The 21-year-old is being linked with so-called bigger clubs increasingly regularly, but Albion head coach Irvine expects his key forward to see the bigger picture. “I think Saido has the maturity to realise if he keeps doing what he does he will make progress here and all sorts of things will open up at international and club level,” the Scot said. “If he keeps doing this, he will become a top striker and anything can happen.” Irvine, who rates the Burundi-born forward at well over £15million, accepts the club may find themselves fending off interest from Berahino’s suitors in January. “There’s a bit of time to go between now and then, but if he continues to do what he is doing other clubs will come in and test the water,” he said. “That will come down to what the chairman (Jeremy Peace) wants to do. But the club is in such a good position we don’t need to sell. I think the chairman will make the right decision. I wouldn’t like to see Saido go, but I have to be realistic as I know what the possibility is. “Our chairman is very strong and will only do what is in the best interests of the club, and we will have to see whether it comes to that. If things change for Saido and he’s done a good job for West Brom, we’ll be happy.” Irvine is not at all bored of the media attention the England Under-21 international garners. “I’ll be delighted if we’re still talking about Saido at the end of the season,” he said. “His movement is very good. I expected him to score when through on Monday and he’s going in the right direction. He’s got plenty of things to improve, but with his attitude and the way he is living his life I think he can only get better and better.” Berahino made a name for himself last season with a goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Since then he has established himself as one of the Premier League’s hottest prospects, and added to that reputation with another goal against the Red Devils in Monday’s 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns. Press Association West Brom sensation Saido Berahino is too mature to have his head turned by interest from the Barclays Premier League glamour clubs, according to his boss Alan Irvine.
Press Association Rodgers said: “It was a big chance. We had one or two of those but we couldn’t quite put the ball in the net. “He will be disappointed he hasn’t scored but, for the team, it was a big effort on the back of playing against a good team in midweek. “We were a bit slow in the first half but in the second half I thought we were outstanding in the energy and effort we put into the game. It was a game we should have had three points from.” Balotelli’s lack of goals was lampooned in a publicity stunt staged by a bookmaker outside the ground, who offered fans the chance to swap shirts bearing the player’s name. But Hull boss Steve Bruce was also impressed by the contribution of the former Manchester City forward and feels the criticism has been harsh. Bruce said: “I thought he was their best player. There is a lot written about him and a lot of debate about him and he is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is a bit of a character, a bit of a maverick. When you sign a maverick you have to treat him like one and get the best out of him somehow. “He is going through one of those sticky periods but the kid is a talent.” Bruce also praised Balotelli for having the decency to accept a request to swap shirts with one of his players, despite the furore of Wednesday night. “It is a shame for him. He is the whipping boy,” Bruce said. “But even then he was good-spirited enough to swap shirts. So, one of them have got it, but he did it out of the road of the cameras this time.” Bruce was pleased to have collected another good point after last week’s draw against Arsenal. He said: “When you come to Liverpool, like the Emirates last week, you have to make sure you play well. If you play well and take something it is excellent for a club like ours, and where we have been, and what is expected. So we are very pleased with it.” Hull have been hit hard by injuries, not least in goal with Allan McGregor and Steve Harper out, providing the opportunity for the Swiss Jakupovic to come in. Bruce said: “I would expect him to make those saves but, to be fair to the kid, he has waited a long time. It is not easy being the third-choice goalkeeper. “The corners were raining in from Steven Gerrard and he stood up to the task of it. Maybe 18 months ago he found that a struggle. “He will remember that, he has kept a clean sheet at Anfield.” He had one of Liverpool’s best chances in the first half, forcing a fine save from Eldin Jakupovic, and was again thwarted by the Hull goalkeeper with almost the last kick of the game. His work rate and body language were also positive and Rodgers is convinced the controversial Italian will come good. Rodgers said: “I thought he worked very well, very hard. He maybe thought he wasn’t going to play today but you have got to stay with it. He is working hard and he is doing his best. “Unfortunately it is that wee bit of confidence sometimes, when you don’t get the goal. He kept going, kept getting into the areas. “Sometimes with players if it’s not going so well they have a day where they don’t train or don’t work, but he puts himself out to train every single day. He is out there wanting to be better, wanting to improve. “Goalscorers will tell you they get their energy from the ball hitting the back of the net and it is just not happening for him in terms of that, but all I will ask is they do their best. You saw today’s reaction. It was unlucky he didn’t get the goal.” Liverpool showed urgency only sporadically but still created a number of chances and finished the match strongly. Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho both went close in the closing minutes before Balotelli was denied at point-blank range by Jakupovic. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers vowed to stick with Mario Balotelli after another goalless but encouraging display against Hull. Balotelli is still to score in the Barclays Premier League since moving to Anfield after the Reds were shut out by the Tigers in a 0-0 home draw. But after some underwhelming performances, and controversy in midweek after exchanging shirts at half-time in the loss to Real Madrid, Balotelli produced a much-improved effort.
