20 years on, Solskjaer hopes for another Camp Nou comeback

Solskjaer will be back in Barcelona’s stadium on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 16 April 2019
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20 years on, Solskjaer hopes for another Camp Nou comeback

  • Solskjaer said after the first-leg loss that getting past Barcelona would be a “greater achievement.”
  • Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said the thing he “most fears is the spirit” of Solskjaer’s team

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows all about overturning Champions League deficits at the Camp Nou.
Twenty years after scoring a last-gasp winner there for Manchester United in the final against Bayern Munich, Solskjaer will be back in Barcelona’s stadium on Tuesday looking to mastermind an unlikely comeback for the English team from the touchline.
United arguably has the toughest task of the eight quarterfinalists heading into the second legs, having lost 1-0 to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona at Old Trafford last week.
Yet that was the score line facing United in 1999 after Mario Basler had put Bayern in front in the sixth minute in what proved to be one of the most dramatic soccer matches in a generation.
United engineered the turnaround with two goals in injury time — the first from Teddy Sheringham, and the second from Solskjaer.
During his four months as United manager, the former Norway striker has made a point of reminiscing about the old days at the club, when no deficit felt insurmountable. Comebacks and late goals were a regular thing under his then-manager and mentor, Alex Ferguson.
“The memories from Paris will help the players. It shows we can turn things around,” Solskjaer said on Monday before leading United’s training session at Camp Nou.
“People have said to me that it has to be our year because of 20 years ago, I used to play with the number 20, we are back in Camp Nou ... but to go through we have to deserve it. We can’t say we are just going to rely on faith.”
United has beaten Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain away this season, but Solskjaer said after the first-leg loss that getting past Barcelona would be a “greater achievement.”
Not helping United’s cause is the six-day turnaround between the two games. While Barcelona fielded a reserve side in the Spanish league on Saturday, Solskjaer couldn’t afford to rest too many of his first-team players for the match against West Ham in the Premier League the same day.
United is still fighting to finish in the top four, while Barcelona is close to wrapping up another Spanish title.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said the thing he “most fears is the spirit” of Solskjaer’s team.
“United has something special in the final minutes,” Valverde said on Monday, while adding that past glories don’t dictate future outcomes.
“We all chose examples from our past that can give us a boost. That is experience. But at the end, I believe that you write your own destiny. It is not given to you. You have to seek it out. And tomorrow we will try to find ours.”
And there is one bizarre statistic that will be giving United fans hope as they make their way to Spain.
Messi, to many the greatest soccer player ever, hasn’t scored in his last 12 games at the quarterfinal stage — stretching back to 2013.

Juventus v Ajax (1-1 on aggregate)
Juventus had the luxury of resting most of its regular players at the weekend. Ajax didn’t, and may have paid a costly price.
For the 2-1 loss at Spal in Serie A on Saturday, Juventus had just two players in its starting lineup that began the 1-1 draw in Amsterdam. Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t even on the bench.
Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Ajax had nine of its starting XI from the first leg in the 6-2 victory over Excelsior. One of them, star midfielder Frenkie de Jong, limped off with a hamstring problem in the first half.
Ronaldo was rested before the second leg of the round of 16. He then scored a hat trick against Atletico Madrid to see Juventus overturn a first-leg deficit.

Manchester City v Tottenham (0-1 on aggregate)
Is City’s underwhelming record in the Champions League going to continue?
One appearance in the semifinals is a poor return considering the huge investment from the club’s Abu Dhabi ownership since 2008, and City is desperate to get through.
Without an away goal from the first leg, City will be in trouble should Tottenham score in the second leg at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. Tottenham is without the injured Harry Kane, but has still managed to achieve good results whenever the striker has been out in recent seasons.
City could be without holding midfielder Fernandinho, who missed the 3-1 win against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday through injury.
Tottenham has never reached the semifinals of the Champions League.

Porto v Liverpool (0-2 on aggregate)
Mohamed Salah looks back to his best after brilliant goals in successive weeks in the Premier League — against Southampton and then against Chelsea on Sunday — but he might count himself fortunate to be playing the second leg against Porto on Wednesday.
Match officials missed Salah’s studs-first lunge on Danilo near the end of the first leg at Anfield, which could easily have resulted in a red card and suspension.
Instead, Liverpool has its front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane intact for the trip to Portugal. The last time the teams met in the Estadio do Dragao, Liverpool won 5-0 in the first leg of the round of 16, with that trio scoring all the goals.
Porto captain Hector Herrera is back from suspension, as is center back Pepe.


Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 33 min 2 sec ago
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Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Tazkarti will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.

Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully. 

Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.

In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game. 

Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.

Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.

Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).

While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.

“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.

“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.

Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.

“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.

“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.

Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.

An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”

Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.

“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”