Press Association Ireland head into their showdown with the World champions in Gelsenkirchen with six Euro 2016 points safely banked from their opening two Group D qualifiers, a hard-fought 2-1 victory in Georgia and Saturday’s cakewalk in Dublin. The mission will be significantly more taxing next week, but O’Neill is happy to be approaching it on the back of the perfect start to the campaign. He said: “That’s given them good confidence. They have scored some goals here tonight and they are feeling pretty decent. “Tuesday night is a totally different game, of course, but I think getting up for it should not be a problem. That will not be a problem now. “We have never talked about Germany at all. There’s no point. We are not good enough to be getting carried away with ourselves. “We have won the game tonight, I am delighted we have scored some goals, of course, when we have got seven – I wish we could have scored maybe one or two more. “But I would have taken this all day. I am delighted to have won the game and it’s just full speed ahead now to Germany.” O’Neill had warned his players in advance that they might need to be patient against the Gibraltarians, who had frustrated last month’s opponents Poland for much of the first half before eventually succumbing 7-0. However, there was no repeat this time around as skipper Robbie Keane lit up the Aviva Stadium with a 12-minute first-half hat-trick to effectively secure the points with just 18 minutes played. The Republic’s start to the second-half was even more impressive as they plundered four more within 11 minutes, James McClean registering twice either side of keeper Jordan Perez’s own goal before Wes Hoolahan completed the rout. O’Neill said: “I am obviously delighted. We got off to a great start – Robbie had scored a hat-trick by the time we had reached the 17th or 18th minute and effectively, the game was won then. “But we had a great haul of goals just after half-time. If there was disappointment at all, it was in the last 20 minutes, I thought we became sloppy at both ends of the field. “But outside that, I am obviously delighted to have won the game and delighted that we have scored some goals.” If Keane claimed the headlines, it was Hoolahan who caught the eye, playing a part in each instalment of his captain’s treble having already passed up a glorious fourth-minute chance to open the scoring himself. O’Neill said: “Wes did very, very well. He had a chance to begin with in the game when a chance came over and he headed it just like I used to head it, just appallingly. “But he made up for it with an exquisite pass just a couple of moments later and we finally scored the goal from that. “I hear this modern talk about playing between the lines, but Wes here at the Aviva has never failed to play well, and he is good, particularly on a night like this here when we are looking for that little bit of craft maybe to break defences down.” For Gibraltar boss Allen Bula, it proved a sobering evening in Dublin, although he was still able to take positives. He said: “Obviously we are disappointed with the result, but we have got to take the positives with us. We made mistakes, but we are learning. “To be down 5-0, 6-0 and then start really pushing hard and my players made Ireland start defending deep, it’s a positive I can take forward. “We have said from day one that we are not going to park the bus, and it’s not just words, we have actually shown it in every single match. That’s not the way we play.” Martin O’Neill insisted he had not even thought about the Republic of Ireland’s daunting trip to Germany until the latter stages of their 7-0 romp against Gibraltar.