Berahino complained the Polish defender had deliberately elbowed him in the second half of Albion’s 1-0 win at the King Power Stadium on Saturday. But the FA said that as the incident took place while both players battled for the ball, the officials were likely to have seen it and therefore deemed it unworthy of retrospective action. Leicester defender Marcin Wasilewski will face no punishment from the Football Association over an apparent elbow on West Brom striker Saido Berahino. Press Association
It left van Gaal’s side third in the Barclays Premier League, seven points behind leaders Chelsea, and the boss felt draws at places like Villa Park would rule his side out of the title race. “Yes, that’s what I mean,” he said. “We dropped two points. We were the better team and that’s frustrating when you’re the better team and you don’t win these kind of games. When you want to be a part of the title race you have to win these games. “I have seen Manchester City in the first half against Crystal Palace and they could have been behind in the first five or 10 minutes. They struggled until half time but at the end it is 3-0, that’s the difference. “We weren’t so aggressive in the first half as we are usually. We kept the ball much better but didn’t create so much because we were not looking for the forwards. “It was not good enough to catch the victory here. “We were not creative enough in the second half but we had more aggression so that was the plus. “We have a draw and that’s why I’m a little frustrated because you could have won the game in my opinion. We didn’t do it but we were responsible for that.” Radamel Falcao cancelled out Christian Benteke’s opener but United’s six-game winning run ended with a 1-1 draw. Gabby Agbonlahor was harshly sent off for Villa with 25 minutes left but the visitors could not break down their organised hosts. Louis van Gaal admits Manchester United’s draw at Aston Villa could end up costing them the title. Falcao scored just his second goal for United, heading in Ashley Young’s second-half cross, and van Gaal was pleased with his impact. “It was a beautiful goal, I liked him today. I am very happy for him and I am always happy when Manchester United score,” he said. “I have to compare players every week, there’s always a question for every player, not only for Falcao.” Villa held firm despite Agbonlahor’s red card and boss Paul Lambert was left baffled why he was dismissed by referee Lee Mason after what looked like just collision with Young. “If that’s a red card you might as well pack up because it won’t be a game of football. I spoke to Brad Guzan after the game and he said Ashley Young admitted he felled Gabby, so work that one out,” said Lambert who will look at appealing. “That’s not a red card, I will stick up for him all day long. It’s a tackle where two lads have gone in for the ball. “He is not going to spring up and say ‘don’t send him off’, it would be a first in world football. Man Utd want to win the game and we want to.” But Lambert was full of praise for his side, missing the suspended Kieran Richardson and Alan Hutton with Ashley Westwood injured and United loanee Tom Cleverley ineligible, after the point left them 12th. He said: “I thought we were excellent considering everything has gone against us this week, injuries suspensions and ineligibility. Look at our bench, it was a kindergarten. The performance was absolutely terrific. “Christian scored a world class goal and gives you something to hold onto.” Press Association
Press Association “I think it’s possible. We have a chance,” he said of the prospect of winning all four competitions. Matic told national newspapers: “I don’t want to say that we’re going to but we’re going to try. We have quality. We will see if we can do. But I am confident, I believe in my team, my team-mates, so everything is possible.” The 26-year-old embarked on a second spell at Stamford Bridge in January, three years after moving to Benfica when opportunities at Chelsea were limited. The next test comes against West Ham on Boxing Day. Matic added: “It’s always important when you are mentally prepared to win and, in this moment, we are confident.” The Barclays Premier League leaders are through to the Capital One Cup semi-finals, the last 16 of the Champions League and have an FA Cup campaign to come. Under manager Jose Mourinho’s leadership, confidence is high within the squad and holding midfielder Matic, whose role in toughening up the Chelsea spine has been key, can see the club making a serious tilt for every trophy. Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic has forecast the Blues could sweep the board by winning the quadruple this season.
