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Old Firm get favourable Scottish Cup draw

Holders Celtic and their arch-rivals Rangers will begin their Scottish Cup campaigns at home to lower league opposition following the fourth round draw here Thursday.

Celtic welcome Stirling Albion, bottom of the First Division, to Parkhead while Rangers will face mid-table Third Division side East Stirlingshire.

There will be three all-Premier League clashes, with Falkirk drawn at home to Aberdeen, Hibernian against Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Easter Road, and Hibs's fellow Edinburgh club also at home, against Motherwell at Tynecastle.

Junior side Linlithgow Rose will face First Division opposition after being drawn away to Queen of the South.

Other minnow sides Huntly and Cove Rangers were handed home draws with Dundee and Ross County their respective opponents.

Scottish Cup 4th rd draw:

Hamilton Academical v Brechin City or East Fife

St Mirren v Dumbarton

Partick Thistle v Dunfermline Athletic

Falkirk v Aberdeen

Hibernian v Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Huntly v Dundee

Heart of Midlothian v Motherwell

Rangers v East Stirlingshire

Queen of the South v Linlithgow Rose

Greenock Morton v Gretna

Airdrie United or Queen's Park v Kilmarnock

St Johnstone v Raith Rovers

Cove Rangers v Ross County

Clyde v Dundee United

Livingston v Cowdenbeath

Celtic v Stirling Albion

Bremen continue Real's German misery

Werder Bremen upset nine-time titleholders Real Madrid 3-2 to leave Champions League Group C too close to call with one match remaining.

Real are still favourites to go through to the knockout round as they still lead the standings despite this loss, level on eight points with Olympiakos, who beat Lazio in Rome.

But Werder Bremen, whose last match next month is away to Olympiakos, put themselves back in contention by moving up to six points with even Lazio, who are away to Real, still in with a mathematical chance of going through.

Real, deprived here of the suspended midfielder Diego, have a woeful record in Germany, this defeat stretching that run to 22 games and only one success.

And Bremen it was who got the perfect start when Markus Rosenberg, who despite scuffing his shot put enough force behind it to get the ball past Iker Casillas, put them ahead after five minutes.

Real, keen to seal their passage to the next round with one game to spare, were back on level terms nine minutes later when Robinho conjured up a magical curling shot to put the ball beyond Christian Vander's dive and into the far corner of the net.

Bremen, on a hot streak after securing their sixth win from seven games in the Bundesliga at the weekend to lie one point off leaders Bayern Munich, regained control five minutes from the interval.

Rosenberg was at the heart of the move, skipping past a number of Spanish challenges to cross for Boubacar Sanogo to volley into the far corner of the net.

Real were looking anything like nine time European Champions when Aaron Hunt put them further behind in the 58th minute.

The 21-year-old German attacker latched onto a ball pitched over the Madrid defence and he only had to proud it past Casillas with his left foot.

Real reduced the deficit with 18 minutes left on the clock when Ruud van Nistelrooy got his 53rd goal in the competition, chipping Guti's pass over Vander's head.

But the Dutch international's intervention wasn't enough to leave Real with work to do to join their fellow European giants like Manchester United and the two Milans, AC and Inter, in the next round.

Every loss is a 'crisis', says Barcelona's Deco


Barcelona's Portugal international Deco said Monday that every defeat for the club now becomes a new crisis.

"When we have two or three good matches, the critics are good, sometimes too good, and when we lose one, it's a crisis - we criticise the manager, some players too..," he told Barca TV, the club's television channel.

"But the criticism is normal, especially when the manager has been here a long time," said the Brazilian-born midfielder, who has been out injured for the past month.

Manager Frank Rijkaard, in place since 2003, has been the target of fierce criticism since a 2-0 away defeat by Getafe in the league this month. But away from home, they have taken just six points.

"We must be aware that in order to win the league, we must pick up points away from home," said Deco.

He added his recovery from a thigh injury he picked up during a 3-1 defeat at Villarreal on October 20, is going well.

"It's true that I've had a good start to the season," the former FC Porto star said.

"I was playing well, I felt good physically. Now I must get back and try to find the right level."

Barcelona are third in the title race, four points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid after 12 matches.

Cameroon and Ivory Coast secure Beijing slots

Cameroon and Ivory Coast secured slots at the 2008 Beijing Olympics football tournament with impressive weekend wins.

