Man City, Spurs keep Champions League hopes alive

Manchester City kicked Aston Villa out of the race to finish fourth in the English Premier League while Tottenham won again Saturday to to set up a battle royale for the final Champions League spot.City beat visitors Villa 3-1 while hosts Spurs defeated Bolton 1-0 to ensure they go into Wednesday’s crucial clash between the pair at Eastlands with a one-point advantage.Liverpool could still spoil the party and bag fourth place but they qualified for the Europa League at least as their local rivals Everton drew 0-0 at Stoke, ending their hopes of finishing seventh.Elsewhere, Birmingham defeated Burnley 2-1 while rock-bottom Portsmouth beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 as they warm up for their FA Cup final clash with Chelsea.At Eastlands, City kept up their battle to finish fourth by beating fellow contenders Villa, who must now console themselves with a Europa League place.Norway striker John Carew put the Villains ahead in the 16th minute, his shot beating City’s emergency goalkeeper Marton Fulop.But the hosts turned it round just before half-time thanks to good work from winger Adam Johnson.He was brought down by Stephen Warnock and Argentina striker Carlos Tevez converted the 41st-minute penalty.Two minutes later, Johnson played in Emmanuel Adebayor to put the Blues ahead.Substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips played in Craig Bellamy to blast a shot past goalkeeper Brad Friedel on the Wales striker’s 300th league appearance to seal the victory in the 89th minute.At White Hart Lane, Spurs stretched their impressive home run to eight straight wins with a slender 1-0 victory over Bolton, despite having more than twice as many shots as their visitors.Midfielder Tom Huddlestone blasted in a stunning 22-yard strike in the 38th minute, the ball flying past Trotters goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and into the top left hand corner of the goal.Spurs therefore held onto fourth place on 67 points, with City one point behind them. Both have one more game after their midweek clash.Aston Villa, with one game left, are on 64 points with Liverpool, who have two matches to go, on 62.While Saturday’s games affected the battle to finish fourth, the title race could be decided Sunday.Leaders Chelsea, a point ahead, could clinch the title at Liverpool if second-placed Manchester United lose at Sunderland in the later match.United will know the outcome at Anfield by the time they kick off against the Black Cats in a match that could see both Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney return from injuries.But with only pride left to play for, it is hard to see Sunderland preventing a final day of drama on May 9, when Chelsea are at home to Wigan and United host Stoke City.Everton blew their slim chances of grabbing a Europa League spot with a goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium.The Toffees had the ball in the net at Stoke but Phil Jagielka’s header was correctly ruled out for offside.Birmingham City beat Burnley 2-1 in the last game at St Andrews this season, meaning the Clarets have lost 17 of their 19 away league games.Relegated Portsmouth gave their fans something to cheer in their final game at Fratton Park before bowing out of the top flight with a 3-1 win over Wolves.Third-placed Arsenal visit mid-table Blackburn on Monday.Meanwhile Hull’s relegation will be confirmed if West Ham take a point at Fulham on Sunday or if the Tigers themselves fail to take three points from their trip to Wigan on Monday.AFP
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Tim Cahill, in his own words, on…

IF HE WASN’T A FOOTBALLER”I loved drama at school, I loved acting and doing drama and things like that. Who knows, maybe something along that line. Or I could have been involved in being a chef or a cook. Who knows?”ADVICE TO YOUNG PLAYERS”You do have a chance and you can make it if you put your heart into it. What I can do is give them a reality check, that it’s not all fast cars and money. Yes, it’s fantastic towards the end. Don’t look for the bright lights all the time. Look where it’s taken me.”ON WHY HIS PARENTS WILL NEVER WORK AGAIN”I was on 250 quid a week in my first contract and I thought I was a millionaire. To this day, when I got my second contract I tried to send a little bit of money back home because 100 pounds back then was like 200 dollars. It made a difference. Why should they have to work when they’ve worked all their lives to keep us the right way? That’s not something special I do for them, I do it because they deserve it.”ON COMING OFF THE BENCH IN THE LAST WORLD CUP”For me, being part of the Australian team and playing so many games and then sitting on the bench for the first game was a weird experience. To come on and score the goals gave me the biggest iconic experience for Australia. I just take the good with the bad and I reflect on the positives. I’ve always try to be a leader in the Australian team, people look up to me on the pitch. It’s a great weapon to have, to be a leader.”ON REPRESENTING SAMOA, A DECISION THAT ALMOST CRUELLED HIS SOCCEROOS AMBITIONS”I was only a kid who wanted to play soccer for anyone and everyone … I spent a couple of months in Samoa learning a hell of a different way of living. Sleeping in huts with no walls or anything. It was a great experience. I wouldn’t take it back for anything.”HIS FUTURE WITH EVERTON”It’s a matter of adding players and trying to keep players. I really feel that if we get the right ingredients, next season could be very special.”
