O'Neill backs McAuley after OG heartbreak

Northern Ireland refused to blame Gareth McAuley after his 75th-minute own goal resulted in a 1-0 defeat to Wales in their Euro 2016 last-16 match.

McAuley diverted a Gareth Bale cross into his own net to give Wales the victory and put them into the quarter-finals.

Coach Michael O’Neill said he was very disappointed to lose but could not attach any blame to the big central defender.

"It's a shame for him but Gareth has been magnificent for me throughout this tournament and throughout my time as manager," said O’Neill.

"Gareth knows it's one of those balls across the box where he has to make a decision and he opted to touch it, which is always a risk.

"It was difficult for him to assess the situation, whether there was anyone behind him or not.”

O’Neill added that he thought Northern Ireland were the better team.

"We gave everything and I couldn't ask any more of the players over the whole tournament,” he said.

Skipper Steven Davis also backed McAuley.

"We are disappointed in the manner we lost and Gareth didn't deserve that because he has been excellent. We lay no blame on him at all," said the Southampton midfielder.

"We are devastated to be out but it's been a great journey and we have learned a lot from the experience," he added.

Portugal edge Croatia in dour last 16 match

An extra time goal by Ricardo Quaresma booked Portugal their place in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals following a 1-0 win over Croatia at the Stade Felix-Bollaert in Lens on Saturday night.

  • Croatia 0-1 Portugal
  • Pepe heads wide with the first half's best chance
  • Vida does likewise in the second half
  • Vida heads wide of an open goal in second half added time
  • Quaresma scores in the 117th minute

Match Summary

A nervy first half showing provided very little noteworthy action. The second half produced more excitement, but again neither side really came close to scoring. Quaresma netted the winner late in extra time after following up on Ronaldo's shot.

Full Report

The first half, and indeed the bulk of the 120 minutes, proved to be an edgy contest, neither side able to find top gear while very few clear-cut chances were produced.

Caution was the order of the day, both teams guilty of being careless in possession within a tightly congested midfield, while too often, promising crosses narrowly failed to pick out intended targets, both teams struggling to find their final passes in and around the opposition box.

There was however one great scoring opportunity, Pepe wasting a glorious chance on 25 minutes when he out-jumped the Croatia defence with ease to get on the end of a beautifully-flighted free from Adrien Silva, but the Real Madrid defender's header flew over the crossbar.

Croatia's only chance came on the half hour mark when Ivan Perisic cut inside from the right flank into the box, but he was unable to add to his two tournament goals when his shot flew harmlessly into the side-netting.

The second half brought an added intensity to the game, for a while at least, as both outfits showed more purpose going forward.

Croatia fashioned a good opportunity from a 52nd minute short corner, but Marcelo Brozovic's parting shot at the near post kept on rising.

Renato Sanches was to make a telling impact when he came off the bench - the Bayern Munich-bound playmaker helping Portugal wrestle back the initiative with some energetic play, although he was unable to cap off a fine team move when he dragged his shot badly wide in the 58th minute.

Croatia however remained a threat and could have gone ahead on 60 minutes but Domagoj Vida's header from 10-yards out was flashed wide of the far post after an inviting delivery from Ivan Rakitic.

But after 100-cap man Nani squandered a 65th minute opportunity when he tried to shoulder the ball goalwards rather than head or shoot, the game again lost its spark as both sides withdrew into their shells somewhat during the final 20 minutes of regulation time.

After 23 minutes of extra time action that once more failed to dish up much excitement in the respective penalty boxes, Vida could have won the game for the eastern Europeas, but he headed just over the bar of an unguarded net from a corner kick.

Three minutes later and the Croatians were even closer when Ivan Perisic's header hit the upright.

It was from the resultant break up field that Portugal scored, the ball worked swiftly to Cristiano Ronaldo in the box, his angled shot parried by Danijel Subasic and into the path of Ricardo Quaresma, who gratefully headed in from right on the line.

There were a couple of anxious moments for the Portuguese late on including a hooked volley from Vida which missed the top corner by inches, but they held on for the win.

Owino got better KCB offer

KCB FC winger Kennedy Owino has revealed that he was on the verge of signing with Kariobangi Sharks before his current club gave him a better offer.

Owino scored a brace in the 3-0 victory over Taqwa FC in the first round of the GOtv Shield on Friday.

The former Nakuru AllStars attacker admits that KCB gave him a better offer.

"It's true I trained thrice with Kariobangi Sharks and they offered me a deal but the KCB one was better so I settled on being a Banker and not a Shark. Everything was good in Sharks' training sessions but my heart chose KCB," Owino told Soka.

"Being here will give me another challenge to work hard because I have my personal target of ten goals in the second round."

Alexander to learn from new teammates

New SuperSport United midfielder Cole Alexander is looking forward to playing alongside teammates and improving his game at the Tshwane club.

Alexander joined Matsatsantsa from Polokwane City after signing a pre-contract in the middle of last season.

The 26 year-old is excited about playing under coach Stuart Baxter in his first full season at the club.

"My ultimate aim is to try to get in to the team and hopefully secure the main spot. I know that it's not going to be easy; there's Dean Furman and Yeye, as well as Michael Morton and Thato Mokeke," Alexander told Soccer Laduma.

