Thursday, 20 December 2012

Still work to be done: Avramovic

Singapore – Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic has insisted that it is still too early to write off Thailand’s hopes in the AFF Suzuki Cup final despite his team’s 3-1 victory in the first leg at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.

While the Thais were regarded as the favourites heading into the tie, it was the Lions who stamped their authority on the match with an early penalty by Fahrudin Mustafic and second-half strikes by Khairul Amri and Baihakki Khaizan dealing the War Elephants their first loss of the tournament.

However, Adul Lahso’s away goal for the Thais could yet prove crucial to the final outcome and Avramovic remains wary despite the fact that no team has managed to overcome a deficit to win an AFF Suzuki Cup final.

“Both teams are capable of scoring and both teams are capable of winning at home or away,” said the Serbian.

“We are, in some ways, lucky to get a good result. But now it is up to us to go to Thailand and to try to score, because if we don't it will be very, very difficult.

“The Thai players have exceptionally good technique,” he added. “They are capable of pushing extra players in midfield and they created big problems for us.

“Fortunately, our players kept their cool and they kept their shape and all of the players managed to play their part in the plan that we had before the game.

“You must also be lucky in games like this and we were lucky. However, this result is good for us and now we have to go and just play for another 90 minutes.

“We have a target and now we are close. There is one more game to go and then we can think about other things.”

Avramovic felt that both teams managed to produce an enthralling contest worthy of the occasion.

“We all expected a good game and it was a good game between the two best teams in this competition,” he said. “I think that everyone who came out for this game really enjoyed themselves because it was exciting and it finished with a few goals.

“I think that we kept cool and we kept our patience and in the end, we succeeded in getting a good result. The players did exactly what they had been preparing to do and again they did an absolutely great job. So congratulations to all of them. Each of them played their part.”

Schafer confident of Thai comeback

Singapore – Despite watching his side suffer a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Singapore in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final on Wednesday, Thailand coach Winfried Schafer still believes that they can overcome the two-goal deficit when the return match takes place in Bangkok on Saturday. 

Entering the final, Thailand were tipped as favourites to win the competition for a fourth time but they were swept aside at the Jalan Besar Stadium by a Fahrudin Mustafic penalty, an accomplished finish by Khairul Amri shortly after Adul Lahso’s equaliser and a stoppage-time strike by Baihakki Khaizan.

No team has managed to overcome any sort of deficit in the final to win the AFF Suzuki Cup but Schafer is confident that his team can yet turn things around at the Supachalasai Stadium.

“For me this result is not a problem because we still have a second match,” said the German. “We will play in Bangkok and I hope that the stadium will be full and we can change the course of this match. What is important is that we score and I am sure that we can turn things around.

“It will be a game played on another field and we know now that the long balls from Singapore will cause us problems. We have to put pressure on their defenders and try to change the match.”

To get back into the tie, Schafer knows that his players will need to correct the problems that allowed the Lions to breach their defence three times in 90 minutes after they had conceded only three goals in their previous five matches in the competition.

“I saw the mistakes that were made for the first goal, the second goal and then the third goal. Now we have to watch the DVD and discuss all the problems that we had, go out and train and maybe make things better for the second leg,” he said.

“It is important now that the players are focussed. We still have a second match in Bangkok and maybe we can change the match. The players can get back up and I have confidence that we can change things in the second leg.

Singapore 3 Thailand 1

Singapore – Singapore took control of the AFF Suzuki Cup final as second-half goals by Khairul Amri and Baihakki Khaizan gave the Lions a 3-1 victory over Thailand in the first leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.

Amri fired home his third goal of the tournament in the 61st minute, two minutes after Thai midfielder Adul Lahso had cancelled out Fahrudin Mustafic’s twice-taken first-half penalty to give Singapore a 2-1 lead.

And Baihakki then turned the ball in from close range in stoppage time to give the Lions a two-goal lead heading into the return match at the Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok on Saturday.

With Singapore midfielder Fahrudin passed fit after being taken off in the second leg of the semi-final against the Philippines with a groin injury, both teams were able to name unchanged line-ups for the third game in succession.

