Venus Williams beats Andrea Petkovic

Venus Williams came from a set down to see off Andrea Petkovic and set up a Luxembourg Open final against Monica Niculescu.

Romanian Niculescu barely broke sweat to earn a 6-1 6-3 victory over Slovak Daniela Hantuchova in her semi-final.

But it was Williams who had to put in the hardest shift on Saturday as the American battled past German Petkovic 5-7 6-4 6-4 to make her first final in nearly two and a half years.

Petkovic, ranked 182 in the world, was pushing the seven-time Grand Slam winner all the way and even at 4-4 in the decider looked more than capable of upsetting the player ranked 141 places higher.

But Williams stood firm to break Petkovic's serve and ease to victory in a marathon two hours, 38 minutes.

Niculescu, ranked 70th, reached her second straight Luxembourg Open final with an easy win over Hantuchova.


Edin Dzeko's 'heavy goals' delight Manchester City assistant boss

 David Platt hailed the 'heavy goals' of Manchester City super-sub Edin Dzeko after his brace earned a win at West Brom.

City looked in danger of falling seven points adrift of leaders Chelsea after James Milner was sent off in the first half and then Shane Long broke the deadlock for West Brom.

But Dzeko equalised within 60 seconds of entering the action with 10 minutes left and then in injury time snatched the winner with his sixth goal of the season.

City first-team coach Platt said: "If you look at Edin's career for Manchester City, the goals he has scored, he has got a lot of heavy goals, goals that are very important.

"I remember goals at Blackburn the season before last which more or less gave us Champions League qualification.

"You look back at last season as well and he got some vital goals. To win the league, (Sergio) Aguero's goal will always be the one but remember Edin equalised.

"He has been a threat all season and his form has been very good all season."

Milner was sent off for a professional foul after bringing down Long midway through the first half.

But Platt felt City deserved their victory after controlling the game for long periods despite their numerical disadvantage.

Platt, deputising at the press conference for sore throat victim Roberto Mancini, said: "Watching it live it didn't seem a goalscoring opportunity to me for the sending-off. Equally you can see why it is given.

"But we can't sit there for 70 minutes grumbling about a decision.

"For the rest of the first half we were affected by it to a certain extent and no-one was controlling the game.

"We said at half-time if we keep our control and discipline, stay together, we know we can impose our play on them and in that second period we controlled the match.

"If you look at the stats of efforts on goal and possession, you wouldn't have thought we'd had a man less than them."


Lionel Messi scored a brilliant hat-trick

 Lionel Messi scored a brilliant hat-trick as Barcelona survived Javier Mascherano's red card to claim a thrilling 5-4 win at Deportivo de La Coruña that puts them three points clear at the top of La Liga.

Messi, who is expecting the imminent birth of his first child, has scored 71 goals for club and country in 2012 – only four short of the record set by Pelé in 1959.

"Messi is off to the hospital now for a happy occasion as his son is on the way," the Barça sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, said.

Barça raced into a three-goal lead after just 18 minutes in a pulsating game at the Estadio Riazor. Deportivo pulled two goals back before Messi scored his second of the night to make it 4-2 at the break.

In a frenetic start to the second half, Pizzi curled in a stunning 47th-minute free-kick and Mascherano was harshly shown a second yellow card two minutes later.

The Barça coach, Tito Vilanova, reacted by replacing the excellent Cesc Fábregas, who provided three goal assists, with Xavi before Messi appeared to have killed the game when he made it 5-3 with a trademark run and clinical finish in the 77th minute, his 15th La Liga hat-trick.

A bizarre own goal from the Barça full-back Jordi Alba, when he lobbed his goalkeeper Victor Valdes from inside his own penalty area, gave Deportivo fresh hope but they were unable to make some late pressure count.

"We could have killed off the game in the first half but Deportivo are strong when they are playing at home and their fans get behind them," said Barça's playmaker Andrés Iniesta. "We are going away with the feeling of having got through a tough match and we will learn from that."



Alex Ferguson is hoping Manchester United’s injury nightmares are over

 Alex Ferguson is hoping Manchester United’s injury nightmares are over thanks to some top-notch medical kit.

The club have signed a five-year-deal with Toshiba to have the latest hi-tech equipment installed in a new £13million training ground extension.

Fergie said: “We made a couple of signings in the summer but this is the most important step forward we have made in a long, long time.

 “Maybe the public won’t see that but we’ll see it and all the players will appreciate it.

 “As most people know, we have been building a new medical centre for the last six months.

"I think they built the pyramids quicker! But it is getting there.

“This partnership brings a new dimension of sports science and medical facilities for our players — and puts us above most clubs in the world.”

Last season United suffered more injuries than any other Premier League club according to research by the sports injury website

There were 39 significant injuries that kept players out for two weeks with a total of 1,681, days lost to injury.

This season Ferguson has been hit by injuries to five top players.

The club hope the scanners will detect minor injuries before they worsen and help speed up rehab.

The Sun




Super Balotelli hails relationship with Roberto Mancini

 Mario Balotelli has declared his love for his Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini but appears less impressed with others at the club.

The Italy forward, who was on target for the Azzurri against Denmark on Tuesday, revealed his relationship with his club manager remains strong despite reports he may leave England.

Balotelli told Rai Sport: "With Mancini all goes well, we have a good relationship even though someone always tries to put discord among us. We love each other."

"I am fine at Manchester City even though there are people who like to talk in the newspapers, instead of saying certain things to my face. I do not give a damn."said
Mario .

But the 22-year-old suggested he did not welcome the remarks of football administrator Brian Marwood who accused him of being a poor role-model at the weekend.

Balotelli added: "I'm fine at Manchester City even though there are people who like to talk in the newspapers, instead of saying certain things to my face. I don't give a damn."

The former Inter man was in fine form for Cesare Prandelli's Italy side against the Danes on his return to San Siro, scoring one and setting up Riccardo Montolivo for another in a 3-1 win.

"I felt shivers returning to San Siro," he said. "This is the most beautiful stadium. If it was full it would have been even better.

"With the national team and with City I'm getting better in terms of work-rate and commitment. I always try to be humble."