Leckie delighted with impact on return

Mathew Leckie praised Australia's medical staff for getting him fit for the knockout stages of the Asian Cup, after scoring the winning penalty that earned victory against Uzbekistan.

The winger missed the Socceroos' three Group B matches with a hamstring injury, but coach Graham Arnold had remained confident he would be able to feature during the tournament.

He was named on the bench for the Round of 16 clash in Al Ain and was introduced on the hour mark.

Leckie was able to get through not just to the end of normal time but also extra time, and then delivered the goods when he had a chance to score a penalty.

After Mat Ryan had made two saves during the shootout, Leckie's spot-kick took the Socceroos through with a 4-2 scoreline to set up a quarter-final clash with hosts the United Arab Emirates.

The 27-year-old, who had torn his hamstring while playing for German club Hertha Berlin before the tournament, said after the game: "(It means) everything. For me to just be playing today, it's super-special.

"We've worked super-hard, me and Phil Coles and the rest of the physio staff. They've done everything they can to get me back and today was also a question mark, maybe for the quarter-finals if we made it.

"But 24/7 we've been working hard to get me right and I felt good today. So obviously I played the last 30 and then extra time … the tank was a bit empty but it's always difficult going into games."

The winger said his penalty had been the best he'd ever taken, including in training.

Australia are 7/1 to win the Asian Cup.

The Socceroos are 5/2 to reach the final.

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Babbel slams Wanderers mistakes

Another late collapse by Western Sydney Wanderers left coach Markus Babbel declaring his team "can't defend", as they lost 4-3 to Melbourne City.

Wanderers slumped to a club-record sixth defeat in a row at AAMI Park, despite having led with six minutes to go.

Babbel's side had Keanu Baccus sent off on 66 minutes for a second bookable offence when they were 3-2 up.

They held out for a while but ultimately continued a worrying trend of falling to late goals as Ritchie De Laet equalised and Bart Schenkeveld headed home a 94th-minute winner.

Wanderers succumbed to an 86th-minute goal in losing 2-1 to Melbourne Victory in Round 11 and conceded twice in the last eight minutes to suffer a 3-2 defeat to Wellington.

They've scored three goals in consecutive games, but both times come away empty-handed, having shipped three goals in the final 11 minutes in their previous match against leaders Perth Glory.

Speaking after the City loss, which left his side with just nine points from 15 games, Babbel said: "We can't defend, it's very simple. If you watch all the games where we concede, it's too easy.

"When you concede four goals it's difficult. We scored three goals, we had great opportunities to finish the game but we couldn't score…and we lose."

Baccus' misplaced pass inside the opening minute was seized upon by De Laet as Wanderers made the worst possible start.

Babbel said: "We're always making mistakes, we can't concentrate over 90 minutes. A lot of the time we're not seeing the danger, we're not good in challenges and we're losing our 50/50 balls because we're not strong enough."

Western Sydney are 25/1 to finish in the A-League top six.

Wanderers are 5/1 to finish bottom of the league.

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Mario heads to Marseille

Marseille have boosted their hopes of sealing a Champions League place by signing Mario Balotelli on a six-month deal.

The 28-year-old has joined on a free transfer from Ligue 1 rivals Nice and after completing his medical, has signed a contract until the end of the season.

Following a difficult period after leaving Manchester City in 2013, Balotelli has rediscovered his form in France, netting 43 goals in all competitions in his first two seasons.

However, uncertainty over his future in the summer led to a delay in him returning to Les Aiglons for pre-season and he arrives at the Stade Velodrome having not played since the first week of December.

Coach Rudi Garcia says the 28-year-old is eligible to face Lille at home on Friday but has cast doubt on whether his new striker will feature.

Balotelli says he wants to play and admits he is looking forward to starting a fresh chapter in his career.

"I'm looking forward to playing with Marseille," he said. "OM is a great club, and their fans are very passionate. I was hoping to come here.

"I can't wait to score my first goal but the most important thing is the team. My goal is to score a lot of goals and assist my teammates.

"I hope the supporters will support us on Friday. The team and I will do the utmost."

Marseille currently sit seventh in Ligue 1, six points behind Lyon in the final Champions League place.

A win over second place Lille is available at 23/20, with the draw 12/5 and Les Dogues available at 23/10.

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Emery planning for different United

Arsenal boss Unai Emery expects a different test from Manchester United when the pair meet on Friday in the FA Cup.

The duo played out a 2-2 draw in the Premier League at the start of December, a game in which the Gunners held sway for most of the match, only to be ground down by the Red Devils.

Since then it has been all change at Old Trafford, with Jose Mourinho leaving the club and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being installed until the end of the season.

The Norwegian has won all seven of his games in charge and the expansive manner in which he has set up his team has been in stark contrast to Mourinho.

