Staff Writer By tim morris For Christian Brothers Academy, Middletown, the cross country season has come down to one race, Saturday’s Meet of Champions at Holmdel Park. The long-awaited rematch between the defending champion Colts and the state’s top-ranked team, Cherokee, will be one of the highlights of the MOC. “It’s going to come down to who wants it more,” said the Colts’ Tom Falvey. “We’re going to be diving for the finish line. “We’re all so excited about Saturday’s race, it’s what we’ve been training for every day all year,” he added. The Colts impressively retained their Parochial A state championship, their sixth straight, pitching a shutout against the rest of the state and sending a strong message to Cherokee (which won Group IV) that this is the Colts’ time of the year. Falvey led the CBA sweep at the front, winning the Parochial A crown in 16:24.6. Falvey took charge of the race after two miles when the runners left the bowl. He was content to sit and follow Paul VI’s Mike Ritchie for the first half of the race before taking the lead in the bowl. “I waited until two miles to start my push,” said Falvey. “I made sure I had enough left this time.” The week before at the Shore Conference Championship Falvey had tried to made a big move at that point on Marlboro’s Ty Jensen, and it cost him in the last half mile when Jensen kicked it into another gear and the tiring Falvey had no response. This week, he had enough left in reserve if challenged, but he wasn’t. “It’s a great feeling, pretty awesome,” Falvey said of joining the select group of Colts who have won the Parochial A state title. The matter at hand for the Colts, however, was the state title and CBA accomplished it with its best overall race yet at Holmdel. Trevor Rozier-Byrd (16:37.3), Jeff Peterson (16:38.8), Nat Glackin (16:44.3) and Eric Reulbach (16:49.7) polished off the shutout averaging 16:38.9 per runner. CBA beat runner-up Delbarton, 15-68. With Cherokee winning in Group IV, the die has been cast for one of the most anticipated team showdowns in years. The Chiefs beat the Colts in early October at the Shore Coaches Invitational in their only head-to-head match. Since then, neither has lost a meet. Cherokee averaged 16:35.5 per runner to the Colts’ 16:42 in the October meeting. At the Group IV meet, the Chiefs averaged 16:50.9, led by Marc Pelerin’s 16:04.9 in second place. Since that first meeting, the Colts’ fourth and fifth runners have been running quicker, as has Falvey out front. The gap between first and fifth for CBA was just 25 seconds at the Parochial A meet, while the Chiefs’ difference was 1:14. A similar gap on Saturday could be enough to put the defending champions over the top. Middletown South’s teams came up with a pair of second-place finishes at the Group championships. The boys lost to Cranford, 110-117. Sean Rath (17:08.4) and Danny Clambrone (17:09.8) led the Eagle effort with 14th- and 15th-place finishes. In the team scoring, they were 11th and 12th. Marty Walsh was the team’s No. 3 runner (17:33.7); he finished 23rd in the team count and 28th overall. The Eagle girls fell to North Hunterdon, 46-101. South got another outstanding run from Nicole Lombardy. Her 20:01.5 put her in fifth place overall. Also helping the Eagles’ cause were: Lauren Dike (21:21.2), Jane Wood ((21:27.9), Julia Baratta (21:39.9) and Lisa Zino (21:58), who were 16th, 19th, 26th and 37th respectively in the team scoring. The Top 10 runners from each group and top three teams automatically qualified for the MOC. Those qualifying were Roger Ellis of St. John Vianney, Holmdel, sixth in Parochial A (16:52), and Tom Santifort of Mater Dei, Middletown, seventh in Parochial B (17:43.9). Wild card spots were secured by the 10 fastest nonqualifying times. Middletown North’s Brian Derasmo earned a wild card entry with his 16:38 which was 13th in the Group IV race.