The Sharks brought in 20-year-old Mike Haley at full-back for his first appearance of the season in place of the injured Luke McLean and he was prominent early on as the home side settled quickly. Cipriani opened the scoring with a seventh-minute penalty but the lead lasted just three minutes as Munster showed their danger. Keatley’s cut-out pass released Simon Zebo and his clever kick-ahead set up the position for a series of mauls which eventually resulted in prop Dave Kilcoyne burrowing his way over for the game’s first try. Keatley’s conversion put his side into a 7-3 lead and a couple of barnstorming runs from CJ Stander kept the visitors in the driving seat until Cipriani began to take centre stage. He kicked a second penalty, awarded by referee Mathieu Raynal in his last act before being helped off with a knee injury on 15 minutes, and then audaciously, with the stiff breeze behind him, landed a third from two metres inside his own half after replacement referee Laurent Cardona pulled up the Munster forwards for collapsing a maul. With a 9-7 advantage, Cipriani decided it was time to go on the attack and his decision to turn down another shot at goal paid off when veteran forward Magnus Lund, the only survivor from Sale’s 27-13 European Cup win over Munster at Edgeley Park in 2005, finished off a sustained spell of pressure on the Munster line by forcing his way over at the corner. Cipriani kicked the touchline conversion to make it 16-7, and it got even better for the Sharks when a break from Haley dragged the Munster defence out of position and centre Johnny Leota took advantage to dummy his way over for a second try which silenced the red half of the AJ Bell Stadium. Cipriani maintained his accuracy with the conversion to extend his side’s lead to 23-7 and Munster finished the first half with 14 men when flanker Tommy O’Donnell was sin-binned for pulling back Tom Arscott as he supported a break by Cipriani. A 40-metre drop goal from Ian Keatley in the last action of a gripping European Champions Cup clash completed a remarkable comeback from Munster against Sale. The two-times champions were staring at a shock opening defeat in pool A at the AJ Bell Stadium when they trailed 23-7 at half-time to a Danny Cipriani-inspired Sale. But tries from winger Andrew Conway and scrum-half Conor Murray set up a pulsating finish which enabled fly-half Keatley to rescue his side with his last-gasp kick, his fifth goal of the game, and earn a 27-26 victory in the first match of the so-called group of death, with Saracens and Clement Auvergne to come. Sale’s pleas for a penalty try were turned away but a 16-point half-time lead was a fair reflection of their superiority. The angry look on Munster coach Anthony Foley’s face as he marched down the tunnel told its own story, and the Irish side played with more purpose and intent at the start of the second half. Conway, on his European debut, dropped full-back Felix Jones’ pass on 55 minutes but moments later made amends when he crossed wide out. Keatley added the conversion to cut the deficit to nine points. With all the momentum, Munster thought they had scored again on the hour when the busy Murray forced his way to the line but was prevented from touching down by Sale wing Tom Brady. Murray was not to be denied, however, as he burrowed his way over at the other corner after another strong burst from Stander and Keatley’s third goal cut the gap to just two points. Cipriani and Keatley then traded penalties before Munster mounted one last push for victory, and Keatley came up with the winner to the delight of the thousands of Irish fans. Press Association
After the match, Monk – in no doubt it had been a “massive game-changing moment” – branded Oliver’s decision “disgusting”, suggesting even Stoke’s bench could not believe the call that had been made. Monk said: “It was a massive, game-changing moment, and for me, it is a disgusting decision to be honest. “How he (Oliver) can’t see it is a blatant dive is beyond me. “For me, Moses has cheated the referee into making that decision, and he should be punished for that, for clear cheating. “It is one of the most blatant dives you will ever see. You can go and watch a million games and you won’t see more of a dive than that. “He should be ashamed of himself for diving like that. But this is the world we live in. That is what some players want to do, so I have to live with that – to live with an extremely poor decision, once again. “He is supposed to be a professional referee at the highest level – you wouldn’t expect that from a professional. “For me, everyone in the stadium was amazed he gave it. Garry Monk accused Stoke’s Victor Moses of cheating by making a “blatant dive” in Swansea’s 2-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium, adding that the winger should be ashamed of himself and punished for his actions. Swans boss Monk was left fuming at the Potters’ equaliser in the Barclays Premier League contest, which came in the 43rd minute after Moses went to ground in the visitors’ box under the attentions of Angel Rangel. It appeared Moses had gone down somewhat easily but referee Michael Oliver awarded a penalty which Charlie Adam tucked away. “I looked straight at their bench and they were looking at me as if they couldn’t believe it. “He (Oliver) is the only guy in the stadium who