Late Ibrahimovic goals guide Inter to victory
Veteran Portuguese centre-back Fernando Couto admitted that he did handle the ball before the controversial penalty that helped Inter Milan salvage a 3-2 victory over Parma from the jaws of defeat.
Parma were clinging onto to a slender 2-1 lead in the dying minutes at the San Siro on Sunday night, on the brink of inflicting a first league defeat of the season on the champions.
But a dubious penalty award against Couto for handling in the box allowed Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic to level from the spot before he scored a sumptuous injury-time winner.
Couto threw himself in front of the goal and seemed to divert an Ibrahimovic shot away for a corner with his head before the referee pointed to the spot and gave the former international defender his marching orders.
But the veteran later admitted that the ball had touched his hand.
“I got my head to the ball but then it touched my hand, but it wasn’t intentional,” he said after the match.
“I was diving, I don’t know if the ball was going in or not.”
Whichever way, whether the penalty was deserved or not, it was a cruel way for Parma to lose having fought so gallantly and having matched the league leaders.
“We always give our all until the last minutes where we have lost many goals and many points,” added Couto.
“Our league position (in the bottom half) is very disappointing. We’re not blaming bad luck, it’s just driving us on to be determined all the way to the final whistle.”
The three points meant that Inter conserved their seven-point lead at the top of the table, breaking Roma’s hearts with their late surge as the capital-based club would have been on the brink of celebrating a cut in the gap between the two teams.
Match-winner Ibrahimovic praised his team’s fighting spirit.
“Parma played really well, they’re a strong team and deserve to be doing better in the league,” he said.
“We won in the end, we’re really happy and very tired because it’s been a hard week.
“I always want to win, we made it 2-2 and then also found the 3-2. Everyone gave their all.
“We won thanks to hard work and a lot of desire, these are our qualities.”
Inter coach Roberto Mancini admitted that his side had been lucky to escape with the victory.
“I don’t think we played very well, Parma deserved a draw,” he said.
“We didn’t play well, we underestimated Parma even though we knew they were in good condition.
“Getting back into the match (from being behind) was not easy but fortunately we have some great players who turned it around.”
As for the penalty decision, Mancini was non-commital.
“From the bench I didn’t see anything but I think the ball touched first Fernando Couto’s head and then his hand.
“Then I don’t know if it would have gone in or gone wide.”
Parma coach Domenico Di Carlo moaned that the big decisions always go the way of the big teams.
“We prepared well for this match, the guys played good football and I’m disappointed about this incident which favoured the ‘big team’,” he said.
Eriksson admits City got lucky
Sven Göran Eriksson admitted Manchester City were fortunate to preserve their unbeaten home record after Darius Vassell’s controversial equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw against West Ham.
City trailed to Carlton Cole’s excellent early goal at Eastlands on Sunday but Vassell was given the benefit of a debatable offside decision to level and extend the unbeaten league run in front of their own fans to 12 matches.
The point was also enough to send City up to fifth in the Premier League, while Alan Curbishley’s team remain marooned in mid-table despite having the better of a scrappy encounter.
Eriksson conceded that Vassell’s goal was probably offside and called for a clearer interpretation of the rule.
“We didn’t play good football. The spirit is good and we are fighting but we had to be lucky and we have to be happy to take one point,” Eriksson said.
“I think they have to decide whether it is offside or it’s not. For me it is offside.”
Curbishley felt the Hammers deserved more from the match and he was scathing about the failure to rule out Vassell’s goal.
But the West Ham boss will be relieved to see the back of City. His side had crashed out of the FA Cup at Eastlands four days previously and this draw left them without a win over Eriksson’s team in four attempts this season.
“We deserved to be the first team to win here and I think Sven agreed with us when we came off. We should have got more out of the two games,” Curbishley said.
“I think the linesman said he didn’t interfere with the first phase of play but he is standing in the six-yard box,” Curbishley said. “All of us are a bit bemused by ‘is he interfering with play or is he not?’ Sometimes you get the rub of the green, but today I don’t think we did.”
Wigan snap up Edman
Sweden defender Erik Edman is set to make his Wigan debut against Everton on Sunday after a £500,000 move from French club Rennes.
The left-back, who had lost his place in the Rennes starting line-up, has agreed a two-and-a-half year contract.
The 29-year-old will plug a gap Wigan have had in their squad since the highly-rated Leighton Baines left for Everton at the start of the season and which has recently resulted in winger Kevin Kilbane occupying a defensive berth on the left.
Edman had been at Rennes since 2005 following a season at Tottenham and Wigan boss Steve Bruce said he was delighted to have acquired his services.
“Kevin has filled in and done a really good job,” he said. “But if I can bring in an experienced player like Erik, that gives me the option of pushing Kevin up the pitch and helps the situation.
“So I’m delighted to get him because it’s not often you can get a Sweden international with 55 caps under his belt for the sort of money we’ve paid.”
Donovan becomes top US scorer in win over Sweden
Landon Donovan became the all-time leading scorer in US history Saturday when he converted a penalty in the 48th minute of a 2-0 victory over Sweden in a friendly international football match.
