Neil Warnock risks wrath of Liverpool and Premier League by revealing he may play Under-23s against Man City

31 Mar

Neil Warnock says he will ‘probably play the Under-23s’ against Manchester City on Wednesday.

The Cardiff City manager was left raging after his side were beaten by Chelsea in controversial fashion on Sunday, leaving them five points adrift of safety in the Premier League.

Neil Warnock was furious after Cardiff’s defeat to Chelsea

The Bluebirds led 1-0 with six minutes left to play but were pegged back when Cesar Azpilicueta, who was standing two yards offside, met Marcos Alonso’s flick-on to head home the equaliser.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek punished Cardiff further in stoppage time, leaving Cardiff to count the cost of assistant referee Eddie Smart’s failure to spot that Azpilicueta was clearly offside.

Warnock blasted Premier League officials as “the worst in the world” and went on to suggest that he may field the kids against Man City ahead of next weekend’s visit to relegation rivals Burnley,

He said: “We keep getting knock-backs. I will probably play the U23s on Wednesday against Manchester City and try to keep it down to 10 or 11.

“It doesn’t matter who you play at the minute, it is who has a flag in his hand and who has a whistle.”

He added: “If I was a Burnley, Southampton or a Brighton fan, they will be absolutely loving it today.

Warnock engaged in an intense stand off with the officials after the defeat to Chelsea

“I’ve had one kick in the teeth after another this season and the players have as well. But we’ve always bounced back. So we’ll probably play the 23s at City and get ready for Burnley.”

Should Warnock play a weakened side against City, it could land Cardiff in trouble with the Premier League and have huge ramifications on the title race.

Liverpool top the table following their dramatic victory over Tottenham on Sunday but City – who have played a game less – will move back on top should they beat Cardiff.

Warnock stood on the pitch crestfallen after the full-time whistle of the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea – staring at the match officials without saying a word.

As well as Azpilicueta’s offside equaliser,  Warnock felt that Cardiff should have had two penalties, both for Chelsea players holding Sean Morrison’s shirt at set-pieces.

Loftus-Cheek netted the winner for Chelsea

Antonio Rudiger, Warnock added, should also have been sent off for dragging down Kenneth Zohore with the score at 1-1 and the Cardiff substitute through on goal.

“It’s almost like it’s not who you play, it’s who you get to referee and who is going to have a flag in their hand nowadays, it’s just as important,” Warnock said.

“The best league in the world and probably the worst officials at the minute.

“He (Smart) is saying that Willian blocked his view, but it wasn’t a six inches one. Either side you should be able to see he’s two yards offside.

“It’s soul-destroying really. I can understand why the lads are down.”

Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino explains why his players are ‘heroes’ despite damaging defeat

31 Mar

Mauricio Pochettino insists his Tottenham players are ‘more than heroes’ despite suffering a dramatic 2-1 defeat to Liverpool.

Spurs slipped to their fourth consecutive loss away from home in the Premier League after Toby Alderweireld’s unfortunate own-goal in the 90th minute.

Liverpool scored a fortunate last-gasp winner

It leaves the club scrambling for a top-four finish – and they could be overtaken by Arsenal if the Gunners get a result at home to Newcastle on Monday night.

However, Tottenham dominated for much of the second-half and looked more likely to snatch a winner after Lucas Moura cancelled out Roberto Firmino’s first-half strike.

Pochettino, who watched the game from the stands as he completed a two-match touchline ban, told Sky Sports: “In the second half we dominated a team like Liverpool.

“It is not easy to come here and dominate them. After the first half we conceded a goal when there was not too much happening in the game. That was tough for us but in the second half we started playing with a lot of confidence.

“It is very tough to lose the game in that way but I feel I am happy because the emotion and feeling we have got today will help us.

“It is now a mini-league – seven games and we are in the top four. It is in our hands.

Tottenham players despair after the full-time whistle

“In the circumstances they [the Tottenham players] are more than heroes. We need to keep our trust and confidence and we will fight to be in the next Champions League. It is so important for the club to be in the top four at the end of the season.”

Moussa Sissoko spurned a glorious chance to put Spurs ahead in the 85th minute, blasting over the bar with only the keeper left to beat, but Pochettino refused to criticise the midfielder.

The Argentine added: “The legs are heavy and it is difficult to be clear to think and it is not his [Sissoko’s] best quality but I am so happy with his performance and commitment to the team.”

Headwind spoils attacks in women’s Gent-Wevelgem

31 Mar

Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) is in stellar form right now. After winning the sprint in De Panne on Thursday, she did the same in Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. Like in De Panne, Wild was piloted expertly by her teammate Lisa Brennauer in the final.