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‘It would be a travesty not to show people Australia and what we have’

TIM CAHILL says it would be a travesty if the World Cup didn’t come to Australia.”For Australian football, the heritage that we have and what we can give to the world is exceptional,” Cahill told The Sun-Herald. ”What it can do for the kids of Australia and the [game’s] development, everything all in together, it would be a travesty not to show people Australia and what we have to offer.”The food, the beaches, the lifestyle, the multiculturalism. The experience of [being with] great people. It would be great for the world but the greatest gain would be the development of football in Australia.”Football Federation Australia is finalising its bid to host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. However, Cahill’s immediate focus is on the Socceroos’ campaign in South Africa. Australia will face Germany in their opening encounter.”It’s never a good time to play Germany but statistics show that Germany starts slow,” Cahill said.”They are one of the strongest teams in the world and in every single competition they have either won it or been in the top four consistently.”They are very compact, very disciplined. They have great players and that game is going to be the telling game for the group.”The odds are against the Socceroos repeating their 2006 heroics after drawing Germany, Ghana and Serbia in the group stage. However, the Everton midfielder believes another upset is on the cards.”If we can get through our group first or second, it would be a massive achievement,” Cahill said. ”These are all one-off games but absolutely anything can happen.”Should the Socceroos progress, England is likely to stand in the way of a quarter-final berth. Asked about a potential showdown against the old enemy, the 30-year-old said: ”I never stop dreaming, mate.”To be honest with you, whether it’s England or anyone, my biggest dream as a kid was to win the World Cup. We’re not there to make up the numbers, we’re there to do the best we can.”For us, we’ve got a good work ethic, good players, good lads. Obviously we have good management that keep our feet on the ground and make us remember it’s one game at a time.”England will be added spice because of the other sports involved and the friendly banter. That would have all the things for a feisty game.”Cahill’s Premier League side, Everton, will visit Australia in July for a three-game tour. ”It’s fantastic for Everton and fantastic for Australian football,” he said.”At the moment I don’t know what my involvement is because of the World Cup and they’re coming quite early. It’s massive. Hopefully that helps the development of Australian football and puts some more inspiration back into the kids.”
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Humble superstar Cahill has a lot to celebrate

Tim Cahill no longer has to answer to the shoe.Well before the fame, fortune and those goal celebrations that left corner flags fearing for their safety, the Weet-Bix kid had to answer to his mother, Sisifo. And a boot that was deadlier than his own.”If I play bad, [Mum] still tells me why,” Cahill told The Sun-Herald.”It reminds me of when I was a little kid. Normally it was with the shoe, telling me I didn’t play well.”Now I just get on the phone because I’m not [living] close to her. It’s easier – I don’t get any shoes thrown at me.”The shoe is now on the other foot. Cahill is the man. Lucas Neill may be the captain and Harry Kewell may be the poster boy, but Cahill will be the Socceroo everyone turns to in South Africa when the back of the net must be found.Which makes it all the more remarkable that, as a young tyke running out for the Balmain Police Boys Club, Mum had to physically drag him onto the pitch. Yet even when he started running out there of his own volition, few rated him. The little bloke from Sydney’s south-west was considered too little. State and representative selectors snubbed him.”I didn’t have to prove anyone wrong,” Cahill insisted.”The people I wanted to prove right were my parents. It justifies the amount of sacrifices they made in taking me to football.”Football boots, petrol – even getting out a loan to get me over [to England].”I learnt at a good age that I could be around a family where all that mattered was a barbecue, a football or a rugby ball.”The expense of that was very little, but the reality was that we couldn’t