Thursday, September 27, 2012

McDowell Expects Fanatical Fans

Having shown the bottle to send home the winning putt in the Ryder Cup two years ago at Celtic Manor, Graeme McDowell knows the atmosphere away from home will be very different indeed.

The European team are preparing for the event near sports-mad city, Chicago, where the USA team will receive superb support at every tee, on every fairway and every green.

Having been lifted by the support two years ago, despite the torrid conditions in Wales, McDowell and the rest of the Euro team know how much an impact the fans can make.

The Northern Irishman has plenty of experience of playing across the Atlantic and he has warned his teammates not to expect the warmest of receptions at the Medinah Country Club.

He said: "There's a world of difference between playing in front of your home fans and playing in front of the US fans.

"Putts that drop in front of your home fans are like a bomb going off - and putts that go in this weekend will be like someone's got the silencer on. It's like a muted applause.

"I remember Valhalla. The 14th was a very big natural amphitheatre and one of the most intimidating holes as a European. You knew when somebody birdied - you could hear it reverberating around the course.”

McDowell will be preparing for what is set to be a fiery contest in Illinois and he has shown in the past that he has the nerve to play under the most intense pressure the game can produce.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Heskey could prove shrewd signing for Jets

Emile Heskey is unlikely to be greeted by the same hysteria that left marquee signing Alessandro del Piero wide-eyed on his arrival at Sydney International but his impact on new club Newcastle Jets could be no less significant.

He has been a professional since 1994 but punters betting on soccer have never considered him a regular scorer - only four times in his career since has he hit double figures in the league. His best was 14 in his debut season for Liverpool - but then Heskey was never an archetypal goal-scoring goal-scorer.

He was often derided for offering, well, not a great deal - in total he scored 111 goals in 512 Premier League appearances - but then criticism from the armchair has become a national pastime in the land of Heskey's birth.

Gerard Houllier, Sven Goran Eriksson, Martin O'Neill and Fabio Capello - they can't all be wrong, surely?

Let us not forget that at the peak of his powers Heskey was seen as the first-choice foil for England and Liverpool team-mate Michael Owen.

Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond has told news soccer reporters that he can maybe build a team around the imposing 34-year-old.

Heskey first burst onto the scene as a bulldozing centre-forward; a defender's nightmare you might say. The kind of opponent who would leave you black and blue. Certainly, the physical nature of the A League will not be an issue.

It is this trait that could benefit the likes of James Brown, Marko Jesic and Ryan Griffiths if, as expected, the former Birmingham City and Wigan targetman is used as a focal point of the Jets attack.

True, the goals have dried up in recent years but then Jets fans should be prepared to a chalk a line through a spell to forget at his most recent club Aston Villa.

After more than a decade in the English top flight, this FA Cup and Europa League winner may just have the last laugh.

Pardew to stick with Cisse

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has vowed to stand by striker Papiss Cisse despite the hitman’s recent poor form.

The Senegalese star arrived at St James’ from German side Freiburg in January and made an immediate impression for the club, netting 13 times in his first 14 appearances as the Magpies eventually went onto finish 5th in the Premier League table.

However, he is still to open his account this term and despite his characteristic all action displays, he has looked somewhat out of sorts in front of goal.

His problems were most evident on Sunday against Norwich, as despite once again producing a fine performance for the team, he spurned a number of chances, most notably a penalty which he skied well over the bar.

In contrast, Cisse’s compatriot Demba Ba, who has been forced to play on the wing since his great friend’s arrival, has flourished so far this term, netting four times in five soccer games, including the winner in the Canaries clash.

This has led to speculation on online gambling forums that Pardew could drop his number nine and move Ba back into the position he played so well in during the first half of last season.

However, the boss is refusing to panic and says he is more than willing to stand by his charge as long as he is working hard for the team.

 "He is one of those players who doesn't really carry too much baggage, if I am honest,” he said. "I don't see an overriding problem there. I just know with Papiss that one goal, one moment will get him back into the groove.

 "He's a great player, and like all great players you have got to stand by them,” he added.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kosmina left raging over ref

Adelaide United boss John Kosmina was left furious by the performance of the officials as his side surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against Bunyodkor in the first-leg of their AFC champions league quarter-final.

