Lennon targets better finishing

Rafael Benitez admitted Chelsea were outclassed by Corinthians

who won their Club World Cup final 1-0 in Yokohama.

The Blues’ interim boss insisted his side only had themselves to

blame as Corinthians dominated the match and Benitez admitted it

seemed to mean more to the Brazilians, whose physical pressing game

gave Chelsea very little room for manoeuvre.

“This is the final of the World Cup for the South American

teams. You could see this from the first minute,” Benitez said.

“Our players have some quality but, physically, some of them

aren’t so strong.”

Some of Corinthians’ players also tried every trick in the book

to get the referee on side, forward Emerson repeatedly rolling

around the floor under contact.

Benitez added: “You could see they have experience and, every

second, they were around the referee and doing well – and wasting

[time] round near the end.

“I don’t say that as a negative. They were ‘managing’ the game

quite well.”

Emerson was also at the centre of Gary Cahill’s late sending

off, which Benitez admitted may have been the correct decision.

“He lost his temper,” Benitez said. “I didn’t see it in the

game, but I’ve seen it on the replay and it could be a red

card.”

Fernando Torres missed a sitter for the Blues five minutes from

time and when he did find the net with a header he was ruled

offside.

Benitez tried to remain upbeat: “Try to find the positives in

the situation. He was there. He had the chances. He scored the goal

that was disallowed.

“He has to take these chances in a final because it’s not easy

to create too many. If you have two or three, you have to

score.”

Corinthians boss Tite questioned Benitez’s team changes

following Chelsea’s semi-final win over Monterrey.

“I was surprised by Benitez,” he said. “They were a light team

when the previous side was physical.”

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The visitors led when Brown was deceived by Iain Davidson’s

37th-minute wonder strike but they responded strongly to level

through substitute Gary Glen.

County could have even won it when skipper Richard Brittain was

put through clean on goal late on only for his shot to clip the

outside of the post.

Brown was not complaining afterwards though as his side had to

be content with maintaining their six-point gap over Dundee in the

relegation place.

“It was a great move but when he (Brittain) hit the post from

what I could see I thought Rab Douglas had saved it,” the former

Celtic goalkeeper said.

“It is just one of those things Richard has had some great

performances this season. On another day it would have crept inside

the post.

“We had a few chances at the end and we could maybe have sneaked

it. But the gap is still the same.

“We have a busy Christmas period – it’s just a case of getting

the heads down and picking up as many points as we can.”

Brown admitted he had been deceived by the flight of the ball

for Davidson’s opener.

“New modern balls tend to swing in the air and as soon as it

left his foot I thought it was going to my right but it swung the

other way,” he said.

“When it changes direction there is nothing you can do.

“In the first half we played as well as we could but in the

second half we lifted the tempo. In the second half we created the

better chances.”

County confirmed before the match that Brown had signed a new

deal to remain at the club until the end of the season.

“I actually signed it earlier in the week, that takes me up to

the summer,” said Brown, whose initial deal ran to January.

“Nobody likes to be on the sidelines, but as I’ve said we have a

good squad and we have are a lot of boys on the sidelines who are

pushing for starting places. I just think that is healthy for

competition.”

County travel to Brown’s former club Celtic next weekend, and he

admitted he was looking forward to his return.

“Everybody expects Celtic to win but shocks can happen,” he

said.

“We will try not to concede early goals – we will try to

frustrate them a bit but you never know what will happen.”

Dundee striker Colin Nish, who also missed a chance near the

end, said: “Ross County could have won it in the last minute when

they hit the post but I think they we could have gone 2-0 up.

“It is not a bad result coming here but I think the boys going

back in the bus will be disappointed.”

He added: “We’ve done all right recently and I can’t see us

going on a losing run again. The boys are defending brilliantly we

just need to put the ball in the back of the net.

“Myself and the other strikers haven’t been doing that in the

last few games – hopefully we can get that back.

“I don’t think anyone could complain with a draw but as I said

if we got that goal to go 2-0 up I think that would have been good

enough for us.”

Footage from the Premier League encounter at the Britannia

Stadium is set to be examined closely by the FA, with the focus on

several moments where Toffees midfielder Marouane Fellaini came

together with Potters skipper Ryan Shawcross in the hosts’ box.

In one incident – seemingly missed by referee Mark Halsey at the

time – defender Shawcross was floored by an apparent headbutt from

Fellaini, who appears likely to face retrospective action from the

FA.

After the game, Everton manager David Moyes condemned his

player’s actions and said the club would accept any punishment that

came their way, while Fellaini apologised to Shawcross, his

team-mates and Toffees fans.

Although he said he had “no excuses”, the Belgium international

did make reference in his apology to “a lot of pushing and pulling

going on inside the Stoke penalty area”, adding that he did not

feel he was getting any protection from the officials.

Distin compared yesterday’s events to a penalty Fellaini gave

away in the recent 1-1 draw at Manchester City – which Everton

thought had been harshly awarded – to higlight what he sees as an

inconsistency relating to incidents in the area.

Reflecting on the Stoke match, Distin told evertontv: “It’s

wrestling, it was tough.

“It was difficult to run through, they just catch you all the

time and grab you.

“I think the ref could have a better look at it. But that is

football and it’s going to happen when you come to a place like

Stoke.

“There is just no consistency. That is the problem as a

player.

“Sometimes you get grabbed or blocked and it is not a penalty.

Then you see what happened against City when the ref gave them a

penalty, and you think ‘there should be a penalty every week’.

“There is no consistency so it’s a bit frustrating when it’s not

going your way.”

The series of episodes involving Fellaini and Shawcross came

after Kenwyne Jones’ 52nd-minute headed equaliser for a Stoke side

who were much improved in the second period from their first-half

showing.