"There are a few excellent midfielders that I admire a lot and I am looking forward to playing alongside them and learning from them as much as I can.

"Dean Furman for one, has played overseas, so there is a lot to learn from him - he's been one of South Africa's best players in this decade. There's a lot to learn from everyone, especially from the coach. I just want to learn as much as possible.

"I am hoping to bring to the team exactly what the coach and the club saw in me when they bought me. I want to live up to the reason that they chose me to come to the club. I want to play by instructions and whatever is expected of me, I am willing to do it."

Saints announce Redmond signing

Southampton have announced the signing of Norwich winger Nathan Redmond, for a fee believed to be in the region of £11million, on a five-year contract.

Redmond represents the Saints first signing of the off season and the deal was completed despite the club still not having a manager after Ronald Koeman joined Everton last week.

The deal was completed on Saturday after personal terms between the player and club were finalised and the forward completed a medical.

"I'm really pleased to have made the move to Southampton," Redmond said. "It's a fantastic football club with excellent facilities, and I really feel I can develop my game here.

"The club's style of play has always been excellent. They like to play attacking football and it's a style I feel I can really fit in well with.

"When Southampton said they were interested it felt like the right move for me, and I can't wait to get started now."

Dybala talks up Juventus potential

Juventus striker Paulo Dybala says there is no reason to consider leaving the club because he believes the club to be on the same level as Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Dybala claims the only thing that has stood between Juve and winning the Champions League has been bad luck. They came closest in the 2014/15 season where they lost to Bayern.

"Juventus are a great team, exactly like Real, Bayern Munich and Barcelona," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Two years ago we came close to victory in the [Champions League] final. With Bayern last season we were eliminated with 30 seconds left, we lacked just a little luck."

To further his assertion, Dani Alves is due to join the Turin outfit from Barcelona in July and Dybala is looking forward to playing alongside the Brazilian fullback.

"I saw him play very often because I always look to Barcelona and I remember that he often exchanged well with [Lionel] Messi," he added. "It is true, they had a great understanding.

"Dani is a very technical player, he will help us a lot in defence and in attack and I hope he can help me score many goals."

Bafana win five-goal thriller

South Africa claimed a fourth COSAFA Cup title with a 3-2 win over a plucky Botswana in an action-packed final at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek on Saturday evening.

  • South Africa 3 Botswana 2
  • Makgantai grabs the lead
  • Motupa equalises from the spot
  • Kutumela puts Bafana in front
  • Pieterse blunder hands Seakanyeng equaliser
  • Motupa's 87th minute penalty wins game

Match Summary

The first half was evenly balanced, with both sides having several chances on goal.

Botswana took the lead on 15 minutes before South Africa equalised from the penalty spot just after the half hour mark.

Bafana went in front through Kutumela after the break, but the Zebras drew level three minutes later when Pieterse dropped Seakanyeng's cross.

Motupa scored his second penalty three minutes from time to clinch victory.

Full Report

Bafana Bafana started the game with purpose and had the ball in the net after two minutes following a goalmouth scramble, but Judas Moseamedi's strike was ruled out.

But against the run of play, the Zebras took the lead on 15 minutes, Okgabetse Makgantai doing brilliantly to spot goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse off his line before scoring with a superb chipped effort from out on the right flank.

Pieterse was again called into action on 26 minutes, doing well to smother Lebogang Ditsele's crisp strike from the edge of the area.

Bafana were handed a lifeline when a foul by Boitumelo Mafoko on Moseamedi resulted in a penalty, Gift Motupa calmly sending goalkeeper Mwampole Masule the wrong way; 1-1 after 32 minutes.

Botswana though refused to allow their spirits to be dampened and were not far from regaining the lead eight minutes before half time when Thabang Sesinyi's volley from the edge of the area bounced just wide of goal.

Moseamedi was then to have another goal ruled out when he was called back for off-sides after having out the ball in the net, despite having run onto a Botswana back-pass, a harsh decision against the Black Aces striker.

The action continued after the restart, the Zebras inches away from going in front in the 53rd minute when Lesego Galenamothlale's sizzling half-volley crashed into the crossbar.

Having wasted a decent chance through Menzi Masuku, Bafana were to take the lead in the 66th minute when Motupa broke through the opposition defence before unselfishly squaring the ball to Thabiso Kutumela to tap in from close range.

It may have been harsh to blame Pieterse for Botswana's first goal, but there was no question that he was at fault for the Zebra's 70th minute equaliser after he dropped a routine delivery from Kabelo Seakanyeng out on the left flank, the ball ending up in the back of the net.

But once again Shakes Mashaba's men were to bounce back, with the aid of a spot kick, Motupa showing nerves of steel to slot home an 87th minute penalty following a hand-ball.

Dragons scrape into next round

Wales battled to an engaging 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in the European Championship round 16 on a warm Saturday evening at the Parc des Princes.

  • Wales 1 Northern Ireland 0
  • Norn Iron defend like trojans
  • McAuley scores own
  • Two Williams collide
  • Wales advance to quarter-finals

Match Summary

The round of 16 match between Wales and Nothern Ireland was not particularly exciting but it was definitely a very engaging battle between the two rival nations.