Staff Writer By Doug mckenzie Molnar impressive once again in win over Rosado Middletown boxer wins unanimous decision in Atlantic City bout There’s no questioning Johnny Molnar’s heart. He’s proved he can take a punch, so all that’s left to question is exactly how far his talent and will to win can take him in the sport of boxing. The bloodied and hurt 148-pound Middletown pugilist continued his comeback from his first career loss to former national champion, and undefeated professional, Nick Acevedo 11 months ago. With his third win in a row, he thrilled an appreciative Atlantic City crowd with a punishing performance against Victor Rosado on July 21. The fight also gave the popular boxer’s fans another chance to see him fight on premium-cable television (it was the initial bout of Showtime’s new afternoon series “ShoBox: The New Generation”), and he gave them everything they could ask for, and more. Molnar (19-1-1, 10 KOs), a former Golden Gloves state champ, scored a unanimous decision over Rosado, despite tearing tendons on the tip of his right thumb early in the first round, making his right hand somewhat useless for the remainder of the fight. Although Molnar tried to use his right hand the rest of the way, he realized pretty quickly that he couldn’t be as effective with the injury. “I really didn’t fight very well, I don’t think,” he said. “I hurt my hand pretty bad, and that pretty much ruined my chances of knocking him out. I throw a lot of combinations at my opponents, but I couldn’t really throw too many this time.” Despite having to adapt to the injury, Molnar managed to dominate the fight against a clearly overmatched opponent, by working Rosado’s inside, and eventually wearing him out with his ferocious style. Because of that discrepancy, Rosado appeared to become frustrated, and landed a vicious head-butt in the fourth round, which opened up a cut on Molnar’s head. In between rounds, the fight-doctors took a long look at the cut above his right eye, which was bleeding steadily, before deciding to allow the fight to continue. Once they did, Molnar picked up where he left off, scoring points against Rosado, while simultaneously trying to fend off a number of low blows. Rosado later had a point deducted for holding Molnar behind the head and hitting, but was only warned for the low blows. “He kept trying to head-butt me, and he caught me pretty good in the fourth,” Molnar said. “They were thinking about stopping the fight, but my cut-man Dave (Tenny) took care of it, and they let me finish. “I didn’t want them to stop it,” he added. “I wanted to keep going, and I told them that. Eventually (referee) Tony Orlando told me to shut up, so I did.” Once the fight resumed, Molnar continued to dominate until the eighth round, when another head-butt caused the ringside doctors to end the fight short of the scheduled 10 rounds, leaving the scoring up to the judges. Molnar won by scores of 80-71 (judge Joseph Pascuale), 79-72 (George Colon) and 77-74 (Al DeVito). With the loss, Rosado dropped to 17-3-1, with 11 knockouts. After the fight, the 26-year-old Molnar was happy with the win, but thought he could have been even more dominant. “He didn’t punch as hard as I thought he would,” he said. “I was expecting more of a puncher.” Not that he’s complaining. “I think I’ve gotten a lot better since my loss to Acevedo, so maybe I’m just avoiding the punches more,” he added. The fight marked his first under new trainer Mark Breland, a former world champion who hopes to take Molnar to the top of his weight class. “I’d only been with Mark for 10 days before the fight, so we didn’t get to work too much together, but I’m excited about training under him,” Molnar said. “I’m looking forward to getting back in the ring, but for now I’m just going to try and heal up.” For fans who want another chance to watch this local emissary fight, they shouldn’t have to wait too long. If it were up to Molnar, he’d be fighting again as soon as his thumb healed. “I’ll be working out again next week,” he said.
