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Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini says he will give Mario Balotelli "100 more chances" after insisting his spat with the striker was not a fight.

Photographs showed the pair being separated at training on Thursday.

But Mancini said of the incident with his fellow Italian: "No fight, not true. The pictures are worse.

"I will give him another 100 chances if I think it's possible he can change. I give him another chance, sure, because he is 22 and he can make a mistake."

The latest in a series of controversies involving Balotelli saw the 22-year-old pictured in a confrontation with his manager.

The images appear to show Mancini shouting and gesticulating at his player, who has scored three goals in 21 appearances this season.

One photograph shows the pair face to face with Mancini pulling Balotelli's training bib, while in another the striker seems to be pulled away by a member of staff.

Mancini suggested the incident was blown out of proportion and maintained that Balotelli does have a future with the club, but only if he improves his behaviour.

"It wasn't bad," he explained. "We were playing a game, Mario kicked his team-mate and I said to him 'go inside, leave the pitch'.

"He said 'no' so I took his shirt and pushed him off the pitch. This is really what happened. Nothing special.

"Mario is like this but my thoughts [on his future] do not change, this is not important. The problem could be himself. If he doesn't change, for him it will be very difficult in the future. For him, not me.

"Mario could stay with me one day, one month, five years. He is 22 years old. He needs to change. His problem is for himself."

When asked whether he lost his own temper, Mancini replied: "No. For the first two seconds, yes, but after three or four seconds he didn't want to leave the pitch. For me he should leave."

QPR boss Harry Redknapp said he thought Balotelli's problems with Mancini and Jose Mourinho, who managed the forward at Inter Milan, pointed to an individual who needed to change his ways.

"It can't be easy to deal with him," said Redknapp. "It must be difficult for Roberto to deal with him. You only have to see the way he is.

"If Mourinho has a problem with him and can't handle him, he's got to be difficult hasn't he? The boy's a good player but obviously there is a problem there somewhere with his attitude.

"I think the only person that could help him is himself."

Posted On Friday, 04 January 2013 13:45 Written by

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew says he is still hoping striker Demba Ba will remain at the club after January.

The Senegal striker's representatives held talks with Chelsea on Sunday, later described as unproductive.

Ba, 27, has a 7million pounds sterling-release clause in his Magpies contract which is due to become active again on 1 January.

"I still think it's even whether he will stay or go. I'd like to think he will stay in this window. That will be his decision," Pardew told BBC Sport.

Newcastle have spent recent months attempting to negotiate a new contract with Ba which would remove the clause, and that deal remains on the table.

However, Pardew insisted the club would not do so indefinitely.

"The situation with that is that it's getting close to the point where we say 'no more', but the offer is still there.

"The contract is what it is, we are all aware of that, and for me as the manager I need it resolved as quickly as possible. That's the best situation for our fans and for the club."

Pardew has also hit out at the network of people representing Ba, who has 13 goals in 21 appearances this season.

"In some respects I feel a little bit sorry for Demba," added Pardew.

"There are people out there fuelling this who are not actually involved or want to be involved and that's the sort of world that we are in."

Ba was also involved in a dispute with Hoffenheim as he looked to secure a move to the Premier League during the 2011 January transfer window.

The German club eventually agreed to let their striker move to Stoke in a reported £6m deal, but Ba failed a medical, according to the Potters, before eventually securing a move to West Ham later that month.

The forward scored seven goals in 13 games, but invoked a release clause in his contract after the Hammers were relegated. The Magpies needed a player to fill the void left by Andy Carroll, who had earlier joined Liverpool for £35m, and signed Ba on a three-year deal in June 2011.

The Senagalese player scored 16 goals during his first full season as Newcastle finished fifth and qualified for the Europa League.

He is the club's top scorer this season and his departure would leave just Papiss Cisse and Shola Ameobi as the only senior strikers at the club. The pair have scored eight goals between them during the current campaign.

