Friday, 24 November 2017

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Senegal on Friday sealed a return to the FIFA World Cup for the first time since their 2002 debut thanks to a 2-0 win over South Africa in World Cup qualifying African Group D.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Diafra Sakho scored the opener for the visitors in Polokwane, before a somewhat fortuitous Thamsanqa Mkhize own goal sealed the three points for the Teranga Lions.

The visitors are now five points ahead of nearest Group D challengers Burkina Faso with one game remaining.

Senegal stunned the world by beating World Cup holders France in their first ever game at the global finals in 2002.

If they are to produce performances to match that at Russia 2018, it is likely that Liverpool’s Sadio Mane will be the catalyst.

Unsurprisingly, Mane was integral to the victory that booked their World Cup return, with a wonderfully incisive through ball teeing up Sakho for the opener.

2010 World Cup hosts South Africa played their part – and even dominated possession for spells – in a lively match, with Lebogang Manyama hitting the crossbar.

But the second goal, just before half-time, knocked the wind out of their sails.

Head coach Aliou Cisse was the Senegalese captain during their 2002 debut, which saw them follow up that remarkable opening win against France to reach the quarter-finals.

The former midfielder will be hoping he can inspire them to achieve similarly superlative heights next year in Russia. (NAN)

Posted On Friday, 10 November 2017 21:29 Written by

Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata condemned Jose Mourinho to another damaging defeat against his former club as the champions clinched a crucial 1-0 win over Manchester United on Sunday.

Morata rewarded an enterprising display from Antonio Conte’s side when the Spain striker headed home early in the second half at Stamford Bridge.

After losing twice at Chelsea in his first season as United boss, Mourinho, who won three English titles in two spells with the Blues, is growing accustomed to leaving west London empty-handed.

This was an especially painful setback for Mourinho as a second defeat in their last three Premier League games leaves second-placed United lagging eight points behind leaders Manchester City.

United haven’t won at Chelsea since October 2012, a barren run that now stretches to eight matches.

While Mourinho licks his wounds, Chelsea manager Conte can take heart from a vibrant performance that keeps his fourth-placed team nine points behind City.

Amid talk Conte was in danger of losing the support of his players over his intense training regime, Chelsea’s third successive league win was well timed for the Italian in the week when demanding Blues owner Roman Abramovich made one of his ominous visits to the training ground.

Having reportedly torn into his players during a lengthy inquest into Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat at Roma, Conte wielded the axe as David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger were dropped.

Just as significantly, France midfielder N’Golo Kante returned to provide his steadying influence after missing six games with a hamstring injury.

In need of a fast start to set the tone, Chelsea thought they’d taken the lead when Marcos Alonso’s cross was turned into his own net by United defender Phil Jones, only for referee Anthony Taylor to disallow the goal for a push by Morata.

United should have been ahead themselves moments later when Ashley Young’s cross exposed early fault lines in Conte’s revamped defence, but the unmarked Marcus Rashford headed over from close range.

Tiemoue Bakayoko was equally profligate at the other end, the Chelsea midfielder firing wide from Davide Zappacosta’s cross.

Without a goal in his last six appearances, United striker Romelu Lukaku was searching for the blistering form that followed his pre-season move from Everton.

But the Belgian was largely anonymous and even when he turned on the edge of the Chelsea area for a low shot, Thibaut Courtois was able to push it away.

Rough treatment
Eden Hazard led the Chelsea response with a stinging 25-yard strike, forcing David De Gea into an agile stop.

Mourinho has been criticised for adopting a cautious gameplan in big matches recently and, while he seemed more willing to let United go forward this time, he must have been furious with the way Chelsea were slicing open his defence.

Andreas Christensen should have punished more slack United marking when he headed over from a Fabregas corner, before Conte finished the half raging at the officials after Antonio Valencia barged over Hazard.

Hazard came in for more rough treatment after the interval, with Jones and Ander Herrara both booked for fouling the Chelsea playmaker.

Hazard could have exacted immediate revenge when he found himself with just De Gea to beat from close range, but the Belgian’s hurried shot was easy for the United keeper.

Hazard didn’t need to rue that miss as Chelsea’s pressure was rewarded in the 55th minute.

United had only themselves to blame as Cesar Azpilicueta was allowed to advance unchecked down the right before whipping his cross towards Morata.

