Sat, Oct 25, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Rooney vows to get back on track against Aston Villa

AP , LONDON

Wayne Rooney's best gift for his 18th birthday would be a goal today at Aston Villa.

Rooney gave a rare television interview and posed for cameras outside him home yesterday, showing off a beaming smile and a blue and white cake with "18" on top to celebrate the big day.

The Everton striker has scored only one league goal in nine games this season, scant output for a player billed as the most talented player of his generation.

"I haven't played as well this season as I can do," Rooney said. "But obviously if I score another goal -- a few goals -- I'll get my confidence back and hopefully we can win a few games and get up the table."

Asked if the pressure was getting to him, Rooney replied: "No. No. It's just I haven't scored enough goals, and as soon as I score I'll be all right."

After threatening last season to land a place in Europe, Everton has won only two games and is mired in 13th place with only nine points -- just four more than last-place Leicester.

"So far this season Wayne's form has not been too good, and I would imagine every Evertonian you speak to would say the same thing," Everton coach David Moyes said.

"With maybe the exception of the game at Charlton, I think Wayne has been a little bit below the standards he has set. And he is very aware of that. I think that is why there has been a lot of frustration in his play. This year players have decided to get stuck right into him."

A lack of goals has also plagued Leeds, which plays today at bitter rival Liverpool. Strikers Mark Viduka and Alan Smith have not scored since August and Leeds has been shutout in five of nine matches.

Leeds lost its last match 1-0 to Manchester United; solid defense but no offense.

"Defensively we have done well," manager Peter Reid said. "But as well as we did against Manchester United, I don't think we attacked them enough when we had the ball. We never created anything from open play.

"I am hoping we can now keep the ball better against Liverpool and put pressure on their defense. It's something we have chatted about and worked on."

Liverpool has only 11 points and is languishing in 11th place. Leeds is even worse off in 17th with only eight points.

The match unites former Leeds strikers Harry Kewell and Michael Bridges. Kewell has moved to Liverpool.

"We were best mates at Leeds and I was sad to see him go," Bridges said. "But that's football. We still keep in touch. But come Saturday he [Kewell] will not be a friend for the 90 minutes. There'll be no favors."

At the top, Manchester United and Chelsea can build on hard-fought victories in the Champions League. League-leader Arsenal must overcome yet another loss in Europe's top club competition.

With all clubs having played nine games, Arsenal leads with 23 points followed by Man United (22), Chelsea (20), Birmingham City (16), Man City and Fulham (15 each), and Charlton (14). Leicester (5) is on the bottom just below Wolves (6) and Middlesbrough (7).

Chelsea plays today at Manchester City, Manchester United is home to Fulham, and Arsenal plays tomorrow at crosstown London rival Charlton.

Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri may be close to finding his best 11 -- or at least his top five or six -- after Wednesday's 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Lazio at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge.

In what was possibly Chelsea's best match of the season, Ranieri used Claude Makelele, Damien Duff, Frank Lampard and Juan Sebastian Veron at midfield with Adrian Mutu and Eidur Gudjohnsen up front. Key striker Hernan Crespo was injured.

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