Saturday 17 February 2018

Best doubtful for Euro clash

Leon Best is a major doubt for Ireland's Euro 2012 play-off against Estonia.

The 25-year-old suffered toe and groin injuries in his club's 2-1 Premier League victory over Everton yesterday and was replaced by Hatem Ben Arfa with 17 minutes remaining.

Best, who was only drafted into the squad on Thursday with West Brom's Shane Long struggling to be fit, will join up with his team-mates in Malahide tomorrow to be assessed by Giovanni Trapattoni's medical team, but the signs are not good.

His wife is also due to give birth and that too could delay Best's departure.

"Leon's wife is due to give birth very soon and they are in discussions," said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

"He is desperate to play, don't get me wrong. We have spoken to the Irish manager, so we will see."

Pardew praise for Magpies

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew hailed his side's battling qualities as they continued their impressive start to the season with a 2-1 win at home to Everton early yesterday afternoon.

The Magpies were 2-0 ahead before the half hour thanks to a John Heitinga own goal before a stunning Ryan Taylor strike.

But Everton pulled a goal back in first-half injury-time through Jack Rodwell and the hosts had to hang on after the break.

"It was one of those games today where we got disrupted," said Pardew.

"We lost two key players, but the guys who came on did well. It shows another side of us -- that we have strength in depth.

They had their big guns come off the bench and come at us but we defended solidly. It was one of our best defensive performances."

Newcastle are now unbeaten after 11 games and lie third in the Premier League table..

Villa boss hails Agbonlahor

Alex McLeish hailed Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor who he believes will have "caught the eye" of England head coach Fabio Capello with his recent performances.

Agbonlahor scored once and set up a double for Darren Bent in Villa's 3-2 home win over Norwich.

McLeish confirmed Agbonlahor had been named in Capello's provisional squad for the forthcoming internationals with Spain and Sweden.

"In that kind of form, Gabby has got to have caught the eye [of Capello]," said McLeish. "The expectation levels are now on him to deliver in every game."

Lennon wary of trip to 'Well

Neil Lennon wants Celtic to be on guard when they return to Fir Park today for the first time since they lost 2-0 to Motherwell in February. Celtic go into this game three points adrift of their second-placed hosts, albeit with a game in hand.

"I think that 2-0 defeat at Fir Park hurt the players and it was off the back of a good win against Rangers," said Lennon. "We had a good win on Thursday night but we have to be very careful that we don't slip into the same level of performance that we had at Fir Park that day."

Meanwhile, Rangers won 3-1 against Dundee United yesterday thanks to a Nikica Jelavic hat-trick to stay top of the league.

Pompey spoil Cotterill return

Steve Cotterill endured a miserable return to Portsmouth as his Nottingham Forest side were beaten 3-0 in the Championship.

Leaders Southampton surrendered a two-goal lead but rallied to win 4-2 at Coventry, while second-placed West Ham were comfortable 2-0 winners at Hull.

Elsewhere, two second-half goals gave Cardiff a 2-0 win over fellow play-off hopefuls Crystal Palace. Kenny Miller broke the deadlock in the 69th minute and Peter Whittingham added a second 10 minutes from the end.

Meanwhile, new man El-Hadji Diouf's two goals fired bottom side Doncaster to a much-needed 3-2 win at Ipswich.

Rovers remained bottom, though, because Bristol City were 3-1 winners over Burnley.

Peterborough came from two goals down to claim a last-gasp 3-2 win over Derby, with Grant McCann getting the winner.

Kevin Phillips brought a dull game between Blackpool and Millwall to life with an excellent goal in the 61st minute, moments after coming off the bench, to give the Seasiders a 1-0 win.

In the evening game, Scott McDonald scored his first goal in 12 games to ensure Middlesbrough stayed within touching distance of the automatic promotion places after beating Watford 1-0.

Dortmund stay on Bayern trail

Champions Borussia Dortmund kept up their pursuit of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich yesterday, storming to a 5-1 home win over VfL Wolfsburg to climb within two points of the top.

Dortmund chalked up their fifth win in six games to move to two behind Bayern who travel to promoted Augsburg today. In Serie A, Palermo moved within three points of leaders Juve with a 3-1 win over Bologna.

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