Boats to race from Sandy Hook Bay to New York Harbor and back ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – For skippers and crews of catamaran sailing boats, the most exciting event of the year is approaching quickly. On Sunday the Sandy Hook Bay Catamaran Club, located in Atlantic Highlands, will be hosting its annual world-class event, known among sailors as the “Statue of Liberty Marathon Sailing Race.” With just days to go until Independence Day weekend, an increasing number of teams are signing up to participate in what is probably the largest sailing event in New York harbor this summer. “We are proud to host one of the largest annual sailing events in New York Harbor, and definitely the one with the most boats,” said Jacques Pierret, the club’s race director. “With more than 75 boats pre-registered, the race is well on its way toward a record attendance this year, and we are getting close to our goal of seeing 100 boats at the starting line. Our race is living proof that sailing off the New York/New Jersey coast is easily accessible and affordable to all.” The annual race got its start in the 1980s when some club members challenged each other to sail to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, linking Brooklyn to Staten Island. The race ultimately ended up rounding the Statue of Liberty. It was such a great sailing experience that an increasing number of sailors joined the informal race each year, making it a not-to-miss annual event. Over the past 20 years, the race has attracted participants from throughout the East Coast and from elsewhere, all of whom relish undertaking the long-distance sailing challenge each year. “The Statue race is now a true classic,” Pierret said. “Serious racers want to live the experience at least once, but many loyal teams show up at every edition. From the small 16-foot Hobie Cats to the impressive Reynolds 33-foot “machines,” this course offers a great challenge for everyone.” The Statue of Liberty is located 20 miles north from the startling line at the club. The boats pass through the Verrazano Narrows to enter into the chaotic marine traffic of New York Harbor. The Statue of Liberty marks, appropriately for Independence Day weekend, the rounding mark for the race, after which the boats head back for another grueling 20 miles of fighting ocean waves and bay currents. At the end of the day, rounding the Statue of Liberty, surrounded by the Manhattan skyline, is a true reward for a sailor’s effort. Vic Simon, commodore of the club, said, “It’s a unique experience and we guarantee our participants cross the finish line with a great feeling of accomplishment.” “For spectators, the best location to view the race is at Liberty State Park in Jersey City,” Simon said. “This location – about 400 yards from the Statue – offers spectators a perfect view over New York Harbor,” he added. “Fans and family can see the competitors entering the harbor through the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and watch as the sailors make their way up to the Statue.” Another prime spectator location is at the Sandy Hook Bay Catamaran Club, where spectators can watch the competitors prepare for the race beginning Saturday afternoon and early Sunday prior to the 9 a.m. start. Simon urges spectators to stick around for the after-race beach party, as one of the top surf rock music bands in the country, Mister Neutron, will perform Sunday evening. For more information, visit www.statueoflibertyrace.com.
The heavy rains put a damper on ABCCL action over the weekend as field conditions did not permit games to be played. The Jersey Shore Tides had their doubleheader called off with the Wall Angels on Sunday. Earlier in the week, the Tides had the misfortune of having a game called in the fourth inning due to the failure of the lights at the Protocall Starz home field in Medford. The Tides took a 3-0 lead into the fourth behind three perfect innings from their ace, Marlton’s Bill Wieland (Virginia Commonwealth University). Wieland retired nine straight batters, striking out two in each of the first and second innings, and one in the third before the game was suspended. The Tides offense was supplied by Plantation, Florida’s Derrick Gamble (Nyack College) who was 2-for-2, and Manalapan’s Jordan Novel (Felician College), who doubled home a run. Wieland added a hit to help his own cause, as did Watchung’s Mike Gatti (University of Pennsylvania) and Columbia, MO’s Nick Steponovich (Ohio State University). Three walks were drawn by Holmdel’s Chris Kapsales (Niagara University). Wieland joined the Tides after pitching several key games for the VCU Rams, where he had a 4-3 record. He pitched the Rams into their conference final with a six inning, six-strikeout victory against UNC-Wilmington, but the Rams lost the final and missed a tournament bid. Four of Wieland’s teammates were drafted by Major League Baseball teams, and Tides’ manager Jeremy Milonas said he expects to see scouts looking at Wieland this summer as well as in his upcoming collegiate season. In other action during the week, the Tides struggled offensively and were unable to pick up a victory. Limited offense was provided with extra base hits by Staten Island’s Tom Ambrosole (Lafayette College), Saratoga Springs, NY’s Rob Coughlin (Wesleyan University), Kapsales, and Columbia, MO’s Joe Gaboury (William Jewell College). Mike Gatti added two singles and a stolen base, and a base hit by Middletown and Red Bank Catholic’s Chris Messa (College Misericordia). In addition to Wieland, strong pitching performances were provided by Cedar Knolls’ Brian Kelley (Dickinson College), Gamble, and Kapsales during the week. The Tides announced that former Tide Mike Pahira of Holmdel joined the Tides as an assistant coach. Pahira, a four-year starter at Pace University, was the Tides’ all-time home run leader. After graduating from Pace, where four of his teammates were selected in the MLB draft, Pahira decided to join CPA firm Wiss & Co. rather than pursuing a baseball career. The Tides are back in action this week and will hopefully avoid further rainouts. The updated ABCCL schedule, including scheduled make-up games, can be found at www.abccl.com.
