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Black Cats eager to find Bent’s replacement

Posted: 19 Jan 2011 12:41 PM PST

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 04:28:00

LONDON: Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn and manager Steve Bruce are quickly looking to find a replacement for Darren Bent, who left the club in an £18 million deal to Aston Villa.

It is understood that while they have a series of domestic targets, their main focus is currently on Europe and a short-term signing with a view to a permanent move during the summer.

Monaco's Dieumerci Mbokani (above) has been mooted as a possible target, although a loan with an option of a permanent deal is the most likely deal for a player untried in the Premier League.

A signing from abroad may be forced on the Black Cats as Premier League clubs are only allowed four domestic loan deals a season with only two at one time.

Sunderland currently have Danny Welbeck and Nedum Onuoha on loan from Manchester United and Manchester City.

Quinn also dismissed any chance of signing Tottenham striker Robbie Keane.

"What we are looking for to help Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck along is probably a physical presence," he told Kildare TV.

"Keane works well off a big physical player, but we don't have that now. He doesn't quite suit us now."

Quinn claimed that he noticed a difference in Bent some weeks ago and now knows why.

"Two or three weeks ago I went into the training ground and there was something up with him. I looked at his demeanour and I thought, 'it's not right'. Having been in the game, you kind of know when someone's got something going on in their heads.

"It transpired that that's what had happened. They were setting him up to try and come and he took the bait," said the former Sunderland striker.

Villa responded to Sunderland's claims by releasing a statement on their official website, which read: "We wish to make clear that at no time did Aston Villa make an inappropriate approach to the player or unfairly compromise the business of Sunderland Football Club.

"Bent only became aware of his possible transfer after Sunderland's game against Newcastle on Sunday and after we had agreed with Sunderland the essence of the deal which led quickly to his arrival at Villa Park on Tuesday."

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Iraq invasion

Posted: 19 Jan 2011 12:40 PM PST

Lions of Mesopotamia to meet Aussies after condemning North Korea

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 04:28:00

Football

DIE HARD: Iraqi fans celebrate after their team beat North Korea to qualify for the quarterfinals

DOHA: Reigning champions Iraq set up a quarterfinal clash with Australia after beating North Korea 1-0 yesterday, condemning the Koreans to an early exit having failed to score in the tournament.

The 2007 champions finished second in Group D, behind great rivals Iran, but they will be underdogs to upset an Australian team out for revenge after Iraq defeated them 3-1 on the way to Asian Cup glory four years ago.

Iraq have not hit the heights of last time, but they didn't need to be great against North Korea in front of just over 4,000 fans at Al-Rayyan Stadium, making for a low-key atmosphere for what was a high-stakes encounter.

The holders made three changes from the side that laboured to a 1-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates and it was one of them, midfielder Kerrar Jasim, who fired the champions to victory on 22 minutes.

North Korea, cheered on by about 250 fans — all men wearing shirts and ties — came into the match knowing that they needed to win to go through.

But rather than attack, they were content to play a patient waiting game.

Their coach Jo Tong-sop said they had abandoned the 5-3-2 formation they deployed at the World Cup to a theoretically more attacking 4-4-2.

However, there was no immediate sign it had made the Koreans — who came into the game without a goal in the tournament — any more potent.

Iraq were within inches of taking a lead with the first chance of the game shortly after the quarter-hour mark when defender Samal Saeed headed down a corner for striker Mustafa Kareem, who was lurking in the six-yard box.

But Kareem, brought in to replace Ala'a Abdulzehra, succeeded only in lashing the ball against the bar. Shortly after Iraq were ahead.

Korea keeper Ri Myong-guk was only able to parry Kareem's stinging shot into the path of Jasim, who fired into an open net.

It was not until 30 minutes in that North Korea had their first chance.

But forward Jong Tae-se, who plays for German second division side VfL Bochum, failed to get hold of the ball and the opportunity was gone.

The North were in disarray and in danger of losing their heads as they committed a series of crude fouls. Captain Hong Yong-jo was booked for a particularly late challenge.

The ever-dangerous Kareem should have put his side 2-0 up on 37 minutes but he somehow volleyed over from close range as Iraq continued to press.

Korea barely looked like scoring.

Iraq might have expected the North to throw everything at them after the break but Korea made a change just after halftime, bringing off defender Ri Jun-il for Pak Namchol — another defender.

They now had two players on the pitch called Pak Nam-chol and reverted to what looked like a three-man defence.

The North were marginally more threatening after that, but they created only one real chance as Tae-se fired straight at Iraqi keeper Mohammed Kassid with the game and the tournament slipping away from them.

They go home with just a single point and no goals after a 0-0 draw with UAE and a 1-0 defeat to group winners Iran.

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