The Morning Sports Briefing

The funeral of Phillip Hughes takes place, Gerrard’s back for Liverpool, Man United make it four on the bounce and Munster quartet put pen to paper

Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring his side’s first goal in the 2-1 win over Stoke City at Old Trafford last night

Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring his side’s first goal in the 2-1 win over Stoke City at Old Trafford last night

 

RIP Hughsey

In the early hours the funeral of Phillip Hughes took place in his hometown of Macksville, New South Wales.

More than a thousand people attended the service, with thousands more outside watching on big screens. Australia captain Michael Clarke gave a fitting and emotional tribute to his old pal, he said: “Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love.

“We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on.

“So rest in peace my little brother. I will see you out in the middle.”

Ireland international cricketer John Mooney admitted earlier this year he suffers from depression, and the death of Hughes, who was felled by a short ball while batting for South Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, brought back memories of his own father dying during a game of cricket.

Mooney posted his thoughts while on an Ireland pre-World Cup tour in Dubai.

Gerrard bounces back

After all the debate surrounding his value to his club, and whether it was time for him to accept a diminished role or stroll off into the sun to see out the rest of his career abroad, it was fairly predictable Steven Gerrard would get on the score sheet after being reinstated into Liverpool’s starting lin =e up for their trip to Leicester last night.

For once, the goal wasn’t a penalty, Gerrard latching onto the ball on the edge of the box after Wes Morgan’s touch sent it rolling invitingly out and stroking it home, before a regulatory knee slide into the corner where Liverpool’s travelling support were going berserk. It was a classic Gerrard goal, and one which dragged his side 2-1 up after going behind in the 22nd minute.

Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners against the league’s basement club after recovering from another Simon Mignolet blunder early on and are now up to eighth. Following their victory over Stoke City at the weekend Brendan Rodgers’ side have staged a mini-revival after a rotten string of results which saw them without a win in five.

The reds march on

Manchester United’s purple patch continued with a 2-1 win against Stoke at Old Trafford, but it was far from simple.

United took the lead through Maroune Fellaini’s first Old Trafford goal but were pegged back after Stephen N’Zonzi fizzed a rising effort past David De Gea. There were question marks over United’s winner after Mata’s wide free-kick went sailing straight in with Marcos Rojo claiming he got something on it despite looking like he was borderline offside.

United weathered a late storm with De Gea making two excellent saves and Ashley Young clearing off the line right at the death.

The win means it’s been four on the bounce for Louis Van Gaal’s side and they can go third on Monday providing Southampton don’t beat Arsenal tonight.

Premier League round-up

Elsewhere Aston Villa managed their first win in 10 games with Christian Benteke getting back in form and scoring a brilliant solo-effort. Burnley kept their unbeaten run going with a 1-1 draw at Turfmoor against Newcastle United, a result which dragged them out of the bottom three. West Ham’s impressive season continued as they recovered from a goal down to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at The Hawthorns, Kevin Nolan and James Tomkins on the score sheet in the absence of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia. Elsewhere, Swansea left it late but goals from Ki and Wayne Routledge inside the last 12 minutes helped them to a 2-0 win at home to QPR.

No blues if Chelsea lose

There’s more football tonight and league leaders Chelsea are looking to extend their unbeaten run against a Spurs side who haven’t won at Stamford Bridge in over a decade.

But manager Manager Jose Mourinho doesn’t believe a first defeat will put much of a dampener on the spirits of the champions elect.

He said: “What do you want the team to do or to feel when a team is doing a perfect season?

“Top of the league in the Premier League. Top of the group in the Champions League. Quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup. Not losing one match for four months.

“The team has to feel very, very well. And, when the defeat arrives, I think we have to feel exactly in the same way.”

Arsenal can win the title

Arsenal welcome Southampton to the Emirates tonight and Arsene Wenger is adamant his side can still challenge for the title despite being 13 points off leaders Chelsea.

Wenger said: “We have fought many times for the title. People always remember who won it but the fight has been very tight for long periods in the last eight or nine years.

“We have a big competition in England, we have to accept that. The Premier League level goes always up and this season, Chelsea has started very well. They will be difficult to catch but everybody will fight to come back on them.”

Wenger also discussed Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, saying he believes it’s a certainty he will return to Arsenal at some stage either in a playing or coaching capacity.

Captain Kompany out

In tonight’s other games, Manchester City head to bogey ground the Stadium of Light without first choice centre halves Eliaquim Mangala and skipper Vincent Kompany, while Everton entertain Hull with doubts surrounding James McCarthy’s fitness and future at the club.

New deals for Munster quartet

Munster play Clermont Auvergne in the European Champions Cup at Thomond Park at the weekend and head into the fixture on the back of seven straight wins.

Yesterday there was further good news for Anthony Foley as the province announced four players had all signed contract extensions tying them to Munster until 2007.

Stephen Archer, Dave Foley and David Kilcoyne who are products of the Munster academy, as well as Felix Jones, have all commited their future to the club, and Gerry Thornley believes lessons have been learned from the Jonny Sexton contract fiasco and now the IRFU and the provinces are working closer together to ensure international players like these four stay in Ireland.

Munster and Donnacha O’Callaghan are also considering appealing the decision by a Pro12 appointed disciplinary committee to suspend the veteran lock for two weeks for an alleged kick on Ulster’s Stuart Olding.

Top of the props

More contract news and Leinster tight head Mike Ross has been offered a one-year contract extension despite the prop seeking a two-year deal which would take him up to July 2017 and the age of 37.

Gavin Cummiskey spoke to Ross’s provincial and international team mate Jack McGrath, whose progress mirrors that of the national side and who has become the ultimate understudy.

Ulster’s up-hill battle

Elsewhere, Johnny Watterson spoke to Tommy Bowe on the mountain facing Ulster if they are to qualify from their European Champions Cup pool and how they propose to scale it.

Henshaw rested

Connacht are in Challenge Cup action against Bayonne at the weekend, but coach Pat Lam is likely to rest his big guns, including Robbie Henshaw, looking ahead to his sides trip to Leinster on December 19.

Underdogs chance to defy expectations

There could be an underdog story unfolding in the Leinster club final at the weekend, with Offaly champions Kilcormac/Killoughey looking to topple Ballyhale Shamrocks. Ian O’Riordan spoke to forward Daniel Currams.

US success shows way for reform

With the GAA looking at radically overhauling its fixture calendar by shortening the All-Ireland championship season, Sean Moran, in America, believes Liam O’Neill is right to emphasise the importance of participation and local involvement both at home and overseas.

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