the former Wales coach who led New Zealand to victory in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the sport.

Friday 30 December 2011

Ulster Score Emphatic Ravenhill Win

Ravenhill witnessed a comprehensive display by Ulster that yielded an emphatic victory, together with a bonus point, as Munster floundered in this RaboDirect Pro12 clash.

Ian Humphreys ended the night scoring 15 of the home side's points - from a try, two conversions and two penalties.

His effort supplemented first half tries form Stefan Terblanche and John Afoa, with the scoring being completed by Ruan Pienaar.

Ulster opened the scoring with a Humphreys penalty on six minutes after Munster were caught offside after chasing up an Ian Keatley up and under.

But it was the visitors who crossed the line first after some muscular work from Stephen Archer, Mick O'Driscoll and Ian Nagle saw the ball delivered to Keatley, whose cross-kick to the unmarked Luke O'Dea saw the young winger make it in at the right corner.

Referee Alain Rolland went upstairs to the TMO but the try was awarded and Keatley then nailed a great conversion to give Munster a 7-3 lead after only 13 minutes.

Seven minutes later and a Humphreys penalty narrowed Munster's lead to a single point before a great Darren Cave break put Terblanche into space and the former Springbok winger, on his first starting appearance for Ulster since arriving as a temporary replacement for the injured Jared Payne, slid in at the left corner.

Humphreys added a great conversion and Ulster led 13-7 after 25 minutes. A penalty which came in off the upright from Keatley narrowed Ulster's lead but he was then wide with a 34th minute effort.

Ulster struck next when Terblanche broke into Munster's half and a great handling movement saw him pop up again from Paddy McCallister's pass and though the veteran South African was held, the ball was recycled and All Black World Cup winner Afoa crashed over.

Humphreys' conversion made it 20-10 to the home side, which is how the half finished.

Four minutes after the restart and Ulster struck again - this time after Munster had won a free-kick from a lineout and opted for the scrum. Ulster put in a huge shove and Willie Faloon emptied Duncan Williams which saw the ball go loose.

Humphreys then hacked it through and managed to follow it up to score to the right of the posts from just outside the 22. However, the outside-half then missed the conversion and Ulster led 25-10.

Humphreys then saw a 49th-minute penalty rebound off the post and stay out, however Ulster grabbed their bonus point score five minutes later.

The try again came from a disrupted scrum with Chris Henry this time burying Williams to allow Ruan Pienaar to pick up and run in from just inside the Munster half.

Humphreys missed the difficult conversion from the left corner but Ulster led 30-10.

The game then lost a bit of pattern as both sides began to empty their benches, although a worrying sign for Ulster was Paddy McCallister being helped from the field just after the hour mark.

Humphreys was also removed from the action just before the 70-minute mark, which saw Pienaar move to outside-half just as he had done at Aironi.

The South African then took over the kicking duties and slotted a 74th-minute effort to stretch Ulster's lead to 33-10.

Munster's Johne Murphy crept over for a consolation score right at the death, which Keatley converted.

Stevie G Seals Magpies Win

Returning skipper Steven Gerrard sealed victory over Newcastle following two Craig Bellamy goals as Liverpool rose to fifth in the Premier League.

Gerrard, who made his second appearance since returning from injury, capped a fine cameo when he tucked in late on.

Bellamy had earlier fired in a low shot after Daniel Agger had diverted Yohan Cabaye's cross past Pepe Reina.

And the former Magpie gave Liverpool the lead from a free-kick before Gerrard scored from a tight angle.

His goal was fully merited after a performance which invigorated Kenny Dalglish's side just as Newcastle were beginning to claw their way back into the contest.

The only surprise was that Liverpool had not added a third goal sooner, such was the quality of Gerrard's deliveries into the box.

But unfortunately for them, Andy Carroll had another night in which he failed to find the target despite crashing a header against the bar from a delicious Gerrard centre.

After a period in which Liverpool have struggled to turn chances into goals and have drawn six of their nine games at Anfield coming into this match, Gerrard's return to form will give them a huge lift as they embark on their quest for a Champions League spot.

And it will also give them hope that they can sustain that challenge should leading goalscorer Luis Suarez receive a lengthy ban for alleged racist comments towards Patrice Evra.