really afford much more.”Cahill can afford considerably more now. BRW magazine has him in its top 10 Australian sports money earners, estimating he rakes in just under $4.6 million a year. His family may have struggled to afford a football or to put petrol in the car to get him to training. But these days he could practically buy the A-League with the change in his Lamborghini ashtray. But it’s other values – family ones – that mean the most.”I’m very fortunate to this day that exactly the same things happen,” he said. ”People might say that you do it in a big house and you do it with all of these nice cars, but I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it with my family and I’m sharing it with them.”If you want proof, look no further than his left arm. It’s adorned with an intricate tattoo detailing his Samoan family heritage. Cahill decided to finally get it inked after the death of his grandmother.”My grandmother is my life,” Cahill said. ”She taught my mum and sisters and everyone how to be and passed that down to us.”It’s the respect and values she brought to the family.”She held everyone together and she was the leader. Even back home in Samoa she adopted kids and helped kids, worked with the Samoan community.”She was someone very special and highly regarded in the country.”She was always making me go to Samoa at the end of the season regardless of my footballing commitments, making sure I went back there and helped out.”She said to never forget where I come from, to help the young kids in Samoa.”She didn’t say to get the tattoo, but I knew deep down inside it would have been one of the proudest things in her life. She knows that I hate needles and that I’m a wuss.”Cahill grew up in Australia to an English father, Tim Cahill snr, but his mother made sure he grew up ”the Samoan way”.”It’s the main reason why I am so humble to this day,” Cahill said.”I still never forget to say please and thank you. I never forget to open the door for someone or get up to give them a seat.”Respect is the biggest value that anyone can have and, being a footballer, it’s helped me in every step of the way.”There have been numerous occasions when Cahill has considered tossing it all in. Such as the time he suffered a serious foot injury – to the fifth metatarsal – for the third time. Or during the fallout from unsubstantiated accusations of misbehaviour after a rare night out in Kings Cross. Or that post-goal celebration when he made the handcuff gesture to support older brother Sean, who was doing time for grievous bodily harm.”Of course, there have been times [I wanted to quit],” Cahill said.”You have to weigh up options. You say things like that, but you have to think about the people you are letting down by stopping playing football.”’You have to weigh up the situations. But if there’s something coming my way that it’s so important, then I’d quit football. But it would have to be pretty dramatic.”As long as my family doesn’t get affected from it, I’ll be playing for a very long time.”Which means more goal celebrations. No matter what the situation is in South Africa, even when the Socceroos look as if they couldn’t hit a barn door, it’s likely Cahill will find his way onto the scorer’s sheet. The fact that it could come via the aerial route is even more astounding.”He is five foot eight [170 centimetres] and probably scores more headers than any player in the world,” said Rale Rasic, the first coach to guide Australia to the World Cup.”Where he comes from, how he does it, I don’t think he knows either.”This is his World Cup. This is the World Cup for Tim Cahill.”Thanks to friend and former Socceroos teammate Archie Thompson, the only thing more spectacular than a Cahill goal will be the celebration that follows.”Archie is the man, he is one of the most spontaneous characters I’ve ever met,” Cahill said.”He had a baby boy named Axel and I had a baby boy named Kyah and at the time he did a celebration, a kung-fu one.”I thought it was brilliant. I messed with the idea, the boxing and a few other bits.”We were talking on the bench and he says, ‘Try it, do something.”’It came from that and it’s never stopped. Archie always claims that he trademarked it and he wants it back in jest, but he’s someone I admire a lot.”So can we expect something special should he score in South Africa?”It all depends on the circumstances,” he said. ”The World Cup is a big stage. I think there could be something special.”