The home side were quickly out of the blocks with Amri firing wide from 30 metres and Aleksandar Duric heading over the crossbar within the first two minutes.

Thailand had a sighter as well after four minutes when Datsakorn Thonglao’s in-swinging free-kick from the left bounced just in front of the lurking Teerasil Dangda and straight into the arms of a grateful Izwan Mahbud.

The Lions were clearly up for the match and their early pressure was rewarded when they were awarded a penalty after Duric was pulled down in the box by Piyaphon Buntao as he tried to get on the end of Shahril Ishak’s dangerous ball from the right.

Fahrudin sent goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan the wrong way from the spot but his celebrations were interrupted by Japanese referee Masaaki Toma who ordered the kick to be retaken because of encroachment by the Singapore players.

However, the midfielder kept his cool to put the ball into the other corner to give the hosts a 1-0 lead and become only the second player after Amri to score in two AFF Suzuki Cup finals.

There was plenty of robust play by the home side early on as they sought to stifle the attack of the Thais, which had scored 12 goals in their previous five games. Baihakki Khaizan got a stern warning for a foul on Datsakorn and Fahrudin was then booked in the 20th minute for chopping down the Thai midfielder in the centre circle.

Amri’s chip from the left nearly caught out Kawin who just managed to tip the ball over the crossbar before the Thais finally began to turn up the heat in the 22nd minute with a dangerous cross into the box by Anucha Kitpongsri that the Lions defence managed to scramble clear.

The visitors suffered a big blow in the 25th minute when skipper and centre back Panupong Wongsa had to be stretchered off with what looked like an ankle problem and was replaced by Nattaporn Phanrit, who also took over the captain’s armband.

Pope offers op-ed reflections at Christmas

ROME — In a first for a popeBenedict XVI has written an article for a secular newspaper, advising in the Financial Times that Christmas is a time for serious thought.
The op-ed published Thursday says Christmas is a "time of great joy" and also "an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience."

Soldiers turn hijackers of North Korea ship in Somali port

In this photo taken Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, masked Somali pirate Hassan stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew, in the once-bustling pirate den of Hobyo, Somalia. The empty whisky bottles and overturned, sand-filled skiffs that litter this shoreline are signs that the heyday of Somali piracy may be over - most of the prostitutes are gone, the luxury cars repossessed, and pirates talk more about catching lobsters than seizing cargo ships. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

NAIROBI - A dozen soldiers guarding a North Korean ship impounded in Somalia's autonomous Puntland region for maritime violations have hijacked the vessel and its 33 crew, government and naval sources said on Wednesday.
Puntland had been the epicenter of Somali piracy but the use of armed guards on ships and a concerted crackdown by international navies has seen the number of successful pirate hijackings fall in 2012.
MV Daesan, a North Korean ship ferrying cement to Somali capital Mogadishu, was impounded and fined last month by Puntland authorities who accused it of ditching its cargo off Somalia's coast.
The ship dumped the cement into the ocean because it had been rejected by importers in Mogadishu, who claimed that the cement was wet and unusable, authorities said.

Israel OK's new homes in West Bank, Jerusalem

A Palestinian worker is seen on a construction site in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Sholmo, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. A European diplomat says Germany and three other European members of the U.N. Security Council are preparing a statement condemning Israel's latest settlement plans in the West Bank.(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
A Palestinian worker is seen on a construction site in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Sholmo, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. A European diplomat says Germany and three other European members of the U.N. Security Council are preparing a statement condemning Israel's latest settlement plans in the West Bank.