Posted On Tuesday, 01 January 2013 07:05 Written by
NAN-S-1 Mobilisation By Debo Oshundun Johannesburg, Dec. 31, 2012 (NAN) Members of the Nigerian community in South Africa have started moblising to support the Super Eagles during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The event has been scheduled to run from Jan. 19 to Feb. 10, 2013. Frank Anagu, leader of the Nigerian community in South Africa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Johannesburg on Monday that 200 tickets for each of the matches had been purchased for distribution to Nigerians, to watch the Eagles’ group games.
Anagu said Nigerians living in South Africa and Mozambique were being moblised to support the National team. ``We have done a lot of mobilisation through the various Nigerian unions in South Africa and Mozambique for them to come out in their large numbers to support the team.
``The Nigeria union has making arrangements to rent 46-seater busses to take us to Nelspruit, apart from individuals that will be travelling to watch Nigerian matches.
``Our plan is to travel a day before any of our matches, to have a `one on one’ encounter with our National team, to motivate and support them,’’ Anagu said. He said Nigerians in Mozambique were making their own arrangements to give their full support to the National team.
``As we are making own arrangements here in South Africa, members of the Nigerian community in Mozambique are also making their own arrangements. ``Mozambique is not too far to Nelspruit. It is even closer to the venue than Johannesburg, so we are expecting many Nigerians in their numbers to come from Mozambique to support our national team,’’ Anagu said.
He said members of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club in South Africa will join those coming from home to motivate the players Meanwhile, Mpumalanga provincial government is working round the clock to woo members of the public to purchase tickets for games. Sipho Gama, General Manager of the province’s Culture, Sports and Recreation Department, said they had embarked on road shows to encourage members of the public to purchase tickets for the tournament. Mbombela Stadium will host group C matches with teams – Nigeria’s Super Eagles, Zambia, the defending champions, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
The LOC had raised concerns at the slow tickets sales. ``We are very concerned about the slow tickets sales, we have to come out with strategies to create awareness and encourage people to buy tickets.
``People are not just buying tickets except group tickets purchased by teams playing at the centre.
``The match between Nigeria and Zambia has so far recorded the highest number of ticket sales. But sales of tickets are generally slow,’’ Gama said. He said the awareness campaign would continue until the tournament's kick off on Jan. 19.
``You know, where we have stated which countries will be playing in Mbombela and people are excited about it, they have got the flags of the nations playing here and the national flags of South Africa. ``We have given them vuvuzelas and we are saying to them go and buy tickets, so that you can be at the stadium. So, I think the campaign is working for us,’’ Gama added.
Posted On Monday, 31 December 2012 20:25 Written by

Frank Lampard served a timely reminder of his goal-scoring ability as his double carried Chelsea back to third with a hard-earned win over Everton.

The 34-year-old, who is out of contract in the summer, headed in Ramires' cross and stabbed in from close range after his side had conceded in 62 seconds.

Steven Pienaar gave Everton an early lead, following in after Victor Anichebe nodded against the post.

Nikica Jelavic hit the bar and missed a late chance as the hosts fell short.

Chelsea's fourth successive league win under interim boss Rafael Benitez, after failing to win in his first three, means the Blues finish 2012 four points off Manchester City and 11 off leaders Manchester United, but with a game in hand on both.

Whether Lampard finishes 2013 with the Stamford Bridge club remains in doubt, with the England midfielder free to agree pre-contract terms with a foreign club in January.

For all the promise of Oscar and Eden Hazard and the undoubted ability of Juan Mata, Chelsea's travelling fans made it clear that they believed that it is to soon to consign Lampard, who joined the club 11 and a half years ago, to Chelsea history.

His goals brought to an end Everton's formidable unbeaten run at Goodison, which stretched back 14 previous games to March's 1-0 defeat by Arsenal.

The home team certainly settled into the match like a team at ease in their surroundings, scoring with their first attack.

