Martinez hails impressive Lukaku

first_img The 20-year-old striker scored the opening goal at Villa Park with a clinical first-time finish after 68 minutes and was only denied in the first period by a fine reaction save from Brad Guzan. The Belgian comfortably outperformed compatriot Christian Benteke, who missed a seventh-minute penalty on his return to the Villa side, and now has five goals in as many Barclays Premier League appearances for the Toffees. Roberto Martinez insists Chelsea are getting a good deal out of Romelu Lukaku’s loan spell at Everton despite the Belgian looking every bit the finished product in a 2-0 win at Aston Villa. There are many who feel Chelsea would benefit from that kind of output but Everton boss Martinez is convinced all parties are benefiting from his year at Goodison Park. “We want him to fulfil his potential and he has got a terrific potential to fulfil. That’s what the parent club want too – for him to play every minute, to experiment and to get himself to the next stage of his career,” said the Spaniard, who has now overseen five wins in six league outings. “You can understand with the options Chelsea have they can allow Romelu to go to an environment for 10 months where he can really benefit. Chelsea get a player who can hopefully fulfil the potential we all know he has. “He is benefiting from it and the Everton fans are loving every single second of seeing Romelu playing with energy, focus and quality. “He’s enjoying his football and enjoying the way he is fitting into the squad.” Asked how much Lukaku could still improve, Martinez set no upper limit. “He is getting stronger and stronger and today he was a threat throughout and lasted 90 minutes,” he said. “In many aspects he is getting better and stronger. “He’s as good as he wants to be and that’s the truth. He’s powerful, strong, good in the air, his link up play is impressive, so is his awareness and the positions he picks.” That the game was still goalless when Lukaku struck was hard to believe. The home side should probably have killed the game inside half an hour. Benteke saw a powerful penalty well saved by Tim Howard in the seventh minute and the American denied him again with a well-hit effort across goal. Andreas Weimann somehow contrived to botch a straightforward one-on-one with the goalkeeper moments later and Everton went on to have great chances of their own, Ross Barkley hitting the crossbar with a deflected effort. Villa boss Paul Lambert declined to attack his side for their early wastefulness, despite the result meaning they have taken just three points from a possible 15 on home turf. The glut of early opportunities did not escape the Scot though. “I think we have got to take our chances,” he said. “We should have been three up. But I can’t be too harsh on the lads. “The penalty was a terrific save, I’ve just seen it again, and the second chance Christian did the right thing in going across the keeper. He just made another great save. “They’re big moments if you don’t score. “Their goalkeeper had a really good game but you don’t score when you’re well on top and we got caught.” Press Associationlast_img read more

Stock Watch: Cisco, receivers up; Strickland, pass rush down after Wagner

first_imgSyracuse (2-0) handled Wagner (1-1), 62-10, in the Orange’s home opener on Saturday by dominating all three phases of play.Offensively, SU more or less moved the ball at will while the defense stymied almost everything Wagner tried to do. The punt block unit even notched a special teams touchdown.Here are the risers and fallers after Week 2.Stock upAndre CiscoAdvertisementThis is placeholder textTwice within the first 14 plays from scrimmage, Cisco intercepted Wagner quarterback T.J. Linta. The first interception came on the Seahawks’ opening series, as Linta went over the middle on third down and Cisco stepped in front to nab the ball.A Syracuse touchdown later, and Linta rolled left into the lane Kendall Coleman was barrelling down. Without really looking, Linta threw the ball toward a receiver sitting about five yards down field. He didn’t see Cisco, who nabbed his second pick with 10:27 left in the first quarter.Cisco’s pair of takeaways made for a nice home opener and, coupled with his Week 1 interception at Western Michigan, Cisco’s stock is taking off.Jarveon HowardA true freshman running back from the same hometown as all-time NFL great Walter Payton — Columbia, Mississippi — made his debut for Syracuse, rushing 13 times for 69 total yards (5.3 yards per carry). Running back counterparts Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal each toted the ball nine times.It’s hard to get a real pulse on how much Jarveon Howard will play moving forward, especially through the heart of Atlantic Coast Conference play. But even against an inferior Wagner team, Howard ran aggressively and with good vision, only getting dropped for a loss once.Strickland and Neal will still have first shot for backfield touches, but Howard is a capable option if either falter.Receivers not named Jamal CustisLeaving WMU last week, only one Syracuse wide receiver, Jamal Custis, had caught a pass. That changed Saturday with six receivers other than Custis getting involved.The trio of Sean Riley (six catches, 41 yards and a touchdown), Devin Butler (four catches for 37 yards) and Nykeim Johnson (three catches, 65 yards and a touchdown) showed up. Those three were boosted by freshman Taj Harris and redshirt freshman Sharod Johnson. Harris caught his first collegiate pass for a touchdown late in the first quarter.Custis still had his share of looks — five catches, 41 yards and a touchdown — but on Saturday, SU’s receiving corps finally showed up.Stock downDontae StricklandStrickland, through two games, has amassed 73 yards on 20 carries. That’s a meager 3.65 yards per carry. Moe Neal’s 4.08 isn’t much better. Neal has passed Strickland as a runner, and that’s been reflected in the touches so far: 38 to Neal, 20 to Strickland.Pass blocking is where Strickland far outshines his younger counterparts, thus keeping him on the field. Protecting Eric Dungey is of critical importance, but Strickland needs to produce more with the chances he’s given.The upside for Strickland is that through two games, he has four touchdowns, equalling his production from each of the past two years. If the rushing yards start to come, Strickland can reassert himself as top dog in the backfield.The pass rushAfter producing one sack for a two-yard loss against WMU in the opener, SU’s pass rush managed only two sacks for 19 yards against an FCS team Saturday.Starting defensive lineman Kendall Coleman said after beating the Broncos that the Orange’s pass rush needed to be better, but against a much weaker opponent, there wasn’t much difference.Players did get home a little more frequently, but Linta consistently had enough time in the pocket to make his read or recognize the rush and roll out accordingly.Florida State and Deondre Francois will be in the Carrier Dome next Saturday, and the Orange can’t afford to let the Seminoles’ signal caller stand in the pocket. Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img Published on September 10, 2018 at 12:28 am Contact Andrew: | @A_E_Grahamlast_img read more

Ronaldinho names all-star Dream XI; who made it in, who missed out?

first_imgRonaldinho has not had the best time of it in the last couple of months after he was arrested for entering Paraguay with a fake passport.Having spent a month in prison, the former Ballon d’Or winner was released and will spend the time before his trial under house arrest.The player has gradually been able to get back to his usual cheery and chatty self in the last month, recently granting his first public interview since his arrest.Now Ronaldinho has picked a starting eleven of the best footballers he played with.Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ronaldinho’s team is filled with players who played at one time or another for Barcelona.The Brazilian enjoyed the most successful period of his club career at the Catalan giants, where he was acclaimed as the best in the world.In goal is former Barca keeper Victor Valdes with whom Ronaldinho spent about five years.His defence features former captain, Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez, left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Gianluca Zambrotta, who played with Ronaldinho at both Barcelona and AC Milan.The midfield is a very familiar one, with ever-present  Xavi and Iniesta joined by Deco.In attack, Ronaldinho goes with a front three of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o – who, along with Ronaldinho, formed one of Europe’s deadliest frontlines – and Ludovic Guily.A few of the big names left from the list include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Clarence Seedorf and Thiago Silva, all of whom he played with at AC Milan.Ronaldinho’s Dream XI … Credit: The Sunlast_img read more