JERUSALEM — Israel on Wednesday pressed forward with the construction of thousands of new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, part of a series of new settlement plans that have drawn worldwide rebuke, including from its closest ally, the United States.
Separate planning committees gave approval Wednesday to a new settlement in east Jerusalem, the first to be built in the contested area since 1997, and construction of 1,000 new homes in existing settlements across the West Bank.
The announcements drew harsh Palestinian condemnations and were likely to heighten the already rising tensions between Israel and its allies in the West. The Palestinians claim the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as parts of a future state. The international community opposes all Israeli settlement in the two areas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at a gathering of foreign diplomats, refused to back down.
"All Israeli governments have built in Jerusalem. We're not going to change that," he said. "I want you to ask any of you to imagine that you would limit construction in your own capital. It doesn't make sense," Netanyahu said.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said the newly announced housing units are in areas "which will stay a part of Israel in a future peace agreement."
Israel annexed east Jerusalem, home to sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites, after the 1967 war in a move that has never been internationally recognized. While Israel claims the entire city, the Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem their capital. The battle over east Jerusalem is perhaps the most intractable and explosive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu authorized the construction of thousands of new settlement homes in response to the U.N. General Assembly's recognition of Palestine in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip as a nonmember observer state. Israel rejects a full pullback to its 1967 lines and accused the Palestinians of trying to bypass negotiations with the move.
The Palestinians say they turned to the U.N. in frustration after four years of deadlock in Mideast peace efforts. Though Netanyahu wants talks to start without preconditions, the Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel while settlement construction continues, saying the building in territories they claim is a sign of bad faith.
"The Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is killing the two-state solution, and we are taking the battle against this enterprise to the international community," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Wednesday.
Israeli critics have accused Netanyahu of backing the plans to pander to hard-line voters ahead of Jan. 22 parliamentary elections.
Construction on most of the projects could be years away, but his strategy has antagonized Israel's allies, and the fierce international reactions appear to have caught Israeli officials off guard.

FBI: Escaped inmates took cab near Chicago jail

This undated photo provided by the FBI shows , Kenneth Conley, left and Jose Banks two inmates who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. Chicago Police Sgt. Michael Lazarro says their disappearance was discovered at about 8:45 Tuesday morning. Lazarro says the pair used a rope or bed sheets to climb from the building. (AP Photo/FBI,HOPD)
Associated Press/FBI,HOPD - This undated photo provided by the FBI shows , Kenneth Conley, left and Jose Banks two inmates who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. Chicago Police Sgt. Michael Lazarro says their disappearance was discovered at about 8:45 Tuesday morning. Lazarro says the pair used a rope or bed sheets to climb from the building.

CHICAGO — Two convicted bank robbers who pulled off a daring overnight escape from a high-rise Chicago jail had changed from their prison garb by the time they hopped into a cab near the lock-up, investigators said Wednesday as they expanded their manhunt for the men.
Authorities were raiding houses and combing through records looking for anybody with ties to the inmates who climbed out a jail window and descended 20 stories using a makeshift rope.
The FBI said surveillance footage from a camera near theMetropolitan Correctional Center shows Kenneth Conley andJoseph Banks getting into a cab around 2:45 a.m. Tuesday — about four hours before workers spotted the rope dangling from the federal jail. The pair had changed from their orange jail-issued jumpsuits into light-colored pants and shirts, the FBI said.
"We don't know if they fashioned their own clothes, or what," said Special Agent Frank Bochte.
The FBI was offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of Conley and Banks, with the manhunt focused mainly on Chicago and its suburbs.
Law enforcement officials said at least three homes in the suburbs south of Chicago where one of the inmates once lived were searched Tuesday, and a suburban strip club where Conley once worked confirmed that investigators had visited.
Investigators believe the men had been at a home in Tinley Park, 25 miles southwest of Chicago, just hours before police SWAT teams stormed it. A law enforcement official said the home was that of Conley's mother and that after the woman refused to let the escapees in, the men used a rock to break a window.
The person, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation so would speak only on condition of anonymity, said authorities also searched the home of a former girlfriend of Conley in nearby New Lenox, where the escapees had eaten breakfast.
In Orland Park, which borders Tinley Park, police Chief Timothy McCarthy said records revealed Conley had been arrested several years ago on a robbery charge.
"We looked at our own files and came up with a former colleague, a past associate," he said.
Orland Park officers helped search a house where the associate lives or once lived, he said, but there was no evidence the escaped inmates had been there.
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