Donovan, 25, notched his 35th goal in 97 international appearances, surpassing the mark of 34 goals by Eric Wynalda.
Eddie Robinson had opened the scoring for the hosts at the Home Depot Center in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson in the 15th minute, firing home off a corner kick from Brad Davis.
The match against a Sweden “B” selection was part of USA’s preparations for 2010 World Cup qualifying, while Sweden gear up for this summers European Championships.
Biathlon: Ferry wins maiden World Cup event
Sweden’s Björn Ferry won a World Cup biathlon event for the first time at Antholz in Italy on Saturday ahead of Russia’s Nikolay Kruglov and Michael Greis of Germany who had been on a run of three wins.
Norway’s Ole Einar Bjørndalen, who took seventh place in the 12.5km race, retained first place in the overall standings after 13 of the 26 events this season, ahead of Russia’s Dmitry Yaroshenko and Greis.
On Sunday Bjørndalen won the mass start event at the same venue for his 80th victory on the circuit.
The Norwegian clocked 36min 26.09sec in the 15km race, with one penalty, to
finish ahead of Björn Ferry (one penalty) and Germany’s Michael Greis (two penalties).
Alpine skiing: Byggmark second in Kitzbühel slalom
Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Grange won the World Cup slalom in Kitzbühel in Austria on Sunday to record his fourth win of the season.
The 23-year-old beat Sweden’s Jens Byggmark by 0.15sec over the two legs while Mario Matt of Austria took third, 0.52 adrift.
Grange, who has won three slaloms and a super-combined this season, was fastest over the first leg and managed to hold off a rampaging Byggmark, who won both slaloms here last term.
“This is a huge moment for me, it really is exceptional,” gushed Grange, who reinforced his lead in the slalom standings.
“At the moment, everything is going really well. I am really confident, I am giving it my all and thus things are going well.”
Grange, who signalled his talent by taking bronze at the 2007 world championships, insisted, though, that he was not infallible.
“I am not unbeatable, I also have my doubts like everybody else, but once I am on the course, I get going and do everything I can to win,” said Grange, whose parents were high class skiers in the 1970s.
Grange, who joined compatriots Jean-Claude Killy, Jean-Noel Augert and Jean-Pierre Vidal in winning here, said he had fulfilled a pledge he made two years ago.
“I was here when Jean-Pierre Vidal won in 2006. I said to myself that one day I would win here.”
Byggmark meanwhile admitted to feeling like boxing Grange’s ears when he knocked him off top spot.
“It’s always fun to ski here, but I’m disappointed I didn’t win,” said the Swede, who scored his maiden World Cup wins in spectacular style when he won both slaloms here last year.
“I felt like boxing with Grange when he pushed me off top spot! But he’s a great skier.”
Alpine skiing: Pärson trails American Vonn in World Cup downhill
American Lindsey Vonn dominated the field to win the World Cup downhill at Cortina D’Ampezzon in Italy on Saturday, jumping to second in the overall standings.
Vonn, who previously skied under her maiden name of Kildow, finished the course in 1min 36.7sec, 0.83sec ahead of Sweden’s Anja Pärson with Emily Brydon of Canada a further 0.37sec adrift.
It was Vonn’s fourth World Cup win of the season, and the 11th in her career, and saw her consolidate her large lead atop the downhill standings on 430 points.
The American’s victory enabled her to leapfrog Germany’s Maria Riesch and Austrian Marlies Schild into second in the overall standings on 638 points, 61pts behind leader Nicole Hosp of Austria.
“I’m really proud to have won in Cortina,” said Vonn. “I’ve never won here and it’s one of the circuit’s great classics.
“Four years ago, I achieved my first World Cup podium here but last year I didn’t ski well here (falling twice).
“I don’t care by how much I win by, as long as I’m winning,” Vonn said of her large winning margin, adding that she was pleased to have beaten the queen of the Cortina mountain, Renate Götschl of Austria.
“To beat Renate who has won 10 times here is great. She’s won 10 times, so I don’t feel bad taking one from her!”
Götschl eventually finished in fifth place, a massive 1.26sec behind Vonn.
“I’m just trying to ski solid, and try to make no mistakes,” Vonn said. “You have to be consistent.
“The conditions were perfect. I was a little worried on Friday after training because the snow was so soft but they (the organizers) did a great job on the piste.”
Pärson praised the rich vein of form Vonn has found with her third victory in the season’s five downhills.
“When you’re in the groove she’s in, you don’t think about it, you just ski and know it’s going to go well,” the Swede said.
It was another great result for Pärson, the reigning world champion in downhill, super-G and super-combined who moved into fifth in the overall World Cup standings on 566 points after a stuttering start to the season.
Swedes bow out of Australian Open
Sofia Arvidsson pulled off the biggest shock of the first round at the Australian Open, knocking out 10th seed Marion Bartoli of France.
But despite nabbing the second set, the Swede, seeded 80, was defeated in the second round by Poland’s Marta Domachowska (7-5, 1-6, 6-1).
Marcos Baghdatis safely negotiated his first-round assignment against the 2002 Open champion, Sweden’s Thomas Johansson, running out a comfortable 7-6 (7/0), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 winner.