Left untouched by the flat-footed Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, Morata had time and space to bury his header past De Gea for his first goal in seven games.

Mourinho sent on Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini, yet there was little threat from United until Fellaini squandered their last chance, shooting straight at Courtois in the closing minutes.

Posted On Monday, 06 November 2017 00:07 Written by

Tottenham Hotspur’s in-form midfielder Dele Alli has had to pull out of the England squad for the upcoming friendlies against Germany and Brazil.

Alli’s two goals fired Spurs to a famous 3-1 Champions League success over titleholders Real Madrid at Wembley last Wednesday.

But the 21-year-old was ruled out of his club’s Premier League encounter against Crystal Palace on Sunday with a hamstring injury, and the English Football Association confirmed the setback would also keep him out of this month’s World Cup warm-ups

The FA announced on Twitter: “Squad update: the #ThreeLions will be without @dele_official for this month’s games. Get well soon, Dele!”.

Alli’s absence means manager Gareth Southgate now has 24 players for the Wembley double-header.

Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Joe Gomez have been called up by England for the first time, but Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chris Smalling are among those to have missed out.

England host Germany next Friday and Brazil four days later.

Posted On Sunday, 05 November 2017 14:41 Written by

Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning last season saw him win the 2017 Best FIFA men’s player of the year trophy as Real Madrid dominated a star-studded awards ceremony in London on Monday.

The Portuguese ace, who has scored 44 goals in just 48 games for club and country so far this calendar year, played a major role in Real winning both La Liga and the Champions League.

He scored twice in a 4-1 win over Juventus in the continental final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium 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.

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 the 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.

“Thanks a lot for voting for me,” said the former Manchester United favourite after receiving his trophy from Argentina great Diego Maradona and Brazil’s Ronaldo at the London Palladium theatre.

“I mention Leo and Neymar, great to be here. Real Madrid supporters, my team-mates, my coach, they all support me all year.

“We are in England for the first time and I win consecutive awards,” he added. “This is a great moment for me. I have fans all over the world.”

Zidane won out ahead of Chelsea’s Antonio Conte and Juventus’s Massimiliano Allegri to be crowned men’s coach of the year after becoming the first man to oversee a successful defence of the European Cup in the Champions League era.

“I’d like to thank all of the players for making this possible,” said Zidane. “This is a very special prize.”

Real’s superb campaign was recognised in a FIFPro team that featured Ronaldo and club-mates Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos.

The XI also included FIFA’s goalkeeper of the year, Gianluigi Buffon.

AC Milan’s Leonardo Bonucci and PSG’s Dani Alves were in the defence, with Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta in a side also featuring Messi and Neymar.

Giroud wins best goal

Juventus and Italy shot-stopper Buffon topped a three-strong shortlist for the goalkeeper award ahead of Real’s Keylor Navas and Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer.

“It is a great honour to receive this award at my age,” said the 39-year-old Buffon.

“I would like to finish with a fantastic victory for Italy next summer (at the 2018 World Cup in Russia).”

Monday also saw the Puskas Award for the best goal of 2017 go to Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud.

The France striker received the award named in honour of Hungary great Ferenc Puskas for a spectacular ‘scorpion-kick’ against Crystal Palace in January.

“I’m delighted to receive this trophy today in front of legends of football,” said Giroud.

The Frenchman’s flicked volley with his left foot that went in off the crossbar won ahead of goals from Venezuela’s Deyna Castellanos, 18, and South African goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke.

Meanwhile tournament hosts the Netherlands’ achievement in winning their first major female football title, the 2017 Women’s European Championship, was recognised with Women’s Coach of the Year and Player of the Year awards for Sarina Wiegman and Lieke Martens respectively.

Supporters of Celtic won the Fan Award for the way they marked the 50th anniversary of the ‘Lisbon Lions’ European Cup triumph that saw the Glasgow side become the first British club to lift the trophy after they beat Inter Milan in the Portuguese capital.

The Fair Play award went to Francis Kone for saving the life of goalkeeper Martin Berkovec, who nearly suffocated as a result of swallowing his tongue during a Czech league match in February.

Voting for the bulk of the awards was equally weighted between national team captains and coaches, media and fans.

