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Thompson hopeful of staying at Essendon

Essendon caretaker coach Mark Thompson is hopeful he will stay at the AFL club, tipping an announcement could potentially be made as early as this week.

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Thompson’s future has been up in the air since he handed over the reins to James Hird at the end of the Bombers’ 2014 campaign.

The two-time premiership coach is off contract, but said on Monday night he’d started discussions with the club about an unspecified role.

“Possibly,” Thompson said on Fox Footy when asked if his new post could be announced this week.

“But maybe not. We haven’t sorted out the role yet.

“I do want to do something, but it’s probably not being an assistant coach. I’ve done that, been there and got out of it. Not going back.

“We’ve got to work it out, which we’ve started the process.”

Thompson made a shock departure from Geelong at the end of the 2010 season, signing up with the Bombers to act as Hird’s mentor.

When Hird was banned from coaching in 2014 as part of the Bombers’ punishments for their supplements scandal, Thompson took on the job.

When asked if Thompson’s new position would be above Hird, Thompson responded with trademark wit.

“Side by side with the CEO,” Thompson joked, tongue firmly in cheek, before explaining what he had in mind.

“There’s a few things we have to still fix up, the development stuff is really important … how you get the players there in the first place. How to coach the coaches.”

Thompson suggested he had not been contacted by any other clubs to assess his interest in jumping ship.

The future of Paddy Ryder, who is being wooed by a number of rivals after his discontent over the Bombers’ supplements scandal was made public earlier this month, remains up in the air.

“I don’t know the whole issue, but there’s obviously something Paddy has on his mind,” Thompson said.

“If we can resolve that, hopefully he will stay.”

Should Ryder leave Essendon, the talented ruck-forward is likely to execute a get-out clause in his contract on the basis the club failed in its duty of care.

It is understood a number of Ryder’s teammates have also been headhunted, clubs wanting to use the same clause to sign up content players.

“I wasn’t that happy (to hear that),” Thompson said of rivals’ desire to use the clause to bolster their squads.

“I don’t think it’s anything I would do, but I’m probably a bit old fashioned. I don’t like the fact free agency is here.”

Ajmal targets World Cup heroics

Suspended Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal is hoping to compete in next year’s World Cup, after completing a rehabilitation program at the National Cricket Academy.

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Pakistan will be without Ajmal in next month’s series against Australia in the United Arab Emirates after he was suspended by the International Cricket Council when his elbow extension was tested more than twice the allowable limit of 15 degrees.

“I am sitting in front of you without any tension,” Ajmal said Monday in Lahore.

“Whatever happened it was disappointing for me, but now I am not disappointed at all. I am eyeing staging a strong comeback in the World Cup.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board has hired former test off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq to assist Ajmal in remodelling his bowling action. Saqlain is expected to join Ajmal at the academy early next week.

“He (Saqlain) is a legend and used to bowl exactly like me … doosra, off-spin and everything,” Ajmal said. “He knows a lot and had done enough coaching, hopefully I will get benefit from his experience.”

The selectors have also started searching for a suitable replacement of Ajmal for one-off Twenty20, three one-day internationals and two test matches against Australia.

“We have lot of talent in our country,” Ajmal said. “I am sure my replacement will perform better than me.”

According to the ICC report, none of the deliveries by Ajmal during the eight overs of biomechanical testing in Australia came close to meeting the required regulations of 15 degrees elbow extension.

The experts were satisfied with Ajmal’s replication of his suspected deliveries from when he was reported during Pakistan’s losing effort in their Test against Sri Lanka in Galle last month.

He was previously reported in 2009 for his doosra – a delivery that spins away from right-handed batsmen – before he was cleared.

Tiny Ludogorets aim to exploit Liverpool’s weakness

“Liverpool are a very strong side but they have some weak points and we should make the most of it,” Ludogorets captain Svetoslav Dyakov told reporters before departing for England on Monday.

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“We need to minimise our mistakes because they can punish any mistake,” added the 30 year-old midfielder, who was instrumental in helping Ludogorets win three successive league titles and reach the last 16 stage in the Europa League last season.

“We know that a draw wouldn’t be a bad result because every point in the Champions League is precious but we’ll be definitely searching for a win.”

Liverpool, who are back in Europe’s premier competition for the first time in five years, finished second in the Premier League last season, but have lost two of their opening four games in the new campaign, include a shock 1-0 home defeat against Aston Villa on Saturday.

They have conceded five goals despite bolstering their defence with Croatia centre back Dejan Lovren and Spanish full backs Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno.

Liverpool have predictably been missing last season’s leading scorer Luis Suarez, who was sold to Barcelona, while England international Daniel Sturridge, who also scored heavily, will be unavailable on Tuesday after suffering a thigh injury in training with the national team last week.

Ludogorets have lost their two keepers Vladislav Stoyanov and Ivan Cvorovic, both Bulgarian internationals, and were forced to sign Canada keeper Milan Borjan only three days before Liverpool game.

Stoyanov is suspended after being sent off in the dramatic shootout win over Steaua Bucharest in the second leg of the playoff round with Romania defender Cosmin Moti going in goal for the penalties and saving two spot kicks.

Cvorovic was due to play against Liverpool but he injured a shoulder in training on Thursday and will need an operation.

“He (Borjan) is in good shape,” said Ludogorets coach Georgi Dermendzhiev. “He’s been here for a couple of days only but he already showed we can trust him.