By TIM MORRIS Staff Writer The passion and zeal in his voice gave it away. Tom Heath is very excited about what his 2015 Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) cross-country team can achieve this year. That’s saying a lot coming from the most successful coach in New Jersey history who has won a record 20 NJSIAA Meet of Champions (MOC) titles as well as a Nike Cross Nationals championship (2011).All the ingredients are there, however, for the Colts to be very special this fall. Some national polls rank them No. 1 in the country.“Everything is going along pretty well,” Heath said. “Last year was a little tough.”Although CBA extended its record MOC titles to 20, the Colts were not at their best as they usually are in November. They needed a tiebreaker (sixth man) just to win the Non-Public A state title. They won the MOC crown with a high score for them (82) and went on to place 11th at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.It’s still very early in the season, Heath noted, but his Colts have already made a pretty strong impression.Opening up at the Roxbury Invitational, CBA was first with a dual-meet score of 19 points and broke the Horseshoe Lake Park team course record, averaging 16:07.07. The Colts’ Drake Anzano was the overall winner, clocking 15:49.27 and out-kicking St. Benedict’s Preparatory School’ Ronald Kigen (15:50.43).“It was a great race,” Heath said. “Things went really, really well. We broke the course record without [Blaise Ferro (CBA’s top harrier)].“The difference [between last year and this year] is the team this year is definitely more committed. They race well. They up their game when they have to.”From Roxbury, the Colts went to the Bowdoin XC Classic in Wappingers Falls, New York, where the Nike Cross Nationals Regional Qualifier will be held in November, and won there rather impressively — again missing Ferro — with a 37-point team score and the fastest team average of the day (16:39.97).CBA always has a wealth of talent and with five returnees from last year’s MOC winners, the Colts figured to be national contenders this fall.Ferro is already one of the most accomplished runners in Colts history with three MOC track titles to his credit (two indoors and one outdoors) and last year’s Non-Public A cross-country championship. He would like nothing better than to win the MOC title in cross-country to give him the distance triple crown. Of course, the team comes first, and that could impact the MOC race.The senior has it all — endurance, speed and strength — to be a threat to win every race he competes in.Nick Trigani, Brian Dengler and Jon Dooling are all proven cross-country runners. As seniors, they are familiar with running in big races. They form the core group behind Ferro. How well they run together will determine if the Colts are national contenders.Two newcomers to the mix are senior Paul Knepple and sophomore Brian Hill. Knepple is coming off a spring track season where he ran 9:28 for 3,200 meters. Hill’s early season form has been a pleasant surprise. At the Roxbury Invitational, they finished fourth and fifth.The wild card for the Colts is Anzano. The junior didn’t factor in the cross-country season last year but after winning the outdoor MOC championship at 1,600 meters, it fueled speculation about what he could do for the cross-country team. If winning his 2015 debut at Roxbury is any indication of what he can do, CBA will not only have its depth, but also the best one-two punch in the state.Anzano backed up his Roxbury win with a second-place finish at the Bowdoin Classic (16:24.79).Juniors Noah Yuro and Riley Gardner are competing for top-seven slots.With this much talent, Heath doesn’t shy away from pointing out that in 2015, everything is about the nationals.Looking ahead, Heath remarked that he will have to pace his team, keep everyone rested and not over race them. Looking back on last year, Heath noted the raced a little too hard in some races.The Colts pursue a second national title and a 21st MOC crown.The next big race for the Colts will be the Manhattan Invitational at historic Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York, Oct. 10.The Monmouth County and Shore Conference meets are Oct. 20 and 29, respectively.The NJSIAA Group Championships are Nov. 14 at Holmdel Park, and the MOC is Nov. 21 at Holmdel.CBA’s path to the Nike Nationals begins Nov. 28 back at Bowdoin Park with the Northeast Regional, where the top two teams automatically qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals Dec. 5.