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Ferguson’s message to Liverpool: Don’t go easy on Chelsea to punish us

ALEX FERGUSON measures everything he says, mindful of the importance of placing the correct emphasis on every word, yet he might just have missed the irony in his call for Liverpool not to ”throw their history away” by easing Chelsea’s path to victory at Anfield on Sunday.Ferguson said he was ”confident” Liverpool would be trying.”Great clubs don’t throw their history away; they don’t throw their traditions away for one game.”The Manchester United manager knew exactly what he was doing, defying the present team to diminish their predecessors’ memory by offering Chelsea a leg-up towards the title and thereby keeping the trophy out of United’s clutches. If Liverpool answer Ferguson’s call and deny Chelsea victory, then Rafael Benitez’s players will be helping to erase the club’s name from the history books anyway by nudging United towards their 19th title – a record that would eclipse Liverpool’s 18.Little wonder that the Kop will be unusually muted when Benitez’s team trot out against Chelsea.It is a no-win situation for Liverpool and their supporters but, perversely, Ferguson would not have United’s fate in the hands of any other club. In 1995, United’s century-old rivals almost sent the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford by defeating Blackburn, managed by Liverpool icon Kenny Dalglish, on the final day of the season.Liverpool did their bit, only for United to falter at West Ham.History, tradition and a respect for the integrity of competition. All three are ingrained in Liverpool’s psyche, which is why Ferguson is content to trust Benitez’s players ahead of United’s 4pm kick-off against Sunderland on Wearside.”In 1995, it was exactly the same; the similarities were there. We depended and hoped on Liverpool producing and we got that.”Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, talked to me and said, ‘You have to earn the right to win the title’ and that stands today.”OK, there were a lot of English players in that Liverpool team at the time and they understood the traditions of the club, but I don’t think there has been such a swing that the players don’t understand the history of Liverpool.”They have been in 11 European finals and have won 18 titles. That is a fantastic history and you don’t throw that away.”Do you think their fans want to go home saying that their team capitulated and didn’t even try? Of course not.”Telegraph, London
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Fast-bowling find agrees to lay down the hockey stick and hit the nets

CRICKET’S find of the summer, fast bowler Trent Copeland, has made his first major sacrifice as a professional: he’s accepted a Cricket Australia ban on playing hockey.Before he broke into the NSW team, the 24-year-old played for the famed St George club. However, a clause in his prized contract prevents him from engaging in dangerous pursuits – and the risk of injury while playing hockey ranks the sport alongside the likes of skydiving.”It would be good to still play hockey purely for fitness,” Copeland said. ”It’s disappointing in the sense I really love the game but I appreciate it’s necessary for me to stop so I can further my cricket. And cricket-wise I have things to do that take time during my days; things like working on improving my batting.”Copeland, who took 35 wickets at 17.57 in only five games of his first season in Sheffield Shield, will press strongly for selection in the Australia A team to play Sri Lanka A in Queensland next month.The A team is used to blood Cricket Australia’s next generation of frontline players. Copeland knows he can’t afford to relax despite taking more wickets than Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Doug Bollinger and Stuart Clark in their debut seasons.”Has it sunk in? Definitely not,” said Copeland, who announced his arrival with 8-92 on debut against Queensland in January. ”It’s been significant, but if I’m really serious about playing for Australia or Australia A or even cementing my place for NSW I can’t rest on my laurels. It’s been a great start but I have to back it up, and that means hard work.”Copeland, who only started bowling four years ago because he was tired of suffering broken fingers as the wicketkeeper for St George’s third grade XI, realises he’s now a marked man. However, he scoffs at cricket’s so-called ”second year” syndrome – a term describing the struggle some rookies encounter in the following year at the elite level.”I imagine people are going to watch vision of me from this season but … second year syndrome, it doesn’t really affect me.”I will keep it simple. The best advice I’ve ever been given is that you can’t focus on the ball after your next one. It’s about me bettering myself by doing the work to ensure I continue to take wickets and that I add new dimensions to my game.”Copeland hopes his decision to recruit Glenn McGrath’s manager Warren Craig as his agent will help form an association with Test cricket’s most successful fast bowler.”If my association with Warren means I could talk to [McGrath] about what he did when a batsman started to get on top of him, or when to bowl a bouncer and how he prepared, it would be a valuable asset.”