The WNT-Rotor lead-out had almost become undone at gent-Wevelgem, however, as Brennauer suffered misfortune in the final.

"Lisa punctured twice in the last 15 km, that made it really hard for her, so she didn't have the best legs anymore," said Wild after the race. "But she put me in the right position, and I just had to finish. I was surprised that it came back together to such a big group. After the climbs it was a small group, but no team really took the lead. My teammates kept me comfortable on the road and out of the wind, I could relax, and that is how I could win today."

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Before the race, there were expectations of echelons in the crosswinds. One of the teams that tried this tactic were CCC-Liv.

"We wanted to make the race hard and not want to wait all day for a bunch sprint," said sports director Jeroen Blijlevens. "We positioned ourselves at the front already after 32 km to create echelons there. The peloton broke apart, but not entirely. In the final, we wanted to try again, and several other teams had the same plan."

Martin Vestby, sports director of Mitchelton-Scott, had also hoped for crosswinds, but was faced with a headwind that not only stopped any echelons from forming, but also spoiled any attacks.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Wake-up call for Deceuninck-QuickStep ahead of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix

31 Mar

Deceuninck-QuickStep's winning streak in the Spring Classics, starting with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and continuing over Milan-San Remo and the E3 BinckBank Classic, came to an end on Sunday afternoon at Gent-Wevelgem.

The Belgian team usually take the initiative in the Classics and force other teams to chase them, rather than having to chase themselves. It often puts them in a position where multiple riders from the team can win the race.

“It has been our winning tactic since the '90s, first with Museeuw and then with Boonen," said team general manager Patrick Lefevere. "We had a super Alaphilippe in San Remo, and Stybar was flying last week. One day everybody hopes: next time it’s mine. And that with more than 55 per cent less budget. I’m a bookkeeper, so I know what I’m talking about.”

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Bookkeeper Lefevere also knew that Belgian champion Yves Lampaert received a new contract and that he’s paid to win. After the E3 BinckBank Classic in Harelbeke, Lefevere regretted that Lampaert nor Philippe Gilbert featured in the eight-rider group after the Paterberg, saying that bad positioning wasn’t an excuse as everybody knew where the Paterberg was. He also said that Lampaert should ‘turn things into gold himself’ thus get the wins too. Lampaert was unimpressed.

“It’s the first race of the season I’m taking part in that we didn’t win," Lampaert told Cyclingnews at the finish in Wevelgem. "We won a lot, so it’s no disgrace to get beaten for once. The rest is talk for the papers.”

During Gent-Wevelgem, Lampaert worked in front of the peloton when approaching the final ascent of the Kemmelberg, even though he’s regarded as a team leader too.

A missed opportunity for Viviani

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Chelsea news: Jamie Carragher slams Maurizio Sarri for ‘stupid’ comments about Callum Hudson-Odoi

31 Mar

Jamie Carragher has blasted Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri for admitting he only watched 20 minutes of Callum Hudson-Odoi’s full England debut against Montenegro.

The 18-year-old was left on the bench as the Blues sealed a controversial 2-1 victory at Cardiff on Sunday afternoon – despite the travelling supporters chanting his name throughout.

Hudson-Odoi did not feature against Cardiff

Hudson-Odoi’s omission took many by surprise after he starred for the Three Lions during the 5-1 victory in Podgorica last Monday.

And speaking before the clash at the Cardiff City Stadium, Sky Sports pundit Carragher branded Sarri’s pre-match comments as ‘stupid’.

“This is a lad who’s making his international debut. Why are you not watching the full game?” he said.

“You could argue Sarri is watching a lot of his Chelsea team-mates, flicking the channels, but he doesn’t need to watch them, they are all 27, 28, 29. This is a young kid. Can he handle the spotlight of playing for England? This is a lad I’m trying to keep at my club.

“So to then just dismiss this lad’s international debut – maybe the biggest thing that’s ever happened to him as a footballer – I can just imagine the people above Sarri just shaking their head and thinking ‘why are you saying such a stupid thing in the press conference? We are trying to get this lad to sign a contract.’

“I would not be surprised if the people at the top at Chelsea were onto the agent and trying to calm the situation down.

“If he hasn’t watched it and he doesn’t think he’s played well, be clever, use your brain. Don’t say it. Say you did watch it. Of course, he has to improve, he’s still a kid, but to dismiss someone on their international debut I think it was an absolutely stupid thing to say.”

Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham: Jurgen Klopp hails ‘incredible’ Anfield crowd after ‘ugly’ last-gasp victory

31 Mar

Jurgen Klopp has praised the Liverpool fans for guiding his team to an ‘ugly’ 2-1 victory over Tottenham at Anfield.