Posted On Tuesday, 24 October 2017 03:12 Written by

A Harry Kane double inspired Tottenham as they punished a poor defensive performance by Liverpool at Wembley to move level on points with second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League.

Kane scored the opener after four minutes as Kieran Trippier's chipped pass went over Dejan Lovren's head and the England striker took the ball around Simon Mignolet, who had rushed from his goal, to score from 12 yards.

Eight minutes later Spurs doubled their lead as Hugo Lloris' long throw was not dealt with by Lovren, who missed a header on the halfway line and Kane was able to square to Son Heung-min to slot home.

Liverpool got a goal back as Jordan Henderson's wonderful cross-field pass found Mohamed Salah, who outpaced the Tottenham defence and finished off the inside of the post with a scuffed shot.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp responded by taking off Lovren for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after 31 minutes, but Dele Alli added a third for Spurs just before half-time as he lashed in a volley from 18 yards.

Kane got his second in the 56th minute as he followed up a rebound from Jan Vertonghen's shot after Mignolet failed to clear a free-kick.

Liverpool's best chance in the second half fell to Philippe Coutinho but his shot from the edge of the area was pushed on to the crossbar by Lloris with a one-handed save.

They dropped to ninth in the table - 12 points behind leaders Manchester City - while Spurs prepare for a meeting with United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The game also saw a Premier League record attendance of 80,827.

Kane breaks Wembley duck

Despite Kane's 15 goals for club and country this season, one question mark over the 24-year-old had been his lack of league goals at Spurs' temporary home.

Those demons can now be put to bed as Kane finally scored under the Wembley arch, with his 29th shot at the stadium.

Ballon d'Or nominee Kane worked tirelessly in attack and caused the Liverpool defence nightmares with his movement, hold-up play and composure in front of goal.

It was his fourth double in the league this season and he has now scored 45 goals in 2017 for Spurs and England.

One slight worry for Tottenham was when manager Mauricio Pochettino brought the striker off in the 88th minute with what looked like a hamstring problem.

Liverpool defensive woes continue

This fixture was Klopp's first Premier League game as a manager on 17 October, 2015.

Liverpool have conceded 16 goals in the league this season, their worst defensive record after nine top-flight games since 1964-65.

They have struggled most on the road, conceding 15 goals, the most in the league this season.

Defensive performances like Sunday will make the failed pursuit of Southampton and Netherlands Virgil van Dijk in the summer hurt even more.

Lovren will be singled out for his errors, but even after his substitution and Joe Gomez moved to centre-back alongside Joel Matip, Liverpool still looked a shambles.

Mignolet is another who will have nightmares about the game, at fault for both of Kane's goals.

The Belgium international has made 13 errors leading to goals in the league since making his Liverpool debut in 2013, three more than anyone else.

Posted On Sunday, 22 October 2017 18:39 Written by

Jupp Heynckes made a perfect start to his fourth spell as Bayern Munich coach with a 5-0 thrashing of Freiburg at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

An own goal from Julian Schuster put Bayern in front on seven minutes, and a flying header from Kingsley Coman doubled the lead shortly before half-time.

A fine strike from Thiago Alcantara put the reigning champions 3-0 up on 63 minutes, just moments after they had been denied a penalty by VAR. Further goals from Robert Lewandowski and Joshua Kimmich completed a perfect start to Heynckes’ fourth reign.

The win saw Bayern move within two points of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga table, before the league leaders’ match against RB Leipzig later on Saturday.

Heynckes’ men are two points clear of third-placed Hoffenheim, who twice threw away the lead in a 2-2 draw at home to Augsburg.

After Michael Gregoritsch had cancelled out Benjamin Huebner’s opener 15 minutes from time, Mark Uth restored the lead with a curling strike into the top corner for Hoffenheim.

Augsburg, though, equalised once again in the 89th minute, with Kevin Vogt deflecting a Jeffrey Gouweleeuw cross into his own net.

At the other end of the table, Hamburg could celebrate scoring their first goal since August despite losing 3-2 to Mainz.

Alexandru Maxim’s second-minute opener for Mainz was quickly cancelled out by Walace, the Brazilian’s equaliser ending a five-game goal drought for Hamburg.