In the absence of Seamus Coleman and Phil Neville, Phil Jagielka roamed forward from his unaccustomed right-back spot to deliver a cross that Anichebe nodded against the woodwork. Pienaar gleefully dispatched low past Petr Cech.

With the South African and his midfield partner Leon Osman weaving dangerously in the spaces between David Luiz and Lampard, Everton continued to pen Chelsea back after the opener.

Jelavic smacked the post with a free-kick after he and Pienaar had hustled Gary Cahill out of possession - and Osman's first-time effort demanded a smart save from Cech.

The home fans revelled in their early dominance, taunting Fernando Torres and Rafael Benitez, so long Liverpool figureheads, on their return to Merseyside.

But it was the third of Chelsea's Spanish contingent - Mata - who looked likeliest to silence a boisterous Goodison.

A last-ditch block from Johnny Heitinga denied the former Valencia man, before his probing prised apart Everton again; Ashley Cole inches away from turning in from Cesar Azpilicueta's subsequent cross.

Chelsea's equaliser capped a spell of pressure and ensured Lampard a Premier League haul of five or more goals for the 16th successive season.

Manager David Moyes could not inspire a repeat of Everton's rollicking start to the match as Chelsea, despite the half-time withdrawal of Cech with an ankle injury, started better after the break.

Torres drifted dangerously into space behind Leighton Baines but mis-controlled Luiz's pass, strayed offside to ruin a delicious move, and had a sweetly struck snap-shot from 20 yards saved by Tim Howard.

Without the presence of Marouane Fellaini, who was serving the final game of a three-match ban,

Everton struggled to capitalise on the industry and invention of Pienaar and Baines down the left.

The one time that Jelavic met a Baines delivery, his stooping header beat substitute goalkeeper Ross Turnbull but not the bar.

Three minutes later Chelsea were in front for the first time.

Mata was instrumental, crossing for Hazard to nod down before Lampard instinctively volleyed home after the Spaniard's initial effort had been palmed back into the six-yard box.

Jelavic squandered a fine chance to level in injury-time, swiping thin air as he attempted to smash home a Baines cross, but Chelsea could have already made the game safe when Sylvain Distin stretched to intervene as Torres bore down on Howard in the final minute.

Everton manager David Moyes : "We're not disappointed because we played really well and we've run the European champions really close. but we didn't quite have enough in the end.

"We had played well enough to get a second goal but had been unfortunate, having shots back off the woodwork.

"I thought we were a bit unlucky. We tried to make what we had work the best we could today and for long periods I thought we did."

Posted On Monday, 31 December 2012 01:54 Written by

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has accepted a request from Millwall's Danny Shittu not to be considered for the Africa Cup of Nations.

The defender wants to concentrate on his club's push for promotion to the English Premier League.

"Stephen Keshi has agreed Danny Shittu can stay away from the Nations Cup after he called him," the Super Eagles media officer Ben Alaiya said.

Shittu was named in the Super Eagles' initial squad of 32 players.

However before Keshi's comments the Nigeria Football Federation had rejected Shittu's written request.

The NFF had made it clear that they wanted to apply the full weight of Fifa sanctions on Millwall if they did not release the centre-back.

"We've made our position known to both the player and his club," NFF spokesman Ademola Olajire told BBC Sport.

"There's a standard Fifa rule on international call-up and we expect them to respect that.

"The rules are very clear and we are only going to wait and follow due process on this situation."

Millwall boss Kenny Jackett had earlier said he expected Shittu to turn down Nigeria.

Nigeria will take on African champions Zambia, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso in Group C.

Posted On Sunday, 30 December 2012 03:51 Written by

Didier Drogba will lead a vastly experienced Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations next month as part of a squad that includes a recall for Wigan Athletic striker Arouna Kone.

The well-travelled Kone competed at the Nations Cup finals in 2006 and 2008.

He is back along with Spanish-based midfielder Romaric, who has also missed out in recent years.