A victory at the Emirates would further boost calls for him to get the job permanently and the Red Devils are 7/4 to win, with the draw 5/2 and the Gunners 7/5.

Emery himself seems to have weathered a storm and will have been pleased by his side's showing in Saturday's 2-0 win over Chelsea.

Winning the FA Cup would certainly buy him credit with the fans and the Gunners are 12/1 to lift the trophy.

The Spaniard knows they will need to repeat that performance to get the better of United, a team he admits are a different animal in comparison to last month's meeting.

"It's a different team," he said. "It's the same players but they're playing with a big performance now. I was watching their last matches and each player has a lot of confidence, with big performances, and now they are very dangerous.

"For us, it's good because it's a very big test for us in this competition."

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Poch cool on transfer plans

The difficult nature of the transfer market is again limiting Tottenham's options according to Mauricio Pochettino.

Last summer saw Spurs become the first club to fail to sign a single player since the window was introduced and they have again been quiet this month.

With Harry Kane and Dele Alli expected to be out for three months through and Son Heung-min away at the Asian Cup with South Korea, Pochettino appears to have his hands tied going into Thursday's EFL Cup clash with Chelsea, a game they are 5/1 to win, with the draw 31/10 and the Blues 8/13.

Spurs take a 1-0 lead to Stamford Bridge thanks to Kane's penalty in the opening tie and have received a boost ahead of the game with the news that Lucas Moura, Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama are all back in training.

It remains to be seen if any of the trio feature on Thursday and supporters have urged the club to add to their stocks this month in order to maintain their top four hopes.

Winning the EFL Cup, which Spurs are 3/1 to do, would certainly appease certain sections of the support and Pochettino has suggested that might have to be the solution, with any new arrivals unlikely before the deadline.

The Argentine insists the club are scouring the market but is adamant that they will only sign the right players if they become available.

"It's going to be difficult, as I told you in the past," he told reporters. "If it was difficult in the summer, because in the end we had the squad full – we didn't have space to sign players because we didn't sell players – now of course it's difficult too.

"Of course we're Tottenham and to find the right profile to help us I think is going to be difficult. But we're trying, we're trying to deliver something."

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City come back to beat 10-man Wanderers

On-loan Ritchie De Laet scored twice as Melbourne City came from behind to beat Western Sydney Wanderers 4-3 at AAMI Park.

The former Belgium international put City ahead in the opening minute, while his second goal got them back on terms with six minutes left.

City grabbed victory four minutes into injury time when Bart Schenkeveld scored his first goal for the club with a powerful header from a corner.

The home side had trailed 3-2 with half an hour to go, but the sending-off of Wanderers youngster Keanu Baccus proved crucial.

Warren Joyce's side were able to take advantage to secure a win that puts them within six points of leaders Perth Glory.

Western Sydney suffered a sixth consecutive loss and are now 13 points off the Finals Series places having played a game more than sixth-placed Adelaide.

They were punished for some sloppy defending inside the first few seconds when De Laet was able to collect a pass intended for Wanderers keeper Nick Suman and open the scoring.

Markus Babbel's team equalised on 28 minutes as Jaushua Sotirio went down under challenge in the area and Roly Bonevacia slotted the resulting spot-kick past keeper Eugene Galekovic, scoring for a third consecutive match.

City restored their advantage with a superb goal from Luke Brattan, who nutmegged former City attacker Nick Fitzgerald and then hit a powerful shot into the top corner.

The visitors started the second half well and had overturned that lead within 10 minutes of the restart.

Jordan O'Doherty's cross was headed home by teenage defender Tass Mourdoukoutas for his maiden A-League goal, then Sotirio's curling finish into the top corner soon made it 3-2.

Baccus picked up his second yellow card of the night soon after, going over the top of the ball in a challenge on Schenkeveld.

De Laet, on loan from Aston Villa and continuing to play as a makeshift striker in the absence of Bruno Fornaroli, struck past Suman to equalise before Schenkeveld earned the victory.

Melbourne City are 6/1 to win the Grand Final.

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Dier: Spurs must cope without Kane

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Eric Dier says he and his colleagues have to do their utmost to negate the loss to injury of star striker Harry Kane.

England captain Kane is expected back in action sometime in March, having sustained ankle ligament damage in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United.

The first game he missed saw Spurs score right at the death to win 2-1 at Fulham on Sunday, with Dier insisting that the absence of Kane has to be put to one side while there are on-field matters to take care of.

He told Sky Sports: "It's not a question of if we can cope without Harry or not. Harry's one of the best strikers in the world, any team would feel the loss if he wasn't playing, so we have to find a solution and move on.

"Harry will be doing his best to get back as soon as possible and it's down to the team and the squad to rally and carry on."