Stefan Bell restored the lead shortly after half-time, however, before a Christian Mathenia error allowed Danny Latza to add a third. A late penalty from Sejad Salihovic was not enough for Hamburg to avoid defeat.

Elsewhere, disciplinary mistakes saw Hertha Berlin suffer a 2-0 defeat by Schalke 04.

Genki Haraguchi was sent off before half-time, while Vladimir Darida conceded a penalty after the break. Leon Goretzka scored from the spot, before Guido Burgstaller added a second on 78 minutes.

Schalke moved up to fifth, after Hanover 96 were defeated 2-1 by a late Ante Rebic winner against Eintracht Frankfurt.

A Salif Sane header had cancelled out Sebastien Haller’s early goal in the first half, but Rebic struck on 90 minutes to inflict a first home defeat on Hanover this season.

Posted On Saturday, 14 October 2017 21:36 Written by

David Moyes says he did not want Marouane Fellaini to be his first Manchester United signing and tried to buy Nemanja Matic first.

Fellaini moved to Old Trafford on deadline day in 2013 at the end of a summer that had seen Moyes replace Sir Alex Ferguson as manager.

A calamitous transfer window got Moyes' reign off to a rocky start and he was sacked before the end of the season.

He told the BBC: "I never wanted Marouane Fellaini to be my first Manchester United signing, that is the last thing me and my staff wanted.

"We looked at Nemanja Matic first. He did not do well at Chelsea and had gone back to Benfica.

"He was a consideration and we did need a more defensive type who could make passes from the middle of the park. We did not get a lot of the things we hoped for and got Fellaini on deadline day."

Marouane Fellaini played under David Moyes at Everton and Manchester United.

Fellaini was the only signing Moyes managed to make in his first summer at United.

But the former Everton manager also said he tried to hijack Gareth Bale's move from Tottenham to Real Madrid and almost convinced Cesc Fabregas to leave Barcelona.

He added: "I spoke to Gareth Bale a couple of times and tried to convince him to join us, we even offered Tottenham more money but he had his heart set on joining Real Madrid.

"I spoke to Cesc Fabregas on the phone too and he was not sure of his place in the Barcelona team. He said: 'I will join you if I do not start my first game of the season at Barca' ... and he did start.

"They were the only two who looked like Manchester United players.

"If Sir Alex Ferguson took over from Sir Alex Ferguson he would have found it tough."

Posted On Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:59 Written by

Manchester United have received an injury boost after a scan on Romelu Lukaku's ankle revealed no fracture or ligament damage.

Lukaku was checked over at hospital in Brussels on Monday while on international duty with Belgium after picking up the problem in training with United on Friday.

After being given pain-killing injections, the striker passed a fitness test on Saturday morning before being allowed to play against Crystal Palace. He was able to complete 90 minutes and scored in the 4-0 win -- his 11th goal in 10 games since moving to Old Trafford.

However, after joining up with his international teammates at the Belgian Football Centre on Monday afternoon, he missed training with the rest of the Roberto Martinez's squad.

A scan on his ankle revealed no significant damage and the 24-year-old is set to stay with the Belgium squad ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo on Saturday and Cyprus in Brussels on Tuesday. 

Belgium officials are confident Lukaku will be fit to face Bosnia and Herzegovina but he will follow an individual training programme this week.

Belgium are top of Group H and have already qualified for next summer's World Cup in Russia.

United manager Jose Mourinho will hope Lukaku comes through the international break unscathed with a crucial run of fixtures to come in October and November.

Three of United's next four Premier League games are against Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea. The run starts with a trip to Anfield on Oct. 14.

Provided he is fit, it will be a first opportunity for Lukaku to prove he is capable of scoring United's goals in big games.

Romelu Lukaku picked up the ankle problem in training with Manchester United on Friday..

But after a blistering start with his new club following his £75 million move from Everton, Juan Mata insists Lukaku has already surpassed expectations.

"It's a lot of goals, especially when you come to a new environment," said Mata, after scoring his first goal of the season against Palace. "I knew he would score a lot but I didn't know he would do it so quick, that's true.

"He gives a lot more to the team too but for a striker it's important to score. He has started really well and he has been a key part to our good start to the season.

"I don't know how many goals he has been scoring during his career but when he was at Anderlecht he was already scoring 20 per season. He just needed confidence and I think he got it in Everton and became a more experienced and better player.