By Scott SaundersSaturday’s Premier League action provided us with a host of stunning goals, dramatic incident and local derby rivalries, with all of England’s biggest clubs in action on the same day for one very rare occasion.Here are five things we can take from Saturday’s action:5. Two new strikers are proving themselvesTwo goals of the very highest order came within a couple of minutes of each other at St. Mary’s, where Southampton and QPR clashed.With the Saints ahead, Charlie Austin showed us he can do the business in the Premier League after an unbelievable turn and volley to level the match.But Graziano Pelle’s incredible overhead kick won the match for the home side. He’s got four league goals already, and he looks an inspired purchase from Dutch coach Ronald Koeman.4. Eliaquim Mangala not as solid as we thought?He looked like the man to partner Vincent Kompany for years to come as he had a storming debut against Chelsea last week, but Eliaquim Mangala didn’t have the best of days at Hull on Saturday.The Frenchman’s positioning was off for the header he fired into his own goal for 2-1, while he was also penalised for a wild high boot in the box to allow Hull to level the match up.Mangala looked okay apart from those incidents, but they could have been pivotal. There’s mistakes in him.3. Leicester’s attack humbledIt’s a big old difference to last weekend for Leicester, who drew a blank against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. They fell to two goals in four minutes from Fraizer Campbell and Mile Jedinak.There was to be no comeback for the ages from two down as they did to Manchester United, but that’s the magic of the Premier League. It is so unpredictable.2. Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t shy away from ballsy decisionsHe had other options, but Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino took a gamble on young Ryan Mason in midfield on Saturday – giving him his full league debut in a North London derby.Mason did very well too, and didn’t look out of place. He did well enough to justify his selection by the Argentinian coach ahead of the benched Nabil Bentaleb. He helped Spurs to a 1-1 draw.1. Arsenal an exciting english core, and a strong benchArsene Wenger’s latest Arsenal team is growing and maturing, but it’s refreshing to see that this team built for the future is made up of English (and Welsh if you count Aaron Ramsey) talent.Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored Arsenal’s equaliser on the day against Spurs, and teamed up well with fellow young gun Calum Chambers down the right flank. Jack Wilshere has been doing well, and Danny Welbeck is leading the line.And when you can bring Alexis Sanchez off the bench, it sure does help.For more articles and the latest soccer news, check out FTBpro.com
Champions League first qualifying round drawLincoln FC (GIB) v FC Santa Coloma (AND)Crusaders FC (NIR) v FC Levadia Tallinn (EST)FC Pyunik (ARM) v SS Folgore (SMR)B36 Tórshavn (FRO) v The New Saints FC (WAL)• Ties will be played on 30 June/1 July and 7/8 July.Champions League second qualifying round drawAPOEL FC (CYP) v FK Vardar (MKD)Hibernians FC (MLT) v Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC (ISR)Qarabağ FK (AZE) v FK Rudar Pljevlja (MNE)FK Sarajevo (BIH) v KKS Lech Poznań (POL)NK Maribor (SVN) v FC Astana (KAZ)FC BATE Borisov (BLR) v Dundalk FC (IRL)HJK Helsinki (FIN) v FK Ventspils (LVA)FC Midtjylland (DEN) v Lincoln FC (GIB)/FC Santa Coloma (AND)Molde FK (NOR) v FC Pyunik (ARM)/SS Folgore (SMR)Malmö FF (SWE) v FK Žalgiris Vilnius (LTU)Celtic FC (SCO) v Stjarnan (ISL)FK AS Trenčín (SVK) v FC Steaua Bucureşti (ROU)FK Partizan (SRB) v FC Dila Gori (GEO)PFC Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL) v FC Milsami Orhei (MDA)CS Fola Esch (LUX) v GNK Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)KF Skënderbeu (ALB) v Crusaders FC (NIR)/FC Levadia Tallinn (EST)B36 Tórshavn (FRO)/ The New Saints FC (WAL) v Videoton FC (HUN)• Ties will be played on 14/15 and 21/22 July.Europa League first qualifying round (3 and 10 July):Víkingur Reykjavík (ISL) v NK KoperNewtown AFC (WAL) v Valletta FC (MLT)Glenavon FC (NIR) v FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk (BLR)NSÍ Runavík (FRO) v Linfield FC (NIR)FK Atlantas Klaipėda (LTU) v PFC Beroe Stara Zagora (BUL)FK Spartaks Jūrmala (LVA) v FK Budućnost Podgorica (MNE)FC Progrès Niederkorn (LUX) v Shamrock Rovers FC (IRL)Cork City FC (IRL) v KR Reykjavík (ISL)University College Dublin AFC (IRL)* v F91 Dudelange (LUX)FC Sheriff (MDA) v Odds BK (NOR)FC Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) v Qäbälä FK (AZE)FC Differdange 03 (LUX) v Bala Town FC (WAL)Brøndby IF (DEN) v AC Juvenes/Dogana (SMR)Debreceni VSC (HUN) v FK Sutjeska (MNE)FK Crvena zvezda (SRB) v FC Kairat Almaty (KAZ)FC Aktobe (KAZ) v Nõmme Kalju FC (EST)Go Ahead Eagles (NED)* v Ferencvárosi TC (HUN)NK Domžale (SVN) v FK Čukarički (SRB)FK Kukësi (ALB) v FC Torpedo Zhodino (BLR)KF Renova (MNE) v FC Dacia Chisinau (MDA)KF Shkëndija (MKD) v Aberdeen FC (SCO)MTK Budapest (HUN) v FK Vojvodina (SRB)FC Ordabasy Shymkent (KAZ) v Beitar Jerusalem FC (ISL)FC Flora Tallinn (EST) v FK Rabotnicki (MKD)FC Dinamo Batumi (GEO) v AC Omonia (CYP)FK Trakai (LTU) v HB Tórshavn (FRO)Glentoran FC (NIR) v MŠK Žilina (SVK)Alashkert FC (ARM) v Saint Johnstone FC (SCO)FK Olimpic Sarajevo (BIH) v FC Spartak Trnava (SVK)Víkingur (FRO) v Rosenborg BK (NOR)Skonto FC (LVA) v Saint Patrick’s Athletic FC (IRL)Balzan FC (MLT) v FK Željezničar (BIH)UE Sant Julià (AND) v Randers FC (DEN)FK Kruoja Pakruojis (LTU) v Jagiellonia Białystok (POL)KF Laçi (ALB) v İnter Bakı PİK (AZE)FK Partizani (ALB) v Strømsgodset IF (NOR)FK Jelgava (LVA) v PFC Litex Lovech (BUL)FC Lusitans (AND) v West Ham United FC (ENG)*SJK Seinäjoki (FIN) v FH Hafnarfjördur (ISL)FC Lahti (FIN) v IF Elfsborg (SWE)JK Sillamäe Kalev (EST) v HNK Hajduk Split (CRO)FC Saxan (MDA) v Apollon Limassol FC (CYP)FC Shirak (ARM) v HŠK Zrinjski (BIH)VPS Vaasa (FIN) v AIK Solna (SWE)FK Mladost Podgorica (MNE) v Neftçi PFK (AZE)NK Celje (SVN) v WKS Śląsk Wrocław (POL)SP La Fiorita (SMR) v FC Vaduz (LIE)Birkirkara FC (MLT) v Ulisses FC (ARM)AUK Broughton FC (WAL) v NK Lokomotiva Zagreb (CRO)FC Botoşani (ROU) v Tskhinvali (GEO)Europa FC (GIB) v ŠK Slovan Bratislava (SVK)*Respect Fair Play entrantsEuropa League Second qualifying round (17 and 24 July)SS Folgore/Falciano (SMR)/FK Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) v AC Omonia (CYP)Győri ETO FC (HUN) v IFK Göteborg (SWE)/CS Fola Esch (LUX)Molde FK (NOR) v ND Gorica (SVN)FK Lovćen (MNE)/FK Željezničar (BIH) v UE Santa Coloma (AND)/FK Metalurg Skopje (MKD)Fram Reykjavík (ISL)/JK Nõmme Kalju (EST) v KKS Lech Poznań (POL)FC Dinamo Minsk (BLR) v Myllykosken Pallo-47 (FIN)/ÍF Fuglafjørdur (FRO)FC Neman Grodno (BLR) v FH Hafnarfjördur (ISL)/Glenavon FC (NIR)Hapoel Beer Sheva FC (ISR) v RNK Split (CRO)/FC Mika (ARM)FC Slovan Liberec (CZE) v MFK Košice (SVK)Víkingur (FRO)/FC Daugava Daugavpils (LVA) v Tartu FC Santos (EST)/Tromsø IL (NOR)FC Petrolul Ploieşti (ROU) v FC Sioni Bolnisi (GEO)/KS Flamurtari (ALB)UE Sant Julià (AND)/FK Čukarički (SRB) v SV Grödig (AUT)CFR 1907 Cluj (ROU) v FK Jagodina (SRB)Motherwell FC (SCO) v Stjarnan (ISL)/Bangor City FC (WAL)Hibernians FC (MLT)/FC Spartak Trnava (SVK) v FC Zestafoni (GEO)Crusaders FC (NIR)/FK Ekranas (LTU) v VPS Vaasa (FIN)/IF Brommapojkarna (SWE)Aberdeen FC (SCO)/FK Daugava Rīga (LVA) v FC Groningen (NED)Bursaspor (TUR)* v FK Turnovo (MKD)/FC Chikhura Sachkhere (GEO)Neftçi PFK (AZE) v FC Koper (SVN)/FK Čelik Nikšić (MNE)B36 Tórshavn (FRO)/Linfield FC (NIR) v AIK Solna (SWE)HNK Rijeka (CRO) v Sliema Wanderers FC (MLT)/Ferencvárosi TC (HUN)FK Mladá Boleslav (CZE) v Qäbälä FK (AZE)/NK Široki Brijeg (BIH)FC Luzern (SUI) v Saint Johnstone FC (SCO)NK Rudar Velenje (SVN)/KF Laçi (ALB) v FC Zorya Luhansk (UKR)Rosenborg BK (NOR)/FK Jelgava (LVA) v FK Banga (LTU)/Sligo Rovers FC (IRL)FC Differdange 03 (LUX)/FK Atlantas (LTU) v FC Shirak (ARM)/FC Shakhter Karagandy (KAZ)FK Sarajevo (BIH) v FK Haugesund (NOR)/AUK Broughton FC (WAL)SV Zulte Waregem (BEL) v Zawisza Bydgoszcz (POL)JK Sillamäe Kalev (EST)/FC Honko Espoo (FIN) v FC Krasnodar (RUS)PFC CSKA Sofia (BUL) v FK Shkëndija 79 (MKD)/FC Zimbru Chisinau (MDA)Derry City FC (IRL)/Aberystwyth Town FC (WAL) v FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk (BLR)Ruch Chorzów (POL) v FC Vaduz (LIE)/College Europa FC (GIB)Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC (ISR) v FC Pyunik (ARM)/FC Astana (KAZ)FK AS Trenčín (SVK) v FK Vojvodina (SRB)FC Veris (MDA)/PFC Litex Lovech (BUL) v Diósgyőri VTK (HUN)/Birkirkara FC (MLT)PFC Botev Plovdiv (BUL)/AC Libertas (SMR) v SKN St Pölten (AUT)Asteras Tripolis FC (GRE) v RoPS Rovaniemi (FIN)HNK Hajduk Split (CRO) v AS Jeunesse Esch (LUX)/Dundalk FC (IRL)FC Kairat Almaty (KAZ)/FK Kukësi (ALB) v Esbjerg fB (DEN)IF Elfsborg (SWE) v FC Tiraspol (MDA)/İnter Bakı PİK (AZE)
By Andreas VouAPOEL travel to Denmark to take on FC Midtjylland in Champions League third-round qualifying on Tuesday (8pm), a week after an unconvincing performance which almost saw the Cyprus champions prematurely knocked out of the competition. Due to recent successful campaigns in the Champions League, a fair amount of expectation now rests on the shoulders of the APOEL squad and they therefore need to make amends for their poor showing in the previous tie.Last week’s second leg against Macedonia’s FK Vardar saw APOEL need a second half-strike from Tomas De Vincenti to get them through on the away goals rule after an injury-time leveller from the home side set Cypriot nerves racing. Despite progressing, a fair amount of skepticism looms over some of the new recruits and the manager after the two matches against Vardar.The trip to Midtjylland will prove a stern test for APOEL with the Danish side going into the tie in good form. Jess Thorup’s men have won their last five competitive matches in a row, including a hard fought 2-1 away win over Sønderjyske on Friday in the domestic league.APOEL press officer Nektarios Petevinos feels that Tuesday’s opponents are a largely inexperienced outfit on the continent but stressed that they are nevertheless a force to be reckoned with.“It is a young team lacking European experience. What APOEL must take into account is that they are up against the Danish champions. They compete in a tough league. Playing away from home, we want to achieve a result which will give us a good marker to qualify.”APOEL manager Domingos Paciencia was keen to reiterate to the media that the APOEL squad had been together for less than a month, and that the group still needed time to gel. The former Europa League finalist with Braga arranged a friendly with Ermis last Thursday in order for the team to get more match practice and to try and experiment with some new tactics.APOEL will be without full-back Marios Antoniades due to injury; Paciencia has ex-Manchester United youngster Nicholas Ioannou and long-serving Nektarios Alexandrou to choose from. Midfield linchpin Nuno Morais will return to his favoured position after filling in for the injured Carlao last week, with the Brazilian returning to fitness and expected to feature from the start on Tuesday.The danger men that the APOEL defenders will have to be on their toes for are 20-year-old Pione Sisto and the experienced Morten Rasmussen. The Ugandan-born youngster, Sisto, has made quite a name for himself in Danish football since breaking onto the scene, being voted the league’s best player in 2014 and recently earning his first international caps with his adopted nation, scoring four in his first four games, attracting interest from a number of top European clubs as a result.Thirty-year-old Rasmussen is