Bellamy took the Uruguayan's place after he was banned for making a gesture towards Fulham's fans, and the Welshman was a constant threat down Liverpool's left as he looked to support lone striker Carroll, who was up against his pervious club.

While the two former Magpies were full of endeavour, their willingness to be involved in the build-up meant there were several occasions when there was no-one in the box to finish their good work.

And in keeping with their promising season thus far, Newcastle withstood the early pressure to pounce from an isolated attack on 25 minutes.

Top scorer Demba Ba has lit up the Premier League this season with 14 goals in his last 13 games and his presence had a hand in the goal as Ryan Taylor's cross from the left was nodded on by Yohan Cabaye and with Ba in close quarters the ball diverted off Agger past Reina.

Having been on top up until that point, Liverpool were stung into life by that goal, although the visitors almost looked like they had cleared the danger.

Cheick Tiote cleared Charlie Adam's low cross from the right, but with men lined in front of goal, Bellamy found the bottom corner.

Dalglish's side pressed further after that and Martin Skrtel went close with a near post header from a corner, with Adam also inches away from diverting it into the net.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew introduced Davide Santon at the break and it seemed to stem the flow down Newcastle's left as the Magpies began to improve their ball retention and their status in the game.

That was enough for Dalglish to bring on Gerrard, and the Liverpool skipper was involved straight away twice picking out Carroll, with the striker being let down by a poor first touch on the second occasion when he was unmarked in the box.

Fortunately for him and Liverpool, they took the lead on 76 minutes when they were a tad lucky to be given a free-kick when Tiote challenged Agger.

Bellamy stepped up to curl a delicious free-kick in, but Danny Simpson made a real hash of defending the line by deflecting the ball past Tim Krul.

Newcastle came close to equalising soon after when Ba somehow clipped the ball past Reina from Cabaye's cute pass, with the Frennch midfielder perhaps fortunate not to be punished for an earlier tackle on Jay Spearing, but Skrtel's goal-line clearance was equally as impressive.

Carroll then smashed a header against the bar from Gerrard's cross, but the returning talisman showed his team-mate how to finish when he collected Jordan Henderson's through ball to finish from a tight angle.

Mayweather Works on His Legals

Attorneys for boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. completed the second part of a plea deal Friday that let the championship fighter pay a $1,000 fine and avoid trial and jail time for a November 2010 scuffle with a homeowner association security guard in an argument about parking tickets.

Mayweather, 34, didn't appear in person before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Janiece Marshall while his lawyer, Karen Winckler, pleaded no contest on his behalf to misdemeanor battery and said the fine had been paid.

The plea acknowledged allegations that Mayweather poked the 21-year-old guard in the face several times with his finger during their argument in front of Mayweather's million-dollar-plus home in an exclusive gated community several miles south of the Las Vegas Strip.

Mayweather is scheduled to start a 90-day jail sentence Jan. 6 in an unrelated case, which raises doubts about a long-anticipated fight between Mayweather and Philippine fight rival Manny Pacquiao.

He pleaded guilty on December 21 to misdemeanour battery domestic violence and no contest to harassment for a hair-pulling, punching and arm-twisting argument in September 2010 with his ex-girlfriend, Josie Harris, at the woman's home while two of their children, ages 9 and 10, watched.

Mayweather spent two nights at the Clark County jail in downtown Las Vegas after an arrest in the domestic violence case and one night in jail after the poking incident.

Mayweather's lawyers have said they may ask the judge who sentenced Mayweather in the domestic violence case to reconsider the 90-day jail term, but Winckler declined comment after Friday's hearing for the other case.

Judge Melissa Saragosa sentenced Mayweather to six months in the Clark County jail but suspended half the term. She gave him credit for three days previously served and ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service, pay a $2,500 fine and complete a yearlong domestic violence counselling program.

The plea allowed Mayweather to avoid a trial on felony and misdemeanor charges that could have gotten him 34 years in state prison if he had been convicted on all counts.

Police said good behaviour could reduce Mayweather's jail term sentence by several weeks. But his time behind bars likely will cut into training time for a May 5 date that Mayweather's promoters have reserved for a bout against an as-yet unnamed opponent at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Mayweather and Pacquiao have a defamation lawsuit pending in federal court in Las Vegas stemming from statements by Mayweather that he suspects Pacquiao took performance-enhancing drugs.

