AS Roma chief: ‘We're hoping to spoil Mohamed Salah’s return in Liverpool showdown’

Roma’s players celebrate after overturning a three-goal defecit in a dramatic second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal match against Barcelona. AFP
Updated 25 April 2018

AS Roma chief: ‘We're hoping to spoil Mohamed Salah’s return in Liverpool showdown’

  • The Italian club sold Salah for just £36.9 million
  • Roma CEO Umberto Gandini says Salah can be the best, but hopes for Roma progress to the final

London: Had AS Roma waited just two more months, it is likely they would have been able to prise far more than £36.9 million ($55.4 million) from Liverpool for Mohamed Salah.
With his 41 goals in a remarkable debut season at Anfield, the Egyptian has become an absolute bargain given the subsequent fees paid for Neymar, who cost Paris Saint-Germain £200 million, and even Reds playmaker Philippe Coutinho, bought by Barcelona for £142 million.
But AS Roma chief executive Umberto Gandini admits hindsight was a luxury they could not afford at that time with possible Financial Fair Play penalties requiring them to conclude a sale by the end of June — and Salah eager to test himself again in the English Premier League after previous struggles at Chelsea.
And there are no regrets, he says, despite admitting Salah is destined to be a world-beater and now stands between his former club and a place in the Champions League final.
“Momo was fantastic with us, gave us a big help on and off the pitch in many aspects,” reflected Gandini ahead of Roma’s semifinal first-leg tie at Anfield tomorrow.
“Maybe he would have been worth more had we waited, but we were in a situation where we had to do the deal in certain limits and no one could anticipate the market would go crazy as it did.
“But also I think yes, he wanted to prove something in the Premier League again. He’s a very proud person and had a lot of improvements in the two seasons with us.

“But he wanted to have another chance in the Premier League and deserved it. He was an excellent person with us, a dedicated professional and loved by all in the team and the fans. He will get a great reception when we play them.
“He’s in a situation now where he’s having a gifted season — anything he tries goes well. If I have to say he exceeded all the expectations, then yes, he’s overachieving by far.”
But Gandini is convinced Salah, 25, can get even better. During 23 years with AC Milan, where he was a director, he witnessed a trophy-laden period, including three Champions League titles, and worked with legends such as Paolo Maldini, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka.
And Gandini told Arab News: “Momo can be at that best level. He’s proved it this season, he’s found consistency. This Liverpool team, this system is helping him blossom at the top level.
“He’s very unique. Someone like Kaka was more creative, but Momo is pretty much in the same class, wants to be one of the best in the world and deserves success.” Gandini, though, is hoping Roma can sour Salah’s reunion as the Serie A side bid to avenge a 1984 final defeat, where Liverpool upset them on penalties at their Stadio Olimpico home.
In 2005, Gandini suffered against the Reds with Milan as Liverpool famously came back from 3-0 down at halftime to claim success on spot-kicks in Istanbul.
“It’s part of the book of history,” he said. “With Milan, we had our revenge in 2007 and my account was settled. Now here’s the history of the Rome final in 1984. It’s what the club and city feels and we are now bonded for settling another account.”
Beating Barcelona by overturning a three-goal deficit in a dramatic last-eight second leg tie has certainly given the Giallorossi belief.
With Brazilian keeper Alisson — wanted by Liverpool and Real Madrid — striker Edin Dzeko and inspirational skipper Daniele De Rossi, Gandini said the squad has skill and spirit. “We have a great team of personalities and characters. De Rossi is one of the silent leaders but says the right words at the right time. For him after so long and the club it will be special to get to the final and win this trophy.
“Dzeko is a team player, fantastic. The way he played in Barcelona was a masterpiece.
“Alisson is in a class by himself in my opinion. I think he was born to be No. 1 in the world. With his calmness, quickness, dedication, he reminds me of Nelson Dida, another Brazilian I worked with at Milan. “It’s normal teams are linked, but he’s under contract and the club are not willing to let him go.”
And with plans approved for a new 55,000 stadium to be open by 2020, Roma want to keep their best players to challenge Europe’s elite.
“It’s a statement about what club president Mr.[James] Pallotta is doing with his ownership, it’s coming to fruition,” added Gandini.
“On one side we are on par with these teams, but the big, big difference is in terms of budget, to buy players and investment.
“When you look at the number of global brands in football they are concentrated on teams who are performing on the pitch. Hopefully we can grow more. We cannot be everyone’s favorite team, but can be the second favorite team.”