Everton, handed the lead in the 36th minute by Shawcross’

own-goal, had shaded the contest up to the interval but had

squandered some decent opportunities and Moyes was fairly damning

in his assessment of team’s performance.

The Scot, whose side remained in fourth place after the result,

said: “I would probably say that, in my mind, it might have been

the poorest we have played this year, although it tells a story

that I am disappointed that I am coming to Stoke and drawing

1-1.

“I think if you are talking about how we played football and the

style we played in, it was probably the least effective we have

been this season.”

Stoke boss Tony Pulis, whose team stayed in ninth spot, praised

his players’ efforts and expressed his delight for striker Jones,

selected to start once again ahead of Peter Crouch.

Jones’ goal was his first in the top flight since August 2011

and he nearly added another moments later, hitting the post.

Pulis said: “Kenwyne has done smashing. He has had to wait his

time and it was a good goal.

“I thought after he scored his goal, the confidence really

flowed through him and he caused them lots of trouble.

“He got tired towards the end, but he hasn’t played many games

and you are going to be like that.

“But it is lovely for him to have scored, I am very pleased for

him.

“I’m pleased for the group as well – I thought their attitude in

the second half was absolutely fantastic again.”

The result means Stoke are unbeaten in seven matches, and have

now gone 15 home league fixtures without defeat, stretching back to

February.

Pulis said: “It is so vibrant here at the Britannia – the crowd

get going and it is almost like a pulse that runs through the

players.

“It is a special ground in lots of respects. When we need their

help, they have always been there for us.”

The Royals continue to value financial stability over

extravagance.

Owner Anton Zingarevich is under pressure to finance a

recruitment drive that will enable the Royals, who are second from

bottom and six points adrift of safety, to evade relegation from

the Premier League.

But McDermott insists Reading’s caution – an approach shared by

Monday’s opponents Arsenal – must be protected to guarantee their

survival.

“We have been a sensible club punching above our weight for a

long time and there is a lot to be said for that,” he said.

“We are trying to be as sensible as we can to make sure this

club is still here in the future.

“Look at what happened at Portsmouth and Leeds, clubs nearly

going out of business.

“Portsmouth won the FA Cup after spending a load of money, but

are in real trouble now.

“I have absolutely no doubt other clubs will go the same way as

Portsmouth and I won’t let it happen here because the club’s too

important.

“This club has been here since 1871. Our fans are seeing Premier

League football and they wouldn’t have thought that was possible

three years ago.”

QPR spent ?23million on new players under Mark Hughes, who paid

for the club’s poor performances by being sacked last month.

Rangers remained anchored to the foot of the Premier League

heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures and McDermott cites

them as an example of the uncertainty overshadowing a spending

spree.

“Splashing out a lot of money does not guarantee anything. You

guarantee nothing by spending ?25-30million,” he said.

“If I was sat here having spent ?25million pounds in the

summer….. I haven’t, I spent ?2-3million. QPR have splashed a lot

of money already – as a lot of clubs have.”

McDermott is 7/4 favourite to be the third Premier League

manager to be sacked this season, despite his modest outlay during

the summer.

The 51-year-old suggests that the club’s position in the table

is the result of their lack of business, but hopes to strengthen

next month with seasoned top flight campaigners.

“In the summer we didn’t really invest, possibly we should have

done more. The club sets the budget and I work to it, that’s how it

works,” he said.

“January is never an easy window. I will have a chat with the

owner when he comes across and see who is available.

“I don’t know what the budget is, he will have to let me know.

But we have to find players who know the level.

“My feel is the same – if you can find two or three players with

Premier League experience then we need to do that.

“That’s never cheap. You see those targets, but whether you can

get them is a different story. It’s whether players want to come

and we can afford them.”

The Hoops cruised to a 2-0 SPL win over St Mirren at Parkhead on

Saturday, but the scoreline in no way reflected the home side’s

superiority.

Midfielder Victor Wanyama opened the scoring in the 15th minute

at the second attempt from Charlie Mulgrew’s corner and it was just

reward for their impressive start to the game.

However, despite monopolising possession playing in a 3-5-2

formation, Celtic struggled in front of goal until seven minutes

from time, when striker Gary Hooper scored from close range to seal

their fourth victory in succession and take the champions four

points clear of Motherwell at the top of the table with a game in

hand.

The Parkhead boss, who hopes to be present at the Champions

League last-16 draw in Nyon on Thursday – “If I can I will” –

praised his side’s play but would like, when they are so much in

control, to secure the points more quickly.

“I would like to see us put teams away a little bit earlier,”

said Lennon.

“If that comes then I think we will be rampant.

“There was a good focus and intensity to our play and I am glad

to see Hooper scoring again.

“He is looking a lot sharper and trimmer and looks like he has

the bit between his teeth so I was delighted he got his goal.

“Some of our play was very good.

“The formation seems to work with us, there was nothing stodgy

about our play, we created good, clear-cut chances and with better

finishing could have won the game more handsomely.”

St Mirren defended well for the most part but, despite Buddies

boss Danny Lennon saying in the build-up that clubs were no longer

afraid to go to Parkhead these days, the visitors offered almost

nothing in attack and even as the minutes ticked away with the game

still at 1-0, there was no suggestion they might nick a goal.

The former Cowdenbeath boss, still looking for his first goal

far less his first point against Celtic since taking over at St

Mirren in 2010, and having watched his side beaten 5-0 at home by

the Hoops earlier in the season, will try to take some positives

from the game.

He said: “To go there and get a little bit closer was

pleasing.

“We can take a little bit of heart from it.

“We were four games unbeaten so we have to go on a run

again.”