Indonesia-based Christian Bekamenga scored five minutes from full-time in Guinea to clinch a 3-1 that gave the 'Indomitable Cubs' of Cameroon a four-point lead in Group C with one round left.

And Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou was among the scorers as Ivory Coast overwhelmed Zambia 4-1 in Abidjan to record a fourth consecutive Group B victory and build a five-point advantage.

It will be the third appearance of 2000 Sydney gold medalists Cameroon at the quadrennial tournament where national under-23 squads can include three over-age footballers.

Ivory Coast are going to the Games for the first time and could be a side to watch as experienced French coach Gerard Gili has moulded a potent mix of local and foreign-based footballers.

The third place reserved for Africa rests between Group A leaders Ghana and second-placed Nigeria, who will climb to the top if they defeat South Africa at home next March.

Ghana have represented Africa six times, most notably by finishing third at the 1992 Barcelona Games, and the highlight of five appearances by Nigeria was winning the 1996 edition in Atlanta.

After closest challengers Morocco lost 2-0 in Botswana, Cameroon knew three points would suffice and were ahead within 13 minutes through France-based Aurelien Chedjou.

Abdoulaye Sylla levelled midway through the first half in Conakry only for Alexis Enam from Libyan club Al-Ittihad to edge the Cubs in front again before half-time.

Gervais Yao Kouassi scored twice and Sekou Cisse once to put the Ivorian 'Baby Elephants' three goals ahead after 59 minutes and Given Singuluma pulled one back before Kalou completed the rout.

Daniel Addo squandered the best chance as Ghana were held 0-0 by Nigeria in Accra, shooting timidly at goalkeeper Ambrose Vanzekin after breaking clear during the second half.

Knowing three points would take them beyond the reach of arch rivals Nigeria, Ghana attacked relentlessly, but even the introduction of Addo, Obed Ansah and Kwadjo Asamoah could not unlock the 'Dream Team' defence.

The final five qualifying fixtures are slated for March 26.

Fan admits breach of peace after Dida clash

The Celtic fan who slapped AC Milan goalkeeper Dida during his team's Champions League match at Parkhead admitted a breach of the peace on Friday.

Robert McHendry, 27, ran onto the pitch to celebrate Scott McDonald's last minute winner on Wednesday and taunted Dida before making contact with the Brazilian's face.

The goalkeeper started to chase after the supporter but then theatrically fell to the ground as if in pain and had to be stretchered off.

McHendry handed himself in to police the morning after the incident, which could lead to Celtic being hit with severe penalties after UEFA announced it had launched a disciplinary investigation.

He told Glasgow Sheriff Court that he had got "carried away" by the late goal.

"I was running over to celebrate with the team. As I was running by I tapped the keeper of AC Milan on the shoulder," McHendry said.

"I said 'Unlucky, Dida' and continued running towards the team."

McHendry, of Cambuslang, near Glasgow, will be sentenced next month after reports.



Bremen sweat on Almeida, welcome back Sanogo

Werder Bremen are sweating on the fitness of their Portuguese goal-scorer Hugo Almeida as they prepare to face Duisburg on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Portugal international has scored six goals already this season, five in the Bundesliga, but missed training on Friday after picking up a foot injury in his side's 3-1 Champions League defeat to Olympiakos in midweek.

"He took a heavy knock to the foot against Olympiakos, but we are hoping he will be fit to face Duisburg, we will have to wait and see," said Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf on Friday.

Almeida travelled with the squad to Duisburg, but Bremen have top-scorer Boubacar Sanogo - who has netted seven times this season with five of them in the Bundesliga - back from a hip injury.

Inter aiming to bounce back in Europe

High-flying Inter Milan will be aiming to repeat their impressive domestic form on the European stage when they host PSV Eindhoven in Champions League action on Tuesday.

Inter won 4-1 at Roma on Saturday in a victory which propelled them two points clear in the Italian championship after six matches. Their start to the European campaign has not been so good, however.

Inter, missing a number of key players including injured pair Marco Materazzi and Patrick Vieira, struggled under constant pressure from Fenerbahce, losing 1-0 in Istanbul in their opening Group G game two weeks ago.

