Astana stun Man United youngsters in Europa League

Manchester United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives instructions during the Europa League Group L soccer match between Astana and Manchester United in Kazakhstan. (AP Photo)
Updated 29 November 2019

Astana stun Man United youngsters in Europa League

  • Captain Jesse Lingard opened the scoring for the visitors, who had already reached the last 32, before Dmitri Shomko equalized for the home side
  • Di’Shon Bernard, 19, then put through his own goal to hand Astana victory over a United side whose average age was just 22

PARIS: Kazakh champions Astana fought back to surprise a youthful Manchester United 2-1 in the Europa League on Thursday.
Captain Jesse Lingard opened the scoring for the visitors, who had already reached the last 32, before Dmitri Shomko equalized for the home side.
Di’Shon Bernard, 19, then put through his own goal to hand Astana victory over a United side whose average age was just 22.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said some of the youngsters on show put their hands up to feature against Alkmaar in the final round of group matches on December 12.
“At times we were excellent but there were spells when we let them push us back. That cost us in the end,” he said.
“These boys have learnt a lot and have given me food for thought. I’m very pleased with many of them.”
Shomko, meanwhile, told UEFA.com that the result will live in his memory.
“I will be telling my grandchildren, ‘you know guys a while ago I scored against Manchester United’. It does not matter who scored, really. The most important thing is that we won,” he said.
Solskjaer made 11 changes from Sunday’s draw with Sheffield United by handing senior debuts to teenagers Ethan Laird, Dylan Levitt and Bernard as well as naming cancer survivor Max Taylor on the bench.
United opened the scoring after 10 minutes as Lingard’s low show from outside the box beat Nenad Eric to his right.
Shomko responded after 55 minutes as his effort from inside the box glanced past Lee Grant in the United goal.
The three points, Astana’s first of the European campaign, were secured when Bernard deflected an Antonio Rukavina cross past 36-year-old Grant seven minutes later.
Astana were already out of contention for the knockout stages ahead of the round five fixture in Group L.
Later Thursday, AZ Alkmaar host Partizan Belgrade and a win for the Dutch side would move them a point ahead of the English giants.


Dapper Pirlo and Juventus move on from Sarri era

Updated 22 September 2020

Dapper Pirlo and Juventus move on from Sarri era

  • Pirlo’s Juve look slicker and more attractive than the Bianconeri under Sarri

MILAN: Wearing a suit and tie, new Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo cut a very different figure on the sidelines to his predecessor Maurizio Sarri, who often appeared wearing a tracksuit.

And his Juventus team also looked slicker and more attractive than the Bianconeri of the Sarri era.

Right from the start of Juve’s 3-0 win at Sampdoria in Serie A on Sunday there was an intensity to the team’s play that had been lacking for much of the previous year.

“We accepted the changes made by the club,” Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said. “This season, the new coach is Pirlo, who has changed our way of interpreting soccer that we had last year.

“It’s too early to say if it is right or not, but it is different.”

Juve’s new players also suit Juve’s new style even if Weston McKennie — the first American to play for the Italian champion — was the only player Pirlo signed.

McKennie assisted on two of his side’s goals and also had chances himself.

Two of the team’s other new players who stood out, Dejan Kulusevski and Arthur, were signed by Sarri but fit well into Pirlo’s set-up.

“We have four central midfielders with the right characteristics to play like this,” Bonucci said. “McKennie, Adrien and Arthur and Rodrigo cover a lot of the pitch. They have the legs to be aggressive and are also good at passing the ball.

“That way, we manage to unite being aggressive and having more quality in possession, I think that’s the difference from last season.”

Pirlo has had little time to settle into his new role. The 41-year-old was handed his first coaching job at the end of July when he was put in charge of Juventus’ under-23 team, which play in Serie C. But he had not led a game before he was promoted to replace the fired Sarri.

However, Pirlo knows several of the players well having played with them at the club.

The former midfield great kicked off an unprecedented era of dominance when he joined Juventus in 2011, helping the side to the first four of its record nine successive Serie A titles.

Pirlo has once again been tasked with leading the team to new heights — this time the Champions League, which Juventus hasn’t won since 1996 but which Pirlo won as a player twice with AC Milan.

Massimiliano Allegri went closest for Juventus, steering it to the final in 2015 and 2017.

“Pirlo is much more similar to Allegri (than Sarri), but everyone has their own character,” Bonucci said with a wry smile and a laugh. “Andrea transmits a lot of calm serenity, as he did when he was a player when you could give him the ball in the midst of five opponents and you were sure he wouldn’t lose it.

“We have great respect for him and for this path that has just begun, which I’m sure will allow us to take away great satisfaction.”