Urano gave Willie Mullins cause for optimism when he led from the off to record an easy victory on his fencing debut in the McCarthy Insurance Group Beginners Chase at Cork. Mullins, earlier successful with Bosman Rule, said: “He wasn’t bought as a chaser and was bought as a hurdler, but maybe this is his job and he seemed to take to it well. “We thought he might be good enough to run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he has had a disappointing hurdling career. It looked like longer trips were suiting him better, but maybe he is now coming to himself. “He could be a Power Gold Cup horse, but I hate making plans with him as he has disappointed in the past and I’d be happy if he just kept winning races.” Walsh added: “He jumped super, travelled fine and quickened up down the straight. We’re struggling to find what the key is to him and maybe he’s just a stronger horse now. H opefully he’ll go forward and he couldn’t have been any more impressive today. Only five went to post for the McCarthy Insurance Group Handicap Chase, but it provided a dramatic finish when the whole complexion of the contest changed at the third-last fence. Former Thyestes Chase hero Jadanli was in the process of running a big race when the veteran came down while leading, and he was soon followed by If Not For You, who held every chance at the time. That left recent Tramore scorer Bothair Clei in front with Sizing Coal breathing down his neck, and Daniel Murphy’s 5-2 shot proved to have most in the locker, going on to score by a length and a half under Philip Enright. Murphy said: “It was hard to know what would have happened with the two fallers, but he won snug enough. Press Association “There’s a handicap chase I’ve had in mind for him at Naas in February over two and a half miles for novices. He’s definitely able to step up in trip and he might make the four-miler at Cheltenham, although I don’t know whether he’ll go there. “My father bred him and I’d love to get him some black type as we still have the family.” Enright added: “The two falling at the third-last left me in front a bit longer than I wanted, but in fairness when Johnny (Burke, on Sizing Coal) came to me he picked up again. He wasn’t doing a whole pile in front but he kept galloping to the line.” Often frustrating during a hurdles career in which the ex-French gelding won just one race in 11 attempts, it could be a different story now as he made the switch to the bigger obstacles look easy in the hands of Ruby Walsh. The evens favourite barely put a foot wrong and stretched away going to the final fence to beat Drumlee by 13 lengths.
