Nov 022017
 
Dortmund heading out of Champions League after APOEL draw

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund managed only a frustrating 1-1 draw at home against APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League on Wednesday to see their hopes of a knockout spot all but evaporate with two matches left in Group H.Raphael Guerreiro put them ahead in the 29th and the Germans, 2013 finalists, should have scored several more in the first half before APOEL’s Mickael Pote stunned the home crowd with a superb equaliser six minutes after the restart.The result did neither team a favour with both on two points from four matches, five behind second-placed Real Madrid, who lost to group leaders Tottenham Hotspur.Dortmund, who host Tottenham on Nov. 21 before travelling to Madrid for their final group game, had four shots on goal after only 10 minutes.Desperate for their first win in the group that would keep their slim qualification hopes alive, they were in complete control from the start.APOEL kept plenty of bodies behind the ball and looked to have tamed Dortmund until a defence-splitting pass from Shinji Kagawa on the half hour sent Guerreiro through for the first goal.Dortmund, who face Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on Saturday, squandered a bagful of chances through Japan international Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.They were punished for their wastefulness when Pote turned beautifully in the box and fired in the equaliser in the 51st minute, his second goal against Dortmund after also scoring in their draw in Cyprus.Despite having more than 70 percent possession and hitting the bar with Aubameyang late in the [Read More…]

Oct 242017
 
Ronaldo eyes more FIFA success as Real dominate awards

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo has set his sights on a “lucky seventh” piece of FIFA silverware after collecting his fifth Men’s Player of the Year award on Monday. Ronaldo’s Real Madrid side, who won both La Liga and the Champions League last season, dominated the 2017 Best FIFA football awards at a star-studded ceremony in London on Monday. The Portuguese ace has scored 44 goals in just 48 games for club and country so far this calendar year, including two in a 4-1 Champions League final win over Juventus in Cardiff on June 3. Ronaldo saw off competition from longstanding Barcelona rival Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, the world’s most expensive player.But, typical of a footballer who has enjoyed huge success at both Manchester United and Real, Ronaldo was not satisfied. “I want seven. Five is good but seven is my lucky number so seven would be great.”Real boss Zinedine Zidane took the corresponding manager of the year award, with the Spanish giants providing five players in the FIFPro team of the year. Ronaldo won the inaugural Best FIFA men’s player of the year award last year following the end of a six-year merger between the FIFA honour and France Football’s Ballon D’Or.The 32-year-old previously won the FIFA World Player of the Year award, the precursor to the Best FIFA award, in 2008. He has now won the last two FIFA men’s trophies as well as three of the last four Ballon D’Or awards.“Thanks a lot for voting for me,” [Read More…]

Oct 172017
 
Modric and Bale enjoying contrasting fortunes in Madrid

Gareth Bale may have scored more decisive goals for Real Madrid than Luka Modric since the pair swapped Tottenham for the Spanish capital, but the Croatian midfielder has proved far more popular to Real fans than his teammate.Modric will be the only former Spurs player available to the European champions when they host Mauricio Pochettino’s side on Wednesday in the Champions League as Bale is still recovering from a calf injury, the 18th fitness setback he has faced in less than five seasons in Spain.Bale, who was signed by Real in August 2013 for a then world record fee of 100 million euros (£88.7 million), had a dream debut season in Madrid, striking decisive goals in the King’s Cup final against Barcelona and the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.He has added a further nine trophies since then and overtaken Gary Lineker as the top scoring British player in La Liga, but an accumulation of injuries have stunted his growth and meant he has missed 67 games since his arrival.Madrid, however, have rarely missed his presence: they stormed to the Champions League and Liga double last season when he missed more than four months with an ankle injury and calf problems.A study in newspaper AS showed Real are 10 percent more likely to win games when Bale does not play, while online surveys show that fans overwhelmingly would prefer to see either Marco Asensio or Isco in his place.Bale’s shy personality and inability to speak Spanish have not helped his [Read More…]

