Wednesday 21 February 2018

Soccer in brief: Lennon hails Celtic spirit

Neil Lennon believes Celtic have "found their mojo'' as they head into this afternoon's Scottish Communities League Cup second semi-final against St Mirren at Hampden.

The Hoops returned from the winter break, which included a training camp in Spain, to hit the ground running with two convincing wins at Parkhead.

"I am delighted, they have played great,'' said Lennon. "Playing at home this season, at times, was a bit of a bugbear but they seem to have found their mojo at home and the last two performances have been superb."

The in-form Parkhead men are overwhelming favourites to beat a struggling St Mirren team and face a youthful Hearts side who bounced back from Scott Robinson's sending-off to beat Inverness on penalties after extra time in yesterday other semi-final at Easter Road.

Liverpool agree Coutinho fee

Liverpool have agreed a fee with Inter Milan for Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho. The Merseyside club are thought to be prepared to pay £8.5m for the 20-year-old, who was also reported to have attracted interest from Southampton.

Manager Brendan Rodgers had said on Friday he was still looking to add to his squad with one or two new players before Thursday's transfer deadline.

Manager Brendan Rodgers was unwilling to comment on speculation linking the club with Coutinho but it is now understand the club have succeeded with an approach after previous advances were rejected.

Liverpool will also need to apply for a work permit for the player.

Ivory Coast

in quarters

Ivory Coast became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations and Algeria were the first o be eliminated when they were beaten 2-0 by Togo in Group D.

Gervinho, Yaya Toure and Didier Ya Konan scored as the Ivorians kept up a 100 per cent start.

Togo's 2-0 victory against Algeria keep their last eight chances alive. Emmanuel Adebayor netted in the 32nd minute and substitute Dove Wome added another in stoppage time to seal the victory.

Appleton still eyes new faces

A 3-0 FA Cup fourth-round win at Derby did nothing to change Michael Appleton's determination to improve his Blackburn squad in the hope of mounting a promotion challenge.

"There's still plenty to play for in the league and while I don't have a budget as such I'm sure the owners would support me if I went to them with a viable deal for the right players,'' said Appleton.

Colin Kazim-Richards opened the scoring at Pride Park a minute before half-time and Scott Dann added a second goal as the midway-point of the second period approached. Jordan Rhodes settled the tie shortly afterwards with his 22nd goal of the season.

Jutkiewicz saves Boro

Lukas Jutkiewicz spared Middlesbrough an unwanted FA Cup fourth-round replay at Aldershot by completing a decisive brace five minutes into stoppage time.

Boro were held at arm's length by Dean Holdsworth's Shots for 83 minutes at the Riverside Stadium, but Jutkiewicz made the breakthrough with a forceful header.

But Danny Hylton extended his run as the competition's top scorer with a dramatic goal on the counter-attack to tee up a replay at the Recreation Ground, only for Jutkiewicz to break the spirited visitors' resolve at the death.

Wood earns Foxes a replay

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson praised Chris Wood for bringing a "new dimension to the club'' after scoring his seventh goal in five matches in the 1-1 draw at Huddersfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The New Zealand international came off the bench to keep Leicester in the cup with an 82nd-minute strike after managerless Huddersfield appeared poised to take the win thanks to a Lee Novak penalty.

"He has brought a new dimension to the club and has all the qualities we are looking for. He is doing what we hoped he'd do,'' said Pearson.

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