thought that was a clear-cut penalty.” Monk – who said he “wouldn’t be able to go home to my family and show my face to them” if he had done what Moses did, and stressed that any of his players that dived would be fined and dropped – also had strong words for referees’ chief Mike Riley. The Swansea manger believes his side have been victims of a number of incorrect decisions by officials, and said: “I have sent a DVD off with a letter, expressing my disappointment and I’ve had no contact from Mike Riley. “I think it is about being pro-active and he is clearly not doing that – he is clearly not listening to anything I am saying. “So I have to go above him, and hopefully that will send the right message and I can get the right answers. “His (Riley’s) job is to ring me – it’s not mine to ring him. He is supposed to be the head of these guys and overseeing it all, and seeing what managers feel. “But I’ve had no contact whatsoever, and for me, that is very poor.” Stoke boss Mark Hughes hit back at Monk for his comments on Moses, saying: “I actually heard him say that my player was a cheat which is unacceptable in my view.” He added of his 35-year-old opposite number: “Sometimes you have to bite your lip and just be careful what you say, because you can get yourself into trouble. “The longer you are in this game, the more experience you get and sometimes you have to curb what you really feel. Maybe it is an occasion he needs to learn from.” Hughes insisted Moses, who is on loan at Stoke from Chelsea, did not dive and also defended Potters captain Ryan Shawcross. The away side took the lead in the 34th minute when Shawcross and Wilfried Bony tussled at a corner, the latter went down and Oliver awarded a penalty which the Swansea striker converted himself. Hughes felt Bony hit the turf “quite easily”, and said: “I’m a little bit concerned because I think people are trying to highlight Ryan over most Premier League defenders in terms of holding people in the box, which is pure nonsense. “I think if you are giving penalties for that, you have to at both ends for both teams. “I just think maybe the referee had seen a little bit of the media coverage and that every time we have a corner against, the cameras go straight to Ryan. “The referee might have been doing his pre-match work and that might have been highlighted to him, so maybe that was why he felt the need to give that decision. “But from my view, it was a soft penalty.” Stoke secured the three points through a 76th-minute header from substitute Jonathan Walters. Press Association
A penalty for full-back Rhys Patchell levelled matters before Hanrahan landed a 45-yard effort to restore the lead for the visitors. Tighthead prop Jones had been told to up his workrate in the loose if he wants to regain his Wales place and he certainly seemed to have taken the message on board as he charged round the pitch. Munster number eight Robin Copeland was back at the ground where he made his breakthrough at the top level and was a key source of lineout ball and also looked to enjoy some of the barnstorming charges which once made him an Arms Park favourite. The exchange of penalties continued, Patchell from in front after a Munster offside while coming in from the side of a ruck gave Hanrahan another successful kick. A couple more ruck offences made it 15-9 to Munster as Hanrahan and Patchell traded kicks. Just before half-time the Blues finally broke the kicking deadlock. Number eight Manoa Vasawai was able to collect a kick and shrug off a couple of tacklers, scrum-half Lloyd Williams burst quickly round the fringes, Patchell was up with play to time his pass perfectly for Argentinian wing Lucas Amorosino to race to the corner for a try on his debut. Patchell missed the touchline conversion but Hanrahan maintained his perfect record with a sixth penalty to give Munster an 18-14 lead at the break. Jones continued to have a fine game and was influential as the Cardiff eight turned over the Munster scrum and then earned a stream of scrum penalties. But the Munster defence held firm and there was no yellow card. In the end, that forward pressure had to tell and midway through the second half Vosawai burst off the base of a five yard scrum with the power to scramble over the line for a try converted by Gareth Davies as the Blues took the lead for the first time. Hanrahan equalised, but with a penalty already awarded, Jones went for an ambitious drop goal which fell just a few feet short. It got the biggest cheer of the night, though Davies did add the three points from the resulting penalty kick. Cardiff Blues were denied what would have been their second Guinness PRO12 win of the season by a late try as Munster claimed a 28-24 win at Cardiff Arms Park. Flanker Paddy Butler went over for the score which broke Cardiff hearts in the 78th minute after the home side seemed to have clinched a narrow win with prop Adam Jones putting in a commanding performance including a drop goal attempt. Munster opened the scoring when they earned a penalty for a ruck offence which was slotted from 35 yards by outside half JJ Hanrahan. Press Association
