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The Sport Matrix: Thursday 30 May 2013

Cole surprise at Wembley ovation as England draw

England captain Ashley Cole admitted he was surprised with the positive reception he received from the Wembley crowd during his side’s 1-1 draw with Republic of Ireland last night.

Cole, who was named as the fourth different England skipper of Roy Hodgson’s tenure, was given a standing ovation as he was substituted for Leighton Baines in the second half.

“I never expected to get 100 caps and have the reception I did,” he said. “I’d like to thank the fans, I didn’t expect that. It’s something I’ll never forget.

 “I had no problems with being captain. I don’t always like talking to the press but I’ve lived a little boy’s dream today.”

England fell behind to Shane Long’s fine header in the first half, but Frank Lampard continued his fine goal scoring form of late for his 30th international strike. Hodgson, whose side face Brazil on Sunday, was pleased with the performance.

“The important victories have to come in the qualifiers,” said Hodgson. “But I’m certainly more happy now than I was before the game.” MORE

Pellegrini to City: ‘Verbal deal’ done

Manuel Pellegrini claims he has agreed to take over as manager of Manchester City at the end of the Spanish season and just needs to put pen to paper on a contract. City are likely to wait for Malaga to play their last game on Saturday before they announce his arrival. MORE

Bale’s agent would listen to Real offer

Gareth Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett has admitted he would be honoured if Real Madrid came in with an offer for the 23-year-old. “If Florentino [Perez, Real Madrid president] is interested in Gareth Bale it would be an honour and we would listen,” said Barnett. MORE

Frustrated Suarez could leave Anfield

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has hinted that he would welcome a transfer to Real Madrid this summer, suggesting criticism of him in the English press could persuade him to leave the country to play elsewhere. “It would be difficult to say ‘no’ to Real Madrid,” he said. MORE

Falcao all set for Monaco revolution

The Colombia striker Radamel Falcao looks set to join the billionaire-backed French side Monaco in a deal worth around £51m from Atletico Madrid. Former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho also joined Claudio Ranieri’s side yesterday from Real Madrid. MORE

Hughes looks set to take over at Stoke

Mark Hughes looks set to take over as Stoke City manager after holding talks with the club this week. Betting on the former Manchester City manager, who was sacked by QPR last November, has been suspended by some bookmakers. MORE

Watson exits while Robson withdraws

The British No 2 Heather Watson lost in the French Open first round to Stefanie Vögele of Switzerland 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 after nearly two hours yesterday. Elsewhere, Laura Robson withdrew from the women’s doubles because of back pain. MORE

Ponting rules out an Ashes return 

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting insists he will happily give the current side tips during the Ashes series this summer, but will not be making a return. “They know my number and if I was asked for my input I’d give it, absolutely,” he said. MORE

Warburton a doubt for opening match

Lions captain Sam Warburton is doubtful for the tour opener against the Barbarians on Saturday after picking up a knee injury. Assistant coach Rob Howley said the flanker will be assessed after missing a training session yesterday. MORE

Banned Zarooni abandons appeal

The disgraced former Godolphin trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni has withdrawn an appeal against the length of his eight-year ban for the use of anabolic steroids at his Newmarket yard. MORE

Opinion: Stephen Brenkley

Andy Flower’s figures speak for themselves: 51 Test matches, 27 wins, 13 draws. But his reaction to England’s win over New Zealand showed that these are changing times for him as coach. MORE

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