Sport Soccer

Wednesday 24 January 2018

In brief: Mjallby quiets treble talk

Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby believes it is "ridiculous" to talk of a possible treble ahead of today's Co-operative Insurance Cup final (3.0) against Rangers at Hampden. The Hoops are top of the Scottish Premier League and favourites to win the Scottish Cup after battling through to the semi-finals in midweek with a win at Inverness.

Neil Lennon's side also go in to the Old Firm final as favourites having not lost to the Ibrox men in four games this year. However, the Parkhead assistant boss is determined that no one should get too far ahead of themselves.

"It would be ridiculous to think about a treble right now," said Mjallby. "The main focus is on the next game. Rangers are going to be fired up, it is a Cup final. They know everything about us and we know everything about them so there will be no surprises. The good thing is we are unbeaten in four against them."

Mjallby will lead the team out at Hampden as Lennon serves a four-match touchline ban for being sent to the stand at Tynecastle in November.

Reds wary of Carroll reliance

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has warned his players they cannot afford to fall into the trap of becoming a long-ball team with Andy Carroll in the side.

The 6'3'' striker has already displayed impressive aerial dominance in his three appearances for the Reds, but in Thursday's Europa League exit to Braga there was an over-reliance on getting the ball up to the £35m man early.

"Andy has tremendous assets, which we have to learn to get the best out of and we have got assets that will help," said the Scot. "But he has to learn how we can get the best out of him. We have to fuse the two things together, play to his strengths but also play to ours and it will take a bit of time to get it working.

Liverpool's visit to Sunderland today will be aided by the return of livewire forward Luis Suarez, who was instrumental in their 3-1 win over Manchester United but ineligible for Europe.

Jefferies hails Hearts' spirit

Hearts manager Jim Jefferies admitted to "losing it" at half-time, but was left praising his side's never-say-die attitude, as they twice came from behind to secure all three points against St Mirren courtesy of Rudi Skacel's injury-time winner. Michael Higdon had twice put the visitors ahead, either side of a 55th-minute effort from Skacel. Ryan Stevenson equalised on 82 minutes and Skacel prodded in Craig Thomson's corner with seconds left to make it 3-2.

"In the first half, because we were that bad, St Mirren deserved to be more than one goal in front," said Jeffries. "You look for a reaction from the players and we said we had to go for it. As bad as they were in the first half, I sat them down after the game and gave them a lot of praise. What character to come back."

FIFA candidate denies split

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) chief Mohamed Bin Hammam has rejected claims his candidacy for FIFA president could split soccer's governing body. The 61-year-old Qatari was responding to comments by outgoing FIFA executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer that his bid to unseat Blatter was "dangerous" and put the ruling body's unity at risk.

Bin Hammam, who is credited with reforming the fledgling Asian game and helping to secure the 2022 World Cup for Qatar, threw his hat into the ring on Friday, saying it was time for changes at FIFA after 13 years under Blatter, 75.

"Why should FIFA split if two candidates are running for the presidency?" said Bin Hammam. "President Blatter is a colleague and friend. I won't create or encourage any environment that will divide the football family."

Blades keep hopes alive

Championship strugglers Sheffield United handed themselves a relegation lifeline with a deserved 2-0 win over promotion-chasing Leeds. Eric Lichaj's 55th-minute own goal and a Bjorn Helge Riise strike on 74 minutes wasn't enough to drag them out of 18th place, but offered further proof that they have what it takes to avoid the drop. Leeds have now gone two games without a goal and will be a striker light for three games with Billy Paynter seeing red late on.

Leaders QPR extended their advantage at the top of the table to nine points with Hogan Ephraim on target in their 1-0 win over Doncaster. Second-placed Norwich could only manage a 1-1 draw at Hull while Swansea moved within a point of the Canaries, beating sixth-placed Nottingham Forest 3-2 thanks to a double from Fabio Borini.

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