FASTFACTS

AS Roma in Europe

- Roma have only ever won one European trophy, the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1961. - Roma's heaviest defeats in Europe were both 7-1 - at home to Bayern Munich in 2014 and away to Manchester United in 2007. - Roma's nickname is the 'Giallorossi' - the 'Yellow and Reds'.


Young scores 48 points, Hawks beat Bucks 116-113 in Game 1

Updated 24 June 2021

Young scores 48 points, Hawks beat Bucks 116-113 in Game 1

  • The Hawks handed the Bucks their first home loss of the postseason
  • Game 2 is on Friday night in MilwaukeeAtlanta Hawks guard Trae Young puts up a shot against Jrue Holiday and Bobby Portis of the Milwaukee Bucks guard on June 23, 2021. (Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)

MILWAUKEE: Trae Young scored 48 points, Clint Capela converted a go-ahead putback with 29.8 seconds left and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-113 on Wednesday night to open the Eastern Conference finals.
The Hawks improved to 6-2 in road playoff games this year and handed the Bucks their first home loss of the postseason.
“I felt we’ve built ourselves to be able to play on the road,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “I’ve told them that. They’re built for this.”
Game 2 is Friday night in Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Bucks. Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.
Young was two points off his career high.
“We keep fighting,” Young said. “It’s been fun playing with this group. We just keep fighting to the end, no matter what the score is. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep fighting.”
John Collins added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks. Capela had 12 points and 19 rebounds.
Khris Middleton missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Although Middleton scored 15 points, he shot 6 of 23 and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.
“Offensively, it didn’t seem like we moved very well,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Antetokounmpo scored the first six points in a 9-0 run that turned a 98-96 deficit into a 105-98 advantage with 4:18 left. Holiday capped that spurt by sinking a 3-pointer after Antetokounmpo got the rebound on his own missed free throw.
But the Hawks scored the next five points, and the game went back and forth from there.
Middleton missed a pull-up jumper with about 43 seconds left with Milwaukee up 111-110. Young missed a driving layup attempt, but Capela grabbed his 19th rebound and scored to put the Hawks ahead for good.
After Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton shot an air-ball on a 3-pointer, Young made two free throws with 17.3 seconds remaining. Antetokounmpo made a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds left, but Young brought the lead back to three and closed the scoring by sinking two free throws of his own with 4.6 seconds remaining.

TIP-INS
Hawks: Bogdan Bogdanovic started but clearly was at less than full strength as he deals with a sore knee. He scored four points and shot 1 of 6. ... Cam Reddish was available to play for the first time in four months but didn’t play. Reddish hadn’t played since Feb. 21 due to a right Achilles injury. Hawks coach Nate McMillan had said before the game the Hawks would cautious with Reddish by keeping him behind Tony Snell and Solomon Hill in the rotation. “We haven’t had the opportunity for him to get in any five-on-five since he’s been off,” McMillan said. “He’s been playing the last week or so some two-on-two, three-on-three.” … Atlanta is the third team since 1984 to make the conference finals despite having a losing record at the All-Star break. The others were the 2012 Boston Celtics and the 1984 Phoenix Suns. The Hawks were 16-20 at the break.
Bucks: Bobby Portis came off the bench with 4 1/2minutes left in the first quarter and ended up with 11 points and eight rebounds. Portis hadn’t played a single minute in the last three games of the Nets series. ... Milwaukee fell to 11-3 in playoff games at Fiserv Forum. … This is the fifth time the Bucks and Hawks have faced off in the playoffs and their first postseason matchup since the Hawks won 4-3 in a 2010 opening-round series. They’ve split the four previous matchups.
 


Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death

Updated 23 June 2021

Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death

  • A jury unanimously found Constable Benjamin Monk guilty of manslaughter but cleared him of murder
  • Monk used a stun gun for 33 seconds against Former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson six times longer than standard

LONDON: A British police officer was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter in the death of Dalian Atkinson, a former professional soccer player who died after being Tasered and kicked in the head.
A jury unanimously found Constable Benjamin Monk guilty of manslaughter but cleared him of murder.
Former Aston Villa star Atkinson, 48, died in August 2016 after police were called to his father’s home in Telford, central England. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital and died around an hour after officers used a Taser to subdue him. Prosecutors said Monk used a stun gun for 33 seconds against Atkinson — more than six times longer than was standard.
Monk, 43, said he had been afraid for his life after Atkinson, who appeared to be having a mental health crisis, made threats and smashed a glass door pane. He claimed he acted in lawful self-defense, first using a stun gun eight times and then aiming kicks at the athlete’s shoulder. His boot hit Atkinson at least twice in the head.
The officer was convicted after a six-week trial. Atkinson’s family members said in a statement they were “hugely relieved that the whole country now knows the truth about how Dalian died.”
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court are still deliberating on an assault charge against another police officer who was Monk’s girlfriend at the time.
It is extremely rare for police in Britain to be convicted of manslaughter or murder over deaths in custody or during contact with the public. According to the charity Inquest, the last such conviction was in 1986.
Atkinson was a forward who played in England’s top division for Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa. During a Villa game against Wimbledon in October 1992 he scored one of the Premier League’s most famous goals when he ran from inside his own half, evaded a number of challenges, then chipped the ball over the goalkeeper.
He scored 20 Premier League goals for Villa and also netted in the 1994 League Cup final in the team’s 3-1 win over Manchester United. Atkinson also had spells with Real Sociedad in Spain, Fenerbahce in Turkey and in South Korea.

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Suns sink Clippers with last-gasp Ayton dunk in see-saw thriller, take 2-0 lead in NBA West finals

Updated 24 June 2021

Suns sink Clippers with last-gasp Ayton dunk in see-saw thriller, take 2-0 lead in NBA West finals

  • Devin Booker shook off a nose injury, returning to the game o power the Suns to victory with another superb offensive performance
  • The Clippers were playing their fourth consecutive playoff game without forward Kawhi Leonard, who is out with a sprained right knee

LOS ANGELES: Deandre Ayton made the go-ahead catch and dunk with one second left and a bloodied Devin Booker scored 20 points as the Phoenix Suns shocked the Los Angeles Clippers 104-103 in game two of their NBA playoff series.
Booker shook off a cruel clash of heads that left him bloodied and bruised, returning to the game as the Suns took down the Clippers in a see-saw fourth quarter to win their ninth straight and seize a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
"It was like a Muhammad Ali fight with haymaker after haymaker going back and forth," said Suns guard Cameron Payne, who finished with a career-high 29 points.
Ayton scored the eventual game winner in a thrilling finish as the Suns perfectly executed on their final possession of the game.
The play started with an inbounds pass by Suns forward Jae Crowder who lobbed it directly to the front of the basket where a leaping Ayton was waiting. He caught and then dunked the ball in one motion to give to give the Suns a 104-103 lead with 0.7 seconds left.
Clippers Paul George then put up a desperation shot at the buzzer but it hit the front of the rim and bounced harmlessly away to end the game in front of the crowd of 16,600 at Phoenix Suns Arena.
"Jae made a great pass," said Ayton, who finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds. "I am glad it counted. We just wanted to finish the game strong."
If game one in the series was the feel-out game then game two was the knockout punch. Booker had his nose bloodied late in the third quarter when he accidentally butted heads with Clippers' Pat Beverley.
The 24-year-old Booker needed two stitches and may have broken his nose. But rather than let it end his night, Booker returned to power his team to victory with another superb offensive performance.
"They put a lot of pressure on D-Brook. I hope his nose isn't broken," said Ayton.
Payne raised the bar to make 12 of 24 shots from the field and had nine assists with no turnovers. He was starting at guard for the second straight game with Chris Paul out after reportedly testing positive for Covid-19.
George scored 26 points and Reggie Jackson added 19 for the Clippers, who also fell behind 2-0 in their previous series against the top seeded Utah Jazz before rallying to win.
George missed a pair of free throws with 8.2 seconds left that could have put the game out of reach for the Clippers.
"We had a chance to win the game," said Clippers head coach Ty Lue. "We played, we didn't win this game, it is unfortunate. It happens.
"We got to go home and take care of business."
Game three is Thursday in Los Angeles.
The Clippers were playing their fourth consecutive playoff game without forward Kawhi Leonard, who is out with a sprained right knee.


