Sports

MEL STANDS BY ANELKA

WEST BROM 1

(Diego Lugano 75)


EVERTON 1

(Kevin Mirallas 41)

West Brom manager Pepe Mel insists he will make decisions in the best interests of the club from a football perspective and had no intention of dropping Nicolas Anelka.

The Frenchman (above) played 77 minutes of the Baggies' 1-1 draw at home to Everton yesterday morning (Singapore time), having dominated the pre-match build-up as the furore over his controversial "quenelle" gesture rumbled on.

In the hours leading up to the game, shirt sponsors Zoopla, who had reportedly requested the 34-year-old not play and also not wear their name on his shirt, announced they would not be renewing their £3 million ($6.3m) two-year deal when it expired in the summer.

Yesterday, Anelka was charged by the Football Association over the anti-Semitic salute.

The former Chelsea striker performed the "quenelle" salute, putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other, during West Brom's 3-3 draw at West Ham United in the Premier League last month.

The FA said that Anelka had made a gesture that was "abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper" and included "a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief".

OPTIONS

Anelka has until 6pm (UK time) tomorrow to respond to the charge and, if found guilty, he faces a minimum five-game suspension under new anti-discrimination measures introduced by the FA in May last year.

A West Brom statement yesterday said that the Frenchman is "considering his options".

Asked whether he considered dropping Anelka, Baggies boss Mel said: "No. I spoke to him yesterday (Sunday) and asked him if he was ready to play and he said he was.

"Nicolas is a very good player. He is a very good professional and I am only the head coach.

"My obligation is to think about football and the best interests of West Bromwich Albion. If he is suspended, then I won't be able to play him, but at the club, we must just think about winning matches."

They were not able to win but Diego Lugano's 75th-minute near-post header cancelled out Kevin Mirallas' first-half opener and ensured Mel opened his Premier League account with a point.

"It was a long day for me as I was working from 8am to get ready for the game, but the end is beautiful," Mel added. "The result really is a very fair one. The first half we were too open and the second half we were too compact."

Everton missed the chance to go fourth and manager Roberto Martinez knew they should have capitalised on their first-half performance.

"We are disappointed to concede the goal in the manner we did - defending a corner and trying to quickly counter-attack," said Martinez.

"For those reasons, we dropped two points, but away from home, it is another point towards our tally." - PA Sport.