a reliable centre-forward with a knack for popping up with important goals, demonstrated both in the second-round first leg against Lincoln Red Imps where he scored the game’s only goal as well last Friday’s late winner against Sønderjyske.APOEL have positive recent memories of facing Danish opposition. Just under 12 months ago they took on Aalborg in the Champions League playoff round, first drawing 1-1 away before a resounding 4-1 win in Nicosia to seal their passage into the group stages.However, Tuesday’s task bears new and unique challenges for an APOEL team that have a point to prove following a poor showing in the previous round, and a positive result will be of the highest order.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has opened the door to staying on after next year’s Euro 2016 tournament should the holders qualify as expected.Del Bosque, who took over from the late Luis Aragones after Spain’s triumph at Euro 2008, has previously suggested he will step down after the competition in France, where La Roja will be chasing an unprecedented third straight continental title.Spanish media have reported that soccer federation (RFEF) president Angel Maria Villar is trying to persuade the 64-year-old to stay on until the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Del Bosque appeared to leave that possibility open in an interview with Spanish radio on Thursday.“I think that in football matters you don’t have to be very rigid,” he told Cadena Cope when asked about his future.Del Bosque is a hugely popular figure in Spain after leading the national team to a maiden World Cup victory in 2010 and a second consecutive European title two years later.However, some felt that a fresh start was needed after Spain’s failure to advance beyond the group stage at last year’s World Cup finals in Brazil.Among names to have been linked to the Spain job are Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, Sevilla’s Unai Emery and Rafa Benitez of Real Madrid.Spain can make sure of their place at Euro 2016 with a win against Group C minnows Luxembourg in Logrono on Friday.
Arsenal closed in on another season of Champions League football with a 1-0 win over strugglers Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday but it was another uncomfortable evening for manager Arsene Wenger amid protests from fans.Arsenal moved into third place thanks to a Danny Welbeck goal but it did not stop the discontent inside and outside the Emirates Stadium from supporters grumbling about perceived under-achievement in Wenger’s long reign.Yet the Gunners’ fans cannot have been as miserable as supporters of visiting Norwich, whose side were plunged into even deeper trouble amid the dog-fight at the foot of the table.They were the only one of the three relegation candidates to endure a pointless afternoon, with Newcastle United beating Crystal Palace 1-0 and Sunderland rescuing a point with a last-gasp penalty from Jermain Defoe in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City.At Arsenal, there was division between supporters, some of whom held up posters with the message ‘Time for a change’, after 12 minutes and 12 minutes from time, to mark the dozen years that they have failed to win the league.Yet others sang “There’s only one Arsene Wenger” before Welbeck, introduced as a second-half substitute, scored within four minutes to earn Arsenal a key victory.“We were warned about the protesters,” Wenger said. “You want to make the fans happy. I’m sorry if I don’t achieve it. I’m irritated and frustrated if I cannot keep people happy.“I have respect for the club and gave so much for the club. I want to make people happy.”The win puts Arsenal third in the table, three points clear of Manchester City, who will leapfrog them on goal difference if they win at Southampton on Sunday. City entertain Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium next weekend.