The Reds returned to the top of the Premier League in dramatic fashion after Toby Alderweireld’s unfortunate own-goal in the 90th minute.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates with the Liverpool fans after the full-time whistle

Lucas Moura had threatened to put a huge dent in their title bid when he cancelled out Roberto Firmino’s first-half opener, but the late stroke of luck put Liverpool two points clear of Manchester City, having played one game more.

Anfield continued to rally behind the Reds with the scores level, and Klopp believes there has been an improvement among the support.

“We have to fight like crazy and we did today, together with the crowd,” Klopp told Sky Sports.

“The crowd was outstanding. It was an incredible atmosphere, so they were really here to push us and in the end it helped.

“It’s a big change, a big improvement. We have to get used to the situation, it’s all good. It is only positive.

“I said to the boys, there are 500 ways to win a football game and today it was slightly ugly. That’s how it is, but who cares? That’s the situation.

Salah’s header forced the own goal

“I was not happy that we concede a goal but maybe we needed it. First-half we had chances but second half we could not relax, a little bit too late here.

“They changed from five to four, and we tried to changed the system as well.”

Klopp, as usual, led raucous scenes following the full-time whistle – punching the air with venom to the beat of Liverpool fans cheering.

And the German was pleased to keep a lid on things following previous trouble with the FA.

“I was relatively calm [after the winning goal] because it was a surprise, that situation. I saw the header and nothing else. Then I saw the players celebrating. I had no clue how the ball went in.

“I am really happy we don’t have any breaks now. We compete with one of the, or the, best team in world for one position and that is really hard.”

Conor McGregor offers to fight ‘actress’ Mark Wahlberg in bizarre battle for UFC shares

31 Mar

Conor McGregor has offered to fight ‘actress’ Mark Wahlberg in order to earn his shares in the UFC.

The ‘Notorious’ announced his retirement from MMA on Tuesday after an historic run in the company lasting five years.

A-list actor Mark Wahlberg is on Conor McGregor’s radar for a fight

However, disciplinary issues and lucrative enterprises outside of the octagon mean the Irishman no longer needs to fight for his future.

But ever since knocking out Eddie Alvarez in 2016, the 30-year-old has demanded a share in the company he believes he helped build.

And Hollywood actor and former rap artist Wahlberg is the person he wants to replace.

Taking to Twitter in the early hours of Sunday morning, McGregor wrote: “I’ve decided to challenge Hollywood actress Mark Wahlberg next.

Conor McGregor will be missed in UFC

“A fight for all the shares!”

The American is one of 23 celebrity clients UFC owners WME-IMG invited to invest in the promotion following their $4 billion takeover.

While it seems extremely unlikely 47-year-old Wahlberg would agree to fight a much younger former professional fighter, he does have experience.

In 2010, Wahlberg played former world champion Micky Ward in ‘The Fighter’ – famed for his incredible trilogy of fights with Arturo Gatti.

Degenkolb leads Trek-Segafredo turnaround at Gent-Wevelgem

31 Mar

It has been a trying start to the year for the Trek-Segafredo team, not least their Classics squad, but they turned things round dramatically at Gent-Wevelgem, where John Degenkolb claimed second place at the end of a day in which all their key riders finally delivered.

The Classics campaign got off the worst possible start as riders apologized to team management for their performances at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the start of the month. They hardly fared much better at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne the following day and it seemed the poor form had continued into the main cobbled classics period when they made no impact whatsoever at E3 BinckBank on Friday.

However, it looked like a different team Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. Not only did one rider step up; they all did. All four of their Classics specialists – Degenkolb, Jasper Stuyven, Mads Pedersen, and Edward Theuns – made it into an elite 18-rider breakaway that went clear after only 50km and shaped the complexion of the whole race.

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Though Degenkolb was dropped on the first ascent of the Kemmelberg - with Stuyven and Pedersen dropping back when Theuns went clear with Peter Sagan, Matteo Trentin, and Mike Teunissen - the German sat patiently in the main group and sprinted to his first Spring Classics podium since 2015.

Although he came so close to victory, there was no hint of disappointment, as he admitted Alexander Kristoff was the worthy winner and instead basked in a much-improved collective display.

“We take a lot of confidence from that. We turned the page after quite a few disappointments this year already. It’s the time to give the payback,” Degekolb told Cyclingnews in Wevelgem.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Trentin relishes ‘crazy, old school’ Gent-Wevelgem

31 Mar

Sometimes, even at WorldTour level, the effort is its own reward. Matteo Trentin wore a broad smile on arriving at the Mitchelton-Scott bus following Gent-Wevelgem, even if his own 7th place in a sprint won by Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) felt a scant recompense for his aggressive showing across the day.

