Harry Redknapp, who only two weeks ago resigned as Portsmouth's manager, on Wednesday took the hot seat along the coast at Southampton, thereby fanning the flames of one of the most intense rivalries in English football. Terry Brady, a Portsmouth director, called Redknapp's move "the highest betrayal possible", and Milan Mandaric, the club's owner, described himself as "disappointed".
Redknapp, 57, replaces Steve Wigley as Southampton find themselves 18th in the Premier League, two points off the bottom. He becomes Saints' fourth manager this year after signing an 18-month contract. Wigley rejected an offer to work with Redknapp and has left the club. When he quit Portsmouth, Redknapp denied that it was because of his repeated disputes with Mandaric, and said he needed a break from the game. But yesterday, in denying that he had betrayed Portsmouth, he offered another version of events, saying that the recent appointment of Velimir Zajec as an executive director of football at Fratton Park had upset him.
"I don't see it as an act of betrayal," he said. "I left Pompey halfway up the Premiership table and circumstances at the club had changed. It did not suit the way I wanted to work and I wanted to move on. "I've sat at home for the last two weeks watching football on TV and didn't enjoy it. I got a phone call late on Monday from the chair-man [of Southampton] and it was too good a chance to refuse."
* They went behind tamely, hit the post, had two goals disallowed and at least two plausible penalty appeals turned down, but still Liverpool achieved the two-goal victory they required to reach the last 16 of the Champions League, reports Jonathan Wilson. On Wednesday night they were, quite simply, magnificent.
With Olympiakos staggering, befuddled by the relentlessness of the onslaught, there was a sense of glorious inevitability as Neil Mellor headed Jamie Carragher's cross towards Steven Gerrard with five minutes remaining. The Liverpool captain, 25 yards out, loped on to the volley and crashed home a breathtaking drive to complete a comeback that had seemed all but incredible at half-time.
The first half had all the makings of a night of intense frustration. Milan Baros had a goal ruled out for a push as early as the second minute and Gerrard had diverted a Xabi Alonso free-kick against the post before Rivaldo gave Olympiakos the lead. Having drawn a foul from Sami Hyypia, the Brazilian's shot was hardly blistering, but the wall parted like a pair of curtains and the ball arced past an unsighted Chris Kirkland.
With Monaco leading Deportivo la Coruña 3-0 at half-time, Liverpool knew they needed to win by two to go through. Early encouragement came from the substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle. His arrival as a central striker pushed Harry Kewell out to the left, and it was from there that he cut in and squared for the young Frenchman to hook over the line after 47 minutes. The introduction of Mellor gave Liverpool a decisive boost. He had been on the field just two minutes when he lashed in the rebound after Antonios Nikopolidis had palmed out Antonio Nunez's header.
Luis Figo scored twice as Real Madrid eased their way into the knockout stage of the Champions League with a comfortable 3-0 win over AS Roma in their final Group B match. Real knew they had to win to be assured of qualifying and never looked back after Ronaldo put them ahead in the ninth minute.
* Moscow Flyer will not run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. The two-miler, who beat his great rival Azertyuiop in a thrilling race for the William Hill Tingle Creek Trophy at Sandown last Saturday, will instead stay in Ireland for the Paddy Power Dial-a-Bet Chase. "Had he been beaten on Saturday I think we would have gone to Kempton," said trainer Jessica Harrington. Moscow Flyer was 5-1 with Coral for the King George.
Kempton's loss will be Leopardstown's gain as Moscow Flyer will attempt to win the Grade Two chase on December 27 for the third successive year. "He had a quite a hard race on Saturday and the King George comes up quite soon afterwards," said Harrington.
* England cricket teams have often started tough overseas tours with morale-sapping defeats against mediocre opposition, but a comfortable victory for the 2004 model over Nicky Oppenheim's XI in Randjesfontein suggests that Michael Vaughan's team is made of sterner stuff. Set a target of 185 to win in 39 overs in a rain-affected match, England coasted home with eight wickets and three overs to spare as Marcus Trescothick and Robert Key made 85 not out and 87 respectively.
Earlier England had restricted the opposition to 172 for 4, a total that owed much to a belligerent 74 from 58 balls from former Zimbabwean Test player Neil Johnson. Steve Harmison, whose form will be crucial to England's hopes in the forthcoming five-Test series, made a steady start with one wicket for eight runs in seven overs, while Matthew Hoggard picked up two wickets. Five years ago, England lost this fixture before falling 2-1 to South Africa in the Test series.