Punters betting on soccer has backed the A-League side to come away with the win and that looked likely after they stormed into a two-goal lead.

The game changed when referee Abdullah Mohamed Al Hilali deemed Nigel Boogaard’s tackle on Murzoev Kamoliddin worthy of a straight red card, with the visitors scoring from the resulting free-kick to further rub salt in the Adelaide wounds.

There was no denying that the Bunyodkor striker made the most of the situation, and further fuelled the host’s anger by escaping a possible sending off himself for a nasty foul on Reds captain Eugene Galekovic in the second half.

The Adelaide bench were unanimous in their belief that Boogaard had been harshly dealt with, lamenting the decision as being pivotal in changing the flow of a game the Aussies had dominated until that point, playing some sensational football to take a 2-0 lead before the sending off.

"I said (directly) after the match it (the red card) was 50-50 without the benefit of the replay. There was a bit of contact but it was minimal and their striker Murzoev Kamoliddin he made the most of it the situation which is what I guess what people do in those situations,” said an angry Kosmina.

“He was also coincidently the same guy that should have been sent off for what was a really nasty challenge on Eugene Galekovic.”

While the 10 men battled manfully through the second half, they were left exposed time and time again as the Uzbek team managed to grab an important equaliser to level the tie going into the return leg.

Martin Brodeur Racks up Fourth Stoppage

There is probably no player better placed to comment on the recent NHL labour struggles than Martin Brodeur, as he has been involved in the last three; that is not counting his involvement in the NHL strike in 1992.

Brodeur has now been part of, or involved in, four work stoppages, so it is hard to believe how many games he has actually managed to play in his career.

In the NHL standings, he actually holds the all-time win total by a netminder (656), despite all of those interruptions that have affected various seasons. By our calculations, it looks like the Devils goalie has missed over 100 appearances due to NHL work stoppages.

Now that the league has cancelled the first couple of weeks of the preseason, we await other games to be called off. 

If there's still no agreement with regards to when the real games in October are scheduled to start, the 40-year-old Brodeur says that he will ponder his playing options. Eight years ago, when the NHL season was cancelled, Brodeur didn’t jump to Europe to play in a league.

This time around, playing in a European league might be on the cards and he has already advised agent, Pat Brisson, to be on the lookout, as have many other players who look like they may be making a jump to the European leagues until the situation is sorted out.

Despite having been through this situation before, the third lockout of his career is proving no less frustrating and aggravating. 

He did, however, see this lockout coming, like most people, and that explains why he fought so hard for a two-year deal from the Devils, enough that he even hit the open market for a few days before general manager, Lou Lamoriello, relented. 

A one-year deal would have risked seeing his career conclude with the end of a yearlong lockout. He did not want to chance that, and neither did fans watching the live NHL streaming on Bet365.

Akram – India need a fully fit Zaheer

Pakistan legend Wasim Akram has insisted India’s chances at this World Twenty20 tournament depend on Zaheer Khan improving his fitness and form. The Indian bowler has come under the spotlight following a disappointing performance in his team’s opening game of the tournament against Afghanistan.

The 33-year old has been made something of a scapegoat for India’s sluggish victory, perhaps unfairly, but it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Zaheer will keep his place in the team. Despite going for over 10 an over, the pace bowler is likely to hang onto his spot in the bowling attack, but there will be big pressure on the veteran to prove he is still deserving of his position.

Conditions in Sri Lanka are never fast bowler-friendly, but Zaheer did himself no favours against the aggressive Afghan batting line-up with a lacklustre performance. Teams won’t win the tournament with spin alone, and having consistent and reliable pace bowler will be essential to success in Sri Lanka.

It may have been a case that the bowler failed to get himself fired up for the opening match of the tournament because it wasn’t against one of the bigger teams, but Wasim Akram has insisted India will need their experienced players to vastly improve from their first game performance if they are going to have any chance of winning their second World Twenty20 title.

"Zaheer's fitness looked suspect. He did not look sharp enough and probably his energy levels were not up to the mark. I know Sri Lankan conditions are extremely demanding, but if Zaheer has to lead India's attack, he has to be at the peak of his fitness,” said Akram.