"It's not easy to come to United and reach expectations but he is doing more than people expected and that is great for us."

 

Posted On Wednesday, 04 October 2017 03:19 Written by

Argentina's team doctor says he believes Sergio Aguero will be out of action for six weeks after breaking a rib in a car crash.

The Manchester City striker was a passenger in a taxi last week when the driver lost control of the vehicle and hit a column on the side of the road.

After he was examined by City doctors on Friday, a source told ESPN FC the club believes he could be back within two to four weeks, but Argentina's Donato Villani was not nearly as optimistic.

"Kun [Aguero] can't leave his house, he can't get in or out of his car," Villani told TYC Sports after visiting the player in England. "To be honest, to me he didn't look good because he really wanted to be [with the national team]."

"He is not in very good spirits because he was determined to come here and play. This incident, which is totally not his fault, leaves him out for the two [Argentina] qualifying matches because he will be a month and a half without playing."

Such a timeline would rule Aguero -- goal away from equalling Manchester City's all-time scoring record -- out for Man City's Champions League match at Napoli on Nov. 1 and the Premier League clash against Arsenal four days later.

It could also prevent him from joining up with Argentina for at least the first leg of the final World Cup playoff against New Zealand, should the Albiceleste fail to improve on their current fifth-placed standing in the CONMEBOL table this week.

Posted On Wednesday, 04 October 2017 03:17 Written by

Jose Mourinho says he has ample options in his Manchester United squad to cope without injured midfielder Paul Pogba as Wayne Rooney prepares to return to Old Trafford.

Pogba is widely expected to be out of action for between a month and six weeks after damaging his hamstring just 18 minutes into Tuesday’s 3-0 Champions League victory over Basel.

That would force him to miss France’s World Cup qualifiers against Bulgaria and Belarus in early October, which they need to win to guarantee a place at the finals in Russia.

But Mourinho’s refusal to put a timescale on the midfielder’s absence may yet give national team coach Didier Deschamps reason for hope.

Marouane Fellaini, who replaced Pogba as a substitute against Basel, is likely to step into the starting line-up for Sunday’s Premier League home match against Everton, with Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick also in contention.

Mourinho would not elaborate on suggestions that Pogba had aggravated a long-term hamstring problem, or claims that the midfielder has been working with a personal trainer against club advice.

The United manager would only say he expects Pogba, the club’s £89 million ($121 million, 101 million euros) record signing, to be out for “a few matches”.

“I just know that it’s a muscular injury and he’s out for the weekend match,” said Mourinho. “That’s the only one I’m thinking about. I don’t think further than that. So for me, it’s simple and objective that he’s not playing this weekend.

“I don’t know if it’s the same one. I just know it’s a hamstring.”

Rooney return
Pogba was out for three weeks in March with a hamstring issue and it is understood he was given instructions by United’s medical staff on how to strengthen the muscle to ward off further problems.

But the midfielder is believed to have been getting treatment from a personal trainer, leading to fears that it might have made him more vulnerable to injury.

Pogba is set to miss United’s league games against Everton, Southampton and Crystal Palace, plus next Wednesday’s third-round League Cup tie against Burton and the Champions League trip to CSKA Moscow on September 27.

He also faces a fight to be back in time for his side’s Premier League trip to Liverpool on October 14 — but Mourinho is certain that United will manage.

The manager said: “We have players waiting for an opportunity because we started the season really well and we had one match per week so there was no need to rest players and no need for changes.

“Honestly, we miss Pogba and we need him but we have good players. Herrera, Fellaini, Carrick, they are waiting for a real chance to start matches. And they are ready. This is also our way of things.

“We lost important players last season at crucial moments and we were not crying or getting excuse. That’s just football.”

Sunday’s match will see Wayne Rooney return to Old Trafford for the first time since leaving Manchester United for Everton in July.

Mourinho described the former England captain as a “legend” but urged United fans not to make him feel too comfortable.

“I think he will get the welcome that he deserves,” he said. “Sometimes in this country the word legend comes too easily, but that’s not the case here. He is a legend of this club.

“He is one of the most important players in the history of Manchester United. The stadium will show him the respect he deserves before and after the match, not during the match.”

Posted On Saturday, 16 September 2017 00:56 Written by
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