Mayweather is also on the hook to complete 40 hours of community service by Jan. 31 with the Las Vegas Habitat for Humanity Project under a South Carolina federal judge's order for dodging a deposition in a music rights lawsuit.

And he faces a civil lawsuit in Las Vegas from two men who allege he orchestrated a shooting attack on them outside a skating rink in 2009. Police have never accused Mayweather of firing shots and he has never been criminally charged in the case.

Beckam Leaning Away From PSG

Paris Saint-Germain's bid to sign David Beckham from the Los Angeles Galaxy might be thwarted by family matters, the French club's sporting director Leonardo said Friday.

Leonardo has made no secret of his admiration for the 36-year-old former England captain. He said at a news conference there are other factors that may influence where Beckham goes when the transfer window opens next week.

"He is in L.A., he has his family over there. We have talked a lot and we are still talking, but I'm not sure it will be done," Leonardo said while PSG introduced Carlo Ancelotti as its new coach.

Beckham's five-year contract with the Galaxy ended last month after winning his first MLS Cup. 

He could accept an offer to stay with the Galaxy, and several English clubs also have expressed interest in signing him.

French media reports in recent weeks have hyped Beckham's possible arrival, with talk of an 18-month contract and an estimated monthly salary of $1.05 million.

"We have a very good rapport with David Beckham, but we never said it was a done deal. We have studied it and we are studying it," Leonardo said. 

"It's always been a question of personal matters (with Beckham)," rather than contract issues.

Djokovic Slams Federer in Abu Dhabi

World number one Novak Djokovic brushed aside Roger Federer in straight sets to book himself a place in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

Djokovic had complained of feeling rusty heading into the event but showed little sign of lethargy as he routed Federer for the loss of just three games.

Indeed, such was the Serb's dominance he needed less than an hour to complete victory, wrapping up a 6-2 6-1 success in just 44 minutes.

Djokovic broke Federer twice in the first set and, at one point, reeled off nine games on the trot as he raced through a one-sided second.

The end came when a lacklustre Federer drilled a forehand long, one of a string of unforced errors from the Swiss.

Djokovic will now face David Ferrer in Saturday's final after he emerged an equally convincing winner in his all-Spanish semi against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal was unable to live with his compatriot as he, like Federer, slumped to an emphatic straight sets defeat, Ferrer winning 6-3 6-2.

Ferrer raced out of the blocks and into a 5-0 lead in the first set before Nadal clawed back one of the breaks with a cross-court forehand winner to make the score 5-2.

But, although he held again, Ferrer fought back from 0-30 down in his next service game to close out the set with four straight points.

The Valencia native made an equally blistering start to the second set, another double-break handing him a commanding 4-0 advantage that he never looked like squandering.

Nadal did get on the board with a couple of holds, but the game was up when he fired a backhand long to seal his own fate.

Rogers Swansea Key for Donnelly

Swansea City have won the race for Cliftonville striker Rory Donnelly after announcing his signing for an undisclosed fee.

Liverpool and Everton were both interested in the 19-year-old, but Brendan Rodgers was always in pole position to agree a deal.

Donnelly completed a medical at Liberty Stadium on Friday afternoon and signed a contract which will keep him with the Welsh club until the summer of 2015.

The paperwork will be made official when the transfer window opens on 1st January and Rodgers is excited about working with the teenager.

He told Swansea's official website: "We are delighted to be able to attract one of Northern Ireland's biggest talents.

"I am really looking forward to helping Rory fulfil his potential and, hopefully, over the next few years ensure that Swansea City has another exciting young player blossoming at the club."

Donnelly is also relishing the move and has revealed meeting the likes of Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen helped make his decision to snub Liverpool and Everton.

"Everything has happened so quickly that I still can't quite believe it," he said. "It's a dream come true.

"I was really impressed with what the manager had to say when I met him. He couldn't have done anything more to impress me.

"I believe I am signing for a brilliant manager who is prepared to give youth a chance. I also met the likes of Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen when I was over here last week and it only reinforced the belief that Swansea is the right club for me.

"I know there was serious interest from Everton and Liverpool, but I love the way Swansea play the game and I think it will suit me.

"The manager has told me there is no pressure on me because I am only 19. In time there will be pressure, but not right now.

"He has shown a lot of faith in me and, hopefully, in time I can repay him with plenty of goals."