The Wales international netted a superb 30-yard strike in the 4-1 Champions League win over Galatasaray in Istanbul on Tuesday night, but came off at half-time as a precaution. Speaking after the match in Turkey, Ramsey was confident he would be fit to face Newcastle in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday afternoon. Defenders Laurent Koscielny (calf), Nacho Monreal (ankle) and Calum Chambers (suspended) are all unavailable for Saturday’s late kick-off against in-form Newcastle, so right-back Mathieu Debuchy could be asked to move over to centre-half, the France international having just recovered from three months out with an ankle problem. Wenger, though, feels if all of his rearguard are fully fit come January, then he will not need to dip into the transfer market for reinforcements in that area of the squad. He said: ” If everybody is fit and available, we don’t need to go on the transfer market, but we have to consider that there could be a question mark with Koscielny’s fitness and we have to go out on the transfer market.” However, Gunners boss Wenger confirmed on Friday morning the 23-year-old was set for a spell on the sidelines. He said: ” We got the scan last night, I don’t know enough to give the extent of his injury.” Arsenal are already without England midfielder Jack Wilshere for several weeks with ankle ligament damage, and it remains to be seen how much of the hectic Christmas schedule Ramsey will now miss. Ramsey’s brilliant effort against Galatasaray, when he fired the ball back into the top corner after it was cleared from a corner, was greeted by disbelief from team-mates Yaya Sanogo and Wojciech Szczesny, while also sparking debate over great goals on social media. Wenger admitted in his post-match press conference he had felt Ramsey’s decision to shoot from such range was not the best idea, only to be glad to be proved wrong. “He was getting close to it (the form of last season),” said Wenger of the midfielder whose goal in extra-time helped beat Hull to win the 2014 FA Cup final at Wembley. “It is a great goal and unexpected as well, a surprising one. Even he was surprised that it went so well. “Aaron has a good finishing technique and he’s not frightened to take his chances – and he took it very well.” Manager Arsene Wenger says it is too early to suggest how long Arsenal will be without midfielder Aaron Ramsey because of a hamstring problem. Press Association
Manchester United are yet to make a decision on Radamel Falcao’s future despite reports to the contrary. Reports in France on Wednesday claimed United had informed Monaco they would not be exercising their option to buy Falcao on a permanent £43million deal. However, Press Association Sport understands that is not correct. It is understood United manager Louis van Gaal will wait until May before deciding whether he wants to make the loan move for the 29-year-old permanent. Despite a slow start, the Old Trafford hierarchy insisted at the turn of the year that Falcao would come good. Senior sources were said to be impressed by Falcao’s work ethic, which they compared to that of world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, who enjoyed six successful years at Old Trafford before moving to his current club Real Madrid. Falcao is likely to get an extended run in the first team in the coming weeks as Robin van Persie is out with an ankle injury he sustained in the 2-1 defeat at Swansea on February 21. Although he failed to score in the following fixture, Falcao won the penalty that led to United’s first goal in their 2-0 win over Sunderland last Saturday. Press Association United won the hotly-contested race to sign Falcao on a season-long loan from Monaco last summer. The Colombian was regarded as one of the best strikers in the world but has failed to sparkle at United so far, scoring just four goals in 20 appearances.
“When he goes he is losing that. Here he has a lot of credits. He has to decide.” Another player who could be leaving United at the end of the season is striker Radamel Falcao, whose season-long loan from Monaco is coming to an end. United have an option to buy but the Colombian has failed to impress and he was substituted on 61 minutes after another fruitless performance. Van Gaal insisted no decisions had been made about the 29-year-old. He said: “You know how the situation is of Falcao. At the end of the season we will decide.” In terms of the action, United missed the chance to climb above Arsenal into third in the table. Ander Herrera put the hosts ahead with a fine volley as United dominated the first half but the Gunners finished strongly and claimed a point as a Theo Walcott shot was deflected in by Tyler Blackett in the 82nd minute. Van Gaal said: “I think the difference between Chelsea and Manchester United at this moment is that they can finish a game, they can kill the game. “When you are 1-0 ahead with fantastic football and they don’t cross the (halfway) line in the first half, you create a lot of chances, then you have to finish the game. “That is the mentality we have to improve.” United seem likely to finish in fourth. Van Gaal has said that a club of United’s stature need to be aiming higher but, after last year’s seventh, it is satisfactory for now. He said: “We have set our goal. My board is satisfied, the fans are satisfied. It is amazing when you are fourth and the fans are clapping for so long. I had never that experience at my other clubs.” Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, whose side can secure a final position of at least third in midweek, felt the visitors deserved more for their strong finish. He said: “I am pleased with the performance and the only regret I have is we didn’t take the three points. “We were a bit slow to start, Man Utd was sharper at the beginning and we were a bit stretched as well. In the second half we were more compact and took over and showed a great response. We got a deserved point. We won more duels and had enough chances to win the game in the end.” Third place would bring the advantage of going straight into the Champions League group stages next season, avoiding the play-off round. Wenger said of third: “It takes the pressure off during the holidays and in the preparation period. It would be great to do it, but it is still to do.” Asked if he should be satisfied with third, Wenger said: “If you had asked me in October, I would have said yes. Overall, of course you want to be first, but 17 teams would exchange a position with you.” Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has dropped a strong hint that goalkeeper David de Gea may have played his last game for the club. Press Association De Gea, who has been heavily linked with Real Madrid, was forced off injured after 74 minutes of United’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League. That means he is now doubtful for the final game of the season at Hull and, beyond that, Van Gaal has indicated he expects La Liga giants Real to make a move. Van Gaal was asked repeatedly about De Gea’s future after the game at Old Trafford and, although he said the 24-year-old Spaniard would “not leave us so easily” he appeared braced for such an outcome. Van Gaal said: “You are asking things I cannot answer because I don’t know. “I have also said a transfer is an individual thing. It is a process. He has to decide because we have given (him) a fantastic contract because we want him to stay – fantastic season, I think. “But I analyse his position and then I say he is Spanish, he is a Spanish international and now a Spanish club is coming. His girlfriend is Spanish.” De Gea, signed from £18.9million from Atletico Madrid four years ago, has developed into one of the world’s best keepers at Old Trafford and enjoyed an outstanding campaign. Asked if Real had already made an approach Van Gaal said, “I don’t know” but he did not deny the Bernabeu was a likely destination, even if he did not refer to the club by name. Whatever the outcome of the speculation, or possible future offer from Real, Van Gaal feels United and their fans – who chanted the player’s name regularly – have done all they can to keep him. He said: “I don’t think I can persuade him because he knows everything what he has at Manchester United. I don’t have to say something because he can feel it every day. You have seen the fans, unbelievable.
“It’s a revenge mission because it’s the one result which has not gone our way,” said McVeigh, who was speaking at the Ball Street studios filming of the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show. “I wouldn’t necessarily say we should have won the game but I don’t think we deserved to lose 2-0 either. “So we know what we’re up against and beating Romania would be the biggest step towards qualification. “We’ve got the Faroe Islands next in September and two wins from the last five games might be enough to qualify. “Taking the three points to go top of the group would be huge, but beating the group leaders would be an even bigger psychological boost.” McVeigh admires O’Neill for the way he has approached the Northern Ireland job since being appointed manager in December 2011. The former Norwich man says the set-up is now more professional than when he played international football a nd that O’Neill’s faith in hungry players with a point to prove has paid off. “The team now stay in the best hotels and for the recent friendly with Qatar at Crewe the squad used Manchester City’s training ground,” McVeigh said. “That ultra-professionalism rubs off on people. “He told the IFA (Irish Football Association) they had to match his professionalism off the pitch if Northern Ireland were going to be successful and it has worked. “On the pitch he has been loyal to players who have done well for him and that’s all you want as a player. “Look at the way he has treated right-back Conor McLaughlin who plays for Fleetwood. “He could easily have brought in Manchester United’s Paddy McNair or former captain Aaron Hughes to replace him, but he has stuck with McLaughlin and it’s great to see older or bigger players don’t just trump others because of their reputation.” :: Watch the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show with Ian Wright, Paul McVeigh, Kevin Gallacher and Iwan Roberts – subscribe to VauxhallFootball TV on YouTube or go to Vauxhall Football | Fanbase “Back in 1982 Northern Ireland had top players like Pat Jennings, Sammy McIlroy and Martin O’Neill,” said McVeigh, who won 20 caps between 1999 and 2004. “Now it’s a case of up and coming players, so I think it would be a better achievement than 1982. “Look at Wales and they have got the best of the best in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. “We’ve got nothing like that but what Michael O’Neill has done is get the most out of a group of players he has been loyal to. “I’ve spoken to a lot of the players and they’ve told me the preparation is