“MS Dhoni's selection worries, I would imagine, will be around his senior players like Zaheer, Harbhajan and Irfan Pathan,”

Monday, September 24, 2012

Unity the key for Waratahs

2012 was a year of massive disappointment for the Waratahs who failed spectacularly to build on the promising performances of the previous and finished 11th in 2012.

Hopes were high ahead of the most recent Super Rugby campaign that the club could kick on from 2011’s fifth-placed finish and qualifying semi-final appearance and claim a first ever Super Rugby title.

The ‘Tahs have reached the final on two occasions in the past, and there was solid opimism that 2012 could be the year that they finally go one better.

But three defeats from their opening four matches was a sign of things to come, and a season-ending run of nine weeks without a win has done little to inspire confidence as the club prepares for 2013.

It is the Brumbies who continue to set the curve for Australian clubs and if the Waratahs are to stand any chance of besting their national rivals then big changes are needed ahead of next season’s February kick-off.

Seven new players have already been brought into the club ahead of the next campaign, while nine members of last year’s squad have already left for pastures new.

The club deserves credit for taking action following a year of disappointment, and the player movement is likely to affect rugby tips online, but with wholesale changes comes the risk that players will not gel in time for the team to mount a challenge for a play-off spot.

The real challenge for head coach Michael Cheika next season will not be to fix up the scrum, to organise the line-out or draw up some new attacking plays, it will be to ensure that there is unity between the members of the new-look Waratahs squad.

The men brought in certainly have the pedigree, but as a team of individuals they stand little chance of delivering the success the club’s supporters so sorely crave.

But if the team plays as one then who knows how far last year’s under-achievers can go? They are certainly a team that those who watch live rugby online will be keeping an eye on.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stanford – Rose Bowl Bound?

The Stanford Cardinals weekend 21-14 NCAAF score triumph against the USC Trojans catapulted them up the AP Top 25 rankings from No. 21 to No. 9 – that in itself is an achievement but it also could have served as something of a blueprint as to why the Cardinal have a real shot at winning the Pac-12 for the first time since 1999.

That blueprint has four dynamic components:

Firstly a dominant front seven is needed and the group that they have this year is certainly dominant - this group shut down a Trojans rushing attack manned by two of the best running backs in college football in Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal, as USC managed to tally a meagre 26 yards on the ground in 28 carries. This group was just as good at getting after the passer, as the Cardinal posted five sacks against a USC club that had allowed only eight sacks during the entire 2011 season.

Having taken away the running game from the Trojans they had to switch to a vertical passing game and targeted junior cornerback Terrence Brown. Brown was one of the primary targets of the USC passing game, as the Trojans directed seven passes his way, five of which were of the vertical variety (meaning they were thrown 11 or more yards downfield). Brown was called for two pass interference penalties totalling 29 yards, but he allowed zero completions on the other five passes targeted his way and even managed to snag an interception on one of the throws.

It wasn’t all about the defence for Stanford though and their run game and more correctly their run blocking was superb right across the offensive unit and that includes the tight-ends and wide receivers. More of this will leave them with a very good and solid base offence for the rest of the season.

Lastly and certainly not least they have a good quarterback in Josh Nunes, his numbers don’t look explosive he went 15-for-32 for 215 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions but What those numbers don't show is that Nunes did exactly what this offence needed him to do, which is make some big plays while not making the big mistakes.

Stanford have a tough schedule of live NCAAF matches coming up but if they emerge unscathed from that a very favourable late October/early November schedule could set the them up for a potential Pac-12 North-clinching contest against the Oregon Ducks on Nov. 17 and put the Rose Bowl in their sights.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scrivens Pleased to Secure his Future

Goaltender, Ben Scrivens, admits that he is relieved to have finally sorted out his future by agreeing a two-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 26-year-old will be paid $600,000 during the first year of the deal and $625,000 in the second.
"It's a big weight off my mind," said Scrivens. "For me, it was a long summer. I've never really been through a process like that, so I’m glad it’s all behind me now."

Scrivens is expected to push James Reimer for a starting spot in the Maple Leafs’ line-up this season, after Jonas Gustavsson, who featured in 42 games for Toronto last term, agreed a two-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings this summer.