Coach Sabri Lamouchi named a squad with just six changes from the last edition, where the Ivorians finished runners-up.

Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue, Didier Zokora, Boubacar Barry, Arthur Boka, Siaka Tiene and the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya, head to a fifth successive tournament.

Third-choice goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare is the only uncapped player in the squad.

Kone is one of six players at English Premier League sides have been included in the squad.

Champions Manchester City are hardest hit, losing three players in the Toure brothers and Abdul Razak, while Arsenal will be without striker Gervinho and Newcastle without Cheick Tiote.

The Ivorians are only the second of the 16 finalists to announce their final 23-man squad for the tournament in South Africa, which starts on 19 January and goes through to 10 February.

All squads must be finalised 10 days before the opening match.

Ivory Coast are to hold a 10-day training camp in Abu Dhabi from 6-16 January and play a friendly against Egypt there on 14 January before heading to South Africa, where they are top seeds in Group D alongside Algeria, Togo and Tunisia.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren, Belgium), Badra Ali Sangare (IAFC), Daniel Yeboah (Dijon, France).

Defenders: Soulemanye Bamba (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Emmanuel Eboue (Galatasaray, Turkey), Igor Lolo (Kuban Krasnodar, Russia), Siaka Tiene (Paris St Germain, France), Kolo Toure (Manchester City, England), Ismael Traore (Stade Brest, France)

Midfielders: Max Gradel (St Etienne, France), Abdul Razak (Manchester City, England), Romaric (Real Zaragoza, Spain), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover 96, Germany), Ismael Tiote (Newcastle United, England), Yaya Toure (Manchester City, England), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor, Turkey).

Forwards: Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands), Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua, China), Gervinho (Arsenal, England), Salomon Kalou (OSC Lille, France), Arouna Kone (Wigan Athletic, England), Lacina Traore (Anzhi Makhachkala, Russia).

Posted On Thursday, 27 December 2012 19:51 Written by

Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi will not be going to the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria, according to his manager Alan Pardew.

The former England under-21 international had been named by coach Stephen Keshi in his provisional squad.

But Pardew has ruled out the 31-year-old's appearance at the tournament, which kicks off on 19 January.

He said: "Shola won't be going. The national team manager knows the reasons, which I am keeping to myself."

Ameobi was born in Zaria, northern Nigeria, before moving to England with his parents at the age of five.

Under Fifa rules, players who have represented one country at junior level can play for another at senior level if they meet the qualifying criteria.

Ameobi was first called-up by the Super Eagles 10 years ago but turned down the invitation on the grounds that his heart was set on playing for England.

He was cleared by Fifa to play for the country of his birth last month together with Chelsea winger Victor Moses.

He made his debut in a 3-1 friendly win over Venezuela last month, setting up the third goal in Miami, Florida.

Nigeria will take on African champions Zambia, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso in Group C.

Posted On Tuesday, 25 December 2012 03:41 Written by

Peter Odemwingie has reacted angrily to being omitted from Nigeria's Africa Cup of Nations squad.

The West Bromwich Albion forward last played for Nigeria in February's goalless draw with Rwanda in the Cup of Nations qualifying.

"Every manager has got his own plans and tactics - if I don't figure in your plans, please be honest to tell me directly," Odemwingie told BBC Sport.

The 31-year-old played at the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 Nations Cups.

"For 10 years I gave my all to the country as a player on the pitch, played for the nation and fans, not individuals," he pointed out.

Odemwingie believes he is being overlooked because he often speaks his mind about the national team.

"Because I speak out when things are not right, I guess some people are not just comfortable with that openness," he said.

"No one seeks preferential treatment, footballers are like the average people and not perfect individuals.

"There's a long history of problems between the players, coaches and the federation and if they are not sorted - the country will continue to struggle.

"Football means so much to Nigerians and the fans deserve success and not be fed with lies in the media."