ridiculous because it is so thorough and nothing is left to chance.” Northern Ireland have not qualified for a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico but they would be within touching distance of France next summer if they were to beat Romania in Belfast on Saturday night. Group F leaders Romania are the only team to have taken points off Northern Ireland during qualifying with O’Neill’s side having won their four other games. Romania won 2-0 in Bucharest last November when full-back Paul Papp scored twice in the last 20 minutes and McVeigh believes Northern Ireland have a score to settle. That World Cup is generally regarded as the high point of Northern Irish football when Billy Bingham’s side beat hosts Spain 1-0 to top their group and reach the second round of the tournament. But McVeigh reckons that proud achievement would pale in comparison to the current side qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals – considering the group of unheralded players manager Michael O’Neill has at his disposal. Former Northern Ireland international Paul McVeigh believes reaching next summer’s European Championship finals would top the nation’s heroics at the 1982 World Cup. Press Association
“He can speak about the referees before the game, can speak about the referees after the game, can push people in the technical area, can cry in the morning, can cry in the afternoon, nothing happens. Can be not achieved, keep the job, still the king. It’s a privilege.” Mourinho insisted his comments were “not strong” and was asked why he thought there was an inconsistency. “A good question. I don’t have a theory. I just have a reality,” Mourinho added. “Just something that is real and is objective. If I speak about the referee, I am suspended. “If I push a manager in the technical area, I am banned from the stadium. “If I speak about players from other clubs and I ask for suspensions, I am in trouble. “So, clearly, the facts are there. I don’t envy (him). It’s good for him.” Mourinho said the club were still awaiting the written reasons for the FA’s decision, although it is understood they were sent on Thursday. Following the midweek Capital One Cup win at Walsall on Wednesday, Mourinho said “retaliation is allowed” in relation to Gabriel’s kick which was aimed at Costa. Asked on Friday what he meant, Mourinho referred to the decision last season to suspend Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic for taking exception to a challenge from Burnley’s Ashley Barnes. Mourinho said: “The reaction to something that happened before was always punished in football and now we now that it is not always. You can do that.” Radamel Falcao or Loic Remy will start up front in Costa’s absence, with Willian (hamstring), Oscar (knee) and Pedro (thigh) all fit to feature. The Portuguese has never won a league game at Newcastle. Asked why, he said: “They score always one more goal than us.” Jose Mourinho’s long-running feud with Arsene Wenger shows no sign of a reconciliation after the Chelsea boss appeared to launch an astonishing attack on the Arsenal boss. Mourinho refused to comment on the decisions, but instead appeared to wade into Wenger when asked about the pressure surrounding Newcastle manager Steve McClaren. He repeatedly declined to name the Frenchman, whom he referred to as “the king”, but it was clear who he was speaking about. “I think in this country, only one manager is not under pressure,” Mourinho said. “Steve is under pressure, I am under pressure, Brendan (Rodgers, the Liverpool boss) is under pressure, (Manchester City’s Manuel) Pellegrini is under pressure. “We cannot lose matches, we cannot be below expectations. “There is one that for some reason is outside that list. Good for him.” Mourinho was repeatedly asked to name the individual he believes to be the exception but appeared to be referring to Wenger, who pushed him in the Stamford Bridge technical area in October 2014. He has been Arsenal boss since October 1996. “You know,” Mourinho said. Mourinho is seething at the Football Association’s decision to retrospectively ban Diego Costa for three matches following last weekend’s 2-0 win over Arsenal. Costa is absent for the second game of his suspension at Newcastle on Saturday evening after being sanctioned for grappling with Laurent Koscielny, while Gabriel had a ban rescinded after being sent off for his exchange with the Chelsea striker. However, Gabriel has subsequently been banned for one match for his reaction to the original dismissal. Press Association
The Toffees had a bid for the 22-year-old right-back accepted last Thursday but manager Roberto Martinez admitted there was still a long way to go on the deal. Byram was left out of Saturday’s defeat at Sheffield Wednesday but, after discussing personal terms with Everton, the Hammers made their move and the lure of immediate first-team football – he would be behind Seamus Coleman at Everton – appears to have won them the race. West Ham appear to have beaten Everton to the signing of Leeds defender Sam Byram. Press Association West Ham’s offer is reportedly lower than the £3.7million, rising to £5million on the table from Everton. “I’m really sorry for Everton because they really acted like gentlemen, but Sam chose West Ham,” Leeds owner Massimo Cellino is quoted as saying in several national newspapers.