“We made a special training because of him, we showed him how to combine with players, how to communicate with them.”

Dermendzhiev will also have to do without injured French centre back Alexandre Barthe while defenders Georgi Terziev and Brayan Angulo, the team’s most expensive new signings, are both doubtful despite being included in the squad.

Ludogorets are based in Razgrad – a town with a population of less than 35,000, and won their first promotion to the top division in 2011. Since then, they won three league titles, two national cups and two domestic Supercups.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Steve Tongue)

Harvey ban a disgrace: Wayne Carey

North Melbourne great Wayne Carey has delivered a verbal shirtfront to the AFL’s match review panel, labelling Brent Harvey’s one-week ban a disgrace.

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The Kangaroos will challenge a one-match suspension to Harvey in an attempt to free their champion midfielder to play in Friday night’s preliminary final against Sydney.

Harvey was issued with the one-game rough conduct ban by the panel on Monday for making high contact to Geelong captain Joel Selwood in last Friday night’s MCG semi-final.

Selwood was forced from the ground under the blood rule after the contact with Harvey opened up a cut over his right eye.

Harvey’s previous poor record and resultant carry-over points meant he was unable to have the sanction cut to a reprimand with an early guilty plea.

Carey went into bat for his former teammate.

“It is an absolute disgrace that we can rub a player out for a preliminary final for that,” he said on the Seven Network’s Talking Footy.

“A terrible decision. He’s got rubbed out because there was a bit of blood on Joel Selwood, that’s the only reason.”

Carey, who played alongside Harvey in North’s 1999 premiership side, went on to compare the verdict to heavy hits by Daniel Merrett and Tom Hawkins that went unpunished.

“The MRP has to have a good hard look at itself,” he said.

Kangaroos coach Brad Scott said he was “flabbergasted” when Drew Petrie was charged for making unnecessary and unreasonable contact to Brian Lake’s face during the pair’s scrap in round 16.

Scott, cognisant of a potential rebuke from league headquarters, was more tight-lipped when discussing Harvey’s charge on Monday.

“I suspect that too,” Scott told Fox Footy, when asked if the club’s argument on Tuesday night would be that Harvey’s blow was of insufficient force to warrant a charge.

“But I let the baker bake the bread there.

“We’ve got people charged with the responsibility of making our case and putting a defence forward.

“I’m not part of that … I don’t get too caught up in the MRP or tribunal.”

Harvey only returned to action last week after serving a separate three-game ban for misconduct.

The 383-game veteran will now miss the Kangaroos’ first preliminary final in seven years unless he is able to have the charge overturned at the tribunal.

The Kangaroos will then have an option to appeal the tribunal’s verdict, Luke Darcy saying they shouldn’t stop there.

“The system is wrong, it’s out of control,” Darcy said, sitting alongside Carey on Monday.

“That happens in basketball 15 times a game, when you try and shepherd someone and block them off the ball.

“Accidental contact … I hate things ending up in court, but I’d explore that if I was Boomer Harvey.”

Meanwhile, the match-day report of Fremantle’s Zac Dawson for striking Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray in the other semi-final was dismissed.

The panel ruled that the Dockers defender was making a legitimate attempt to spoil the ball.

Manchester United feed off Daley bread as feelgood factor returns

The versatile Dutchman played a disciplined midfield holding role, protecting his defenders and seamlessly controlling possession with clever movement and a stream of accurate short passes.

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Blind’s industry and calming influence provided a solid platform from which to unleash the flair of Di Maria, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney as United powered to an emphatic 4-0 win in the autumn sunshine at Old Trafford.

“He is a player who can see situations in advance,” United manager Louis van Gaal told Manchester United television.

“He can always pass to the free player and when he doesn’t have the ball, he knows when he has to press the opponent. That’s a very good ability to have.

“I like him as a defensive midfielder, but he can also play in central defence or at left full back. He can run for 90 minutes too and is always fit. That’s another very good quality for a player.”

QPR were, admittedly, weak opposition and far tougher tests lie ahead but Van Gaal was a happy man after overseeing his team’s first win of the season.

“When you have a result of 4-0, then you can be happy as a coach, but you always have points you can improve,” he told reporters.

“We have always to analyse what we have done. The result is fantastic but we can get much better.

“I said ‘let’s make a new start today’.”

It certainly felt like a new start after months of misery for United who enjoyed a trophy-laden 20-year spell under Alex Ferguson’s management before last season’s dismal seventh-place finish with David Moyes at the helm.

Di Maria opened the scoring with a free kick from out wide, Rooney teed up Ander Herrera for his first United goal and the England forward’s crisp shot put United 3-0 up at halftime.

Mata added a fourth before Old Trafford rose to acclaim the introduction of substitute Radamel Falcao for another much- anticipated debut.

The Colombian striker showed his predatory instincts when he latched on to a rebound after Blind’s powerful shot was parried by Rob Green but his effort was well saved by the goalkeeper.

“My teams are always focused on attack, but it is not our focus – that is to be in the first three,” Van Gaal said.

“The most important thing is the trajectory.”

After the misery of Moyes’s reign, United fans will relish their manager’s confidence.

The victory over QPR lifted United into the top half of the table after four matches and the next two games are away to Leicester City and home to West Ham United.

If Van Gaal can maintain his team’s upward trajectory, they will be in good shape for the much harder challenges that lie ahead.

(Editing by)