WHO concerned about eased virus curbs around Euro 2020

Updated 22 June 2021

WHO concerned about eased virus curbs around Euro 2020

  • WHO is concerned about easing of restrictions in some of the host countries, said a WHO official
  • Britain Tuesday said over 60,000 spectators will be allowed at London’s Wembley stadium semi-finals and final

COPENHAGEN: The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it was concerned about the easing of Covid-19 restrictions by nations hosting Euro 2020 matches, noting that some were already seeing rising cases.
“WHO is concerned about easing of restrictions in some of the host countries,” Robb Butler, an executive director at WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, said in an emailed statement to AFP.
“A few of the stadiums hosting the tournament are now increasing the number of spectators allowed,” Butler said.
The UN health agency did not single out any cities, but Britain announced Tuesday that more than 60,000 spectators will be allowed at the Wembley stadium in London for the semifinals and final of the tournament.
Originally, it was intended to limit the crowd to 40,000.
UEFA has also been in talks with the UK government to ease virus-related travel restrictions to allow up to 2,500 VIPs to attend the final on July 11.
In some “host cities, Covid-19 cases are already on the rise in the area where matches will be held,” said Butler.
In areas where infection rates are on the rise, WHO Europe called on the cities concerned to act quickly.
“Learning from experience, we must act fast on signals showing increasing cases.
“Expanding testing and sequencing; stepping up contact tracing; and building very high vaccine uptake fast among those vulnerable and most at risk,” he added.
In Denmark, 29 cases have been detected in connection with the Euro games taking place in Copenhagen.
The reported infections involved people who were either already ill during the match or were infected during the game, Anette Lykke Petri, a health authority official, told a Tuesday press briefing.
“In theory, there could be more people infected,” she added.
In Denmark, the permitted audience has also recently been increased to 25,000, from 16,000. The higher number was first applied for last Thursday’s game between Denmark and Belgium.
In Budapest, games at the Puskas Arena, which has a capacity of 68,000, have been played to a full stadium.
UEFA had also stripped two cities, Dublin and Bilbao, from hosting games in the tournament because the capacities allowed were too low.
Among the host cities, Russia’s St. Petersburg in particular has reported an increase in the number of cases in recent days.
Meanwhile the trend has been downward in Spain’s Seville and in Rome, Italian authorities assure that no cases of Covid-19 linked to the competition have been detected.
While the situation across Europe has improved over the past two months, the WHO has nevertheless urged continued caution.
“Although we have come far, we have not come far enough,” Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, warned in early June.
Vaccine uptake was still too low to protect the region from a resurgence, he said.


Younis Khan quits as Pakistan batting coach days before tour 

Updated 22 June 2021

Younis Khan quits as Pakistan batting coach days before tour 

  • Khan was appointed last November on a two-year contract until the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia in 2022 
  • Pakistan squad is set to leave Friday for three one-day internationals and three T20s in England 

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan captain Younis Khan has quit as the national team’s batting coach.
The Pakistan Cricket Board declined to comment on the reasons Khan quit just days before the national team is due to leave for England to play a limited-overs series.
Khan was appointed last November on a two-year contract until the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia in 2022.
“It is sad to lose an expert of the stature and experience of Younis Khan,” PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said in a statement Tuesday. “Following a series of discussions, we both have reluctantly but mutually and amicably agreed that it was time to move in different directions.”
The PCB official said that the cricket board looked forward to Khan “sharing his vast knowledge with the emerging cricketers.”
The Pakistan squad is set to leave Friday for three one-day internationals and three T20s in England. Pakistan will later tour West Indies for five T20s and two test matches.
The PCB said the team will be without batting coach in England and a decision would be made on a replacement for the tour of the West Indies.