Scrivens made his first regular season start for the Maple Leafs in November 2011 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and went on to play in 11 more matches in 2011-12.

He also featured for the Toronto Marlies last season, the Maple Leafs’ top affiliate, who play in the American Hockey League (AHL). 

Scrivens made 39 appearances for the Marlies in 2011-12 and had a 22-15-1 record. He kept four shutouts and led the AHL with a 2.04 goals against average, as the Marlies embarked on a run to the Western Conference title and a place in the Calder Cup final.

In 2010-11, he featured in 33 matches for the Marlies, having previously played for the Reading Royals and Cornell Big Red.

The Maple Leafs have a proud history and have won 13 Stanley Cup championships, second only to the 24 secured by the Montreal Canadiens.

However, their last success came in 1967, and they have not managed to qualify for the play-offs since the 2003-04 campaign, when they were beaten in the Conference semi-finals by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Fans betting on NHL can keep an eye on their investment by visiting the live NHL streaming website on Bet365.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

United able to compete despite revenue drop

Scaremongering headlines this week that Manchester United have recorded a drop in revenue should be read while taking the club’s Champions League exploits into account.

United, who floated 10% of the club on the New York Stock Exchange this summer, revealed a fall in revenue between 3% and 5% - an estimated £320m compared to a slight increase of £334m a year ago.

Although the club has seen a drop in revenue the news is hardly worth headlines suggesting the club is financially heading in the wrong direction. For the fall in revenue rests on one factor: Champions League progress.

United, who are priced for Europe at great odds at Bet Victor, are the victims of their own success when they failed to qualify for the knock-out stages of the 2011/12 Champions League, just one season after they reached the final of Europe’s top club competition.

The income generated from prize money and broadcasting rights in that run two years ago accounts for the £14m drop a year later, where Sir Alex Ferguson’s side bombed out at the group stage.

United have worked hard to eradicate the failures of last season and Ferguson has boosted his squad with new signings Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie. He is aware that he works under a network of investors and any big-money signings will be scrutinised by a board determined to make money from the club.

The Scot has therefore done a great job balancing the books at Old Trafford and now has a squad capable to challenging once more for the European Cup. Although the wage bill has gone up 9.9% United have managed to offset this increase with new commercial agreements such as the DHL training kit sponsorship, meaning the club is always one step ahead of the game.

United fans from within the Bet Victor community should not be concerned about a meagre drop in revenue and instead will be optimistic their side can sustain itself in the future while continuing to compete for major trophies.

United see Glimpse of New Generation

Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Roberto Martinez's great escapists, Wigan, last Saturday was all about the old guard, with starts for the likes of Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, and the impeccable Paul Scholes.

They all played their part in the routine win, not least Scholes, who orchestrated the play from midfield before showing precision timing to convert from close range, and open the scoring in what was his 700th appearance for the club.

There have been fears though among United supporters that age will soon catch up with the old guard, leaving a huge hole in the Red Devils’ starting XI.

Well, despite not possessing the unlimited resources like his near neighbours, United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, does appear to be looking towards the future, with two of his summer signings showing signs of their potential.

First, full-back, Alex Buttner, a low key arrival from Vitesse, put in a stirring display that will put real pressure on Patrice Evra.

The young Dutchman never stopped running, looking solid at the back as well as getting forward to support the attacks.

In the second half, one of his forays into the penalty area produced the decisive second goal, his sweeping cross-shot deflected home by Javier Hernandez.

Three minutes later, it got even better, the 23-year-old skipping past three players in the box before firing in a shot that squirmed past Ali Al-Habsi for a dream debut goal.

With the game won, Ferguson withdrew Giggs and Scholes, with former Crewe youngster, Nick Powell, coming onto the field. 

Within minutes, the 18-year-old collected the ball 25 yards out before powering home a spectacular fourth. It was a strike reminiscent of Scholes and one that suggested Powell could well fill the great man’s boots after all.

The talk before the game was about the old guard; the talk after it was about the new generation. Fergie looks like he has done it again.

Follow the link for the latest news on the Premier League and Champions League, as well as the latest betting picks from Lee Dixon.