Sep 252017
 
Dortmund out to ruin Ronaldo milestone

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund will aim to maintain their unbeaten record at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday and spoil Cristiano Ronaldo´s 150th European appearance.Dortmund and title holders Real meet in the group stage for the second year running.The teams drew both games 2-2 last season as the Germans topped the section before bowing out in the last eight while Real went on to win a record 12th title.Dortmund have won three and drawn three of their meetings at Signal Iduna Park, including their dazzling 4-1 first-leg win in the 2013 Champions League semi-final when Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals.“There were always great games against Real Madrid,” said Dortmund´s Germany midfielder Mario Goetze on Monday.“With Madrid having won the last two Champions League seasons, we of course have a lot of respect, but we are also in very good shape and full of confidence.”Defending champions Real opened their group campaign with a 3-0 win at home to APOEL while Dortmund suffered a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur a fortnight ago.´Philameyang´ The Germans´ main task may be containing four-time Ballon d´Or winner Ronaldo, who has scored 110 goals in European competition but failed to find the net in his last two league outings.The Portuguese superstar is among the final three nominees for the Best FIFA Men´s Player 2017 award and the winner will be announced on October 23.“Ronaldo hasn´t played much of late, but I expect him to be in top form against us,” said Dortmund coach Peter [Read More…]

Sep 202017
 
Liverpool rocked, Alli lifts Spurs

LONDON: Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki sent Liverpool crashing out of the League Cup, while Tottenham edged past Barnsley to reach the fourth round on Tuesday. Okazaki came off the bench to fire Leicester ahead in the second half of their 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium.The Japan forward, on as a second-half replacement for Leonardo Ulloa, broke the deadlock in the 65th minute of the third-round tie. Vincent Iborra headed into Okazaki’s path in the penalty area and he controlled well before scoring with a deflected strike.Reds boss Jurgen Klopp had made eight changes to his starting line-up, giving a first start to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Philippe Coutinho played the first 45 minutes before coming off at half-time. But Liverpool’s disappointing recent form showed no signs of improving and Islam Slimani finished them off 12 minutes from full-time.Slimani took Okazaki’s pass and drove a fine strike into the roof of the net from the edge of the penalty area. Klopp’s side have now gone four games without a win after frustrating home draws with Burnley and Sevilla followed a 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City.“We played really good football in the first half. We had big chances, strange situations but football is a 90-minute game,” Klopp said. “I am sick of goals like this. Leicester somehow survive in the game because we are not clinical enough. They scored two easy goals.”At Wembley, Tottenham won for just the second time at the national stadium since moving into their temporary home at the [Read More…]

Sep 172017
 
Pogba could be out for three months

LONDON: French international Paul Pogba could be out of action for three months, the Sunday Times reported on Sunday, dealing a huge blow to Manchester United. The hamstring injury suffered by the 24-year-old — an £89.3 million ($121 million, 105 million euros) signing from Juventus last year — after just 18 minutes in Tuesday’s Champions League match with Basel is worse than was thought originally according to a club source. The source said he faced sitting on the sidelines of anything from six to 12 weeks. “The injury is really bad,” a United source was quoted as saying by the newspaper.However, the club believe Pogba’s injury was a result of the player overdoing his personal training.“It’s not normal for a player respecting our training programme,” the source said.— Click for detailed story

Sep 152017
 
Ghayas Zahid first Pakistani-origin footballer to play in Champions League

Norway’s Ghayas Zahid has become the first footballer of Pakistani descent to feature in UEFA Champions League.The 22-year-old became the first Pakistani-origin footballer to play in the Champions League when he featured for APOEL FC in a group stage match against Real Madrid.Ghayas signed a four-year contract with the Cypriot football club APOEL FC, a famous professional football club based in Nicosia, Cyprus. The club is the most popular football team in Cyprus and so far, they are the most successful with an overall tally of 26 championships, 21 cups and 13 super cups. The Champions League is an annual continental club football competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations and contested by top-division European clubs.“It will be an exciting challenge,” said Ghayas, who is from Mortensrud locality in Oslo.He has played 128 matches and scored 38 goals for his club.His parents, Mohammad Zahid and Nazia Zahid, who migrated from Lala Musa, Pakistan in 1990s to Norway, told Geo News that their son’s passion and hard work and their prayers are behind this remarkable feat.God has rewarded Ghayas for his struggle, they said about their son’s participation in the Champions League.The proud parents shared some advice for other parents of Norwegian-Pakistani children: take care of their children’s affairs and pay full attention to their lives. Parents of Ghayas Zahid, Muhammad and Nazia Zahid  “We should not stop our children from pursuing choices for a good future,” they said.About football in Pakistan, they said Pakistan should also focus on [Read More…]

