Wednesday 13 December 2017

In Brief: Hooper salvo boosts Bhoys

Gary Hooper showed why he is so highly rated by manager Neil Lennon by scoring a double in Celtic's SPL win over Hearts at Parkhead, a 4-1 victory.

The Northern Irishman confirmed that the Scottish champions had rejected an offer, reported to be about £5m, from Norwich for the 24-year-old English striker.

Hooper showed why he is attracting attention from south of the border when he slid in an Adam Matthews cross in the second minute for his 19th goal of the season. Georgios Samaras added a second 10 minutes later but after Jason Holt pulled a goal back in the 68th minute there was a nervy spell for the home side.

Five minutes from time Hooper grabbed a third, before substitute Lassad Nouioui, on for Matthews, grabbed a fourth in added time.

Rams deny rivals Forest

Jamie Ward marked his long-awaited return to the Derby starting line-up with the Rams' equalising goal against east midlands rivals Nottingham Forest to earn a 1-1 draw.

Ward had been struggling with a hamstring injury since limping off in the reverse fixture against Forest at the City Ground on September 30.

Chris Cohen had put Forest in front just after the half hour mark. Ward brought the hosts level after 52 minutes. Simon Gillett turned into trouble in the middle of the park and was tackled by Conor Sammon, who slid a pass through to his strike partner to finish neatly underneath Darlow.

Milan interest in Balotelli

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has confirmed his club's interest in signing Italy striker Mario Balotelli – but not at Manchester City's asking price of €37m (£31m).

The 22-year-old has struggled for form and encountered a number of off-field problems during his time in England, prompting questions to be asked about his future with the Premier League champions.

Quoted in Gazzetta dello Sport, Galliani said: "At the end of Friday, Manchester City still said €37m. We will see on Monday. Under these conditions, he will remain at Manchester City." The Rossoneri are also in talks to take Real Madrid midfielder Kaka back to the club in the January transfer window, but Galliani says the 30-year-old's capture will require "great effort" from all parties.

Zaha shines for his suitors

Dougie Freedman's return to Crystal Palace ended in stalemate as his new side Bolton cancelled out his old one.

It was his former team who came closest to grabbing a winner when in-demand winger Wilfried Zaha rattled a post in a game he dominated.

Zaha was almost unplayable in the second half, again showing the talent which has got Manchester United and Arsenal vying for his signature.

Palace thought they had taken the lead just before half-time when Adam Bogdan saved Yannick Bolasie's shot and Glenn Murray fired in the rebound, but the striker was flagged offside.

Zaha came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when his angled drive came back off the post.In stoppage time Bogdan's point-blank save from Murray ensured Freedman would take a point back up to Lancashire.

Bayern keep foot on pedal

Forward Mario Mandzukic struck twice to steer Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich to a 2-0 victory over bottom-placed Greuther Fuerth yesterday to protect their nine-point lead as the league resumed after a four-week mid-season break.

The hosts, who secured a major coup in midweek when they announced the signing of former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola for next season, never hit top form in a largely one-sided game.

Cole commits to Chelsea

Ashley Cole has agreed to sign a new contract at Chelsea.

The defender is out of contract at the end of the season and was expected to leave Stamford Bridge, but the 32-year-old is set to snub the overtures of Real Madrid and Paris St Germain by committing his future to his current club.

Barca stunned by Sociedad

Ten-man Barcelona lost its first match of the Spanish league season yesterday, squandering a two-goal lead in a 3-2 defeat at Real Sociedad and conceding an injury-time winner.

Lionel Messi scored for a 14th straight game to open for Barcelona and Pedro Rodriguez made it 2-0 later. But Gonzalo "Chori" Castro scored twice after Barcelona's Gerard Pique was dismissed for a second yellow card. Sub Imanol Agirretxe popped up with the last-gasp winner. Barca had set a record by winning 18 games and drawing only once at the midway point.

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