Trentin was part of a determined echelon that forged clear at the end of the first hour of racing, and he later joined Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a group of five that led over the final ascent of the Kemmelberg before being swept up in the finale. At the end of a tumultuous afternoon, the Italian somehow conjured the strength to sprint for the win in Wevelgem, even if his legs could only carry him so far after a relentless five-and-a-half hours of racing.

“It was a pretty much crazy race, old school,” Trentin told Cyclingnews as he gingerly took a seat on the steps of his team bus. By this point, his legs could carry him no further.

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Talk at the start in Deinze on Sunday morning dwelt on how a headwind in the finale might favour a bunch finish but failed to predict how that same breeze would rip the race at the seams after the road swung left at Gistel after 50 kilometres. Trentin was among the echelon of 21 riders that formed under the impetus of Jumbo-Visma and Trek-Segafredo, and the European champion was never far from the front over the breathless 200 kilometres that followed.

“Trek and Jumbo-Visma, they put the hammer down after I think 45k, but you’ll need to check that, I didn’t even see my Garmin. I don’t know, they just accelerated,” Trentin said. “I was one of the last riders across to that. And from then it was just race on. Because when you are in the crosswind, you just go. Behind they were a bit disorganised and we got a gap.”

Deceuninck-QuickStep have been the dominant force on the cobbles thus far this season, but only one of their number – Tim Declercq, a man paid to shift the piano rather than tinkle the ivories – made the front echelon. As a result, Trentin feared the move might have been doomed from the outset, but the men in blue initially chose to leave the pace-setting to CCC and Lotto Soudal.

Attacking with Sagan

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Lewis Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix after Charles Leclerc suffers cruel engine problems

31 Mar

Lewis Hamilton secured a dramatic victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix after a cruel engine problem denied Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc a maiden win.

Leclerc, in just his second race for Ferrari, was set to become the third-youngest winner in Formula One history after a commanding drive.

Hamilton celebrates alongside third-place Leclerc

But with just nine laps to run, Hamilton took advantage of the Ferrari’s lack of speed to sail past the young Monegasque and take an unlikely win, the first of his championship defence.

Valtteri Bottas was also the fortunate recipient of Leclerc’s demise to steal second place, and secure an improbable one-two for Mercedes.

The Finn, who won in Melbourne a fortnight ago, retains his lead in the championship by one point. Leclerc took the chequered flag in third as the race ended under a safety car after Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault engine failed.

Sebastian Vettel finished only fifth after he dramatically spun while duelling for second with Hamilton. It marked yet another error for the German after a series of mistakes blighted his title challenge last year.

British teenager Lando Norris crossed the line an impressive sixth for McLaren and his first Formula One points.

On Saturday, Leclerc came up with the goods to deliver a huge statement of intent by blowing away Vettel to become the sport’s second youngest pole-sitter, and 24 hours later carried on his fine form.

Hamilton consoles Leclerc after the drama

His start was poor and he fell to third, but after passing Bottas and then Vettel was back in charge just five laps later.

Leclerc was signed by Ferrari as an emerging talent, with Vettel’s number one status set to go unchallenged. Indeed, the paddock murmurings before today’s race centred on whether Ferrari would afford Vettel preferential treatment.

Leclerc took the took the decision out of his team’s hands before the late engine problem struck.

Hamilton pipped Bottas to victory

“What’s happening,” he yelled as it emerged Leclerc had lost significant straight-line speed. There were heads in hands in the Ferrari garage as it became apparent the problem was terminal.

Hamilton had been nine seconds behind, but within just three laps he was all over the back of the Ferrari gearbox before biding his time to make his move and seal the 74th win of his career.

“You have to take it as it comes,” added Hamilton who went over to offer his commiserations to Leclerc.

“This is a great result for the team, but this guy here [Leclerc] has got wins in him. Congratulations to him.”

Leclerc said: “It happens and it is part of motorsport. Unfortunately today was not our day.

“I am extremely disappointed. We have been lucky because the safety car came out at the end, but it is hard to take. I am sure we will come back stronger.”

Hamilton celebrates with the Mercedes team

Earlier in a chaotic race, with Leclerc in control of the lead, Hamilton and Vettel duelled at high speed for second position on lap 38. Hamilton made the move stick around the outside of the right-handed turn four before Vettel lost control of his Ferrari and spun.

To make matters worse, his front wing dramatically broke free from his car. He fell to ninth for repairs before recovering to fifth, but this will be a weekend to forget for the four-time world champion.