Neither Materazzi nor Vieira played against Roma and coach Roberto Mancini, who has other injury worries, will be hoping he has better news on the injury front by Tuesday.

Mancini will also be deprived of Colombian defender Ivan Ramiro Cordoba and Argentine striker Julio Ricardo Cruz who are both disqualified for the tie.

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti was delighted the form his side are beginning to show ahead of their first European meeting with PSV, although that is tempered by the Italians' poor record against Dutch sides.

"This is a fundamental victory for us, for the players and for our morale in general, and for Mancini who showed he's a great coach," said Moratti after the Roma defeat.

"Too many things have been said about Inter in 1recent weeks. To be honest, we're used to these things. The only annoying thing is the injuries.

"Mancini did very well. He's a coach who knows exactly what to do."

PSV lead Group G, following their 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow at the Philips Stadium thanks to two second-half goals from striker Danko Lazovic and midfielder Kenneth Perez, and a good result at Inter would set them up for qualification.

But the Dutch champions have had a turbulent few days.

They were kicked out of the Dutch Cup on Thursday for fielding an ineligible player and ended a bad week on Saturday by losing their top spot in the domestic league to rivals Ajax with a 1-1 draw at NAC Breda.

Ronald Koeman's side, who are on an unbroken run of eleven appearances in Europe's premier club competition, last year made it to the quarter-finals before losing in both legs to eventual finalists Liverpool.

They will be looking for their first victory on Italian soil on their eighth visit.



Hargreaves warns United to expect Roman revenge mission


Owen Hargreaves has warned Manchester United that Roma will be thirsting for revenge in Tuesday's potentially explosive Champions League tie at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side thrashed the Italians 7-1 when they met in the quarter-finals of Europe's top club competition last season.

Only six months later, Roma have the chance to regain some pride at the scene of one of most humiliating defeats in their history.

United midfielder Hargreaves watched that game on television with his then Bayern Munich team-mates, but he will be in the firing line when Roma return to Manchester for the Group F fixture.

The England international is set to make his European debut for the Premier League champions after recovering from a thigh strain and is determined to ensure United guard against a backlash.

"There will be no repeat of the 7-1," Hargreaves said. "Those results possibly happen once every three or four years in the entire competition. It is just not going to happen again.

"We have put ourselves in a good position by winning in Lisbon. Now, we have three home games to play. If we win those we will be comfortably into the next round. Roma is the next stepping stone towards that.

"I am sure they will try to come and avenge what happened last season but I expect us to win the game."

Big European matches at Old Trafford have a special atmosphere, but there will be an added spice to the occasion after the crowd trouble that blighted both meetings between the clubs last season.

United fans were attacked by Roma hooligans and Italian police during the first leg in Rome and there were skirmishes outside Old Trafford before the return.

Security is certain to be high and both teams will need to keep their cool to avoid inflaming the situation.

Hargreaves's ability to cope with the biggest matches was one of the main reasons Ferguson was so determined to sign him and the Canadian-born star can't wait to sample the atmosphere.

"I have had a lot of experience at Bayern Munich and been successful in the Champions League, so I am very excited about playing in this competition with United," he said.

"I have heard the European nights at Old Trafford are very special, so I am looking forward to that. The atmosphere against Chelsea last week was exceptional and I look forward to a similar atmosphere, if not better, against Roma."

The principle threat to United's hopes of continuing their 100 percent start in Europe is Francesco Totti and the Italian striker will be motivated by a desire to erase the memory of the saddest night of his career.

Totti has been Roma's captain and talisman for over a decade, as well as helping Italy win last year's World Cup.

His dazzling reputation was further bolstered last season as he claimed 26 goals for Roma to earn the European Golden Boot, awarded to the continent's top scorer.

But the 31-year-old was completely anonymous as Roma slumped to that dismal defeat in Manchester.

Luciano Spalletti's side crumbled under the pressure of a overwhelming performance that Ferguson was moved to describe as United's best in Europe during his 21-year reign at Old Trafford.

Totti was devastated by the loss and would love nothing better than to exact a measure of revenge.

Roma endured a miserable preparation for what promised to be their toughest assignment in the group stage when they were thrashed 4-1 at home by Inter Milan on Saturday.

Despite Hargreaves's caution, Roma's run of three games without a win will only strengthen United's belief that they are the cream of the crop in Group F.

 

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