Sport Soccer

Friday 15 December 2017

In brief: SPL facing fixture crisis

Scottish Premier League secretary Iain Blair admits he can not remember such a fixture backlog so early in the season after four more matches were postponed.

Fifteen games have now been lost to the freeze over the past four weekends, and Blair didn't rule out the prospect of the season being extended, admitting there was already little room for manoeuvre in the calendar.

"I certainly don't remember quite so much congestion by this stage in the season previously," he said. "There is still some flexibility in the calendar in terms of getting matches played midweek. It's a difficult situation, only a fool would say it wasn't, but if we were to get the matches played reasonably regularly from now on then I think we can cope."

Leeds surge to second place

Max Gradel scored both goals as Leeds beat Championship leaders QPR at Elland Road and moved into second place in the table.

QPR 'keeper Paddy Kenny had made a fine save to keep out Luciano Becchio's early header, but Becchio then headed down a far-post cross and Gradel smashed home the 25th-minute opener.

Adel Taarabt went close to an equaliser for Rangers, but Gradel led a counter-attack from halfway and drilled the ball home at the near post to secure the win with 20 minutes to go.

Long double downs Derby

Ireland striker Shane Long scored twice to earn Reading a 2-1 win over Derby at Pride Park.

Long fired home from the spot with two minutes of the first half remaining after he had been fouled by Shaun Barker.

Fellow Irishman Noel Hunt was denied early in the second half when his shot was well saved by Stephen Bywater.

Derby were level after an hour as Kris Commons headed home at the far post from a Paul Green cross, but Long netted with two minutes to go to secure the victory.

Inter secure world title

European champions Inter Milan won the Club World Cup when they beat TP Mazembe 3-0 in yesterday's final, easing the pressure on under-fire manager Rafael Benitez.

First-half goals from Goran Pandev and Samuel Eto'o and a late strike by substitute Jonathan Biabiany gave the Italians their third world title -- they won the former Intercontinental Cup in 1964 and 1965.

Miller sees red as Hibs beaten

Former Ireland international Liam Miller was sent off for an off-the-ball incident as his Hibs side went down 2-1 to Kilmarnock yesterday. Liam Kelly landed a first-half double, finishing off assists from Ben Gordon with either foot to continue Killie's impressive form.

Derek Riordan's magnificent long-range strike brought Hibs back into the game early in the second half but their hopes faded when Miller was sent off after the fourth official alerted the referee to foul play from the Corkman.

In the only other SPL game yesterday, Inverness extended their unbeaten away run into another year and ended Hearts' six-match winning streak -- and their hopes of moving level on points with second-placed Celtic -- at Tynecastle.

Caley Thistle, unbeaten on the road since November 2009, went in front through Grant Munro's 17th-minute header. Kevin Kyle equalised from the penalty spot after 25 minutes, but Caley Thistle's determined rearguard frustrated Hearts, extending the visitors' run to six games without defeat.

Barca crush derby rivals

Barcelona obliterated Espanyol's perfect home record with braces from Pedro Rodriguez and David Villa to claim the Catalan capital derby 5-1 last night and move five points clear of second-placed Real Madrid, who play today.

Espanyol had conceded only two goals in their seven straight victories at El Prat-Cornella Stadium, but Barcelona made a mockery of those statistics as they cruised past the best home side in the league. Xavi also netted.

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