Friday 22 September 2017

In brief: Vermaelen just glad to be back

Thomas Vermaelen admits it has been "horrible'' sitting on the sidelines as Arsenal struggled

defensively.

But he maintains the back four should not shoulder all the blame for the goals which have flowed past the Gunners to end trophy challenges on all fronts.

The Belgian centre-half, 25, is in line for a first-team return against Aston Villa this afternoon after eight months out with a niggling Achilles problem sustained on international duty, which eventually required surgery.

"It has been a long period, which has been a horrible time, but it is finished now and I am happy to get back on the pitch,'' said Vermaelen.

"The other guys have done quite well, but there is always talk about the back four of Arsenal, but defending is teamwork as well.

"There have been too many games where we were not good enough.''

McLeish wants 'fearless' Blues

Alex McLeish has challenged his Birmingham players to show "no fear'' as they look for victory over Fulham today to secure their Premier League status.

Blues have had a season to remember having lifted the Carling Cup -- 48 years.

But McLeish is aware of the need to establish City as a top-flight club as they aim to clinch a third successive campaign in the top flight.

"It's in our own hands if we win so there's that motivation and that target for us,'' said McLeish.

Kilbane strikes for Terriers

Republic of Ireland veteran Kevin Kilbane was on the mark as Huddersfield were held to a 1-1 draw by Bournemouth in their League One play-off semi-final.

Kilbane, 34, opened the scoring for the Terriers in the 22nd minute with a fine header from Gary Roberts' cross.

Thirteen minutes later, Terriers goalkeeper Ian Bennett made a fine save to deny Danny Ings from the penalty spot.

But the Cherries rallied in the second half and were rewarded when midfielder Donal McDermott fired home a 60th-minute equaliser from 25 yards.

The return leg takes place at the Galpharm Stadium on Wednesday.

Eintracht relegated

Eintracht Frankfurt were relegated to the second division after going down 3-1 at the new Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund yesterday.

Sebastian Rode put Frankfurt in front and gave them hope of avoiding the drop early in the second half, but the home side turned the game around to win comfortably, even missing two penalties.

Lucas Barrios brought them level in the 68th minute before Robert Lewandowski put them in front a few minutes later.

Barrios missed his second penalty in the 81st minute, after Marcel Titsch-Rivero was shown the red card for a professional foul, but he had the last word with the third goal in the last minute.

Bayern Munich extended their undefeated streak to nine games with a 2-1 win over Stuttgart but had to settle for a third-place finish.

Stuttgart went ahead after 24 minutes through Shinji Okazaki before Mario Gomez equalised in the 37th minute and Bastian Schweinsteiger secured the victory in the 71st minute.

Hannover rallied for a 3-1 win over Nurnberg to seal a fourth-placed finish and a return to Europe action for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Pep: 'I believe in Busquets'

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola expects Sergio Busquets to be cleared of using a racial slur and allowed to play in the Champions League final.

Busquets risks missing the May 28 match against Manchester United at Wembley after UEFA charged the Spain midfielder with racially insulting Real Madrid defender Marcelo in the semi-final first-leg tie in Madrid.

UEFA's disciplinary panel, which meets today, could impose a five-game ban on Busquets.

"I've known Sergio a long time and when he tells me something I believe him. It means he should play the final,'' said Guardiola.

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