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KP admits: I’ll walk off mid-match

ST LUCIA: Kevin Pietersen says he will walk off the field mid-match during the World Twenty20 and fly home if his wife goes into labour with their first child.The key England batsman must hope any volcanic explosions are limited to his time at the crease if he is to get back to London from the Caribbean in an emergency as his wife, pop star Jessica Taylor, is due on May 16 – the day of the World Twenty20 final in Barbados.”As soon as she goes into labour, I’ll be off,” Pietersen said. ”No matter where it is in the tournament, I’ll be off – and it’s been cleared with the management to do that.”If I’m in the middle of a match, I’ll obviously get off the field and then I’ll be on the next plane that flies into London Heathrow.”Pietersen, 29, rubbished critics who believe his departure would spoil the team’s campaign – they haven’t made the final of an ICC tournament in six years. ”I think it’s pretty sad that if you have your first child people criticise you for wanting to be there, whatever walk of life,” he said.England start their campaign on Monday against hosts West Indies in Guyana and will rely heavily on Pietersen, the highest-paid Indian Premier League player, who topped the run-scoring in the recent edition of the tournament.Meanwhile, Australia begin their quest to win the World Twenty20 for the first time by taking on defending champions Pakistan here (from 3.30am Monday, Sydney time) and look certain to omit specialist spinner Nathan Hauritz on a slow deck.Captain Michael Clarke said: ”Playing Pakistan, we need to have a look at how they play spin bowling, which they face a lot of. Also having David Hussey in the team, who can bowl some off-spin probably makes it harder for Haury.”Hauritz failed to take a wicket in the week’s two practice matches but, should he be left out, Australia would be the only side in the tournament not fielding a specialist spinner.Australia’s match is the second of the day at Beausejour Cricket Ground and Clarke said if the pitch had deteriorated to the point where more spin was predicted, Hauritz would come back into calculations. Otherwise, all-rounder Steve Smith would shoulder the spin burden, assisted by Clarke and Hussey.”I’ve seen how well [Hauritz has] bowled in one-day cricket, and how well he’s performed in Twenty20 cricket,” Clarke said. ”If conditions suit that extra spin option, he could definitely play a big part.”Opening batsman David Warner has already made a strong case to be favourite as the tournament’s leading run-scorer following successive half-centuries in the practice games and has been likened to Matthew Hayden.”With Davey you have to give him the freedom to play his way,” Clarke said. ”He’s got no restrictions on the way he plays. He plays a huge part, like Matty Hayden used to for us.”
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Brumbies discover their mojo and bring Reds thudding back to earth

THE Brumbies kept alive their quest for a finals berth with a 20-point bonus-point win over the new darlings of the competition, the Queensland Reds, at Canberra Stadium last night.The most pressing question after their glittering performance, however, was: where has this form been all season?The Brumbies secured their fourth try in the 73rd minute when prop Ben Alexander crashed over for his second five-pointer.The win kept the Brumbies in sixth position on the Super 14 ladder – two points behind the Crusaders and Reds in third and fourth – with matches against the Highlanders at home and the Crusaders away to close out the regular season. Coach Andy Friend believes his side is destined to qualify for the play-offs. ”One-hundred per cent,” Friend said. ”I firmly believe we can do it. We need to play like that again the next two weeks, play with that belief and energy for each other. I’m now not standing here saying, ‘We’re getting close’. I saw it click tonight.”Captain Stephen Hoiles refused to get carried away with the performance. ”It just means we’re alive, that we live to fight another week. It doesn’t make the run home any easier or any harder though,” he said.”But against the form side of the competition tonight, to score four tries was very pleasing.”As has been the case for most of the season, the Brumbies controlled possession for most of the contest, which was played in front of a crowd of 18,025. However, last night they were able to turn that early dominance into points through a Mark Chisholm try.The Brumbies had a sense of urgency at the breakdown and the Reds struggled to handle the pressure. In their defence, though, the Reds lost both starting second-rowers, Adam Byrnes (knee) and Rob Simmons (jaw), in the first quarter of the match. The Brumbies capitalised, stealing lineouts at will and ruling at scrum time.The Reds’ front row also desperately missed the scrummaging power of injured prop Laurie Weeks.The Brumbies’ ascendancy in the forwards set the platform for two first-half tries and a 14-6 lead into the break.Josh Valentine’s 56th-minute try gave the Brumbies 24 minutes to score the all-important fourth try – a mission they accomplished.The Brumbies will be boosted for their must-win match against the Highlanders by an emotional farewell planned for club legends Stirling Mortlock and George Smith at Canberra Stadium.Meanwhile, the Hurricanes defeated the Chiefs 33-27 in Wellington last night.BRUMBIES 32 (Ben Alexander 2, Mark Chisholm, Josh Valentine tries Matt Giteau 3 cons 2 pens) bt QUEENSLAND REDS 12 (Quade Cooper 4 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Chris Pollock (NZL).