It seemed almost fitting that the only way Wales were able to breech the Norn Iron defence was by Gareth McAuley putting the ball into the back of his own net to the Dragons ahead with just 15 minutes left on the clock.

Full Report

The first real chance of the game fell to Stuart Dallas in the 10th minute as he hit a powerful strike from just outside the area, but he was denied by a terrific save by Wayne Hennessey.

Aaron Ramsey thought he'd given Wales the lead in the 19th minute but it was correctly ruled out for offside, moments before Hennessey had to pull another fantastic save to deny Jamie Ward.

Wales enjoyed the lion's share of possession, but Northern Ireland were making it very difficult for them to do anything with the ball. When the halftime whistle blew, Norn Iron's two attempts were the only ones on target between both teams in the whole first half.

The Dragons were able to make better use of the ball in the second half. Aaron Ramsey lifted a delightful cross into the box for Sam Vokes, and the big targetted man would've been bitterly disappointed he didn't get his header on target.

Gareth Bale then showed his class, having a go from a free kick about 30 metres away from goal, but he's denied by a good save.

The Welsh were eventually able to break the Northern Irish resolve and it couldn't have come in crueller circumstances. Once again it was Bale who provided the cross into the box and Gareth McAuley stuck a leg out to try deflect the danger, but only managed to put the ball into the back of his own net in the 75th minute.

Late on there was a big collision between Ashley Williams and Jonathan Williams, which caused a long stoppage while they were treated, but both managed to continue after the short break.

Switzerland pay the penalty

Granit Xhaka was the only player to miss a spot kick as Poland beat Switzerland on penalties after their round of 16 tie on Saturday afternoon ended 0-0.

  • Switzerland 0 Poland 1
  • Polish dominate proceedings
  • Blaszczykowski opens the scoring
  • Shaqiri scores a stunner
  • Poland through on penalties

Match Summary

Poland were in the ascendancy for most of the first half, but it was actually a counter attack against the run of play at the time when Blaszczykowski opened the scoring in the 39th minute.

The Polish backed off in the second half, allowed Switzerland back in to the game and were made to pay in the 83 minute when Shaqiri scored an incredible bicycle kick to level for the Swiss.

Extra time passed almost without incident and the match was decided on penalties and Xhaka missed his spot kick to had Poland a place in the quarter-finals.

Full Report

Switzerland came within a whisker of conceding inside the first minute when Johan Djourou under-hit a back pass for Yann Sommer. Robert Lewandowski tried and failed to get to the ball but it did fall for Arkadiusz Milik, who flashed his shot mere inches over the crossbar.

Kamil Grosicki then sent a shot from the edge of the box narrowly over the bar before Milik had another great chance from inside the six-yard box but somehow conspired to miss the target.

Switzerland's best chance of the first half came through Fabian Schar, who rose well at a corner to send a powerful header goalwards, but it was straight at Lukasz Fabianski and he made an easy save.

The Swiss began to enjoy a spell of extended possession, but it turned out to be their downfall as they pushed too many players up to attack another corner and Poland poached the ball and began a brisk counter attack through Grosicki. He burst down the left and rode his luck to beat two defenders before squaring the ball for Blaszczykowski, who finished neatly through Sommer's legs.

Poland burst out of the blocks in the second half with Sommer pulling off a miraculous save to deny Robert Lewandowski early on, before he pulled off another diving save to deny Blaszczykowski, whose shot looked destined for the top corner.

The Polish took their foot off the gas halfway through the second period and Switzerland began to play themselves back into the game.

Haris Seferovic fired a warning shot against the crossbar, which Poland did not heed and seven minutes from the final whistle Shaqiri positioned himself well in the box to get on the end of a Eren Derdiyok and execute a sensational bicycle kick to equalise for Switzerland and force the match into extra time.

Poland didn't make a single substitution and it showed with extra time passing almost without incident. However, Fabianski was needed to pull off an incredible reaction save to deny Derdiyok in the 113th minute.

Xhaka was the only person to miss from the spot as Poland scored a perfect five out of five to advance to the quarter-finals of the European Championship.

Qalinge should embrace super-sub role

Former Orlando Pirates striker Phumudzo Manenzhe believes winger Thabo Qalinge should embrace his role as super-sub for the Buccaneers.

Manenzhe believes the 25-year-old works well as an impact player during games in which Pirates need a late spark.

It remains to be seen how new coach Muhsin Ertugral will utilise players like Qalinge next season.

"For me, Qalinge he has to be given a special role. I think for Qalinge when he is sitting on the bench he is one of those players that is focusing on the game looking for the gaps and something to exploit," Manenzhe told Goal.

"I think when he starts the game he looks a bit lost, he doesn't have enough time to lead and take on the opposition.

"So he is better for me coming on as an impact player because in the early stages of the game you need those hard workers like Memela, who is hard-running and also impacts the game.

"So I think Qalinge he has got that ability to impact the game from the bench and also when he comes on when he comes on from the bench, he really utilises the gaps."