FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Morose Jose Mourinho and fantastic fans

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Things are looking pretty bleak for Jose Mourinho after a poor start to the season. (AFP)
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Updated 28 August 2018

FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Morose Jose Mourinho and fantastic fans

  • Can Mourinho hold on to his job at Manchester United?
  • Carlo Ancelotti picks up where Maurizio Sarri left off at Napoli.

LONDON: After another action-packed weekend across Europe, here is what we learned about the beautiful game over the past few days.


When a tragedy happens the vogue nowadays is to dash to Twitter, pen 140 characters with the obligatory RIP hashtag and then, some cynics might say, leave it at that. Not so in football, which once again showed everyone how it is done when you do not merely pay lip service. Genoa fans watched the first 43 minutes of their home match with Empoli in silence as a tribute to the 43 people killed when a motorway bridge collapsed in the Italian city earlier this month. It was the club’s first game since a 200-meter section of the Morandi bridge suddenly fell. Fans had asked for “a deafening silence of 43 minutes, one for each child, worker, student, father or mother who are no longer with us today.”


It was not just the the stark reality of the 3-0 scoreline so much as what happened before and after the chastening defeat Tottenham dished out to Manchester United. Before it, Jose Mourinho decided that playing Ander Herrera as a center back, a position he had never played in before in more than 300 games, was the right thing to do. Who knows why he did this, but you do not have to be a cynic to suggest that perhaps the United boss was making a point to his paymasters who refused him the defender he so craved this summer. After the defeat the Portuguese had a mini-meltdown in the press conference, reminding everyone just how many trophies he has won. You get the feeling he is not so much trying to hang on at Old Trafford but also to top-level football. Who would want to take him on after this?


Napoli have offered the only real challenge to Juventus’ dominance of Serie A over the past few seasons. Not only that, but they have done so playing an exciting attacking game, which was all about flair over fear of failure. That was supposed to be over following the departure of the side’s coach Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea this summer. But there seemed to be little changing of tone in the southern Italians as they came from 2-0 down to AC Milan to win 3-2 this weekend. Not only that, but it was a far from flukey victory. Napoli finished with three times more shots as Milan (24 to eight) and four times as many on target (eight to two). New coach Carlo Ancelotti who, unlike his predecessor certainly knows a thing or two about winning top-level silverware, has certainly picked up where Sarri left off. Can Carlo bring glory back to Napoli?


With the departures of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane compounded by a failure, so far, to replace the former star player, there were worries that Barcelona would once again get one over their rivals Real Madrid on the domestic scene. Just two games in, however, and all seems well at the Bernabeu. Two wins from two under Julen Lopetegui has seen the Spanish giants play with freedom and flair. Saturday’s 4-1 over Girona saw Gareth Bales score once again and Karim Benzema bag a brace. All that with World Cup stars Raphael Varane and Luka Modric son the bench. The reasons to be optimistic are easy to see.


Veteran Fawad hits ‘dream’ century to put Pakistan in charge

Updated 27 January 2021

Veteran Fawad hits ‘dream’ century to put Pakistan in charge

  • The 35-year-old left-hander scored 109 in almost six hours to anchor Pakistan’s 308-8 at the National Stadium
  • Fawad Alam was kept out of international cricket for 10 years and 259 days

KARACHI: Fawad Alam gave further evidence of his considerable patience with a grafting century which helped Pakistan take a useful first innings lead over South Africa on the second day of the first Test in Karachi on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old left-hander, who returned to the side last August after a decade in the international wilderness, scored 109 in almost six hours to anchor Pakistan’s 308-8 at the National Stadium, lifting the team from a precarious overnight total of 33-4.
Azhar Ali and Faheem Ashraf also weighed in with half-centuries as Pakistan closed with a lead of 88 after bowling South Africa out for 220 on the first day.
Just four wickets fell on the second day which was in stark contrast to the opening when 14 wickets tumbled on the grassless pitch. It would have been different had South Africa not dropped four catches.
Fawad, relishing his first Test at his home ground, added 102 runs for the seventh wicket with Faheem who cracked a relatively rapid 64 from 84 balls.
Resuming on five and with Pakistan in serious trouble, Fawad led the recovery with an invaluable 94-run stand for the fifth wicket with Azhar, who played within himself for three hours 40 minutes for his 51.
Fawad had a life on 35 when Dean Elgar failed to cling on to a sharp edge off Keshav Maharaj in the slips but he and Azhar, who survived a tight leg before shout and review from left-arm spinner George Linde, batted right through the morning to take Pakistan to 104-4 at lunch.
Fawad added another 55 for the sixth wicket with Mohammad Rizwan who made a counter-attacking before edging Lungo Ngidi to Faf du Plessis at first slip.
Shortly after tea, Fawad opened his shoulders to hit a flighted delivery from spinner Keshav Maharaj for a six over long-on which brought up his third Test century in just his eighth Test.
“It was my dream to score a hundred at home and what better time to do it then when the team was in a difficult situation,” said Fawad, who now has 38 hundreds in first class cricket.
“Azhar and I decided that we should bat long and take the total as close to South Africa as possible and I am happy that we have done close to that.”
He was finally caught at mid-wicket off Ngidi after batting for six minutes under six hours, hitting nine boundaries and two sixes.
Fawad’s ton marked yet another remarkable milestone in his return to international cricket.
After making a debut hundred in Sri Lanka in 2009, Fawad played just twice more that year before being dropped — for 10 years and 259 days.
Despite scoring heavily in Pakistan’s domestic matches, he was constantly overlooked, primarily because of his peculiar stance — facing front-on to the bowler before turning side-on when playing the ball.
He was recalled for Pakistan’s tour of England in August last year but his first innings back ended with a four-ball duck in Southampton.
But he followed up with another gutsy century in the first Test defeat by New Zealand in Mount Maunganui in December.
Ashraf’s entertaining 64, which included nine boundaries, ended in unorthodox fashion when he jammed down on a yorker from Anrich Nortje only to see the ball backspin into his stumps.
The two-match series marks South Africa’s first trip to Pakistan in 14 years, after a deadly 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s team halted visits by foreign sides.