Sep 122017
 
Annoyed Mourinho warns United players against 'fantasy football'

MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho set the Champions League bar high for his Manchester United team after criticising them for trying to play “fantasy football” in a 3-0 win over Basel on Tuesday.Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford all scored their first Champions League goals as United eased past the Swiss side at Old Trafford.Mourinho, bidding to win the competition for a third time having taken Porto and Inter Milan all the way, accused his side of switching off after Lukaku’s goal put them 2-0 ahead shortly after the interval, having dominated the first half.“Three points are important when you start the group phase at home,” Mourinho, who took United to the Europa League title last season in his first campaign in charge, told BT Sport.”Until 2-0 we were very stable, with confidence and patience, with good choices, played quite well.””After that everything changed. We stopped to think, we stopped playing simple, we stopped making the right decisions on the pitch and we could have put ourselves in trouble.”“But they didn’t score. We tried to play fantasy football, tricks, and when you stop to play seriously I don’t like it. You gamble a bit. Maybe they felt the game was under control. But football is football, you have to respect opponents.”Basel did have some chances but never really threatened to punish United for some sloppy second-half passing.Mourinho, however, will know that those kind of mistakes will be punished by sides with more bite than the Swiss.Mourinho’s other concern was a hamstring [Read More…]

Aug 292017
 
Liverpool agree record deal to sign Keita

LONDON: Guinea international midfielder Naby Keita will join Premier League giants Liverpool next year after the English outfit agreed a reported club record deal of $62m with German side RB Leipzig. Liverpool will also reportedly pay an undisclosed premium for the 22-year-old, who scored eight goals in 31 league appearances last term to help Leipzig finish runners-up in the title race. “Liverpool Football Club can confirm they have reached an agreement with RB Leipzig for the future transfer of Naby Keita,” read the Liverpool statement.“The Reds have agreed a deal with the German club and the midfielder that will see the 22-year-old move to Anfield on July 1, 2018 following the conclusion of the current season.” Keita, who will be a pivotal figure in Leipzig’s maiden Champions League campaign this term, said his present side remained his immediate priority but he was delighted to be joining such a historic club. Click for detailed story

Aug 172017
 
Milan top challengers to Juve?s magnificent seven

MILAN: Juventus, beaten Champions League finalists twice in the past three seasons, begin the 2017-2018 season looking to extend their current record of six consecutive title wins in Italy’s Serie A. Here, AFP looks at the teams looking to stop Massimiliano Allegri’s men from securing a seventh consecutive league crown. AC Milan An impressive summer spending spree, which included long-time Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, has boosted hopes at the seven-time European champions who are now owned by a Chinese consortium. Coach Vincenzo Montella has also signed Portugal starlet Andre Silva (Porto), is reportedly on the verge of capturing Fiorentina’s Croatian ace Nikola Kalinic and will recoup M’Baye Niang after his loan spell at Watford ended. The capture of Argentinian Lucas Biglia from Lazio will add muscle to a Milan midfield that is set to feature the attacking talents of Hakan Calhanoglu, Suso, Giacomo Bonaventura and powerful Franck Kessie. Inter Milan Bold predictions last season unravelled even before Frank De Boer was sacked after 85 days and replaced by Stefano Pioli before he, in turn, was shown the door amid a late-season downward spiral that saw Inter slide from Champions League contention to seventh place. Former Roma supremo Luciano Spalletti is now at the helm. Inter’s acquisition of Slovakian central defender Milan Skriniar from Sampdoria, Fiorentina midfielders Matias Vecino and Borja Valero and Brazilian left-back Dalbert (Nice) adds weight to a squad that, on occasion last season, showed glimpses of title-winning ability. Napoli Still searching to emulate the heady days of [Read More…]

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