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Matthews lambasts Folau offer as ‘obscene’

LEIGH MATTHEWS has labelled talk of luring Israel Folau to the AFL on a million-dollar-a-year contract as ”obscene” and disrespectful to other potential young recruits.Folau became a free agent on Friday after declining to renew his contract with the Brisbane Broncos. The 21-year-old has been closely linked with new Super 15 franchise the Melbourne Rebels, but is understood to also be weighing up an offer from Team GWS.Matthews, a Hall of Fame legend and four-time premiership coach, yesterday acknowledged the value of having a player with Folau’s profile to market a new AFL team, but said it was ”ridiculous” to pay him anywhere near the money earned by the best players in the competition.”It’s disrespectful to all the kids who play footy as teenagers,” he said on 3AW.”We ask them to operate under a salary cap [and] there’s no free agency, so you can’t go to a different employer if you want to – then you see someone from outside the sport [who has] never kicked an AFL football being offered the same money as Jonathan Brown and Chris Judd.”He said the league provides ”all the money for all the AFL initiatives around Australia” and allowing a player without experience to join the ranks of the AFL on such a wage would be in conflict with those initiatives.”We might as well recruit all around the world now because you don’t have to know anything about the game.”Poaching someone from another sport by offering them a Godfather million-dollar offer – to me, it’s embarrassing.”Recently retired Richmond star Matthew Richardson, who was on yesterday’s pre-game talk show with Matthews, said Folau would not be able to make the transition from the NRL to the AFL.”He’s absolutely no chance of making it,” Richardson said.”I don’t think you can pick up the game at the age of 22 and suddenly go out and play AFL football.”GWS chief executive Dale Holmes told The Sun-Herald yesterday the new club (under ex-Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy’s on-field leadership) was not going to comment on speculation about Folau.
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Blues better off without Fevola, says Walls

FORMER Carlton premiership player and coach Robert Walls believes the Blues’ decision to offload troublesome Brendan Fevola is starting to pay off, and could eventually help return the club to glory.The Blues will try to back up their huge upset of premiers Geelong last Monday when they take on arch-rivals Collingwood at the MCG today.Walls believes Carlton’s resurgence has been helped by their bravery in trading Fevola to Brisbane – just before the twin bombshells of the Lara Bingle nude photo scandal and his gambling addiction dropped.The 1987 premiership coach believes a Blues side without Fevola as the attacking focal point is more unpredictable and promises more now they have unearthed a wider variety of routes to goal.”All the eggs in one basket – and a shaky basket at that – is not the way to go,” Walls said of Fevola.”They did a really strong act in getting rid of Fevola last year and that means the forward line has options, and you saw that last week with the three indigenous boys [Eddie Betts, Chris Yarran and Jeff Garlett] kicking seven between them.”Lachie Henderson’s a work in progress up forward, [Matthew] Kreuzer can be a part of it up forward – they’re on the right track, no doubt about that.”Collingwood assistant coach Nathan Buckley agreed Carlton’s forward line presented new dangers without Fevola and has also nominated tall Irishman Setanta o’hAilpin as a vital component.”There’s been a lot of talk from the outside about Fevola not being there, but they haven’t had any trouble scoring goals,” Buckley said.”Yes, they have a small forward line but o’hAilpin’s been a very hard worker for them. He’s playing a very important role forward of the ball.”While Walls is bullish about Carlton’s future, he still believes the Blues will take time to become legitimate flag contenders.”I don’t think they’re anywhere near top four at this stage, but they are one of the youngest teams in the competition,” he said.”This Carlton team that’ll play on the weekend is one of the three youngest teams in the 16 going around. It’s all in front of them.”The Blues have elevated young ruckman Sam Jacobs to replace axed Robbie Warnock against the Magpies, while defender Paul Bower returns from a quadriceps injury.He comes in as a straight swap for luckless Andrew Walker, who fractured his collarbone in the win against Geelong. The Magpies are unchanged from their Anzac Day win against Essendon.AAP
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