‘Stewart Downing scored a cracker’ is not a phrase we ever thought we’d hear again, but last night his scorching 25 yard shot gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Russian moneybags, Anzhi Makhachkala at Anfield in the Europa League. Not for the first time this week, the hosts should have won more comfortably than the one goal margin, but that’s what happens when you don’t sign a much needed striker on transfer deadline day.
It was a good night for much maligned wingers. Up in Newcastle, one-time Manchester United player Gabrial Obertan scored the winner as Alan Pardew’s men beat Club Brugge in the Champions League’s little, less attractive brother.
While the northerns did well, the southern softies of Spurs didn’t have such a good time of it. They were made to look very ordinary by Slovenian champions NK Maribor, but they did claim a point thanks to a Sigurdsson goal. The north London club are still without a win in the competition this season and could yet face a scrap to claim a place in the knockout stages, although Andre Villas-Boas is smugly confident about progress saying “The group is completely open. What we face now is two games at home and I think we are in a good position in the group.”
The results didn’t have too much of an effect on the Europa League betting. Liverpool and Tottenham are 14/1 co-third favourites for the title. Newcastle are 20/1, with Atletico Madrid are 13/2 favourites to defending their title.
Arsenal held what’s euphemistically known as a ‘lively’ AGM yesterday as fans asked awkward questions like ‘why haven’t we won anything for ages?’ and ‘what’s with selling all our best players?’ Arsene Wenger’s policies have been criticised, but he received a warm welcome and outlined that his priorities aren’t necessarily increasing the club’s Brasso budget.
“If you want to attract the best players, they don’t ask if you won the League Cup, they ask if you play in the Champions League,” said Wenger to justify the lack of trophies.
The Frenchman came away from the meeting largely unscathed – or at least no more scathed than he usually is. The bulk of the fans rage was aimed at Stan Kroenke, the club’s biggest shareholder and the club;s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis.
When pressed about the club’s perceived ‘cash before championships’ policy, the CEO engaged in some world class buck-passing, explaining that the club was being run sensibly, had money to spend and it was simply the manager who was reluctant to go to the market, preferring largely to develop his own talent.
After slipping to their second league defeat of the season at Norwich last weekend, the Gunners are now 18/1 to win the Premier League. After losing to Schalke at home on Wednesday night, their prospect on the European front aren’t any better with the Londoners rated a 25/1 shot for Champions League glory.
In better news, they host QPR this Saturday, a team propping up the table and one the Gunners are expected to run riot against.
The world of boxing has been paying tribute to Emanuel Steward, the fabled trainer who passed away at the age of 68 last night. The American was known for his world famous Kronk gym in Detroit and his guiding of no less than 43 of his boxers to world titles. Some of the biggest names on his incredible role of honour include Lennox Lewis, Oscar de la Hoya and Evander Holyfield.
He lost his battle with colon cancer in Chicago on Thursday afternoon local time and once the news reached the news outlets, the tributes came pouring in. Wladimir Klitschko said “I will miss our time together. The long talks about boxing, the world, and life itself. Most of all I will miss our friendship.” The Ukrainian first worked with Steward in 2004 and went on to claim most of the major heavyweight titles.
Oscar de la Hoya was equally glowing in his praise saying “I learned a lot from him during our professional relationship and I will be forever grateful for his help during that time.”
Fellow trainer, Freddie Roach took to Twitter to say “Emanuel Steward passing today is the biggest loss to boxing in a long time. He’ll be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
There’s another busy weekend of action ahead with the end of the flat season crossing over with the beginning of the jumps.
Fakenham hosts a high class jumps card and elsewhere the racing comes from Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Newbury, Doncaster and Dundalk.