However Odemwingie says he will not completely shut the door on his international career.

"It's sudden and to be honest I don't know, because the individuals change but the problems remain," Odemwingie said.

"If the chance to play for my country presents itself, then I will speak to my dad and those close to me - then we'll see.

"Personally, I've got to be playing regularly for my club, focus my energy on being a better person every day.

"At the moment, all I can do is to wish the team all the best in South Africa."

The Super Eagles begin their Nations Cup campaign against Burkina Faso on 21 January and then face Zambia and Ethiopia in Group C.

Posted On Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:41 Written by

Gareth Barry scored a 92nd-minute winner as Manchester City stunned Reading to close the gap on leaders Manchester United to three points.

Premier League champions City looked set to be held by the bottom-placed club before Barry rose above Nicky Shorey to head in David Silva's cross.

Barry and Carlos Tevez went close in a one-sided first half, while substitute Edin Dzeko had chances in the second.

Reading felt they deserved a penalty for a challenge on Jay Tabb at 0-0.

Tabb went down after contact from City's 18-year-old Dutch left-back Karim Rekik on his debut, but referee Mike Dean was unmoved.

The visitors also argued that Dean should have penalised Barry for climbing on substitute Shorey for the goal.

City's win halved United's advantage at the top ahead of their trip to Swansea on Sunday,

Reading, by contrast, sit at the foot of the table with seven straight defeats, their worst run since an eight-match losing streak between December 2007 and February 2008. They went on to be relegated that season.

Last-gasp City do it again

The last time Manchester City scored a winning goal Premier League goal in injury time at home, they clinched the 2011-12 title with a 3-2 victory over QPR in May

This was City's first match at Etihad Stadium since defeat by United and they did not look entirely convincing.

Joe Hart was almost embarrassed early on after seeing his pass intercepted by Jimmy Kebe, while Jobi McAnuff headed over the bar.

But the expected pattern of play soon emerged as Sergio Aguero fed Carlos Tevez with a stunning touch, only for Adam Federici to save.

City had won all of the 13 previous league matches Aguero and Tevez started together, and the pair again looked sharp, Tevez crossing for Barry to head powerfully at Federici.

Yaya Toure wanted a penalty for an Alex Pearce challenge following slick work by Tevez and Silva, while a Tevez shot was deflected just over and nobody was on hand meet an Aguero cross.

While City continued to press after the break, Reading created the clearest chance when an unmarked Pearce headed off target from Ian Harte's corner.

Manager Roberto Mancini opted to bring Dzeko on for Javi Garcia - replacing a midfielder with a striker - and it almost paid immediate dividends.

Dzeko came within inches of heading home Pablo Zabaleta's cross and then nodded a Tevez corner narrowly over the bar.

At the other end, Dean ignored Reading protests following Rekik's collision with Tabb, Pavel Pogrebnyak almost picked out Jimmy Kebe with a low centre and Pearce headed wide for a second time.

But no side had scored more goals in the final 30 minutes of Premier League games this season than City - a tally that now stands at 21 - and the late rally arrived as Silva nodded over and Aguero hit the side-netting.

It was left to Barry to secure the points with his controversial winner.

Posted On Saturday, 22 December 2012 19:28 Written by

Manchester City midfielder YayaToure has been named the African Player of the Year for a second time.

Toure beat fellow Ivory Coast star and former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba into second place with former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song third.

He won the 2012 poll in a vote of head coaches or technical directors of countries affiliated to the Confederation of African Football.

Ex-Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o holds the most titles, having won four times.

African Nations Cup winners Zambia were named team of the year with their coach Herve Renard named coach of the year.

Song currently plays for Barcelona while Drogba signed for Shanghai Shenhua in May.

Toure, who won the award last year, is part of the Ivory Coast team heading to the Africa Cup of Nations that starts in South Africa next month.

Posted On Friday, 21 December 2012 04:26 Written by
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