Tottenham are currently priced at 2/9 to finish in the Premier League top four this season, while they are 8/1 to lift the FA Cup.

Meanwhile, England boss Gareth Southgate expects Kane to be pushing hard to return to action as soon as possible.

He added: "It's a disappointment for any player to miss matches and Harry especially wants to be available for every game and have the opportunity to score in every game.

"Knowing his mindset, there'll be a calendar on the wall and he'll be making sure he gets back ahead of where people are predicting he can be back."

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De Bruyne happy to be back

Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has admitted that he has yet to hit top form for the reigning Premier League champions this season.

The 27-year-old Belgium international has made just two league starts so far this season, having suffered with two knee problems already this term, but he is now back in the fold on a regular basis with the Citizens and looking to improve in the near future.

He told reporters: "I'm getting better.

"You need a run of games where you play a lot, because I'm not used to playing every three days, but I'm getting there.

"I'm happy with the way I'm performing. It's not the same record as last year, but you can expect that because I've been out since the World Cup.

"To come back twice is mentally not that easy, but I'm happy to be back playing football again."

Former Chelsea forward De Bruyne joined City in the summer of 2015 and has since scored 38 goals in 153 appearances in all competitions, helping the Citizens to win the Premier League title last season, as well as two successes in the League Cup.

On the international stage he was a member of the Belgium squad who reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in the summer of last year and has netted 15 times in 68 outings for the Red Devils to date.

Meanwhile, City are 6/5 to retain their Premier League crown this season, with the men from Manchester 1/2 to lift the League Cup and 7/2 to triumph in the Champions League.

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Third straight brace for Krishna

Striker Roy Krishna rose to new heights in Wellington Phoenix's 3-3 draw with defending champions Melbourne Victory.

The Phoenix striker became the first player in A-League history to score two goals in three consecutive games, but his double didn't prove enough to lift Mark Rudan's side to a win, as former Wellington forward Kosta Barbarouses earned a point for Victory two minutes from time.

Krishna, who comes off contract at the end of the season, helped earn the draw that moved the Phoenix to within one point of fourth-placed Melbourne City.

The visitors led 3-1 inside the first half-hour and though they couldn't hold out for the win extended their unbeaten streak to nine games.

Victory grabbed an early lead with Swedish striker Ola Toivonen collecting a ball from Barbarouses and chipping advancing keeper Filip Kurto.

But Wellington hit back quickly as David Williams beat Thomas Deng to a Louis Fenton cross just two minutes later to make it 1-1.

Rudan's side went in front for the first time when Josh Hope gave away the ball inside his own area and clipped Krishna to concede a penalty, which the Fiji international converted.

He made it two in the space of eight minutes – and 11 in 14 games this season overall – by following up after keeper Lawrence Thomas parried a Williams shot into his path.

It took the home side 11 minutes of the second half to pull a goal back, James Troisi curling a left-footed effort past Kurto.

Wellington kept them out for half an hour after that, before Barbarouses drove home from inside the penalty area to level.

Rudan said: "It was quite tough to take, being on the other side after being up 3-1 at half-time. A lot to work on, a lot to improve, we're nowhere near where we need to be and that showed in the second 45 minutes."

The Phoenix are 7/4 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 29/20, with the draw 12/5.

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Davies to lead Roar for now

Brisbane Roar look unlikely to make a quick decision on who will replace John Aloisi as head coach.

The Roar have seen interim coach Darren Davies pick up just two points from his six games in charge, since Aloisi quit last month, but they avoided falling to bottom spot when they drew 1-1 with Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.

The Roar plan to take some time to find what they would view as a long-term appointment, with his record suggesting Davies won't be a contender.

Though the Welshman admitted after the Mariners clash that he had ambitions to be an A-League head coach at some stage in his career, he hasn't been able to improve their fortunes on the pitch.

Davies is now working without the assistance of Aloisi's brother Ross, who resigned as the club's No.2 last week.

CEO David Pourre said the club had attracted a high level of interest in the head coach job and he has been joined on an advisory selection panel by chairman Rahim Soekasah, as well as former Roar championship-winning defender Jade North.

The club's high performance manager Craig Duncan, vice chairman Chris Fong, and football director Pedj Radinovic are other panel members, along with corporate governance specialist Rachel Sakurai.

Pourre said: "We are confident that we will appoint the right person to lead our Hyundai A-League team into the future."

The Roar have confirmed Davies will continue in his interim role "for the foreseeable future", saying that the new head coach would be given enough time to prepare for next season.

Asked to comment on his own situation after the draw with the Mariners, Davies said: "I will continue to do this job and do the best that I can whilst I'm in the position."

The Roar are 3/1 to finish bottom of the table, with the Central Coast Mariners 1/2.

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