Valencia has five goals to his name since moving to Upton Park last summer and has reportedly attracted attention from the likes of Chelsea having impressed in his maiden season in England. But, with Cole and Carroll also sidelined, Allardyce’s attacking options consist of top goalscorer Diafra Sakho and recent arrival Nene. Nene did not travel with his team-mates and nor did Alex Song,who stayed behind whilst the squad travelled to Dubai to work on his own fitness and overcome a slight knee complaint. But for those who did make the trip, Allardyce is hoping it pays dividends after seeing the Hammers win just once in their last 11 league outings. “Everyone enjoyed the break,” he said. “The lads enjoyed the quality of the training sessions and what Dubai has to offer. I think a little bit of rest, both mentally and physically, will help us to win more games in the last 10 games of the season. Obviously we’re all looking forward to the games and picking up as many points as possible “I’ve done it every season for 13, 14 seasons. The research by the LMA shows the benefits of having a break and the evidence shows the risk of injuries decreases.” Sam Allardyce has confirmed Enner Valencia is a doubt for Saturday’s London derby against Arsenal after cutting his toe on a broken mug. With the Hammers free of FA Cup commitments having slipped to a 4-0 fourth-round exit at the hands of West Brom, Allardyce took his side off to Dubai for some warm-weather training. Although the 60-year-old believes the trip could see an upturn in form for West Ham, the toe injury suffered by Valencia upon their return will be seen as another setback. Valencia required emergency hospital treatment with the club confirming he had suffered a “deep laceration” after stepping on a piece of broken porcelain having dropped a teacup on the floor. It is the latest injury blow for Allardyce, who is already without fellow forwards Andy Carroll and Carlton Cole, with Winston Reid also missing for the trip to Arsenal. “Enner has had an accident at home and has cut his big toe quite severely on a broken cup,” Allardyce said. “We’re not exactly certain but we think it will be too soon for him be considered for the game at Arsenal on Saturday. “It was a freak accident at a time when we could have done without it due to our lack of available strikers.” The Hammers confirmed the nature of the accident with a short statement on their website, which read: “Enner Valencia sustained a deep laceration of his big toe on Tuesday evening in an accident at his home. “The number 31 trod on a piece of teacup, which he had dropped, and the resulting wound required emergency hospital treatment to clean and stitch the wound. “The forward was joined at hospital by West Ham United medical staff, who oversaw the surgery required.” Press Association
Jose Mourinho’s men are chasing a first Premier League title in five years. The Blues have four draws in their last six games in all competitions, including on Sunday at home to Southampton as they missed the chance to move eight points clear. Two of those draws were against Paris St Germain, in exiting the Champions League on away goals, while one of the two wins in the same unbeaten run secured the first silverware of the season. “We’re desperate… not desperate, it’s the wrong word – we’re looking for the next convincing win, the next win, to get us back up and running,” Cahill told Chelsea TV. “We should be going out playing with freedom and not feeling the pressure. “We should be going out and enjoying (it). I think that comes with winning games. The next win I’m sure is just around the corner for us.” Hull, Chelsea’s next opponents on Sunday, have been warned, particularly as the Blues have a full week’s preparation, unusual at this time of the season. “We’re out the competitions, apart from the Premier League,” Cahill said. “We can prepare well. A week, which is rare for us, to prepare for the next game, which is important.” Chelsea lost on New Year’s Day at Tottenham – whom they beat two months later in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley – but since exiting the FA Cup to Bradford, have won half of their games in an unbeaten 10-match run. Gary Cahill has hinted Chelsea are feeling the pressure of the Premier League title run-in. The Blues’ nearest rivals Manchester City lost at Burnley on Saturday but Mourinho’s men were unable to fully exploit the slip, instead enhancing their advantage, which includes a game in hand, to six points. Mourinho refuses to believe it is purely a two-team race between Chelsea and City, with Arsenal seven points behind and Manchester United eight adrift. The draw with Southampton came in the first match after the European exit to PSG. Cahill, who has won the European Cup with Chelsea, but is yet to win a Premier League title, said: “Playing for this club the expectations are so high. We didn’t lose the (PSG) game, we drew. All of a sudden everyone’s saying ‘what’s happening here?’ “As players we have to focus on the job in hand and that’s the Premier League. “I’m sure we’ll kick on. Man City dropped points and we picked up another point. Our goal difference is good. “It’s by far the end of the world, but we’re looking for the next result. “It’s a massive opportunity for us this season, everybody knows (that). “Ten games left to go now and we’re in a fantastic position.” Mourinho bemoaned Southampton being awarded a penalty and Chelsea being denied one when Branislav Ivanovic appeared to be tripped by Dusan Tadic. Ivanovic said on chelseafc.com: “I was at full speed, he stood on me and I went down. The decision was the referee’s (Mike Dean), so I don’t have anything to say.” Southampton withstood a late onslaught from Chelsea, with Fraser Forster performing well in goal. The former Celtic goalkeeper told Saints’ YouTube channel: “We’ve got a fantastic belief as a team. “We keep moving forward and we can do that. On any given day we can match teams. “It’s just about trying to do that consistently. “We’re going to keep working as hard as we can right until the end.” Ronald Koeman’s men are sixth, one point behind fifth-placed Liverpool, ahead of next week’s match at home to Burnley. “We can be very proud of what we’ve done,” Forster added. “But it’s only a good point if we go into next week’s game, work as hard as we can and come out of that with a result as well. “It’s an important game, a tough game so it’s vital we get another good week of training and then see what we can do next weekend.” Press Association
“That’s not just at QPR, that’s at any football club. “But when I’m sitting down writing down the list of players most of them are on side and making sure they’re available and ready to play for the club.” West Ham have endured a disappointing second half of the season, winning just twice in the league since the turn of the year and slipping to 10th in the table. The Hammers’ poor form has led to uncertainty surrounding manager Sam Allardyce, whose contract expires in the summer. “I can’t see why there would be any negative pressure around him because he’s done a good job wherever he’s been,” Ramsey said. “I don’t think it will impact the game. It’s a London derby and Sam will always prepare his teams well enough to try to win the game. “It’ll be a blood-and-thunder game and we need to approach it in a very positive way to get the points.” Press Association “From an individual point of view anyone out of contract would be working their guts off to get a new contract or put themselves in the shop window for someone else to give them a contract,” Ramsey said. “Anyone in that situation would try their best to maintain their career wherever it might be. “If it’s here, they have to make sure that Les Ferdinand, the owners and myself or whoever is here see them as providing value for the club next season. “If others see a bad attitude it’d limit their options to where they can go in the future.” It was said that bad attitudes in the dressing room undermined Rangers’ survival bid two years ago but Ramsey insists the vast majority of his squad are pulling in the right direction this time around. “Anyone who has taken the pitch this season has tried their absolute guts off,” Ramsey said. “I’ve only got time for the people who want QPR to stay up and are prepared to stay as fit and strong and work as hard as they can to keep us in the Premier League.” Ramsey continued: “In every club you’d walk in and managers would always say there’s people at the football club who are not earning the money that they are being paid. A number of Rangers players are out of contract this summer including Joey Barton, Richard Dunne, Clint Hill, Karl Henry and Bobby Zamora. The decision to offer new deals may depend on whether the club remain in the top flight as QPR sit two points adrift of safety ahead of Saturday’s crunch match at home to West Ham. QPR manager Chris Ramsey insists his players are fighting for their own futures as well as the club’s in the battle for Barclays Premier League survival this season.
Press Association Ireland maintained their 100 per cent start to their World T20 qualifying campaign by cruising to an eight-wicket victory over Nepal in Belfast. Ireland won the toss and inserted Nepal and although t he visitors made 18 from the first two overs, they began to lose regular wickets once Anil Mandal was the first man out having picked out Kevin O’Brien off Alex Cusack’s bowling. Only Sagar Pun and captain Paras Khadka, with 20 and 10 respectively, reached double figures for Nepal, who lost their final five wickets for only three runs as Kevin O’Brien and Thompson swept through the tail. The former, who was on a hat-trick at one point, returned three for eight from his four overs while Thompson’s trio of victims cost just 10 runs. After a rain-delayed resumption for their own innings, Ireland lost Niall O’Brien chopping on for three in the second over before Stirling and Porterfield briskly moved towards their target of 54. Like Niall O’Brien, Stirling was bowled by Sompal Kami with the scores level, but new batsman Kevin O’Brien struck the winning run to seal a comprehensive victory. The Group A leaders made it three wins from three as they dismissed Nepal for just 53 inside 14.3 overs, with Stuart Thompson and Kevin O’Brien producing career-best figures in claiming three wickets apiece. The hosts then took just eight overs to reach their victory target as Paul Stirling weighed in with 29 while William Porterfield was 18 not out.