Football: Anelka given 48-hour limit to find club

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL'S REBEL striker Nicolas Anelka was yesterday given a 48- hour deadline to find a new club or he will be forced to return to Highbury.

The Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, issued the ultimatum after the Gunners drew 2-2 with St Etienne on Saturday during their pre-season tour of France. Wenger wants Anelka's future to be resolved before it starts to interfere with the club's build-up to the new campaign. "If in 48 hours Anelka has not found another club we will consider him an Arsenal player and that he's coming back home to us," Wenger said. "In 48 hours, Arsenal will withdraw their accord to put Nicolas Anelka on the transfer market."

Nwankwo Kanu secured Arsenal's draw with St Etienne, striking in the 22nd minute and providing the equaliser for Fredrik Ljungberg two minutes later as the Londoners recovered well from a nightmare opening spell. St Etienne, the French Second Division champions last season, took advantage of hesitation in Arsenal's makeshift defence as the Brazilian Aloisio finished superbly from the edge of the penalty area on eight minutes, and seconds after the restart Aloisio turned provider, setting up a goal for Patric Revelles.

Liverpool march on towards what they believe will be a glowing future still not sure when their striker Michael Owen will be back in action, though mid-August seems the earliest he could return. The Anfield club came back from Belfast in triumph after winning the Carlsberg Challenge, thanks to an impressive 2-0 win over Feyenoord, the Dutch champions, at Windsor Park.

Everyone at the club is making the right noises about Owen and their new "league of nations". The Liverpool manager, Gerard Houllier, claims that progress has been made over the England teenager's hamstring problem and he could be training "in a week to 10 days".

Owen, after a trip to visit German specialist Hans Muller-Wohlfahrt, claimed: "I am hoping to be fit for the start of the season, but I know there is a difference between fitness and match fitness."

Liverpool have now won all four of their pre-season games, scoring 16 goals without conceding. New foreign players Dietmar Hamann, Sander Westerveld, Sami Hyypia, Titi Camara and Erik Meijer all had successful run-outs against St Etienne, while the Czech Vladimir Smicer's introduction to duty was spectacular.

Flown out late to join the squad after ankle treatment, he came on as a second-half substitute to score a spectacular goal within three minutes and then had to depart with a recurrence of his injury, twisting his ankle as he fell badly after being fouled. Houllier will continue the bonding operation in Norway against Valerenga on Thursday.

The Manchester United full-back Denis Irwin is tipping new goalkeeper Mark Bosnich to fill the void left by Peter Schmeichel successfully. Irwin, United's acting captain during the tour of Australia and the Far East, says Bosnich's form has been encouraging. "Mark's come in and done the job and we haven't had a goal scored against us. When he's played, he's looked the part," Irwin said after the 2-0 victory over Hong Kong side South China on Saturday. Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole were the goalscorers.

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